Supreme Court blocks inclusion of citizenship question on census-for now
In a strongly worded 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court refused to green light a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, finding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s ostensible reason for including it-to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act-does not hold water. “Several points, taken together, reveal a significant mismatch between the Secretary’s decision and the rationale he provided,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. Nearly 13,000 NEA members urged the Commerce Department not to include the citizenship question. The stakes are high: the 2020 Census will determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and who gets $800 billion in federal funding for education, children’s health, and other public services. The Urban Institute estimates that including a citizenship question will lead to a significant undercount-as much as 4 million-with African Americans, Latinos, and children under age five the most vulnerable, especially in California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, and Texas. The Supreme Court’s decision is not final. The citizenship question could still be included if the Commerce Department, which determines both the process and deadline for printing Census forms, provides a defensible rationale and then, the district court approves that rationale. It is unclear whether these steps can be completed in time to conduct the decennial Census mandated by the Constitution. Stay tuned.
Bill introduced to guarantee public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively
The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (S. 1970/H.R. 3463) would make it federal law that our nation’s 17.3 million public employees-including educators-have the right to organize and bargain collectively. The bill also authorizes voluntary deductions of fees to support unions. Florida Education Association member Tina Whitaker, a social studies teacher at Arthur & Polly Mays 6-12 Conservatory of Arts in Miami, testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on June 26, the day before the first anniversary of Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court decision that bars public sector unions from collecting “fair share” or “agency” fees from non-members. Whitaker contrasted her experience in North Carolina, where she had no union or collective bargaining rights, with her experience in Florida, where the union supported her and helped her become a better teacher. Email your members of Congress and tell them to cosponsor and support the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
Repeal the excise tax on “high cost” health plans
The House is expected to vote in July on the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (S. 684/H.R. 748), which would repeal the 40 percent excise tax on “high cost” employer-sponsored health plans scheduled to take effect in 2022. Under the Affordable Care Act, “high cost” employer-sponsored health benefits whose value exceeds specified thresholds will be subject to a 40 percent excise starting in 2022: $11,200 for single coverage and $30,150 for family coverage, the Tax Policy Center projects. Insurance companies would pay the tax, but the burden would be borne by the 180 million Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage-including educators-in the form of benefit reductions, higher deductibles, or both. The effective date of the tax has been postponed twice; the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act would do away with it entirely. Send an email urging your senators to cosponsor S. 684 and an email urging your representative in the House to VOTE YES on H.R. 748.
House preserves access to affordable internet and broadband-for now
A successful amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 3351), passed by the House by voice vote on June 25, prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from using funds to advance a proposed rule that would harm beneficiaries of the E-Rate Program, especially in rural America. The program has helped connect nearly 100 percent of schools and public libraries to the internet. Today, E-Rate ensures that schools stay connected with high-speed broadband sufficient to provide unfettered access to information and services critical to 21st century teaching and learning. For details, see NEA’s letter to Congress urging support for the amendment, which was proposed by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC).
Cheers and Jeers
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act (S. 1844/H.R. 3285), which would create a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to require people to get a license or permit before buying a handgun.
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Senate companion to the Alternatives to Detention Act (S. 1894), which would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use alternatives to detention for children and other vulnerable immigrant populations.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced the Stop Child Hunger Act of 2019 (S. 1941/H.R. 3378), which would give families with children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals an electronic benefit transfer card to help pay for food during the summer.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) introduced the Summer Meals Act of 2019 (S. 1908/H.R. 2818) to provide more meals to more students in low-income communities.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2019 (S. 1970/H.R. 3463), which would require states to allow educators and other public employees to join unions and bargain collectively.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced two bills to help keep immigrant families together and protect immigrant children separated from their families: the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act (H.R. 3451) and the Help Separated Families Act (H.R. 3452).