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Archive for January 20th, 2015

FACT SHEET: A Simpler, Fairer Tax Code That Responsibly Invests in Middle Class Families

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Middle class families today bear too much of the tax burden because of unfair loopholes that are only available to the wealthy and big corporations. In his State of the Union address, the President will outline his plan to simplify our complex tax code for individuals, make it fairer by eliminating some of the biggest loopholes, and use the savings to responsibly pay for the investments we need to help middle class families get ahead and grow the economy.

The President will put forward reforms that include eliminating the biggest loophole that lets the wealthiest avoid paying their fair share of taxes:

  • Close the trust fund loophole – the single largest capital gains tax loophole – to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share on inherited assets. Hundreds of billions of dollars escape capital gains taxation each year because of the “stepped-up” basis loophole that lets the wealthy pass appreciated assets onto their heirs tax-free.
  • Raise the top capital gains and dividend rate back to the rate under President Reagan. The President’s plan would increase the total capital gains and dividends rates for high-income households to 28 percent.
  • Reform financial sector taxation to make it more costly for the biggest financial firms to finance their activities with excessive borrowing. The President will propose a fee on large, highly-leveraged financial institutions to discourage excessive borrowing.

By ensuring those at the top pay their fair share in taxes, the President’s plan responsibly pays for investments we need to help middle class families get ahead, like his recent proposal to make two years of community college free for every student willing to do the work. The savings will pay for additional reforms that will help the paychecks of middle-class and working families go further to cover the cost of child care, college, and a secure retirement:

  • Provide a new, simple tax credit to two-earner families. The President will propose a new $500 second earner credit to help cover the additional costs faced by families in which both spouses work — benefiting 24 million couples.
  • Streamline child care tax incentives to give middle-class families with young children a tax cut of up to $3,000 per child. The President’s proposal would streamline and dramatically expand child care tax benefits, helping 5.1 million families cover child care costs for 6.7 million children. The proposal will complement major new investments in the President’s Budget to improve child care quality, access, and affordability for working families.
  • Simplify, consolidate, and expand education tax benefits to improve college affordability. The President’s plan will consolidate six overlapping education provisions into just two, while improving the American Opportunity Tax Credit to provide more students up to $2,500 each year over five years as they work toward a college degree – cutting taxes for 8.5 million families and students and simplifying taxes for the more than 25 million families and students that claim education tax benefits.
  • Make it easy and automatic for workers to save for retirement. The President will put forward a retirement tax reform plan that gives 30 million additional workers the opportunity to easily save for retirement through their employer.

These new policies build on longstanding proposals to extend important tax credit improvements for working families, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, provide quality preschool for all four-year-olds, and raise revenue to reduce the deficit by curbing inefficient tax breaks that primarily benefit the wealthy. In addition, the President has put forward a framework for fixing the business tax system on a revenue- neutral basis and using the transition revenue to pay for investments in infrastructure.

Eliminating the Biggest Loopholes that let the Wealthiest Avoid Paying Their Fair Share of Taxes and Reforming Financial Sector Taxation

Reforming the Taxation of Capital Gains

Rather than make it easier for middle-class families to make ends meet, our tax system has changed over time in ways that make it easier for the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. Though President Obama restored top tax rates on the highest income Americans to their levels under President Clinton, high-income tax rates remain historically low, especially on capital income. Capital income taxes are also much lower than tax rates on income from work, which explains how the highest-income 400 taxpayers in 2012 – who obtained 68 percent of their income from capital gains – paid income tax at an effective rate of 17 percent, even though the top marginal income tax rate was 35 percent.

The problem is that the U.S. capital income tax system is too broken to address this unfairness just by raising tax rates. Current rules let substantial capital gains income escape tax altogether. Raising the capital gains rate without also addressing these loopholes would encourage wealthy individuals to take further advantage of the opportunities the current system provides to defer and avoid tax.

The largest capital gains loophole – perhaps the largest single loophole in the entire individual income tax code – is a provision known as “stepped-up basis.” Stepped-up basis refers to the fact that capital gains on assets held until death are never subject to income taxes. Not only do bequests to heirs go untaxed, but the “tax basis” of inherited assets used to compute the gain if they are later sold is immediately increased (“stepped-up”) to the value at the date of death – making the capital gain income forever exempt from taxes. For example, suppose an individual leaves stock worth $50 million to an heir, who immediately sells it. When purchased, the stock was worth $10 million, so the capital gain is $40 million. However, the heir’s basis in the stock is “stepped up” to the $50 million gain when he inherited it – so no income tax is due on the sale, or ever due on the $40 million of gain. Each year, hundreds of billions in capital gains avoid tax as a result of stepped-up basis.

The President’s proposal would close the stepped-up basis loophole by treating bequests and gifts other than to charitable organizations as realization events, like other cases where assets change hands. It would also increase the total top capital gains and dividend rate to 28 percent – the rate under President Reagan. (The top rate applies to couples with incomes over about $500,000.) It would:

  • Almost exclusively impact the top 1 percent. 99 percent of the impact of the President’s capital gains reform proposal (including eliminating stepped-up basis and raising the capital gains rate) would be on the top 1 percent, and more than 80 percent on the top 0.1 percent (those with incomes over $2 million). Under the President’s proposal, wealthy people would still get a preferential rate on their income from investments, but they would no longer be able to accumulate extra wealth by paying no capital gains tax whatsoever.
  • Address a basic unfairness in the tax system. Most middle-class retirees spend down their assets during retirement, which means they owe income taxes on whatever capital gains they’ve accrued. But the wealthy can often afford to hold onto assets until death – which is what lets them use the stepped-up basis loophole to avoid ever having to pay tax on capital gains. 
  • Unlock capital for productive investment. By letting very wealthy investors make their capital gains disappear at death, stepped-up basis creates strong “lock-in” incentives to hold assets for generations, even when resources could be reinvested more productively elsewhere. The proposal would sharply reduce these incentives, making it a pro-growth way to raise revenue.
  • Protect the middle-class and small businesses. To ensure that it would impose neither tax nor compliance burdens on middle-class families, the President’s proposal includes the following protections:
    • For couples, no tax would be due until the death of the second spouse.
    • Capital gains of up to $200,000 per couple ($100,000 per individual) could still be bequeathed free of tax. Note that, since capital gains generally represent only a fraction of an asset’s value, this exemption would allow couples to bequeath more than $200,000 without owing taxes. The exemption would be automatically portable between spouses.
    • In addition to the basic exemption, couples would have an additional $500,000 exemption for personal residences ($250,000 per individual). This exemption would also be automatically portable between spouses.
    • Tangible personal property other than expensive art and similar collectibles (e.g. bequests or gifts of clothing, furniture, and small family heirlooms) would be tax-exempt. In addition to avoiding any tax burden on these transfers, this exclusion would prevent families from having to value and report them.As a result of these provisions, only a tiny minority of small businesses could possibly be affected by the repeal of stepped-up basis. However, the President’s proposal also includes extra protections that ensure no small family-owned business would ever have to be sold for tax reasons:
    • No tax would be due on inherited small, family-owned and operated businesses – unless and until the business was sold.
    • Any closely-held business would have the option to pay tax on gains over 15 years.

Imposing a Fee on Large Financial Institutions

The President’s proposal would make it more costly for the largest financial firms to finance their activities by borrowing heavily. Specifically, the President’s proposal would impose a 7 basis point fee on the liabilities of large U.S. financial firms: the roughly 100 firms in the nation with assets over $50 billion. The President’s proposal would attach a cost to leverage for the largest financial firms, leading them to make decisions more consistent with the economy-wide effects of their actions, which would in turn help reduce the probability of major defaults that can have widespread economic costs. This approach is broadly consistent with a proposal from former Ways and Means Chairman Camp’s tax reform plan that would have imposed an excise tax on large financial firms.

Reforming the Tax System to Better Support and Reward Work

Creating a New “Second Earner Credit” for Married Couples Where Both Spouses Work

Two-earner couples can face high penalties for working. When both spouses work, the family incurs additional costs in the form of commuting costs, professional expenses, child care, and, increasingly, elder care. When layered on top of other costs, including federal and state taxes, these work-related costs can contribute to a sense that work isn’t worth it, especially for parents of young children and couples caring for aging parents. While women, including married women, are increasingly family breadwinners, the fact remains that they are still much more likely to be the ones who withdraw from the labor force in these circumstances, taking a toll on their future job options and earnings, and hurting our overall economic growth.

Building on Congressional proposals from members of both parties, the President is proposing to address these challenges with a new second earner credit that recognizes the additional costs faced by families in which both spouses work. A total of 24 million couples would benefit from this proposal, which would provide a new, simple second earner credit of up to $500. Families would claim a credit equal to 5 percent of the first $10,000 of earnings for the lower-earning spouse in a married couple, and the maximum credit would be available to families with incomes up to $120,000, with a partial credit available up to $210,000. 80 percent of two-earner married couples would benefit from the new credit.

Expanding the EITC for Workers without Children and Noncustodial Parents

The President’s plan to help working families get ahead incorporates his proposed childless worker EITC expansion, reducing poverty and hardship for 13.2 million low-income workers struggling to make ends meet while promoting employment. The President’s proposal would double the EITC for workers without qualifying children, increase the income level at which the credit phases out, and make it available to workers age 21 and older. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ryan has endorsed the President’s proposed expansion, while other members of Congress have put forward similar proposals.

The President also continues to propose making permanent improvements to the EITC and CTC that augment wages for 16 million families with 29 million children each year. These improvements provide additional benefits to low-income working parents, families with three or more children, and married families, but are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2017. Allowing these benefits to expire would result in a roughly $1,700 tax increase for a full-time minimum wage worker with two children. Research has consistently shown that the helping low-wage working families through the EITC and CTC not only boosts parents’ employment rates and reduces poverty, but has positive longer-term effects on children, including improved health and educational outcomes.

Making Child Care, Education, and Retirement Tax Benefits Work for Middle-Class Families

Simplifying and Expanding Child Care Tax Benefits

With the cost of infant and toddler care rivaling the cost of college in many states, the average child care tax benefit of $550 falls well short of what is needed to provide meaningful help to working families. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and child care flexible spending accounts are also unnecessarily complex, often requiring significant paperwork and advanced planning for families to receive the full benefits.

The President’s tax proposal would streamline child care tax benefits and triple the maximum child care credit for middle class families with young children, increasing it to $3,000 per child. The President’s child care tax proposals would benefit 5.1 million families, helping them cover child care costs for 6.7 million children (including 3.5 million children under 5), through the following reforms:

  • Triple the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under 5, increasing it to $3,000 per child. Families with young children face the highest child care costs. Under the President’s proposal, they could claim a 50 percent credit for up to $6,000 of expenses per child under 5 – covering up to half the cost of child care for preschool age children.
  • Make the full credit available to most middle-class families. Under current law, almost no families qualify for the maximum CDCTC. The President’s proposal would make the maximum credit – for young children, older children, and elderly or disabled dependents – available to families with incomes up to $120,000, meaning that most middle-class families could easily determine how much help they can get.
  • Eliminate complex child care flexible spending accounts and reinvest the savings in the improved CDCTC. The President’s proposal would replace the current system of complex and duplicative incentives with one generous and simple child care tax benefit. 

The President’s child care tax proposal will complement major new investments in the President’s Budget to improve child care quality, access, and affordability for working families.

Consolidating and Improving Education Tax Incentives

While the creation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit in 2009 made college more affordable for millions of students and their families, our system of tax incentives for higher education is complex, and families are sometimes unable to take full advantage of these benefits. In fact, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 27 percent of families who claimed one tax benefit would have been better off claiming another, while 14 percent of eligible families failed to claim any benefit at all.

Building on bipartisan reform proposals, the President’s education tax reform plan would simplify, consolidate, and better target tax-based financial aid. The President’s plan would cut taxes for 8.5 million families and students, simplify taxes for the more than 25 million families and students that claim education tax benefits, and provide students working toward a college degree with up to $2,500 of assistance each year for five years. These education tax reforms would complement the President’s other proposals to make college more affordable, including continuing historic increases in the Pell scholarship program and making a quality community college education free for responsible students. Together, these proposals would benefit students, families, and the broader economy by helping more students earn a postsecondary credential. The President’s education tax reform plan would:

  • Simplify, consolidate, and better target tax benefits through an improved AOTC
    • Consolidate duplicative and less effective education benefits into a permanent, improved AOTC. Under current law, the AOTC is scheduled to expire after 2017 and revert to the less generous Hope tax credit. Under the President’s plan, the AOTC would be a permanent feature of the tax code, so that students in school today would not have to worry that these benefits will expire before they graduate; the credit would also grow with inflation. The Lifetime Learning Credit and the tuition and fees deduction would be consolidated into the more generous AOTC.
    • Increase the refundable portion of the AOTC to $1,500. The President’s plan adopts Congressional proposals – from members of both parties – to increase the refundable portion of the AOTC so that more working families and students can qualify. Like legislation that passed the House in 2014, the President’s plan would increase the refundable portion from a maximum of $1,000, or 40 percent of the total AOTC benefit, to a flat maximum of $1,500.
    • Expand AOTC eligibility for non-traditional students. Currently, students must be at least half-time to qualify for the AOTC, and families can claim the credit for no more than four years. Under the President’s plan, part- time students would be eligible for a $1,250 AOTC (up to $750 refundable) and all eligible students would be able to claim the AOTC for up to five years.
  • Make it easier for students and families to apply for tax credits
    • Improve information reporting. The proposal would require colleges and universities to provide students with the tuition and fee information needed to claim the AOTC.
    • Simplify taxes for approximately 9 million Pell Grant recipients. Currently, eligible families leave tens of millions of dollars of AOTC credits on the table because the rules related to Pell Grants and the AOTC are so complicated. Like bipartisan Congressional proposals, the President’s plan would exempt Pell Grants from taxation and the AOTC calculation, making it easier for Pell recipients to claim the tax benefits already available to them.
  • Better target and simplify tax relief for student debt and college savings
    • Eliminate tax on student loan debt forgiveness under Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and other income-based repayment plans. The President has worked to make student debt affordable for struggling borrowers by offering PAYE: an income-based repayment plan that lets borrowers limit student loan payments to no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income and qualify for forgiveness after 20 years of repayments. The Department of Education is currently amending its rules to extend this option to all direct student loan borrowers. However, under current law, PAYE participants who qualify for debt forgiveness after 20 years could face a large tax bill – likely a surprise to most borrowers, and for others a concern in choosing PAYE. The President’s plan would continue to propose to exempt student loan forgiveness from taxation.
    • Repeal the complicated student loan interest deduction for new borrowers. The student loan interest deduction is complicated – so much so that many eligible borrowers fail to claim it – and provides very limited assistance ($100 on average) to a broad group of borrowers, rather than targeting more meaningful assistance to those borrowers struggling to afford their student loan payments. The President’s plan would retain the student loan interest deduction for current borrowers. But for new borrowers, his plan would repeal this complicated tax break and instead provide more generous and more targeted tax relief through the improved AOTC while students are in school and through PAYE once they graduate.
    • Limit upside-down education savings incentives and consolidate them into a single benefit. The President’s plan would consolidate education savings incentives into one vehicle and redirect the savings into the better targeted AOTC. Specifically, the President’s plan will roll back expanded tax cuts for 529 education savings plans that were enacted in 2001 for new contributions, and – like Chairman Camp’s tax reform plan – repeal tax incentives going forward for the much smaller Coverdell education savings program.

Reforming Retirement Tax Incentives and Expanding Savings Opportunities

Americans face a daunting array of choices when it comes to retirement savings. While some workers are automatically enrolled in a retirement savings plan by their employer (with an option to opt out), others have to open an account, manage contributions, and research and select investments on their own. Meanwhile, tax loopholes have allowed some high-income Americans to accumulate tens of millions of dollars in tax-preferred accounts that were intended to help workers save for a secure retirement, not to provide tax shelters for the wealthiest few.

The President’s retirement tax reform proposals would dramatically expand access to employer-based retirement savings options, whether a new “auto-IRA,” 401(k), or other employer plan. These proposals would give 30 million additional workers access to a workplace savings opportunity and would complement the President’s actions over the past year to make saving for retirement easier by creating the simple, risk-free, and low-cost “myRA” starter savings vehicle. The President’s reforms to make the system more robust for middle-class workers would be paid for by closing retirement tax loopholes for the wealthy. The President’s retirement tax reform plan would:

  • Automatically enroll Americans without access to a workplace retirement plan in an IRA. Under the proposal, every employer with more than 10 employees that does not currently offer a retirement plan would be required to automatically enroll their workers in an IRA. Auto-IRAs would let workers opt out of saving if they choose but would also let them start saving without sorting through a host of complex options. Auto-IRA proposals have been endorsed by independent scholars across the ideological spectrum, including those affiliated with AARP, the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation.
  • Provide tax cuts for auto-IRA adoption, as well as for businesses that choose to offer employer plans or switch to auto-enrollment. To minimize the burden on small businesses, the President’s auto-IRA proposal would provide any employer with 100 or fewer employees who offers an auto-IRA a $3,000 tax credit. The President also proposes to triple the existing “start up” credit, so small employers who newly offer a retirement plan would receive a $4,500 tax credit – more than enough to offset administrative expenses. And because auto- enrollment is the most effective way to ensure workers with access to a plan participate, small employers who already offer a plan and add auto-enrollment would get an additional $1,500 tax credit.
  • Ensure long-term, part-time workers can contribute to their employer’s retirement plan. Only 37 percent of part-time workers have access to a workplace retirement plan. That’s partly because employers offering retirement plans are allowed to exclude employees who work less than 1,000 hours per year, no matter how long they’ve worked for the employer. The President proposes to expand access for part-time workers by requiring employers who offer plans to permit employees who have worked for the employer for at least 500 hours per year for 3 years or more to make voluntary contributions to the plan.
  • Prevent wealthy individuals from using loopholes to accumulate huge amounts of tax-favored retirement benefits. Tax-preferred retirement plans are intended to help working families save for retirement. But loopholes in the tax system have let some wealthy individuals convert tax-preferred retirement accounts into tax shelters, including 300 extraordinarily wealthy individuals who have accumulated more than $25 million each in IRAs. The President’s plan would prohibit contributions to and accruals of additional benefits in tax-preferred retirement plans and IRAs once balances are about $3.4 million, enough to provide an annual income of $210,000 in retirement.

Source: whitehouse.gov

First Lady’s Guests at the State of the Union Address Tonight

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON, DC – The following individuals will be seated in the box with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, at the State of the Union Address on Tuesday. Information about these guests and news about the State of the Union is available at WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU.

Malik Bryant (Chicago, IL)
Letter Writer
Thirteen-year-old Malik Bryant sent a letter to Santa over the holidays, but rather than request the usual gifts, Malik wrote: “All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe.” And, rather than mail the letter to the North Pole, a non-profit organization – moved by Malik’s plea for the fundamental right to feel safe in his community – redirected the letter to the White House. The President wrote back to Malik, encouraging him and underscoring that Malik’s “security is a priority for me in everything I do as President.” Malik lives with his mother Keturah and his two sisters in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. He is in seventh grade, and his favorite subject is math.

Chelsey Davis (Knoxville, TN)
Student, Pellissippi State Community College
A native of Jefferson City, Tennessee Chelsey Davis decided that community college was the best path to re-enter her collegiate career with the ideal support and resources. In May 2015, Chelsey will graduate from Pellissippi State Community College with plans to pursue a B.A. in Nutritional Science. Chelsey currently serves on the Student Activities Board and as a New Student Orientation Leader at her community college. She also participates in the Knoxville Food Policy Council meetings and tutors elementary and middle school children in reading and mathematics at The First Tee of Greater Knoxville Learning Center. She has an interest in national and international humanitarian work and is excited to have an opportunity to study abroad in Segovia, Spain with the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies (TnCIS) this summer. After graduation, Chelsey plans to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Chelsey met President Obama, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden earlier this month at Pellissippi State Community College when the President announced his “America’s College Promise” proposal. It makes two years of community college free for responsible students. As someone who understands the benefits of community colleges first-hand, Chelsey hopes to encourage high school graduates to take full advantage of the opportunity.

William Elder, Jr. (Englewood, CO)
Medical School Student
William Elder, Jr. graduated from Stanford, and is currently a third year medical student at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University in Ohio.  Bill was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was eight years old, at a time when most cystic fibrosis patients were only expected to live to early adulthood.  But thanks to a unique collaboration between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, patients, researchers, and a pharmaceutical company, Bill, now 27, expects to live a long, full life.  He benefits from a medication that targets the underlying cause of the disease for a small subset of cystic fibrosis patients. Inspired by his doctors and care team, Bill plans to become a family practitioner with a focus on preventative care.  Bill’s story is a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients’ individual characteristics, such as their genetic make-up, to improve treatment.

LeDaya Epps (Compton, CA)
Laborer Apprentice
LeDaya Epps never had things handed to her. Born in Compton and raised in the Los Angeles foster care system until she was a teenager, LeDaya graduated high school but found it difficult to secure a stable job, bouncing from job to job as a medical assistant for years. She hit a few roadblocks in life and couldn’t find the reliable work and pay that she needed to provide for her three children. That changed when she was afforded the opportunity to complete a union apprenticeship in construction. She became one of only two women to complete the program, which included a rigorous boot camp that only one other woman completed, and now she has a good job – a union job – on the crew building the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors as a member of Laborers Local 300. LeDaya lives in Compton with her three children, ages 15, 11, and 3.

Rebekah Erler (Minneapolis, MN)
Letter Writer
Rebekah Erler, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a 36-year-old working wife and mother of two preschool-aged boys. Rebekah’s family was hit hard by the downturn in the housing market when her husband’s construction business went under. After relocating from Seattle to Minneapolis and a number of difficult jobs, Rebekah’s husband is now back in the re-modeling industry, gets home in time for dinner each night with their family, and is enjoying continued professional growth. Rebekah took out student loans to go to a local community college for career re-training and is now back in the workforce as an accountant. Rebekah and her husband recently bought their first home. Rebekah told her story to the President in March when she sent him a letter. But, Rebekah’s letter was more about her family’s future than it was about her past and the struggles they’ve overcome. Rebekah detailed the rising cost – from groceries to student loan payments to child care – of doing right by your family. Rebekah’s story is representative of the experiences of millions of resilient Americans: While our economy has made a strong comeback, too many middle class Americans families with two hardworking parents are still stretched too thin. That’s why the President spent a day in Minnesota with Rebekah, and that’s why he’s chosen to lift up her story again.

Victor Fugate (Kansas City, MO)
Letter Writer
Victor Fugate first wrote to the President three years ago, sharing how he went from being an unemployed new father continuing his education to obtaining his degree and working with low-income patients to obtain medical care. In July, the President had the opportunity to meet Victor when he visited Kansas City, and Victor thanked the President for his focus on the economy, health care and student loans – issues Victor personally knows are central for hard-working Americans trying to build a decent life for their families. In his current position with an agency of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Victor sees firsthand how the Affordable Care Act is helping people’s lives, and he personally benefited from the ACA – using an exchange to get health care when he was laid off from his job as a financial counselor. Victor credits the flexibility from the Income Based Repayment Plan for allowing him to complete his education. He and his wife are able to pay off their student loans at a rate his family can afford. Victor is married and has a four-year-old daughter.

Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson, U.S. Army, Ret. (Westerville, OH)
Letter Writer, Wounded Warrior
Jason Gibson, a wounded warrior, first met the President in 2012 at Walter Reed while recovering from injuries he sustained serving his country in Afghanistan. In October, Jason wrote a letter to thank the President for visiting him as he recuperated and to underscore that “there is life after a traumatic event and good can come of all things.” Jason detailed the year he spent in California after his 21 surgeries: despite losing both legs and being unable to use prosthetics, he took up surfing and skiing, completed multiple marathons on a hand cycle, and even obtained his pilot’s license. Back home in Ohio, a non-profit group helped build Jason and his wife Kara a house specially designed for their needs. And Jason filled the President in on something else too – soon their needs would change as Kara was pregnant and due the next month with their first child, a baby girl. Quinn Leona Gibson was born on November 21, 2014.

Alan and Judy Gross (Washington, DC)
After five years of wrongful imprisonment in Cuba, USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross was reunited with his wife Judy and his family on December 17. That same day – with Alan’s unjust captivity resolved – the President announced to the world that the United States was changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in policy in more than 50 years, the President directed that we would begin to normalize relations between our two countries. While in Cuba, Alan wrote the President letters and since returning has expressed his support for the actions the President’s taken with respect to Cuba. For five years, from thousands of miles away, Judy fought every day for Alan’s release and never gave up hope. Today, Alan and Judy are reunited in Washington, DC, spending time with their daughters and friends. “It’s good to be home,” Alan said.

Nicole Hernandez Hammer (Southeast Florida)
Mother and Sea Level Rise Researcher
Growing up in South Florida, Nicole Hernandez Hammer knows firsthand the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and is raising awareness to the disproportionate effects felt along the coast and beyond. As a sea level researcher she has studied how cities and regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change also have large concentrations of Hispanics. She immigrated from Guatemala and also has Cuban heritage, and now Nicole works to mobilize the Latino community to understand and address the devastating effects that disproportionately affect the health of Hispanics and their families. To that end, Nicole works with Moms Clean Air Force to further the public’s awareness of climate change on children’s health. Nicole lives in Southeast Florida with her husband and her son.

Scott Kelly (Houston, TX)
American Astronaut
This March, Astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the International Space Station and become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission. While living on the International Space Station, Kelly and the rest of the crew will carry out hundreds of research experiments and work on cutting-edge technology development that will inspire students here at home in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, scientists will compare medical data from Scott and his twin brother, Astronaut Mark Kelly, to gain insight into how the human body responds to longer durations in space. This research will support the next generation of space exploration and President Obama’s goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. Prior to becoming an astronaut, Kelly was an accomplished pilot who served his country as a naval aviator. He was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 1996 and has logged more than 180 days in space. He served as both pilot and commander on space shuttle missions as well as serving as commander for a long-duration mission on the International Space Station. Scott lives in Houston, Texas, and has two daughters.

Anthony Mendez (Bronx, NY)
Student, “Reach Higher” Initiative
Growing up in the South Bronx with his mother and three siblings, Anthony Mendez names two experiences from his formative high school years. In ninth grade, his best friend was murdered in his neighborhood, and the next year his family was evicted from their home and moved into a homeless shelter. Living two hours away from school, for six months Anthony had to wake up at 4:30AM to continue his education. Overcoming these experiences, he became the first high school graduate in his family – his story of perseverance represents the core of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative. In July he met the First Lady and fellow students who never took their education for granted, and he said he learned to be proud of his past and never hide from it. Today Anthony is a freshman at the University of Hartford — where he plans to study Political Science – on a partial track and field scholarship.

Larry J. Merlo (East Greenwich, RI)
President and Chief Executive Officer, CVS Health
Larry Merlo, 59, is President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Health, which serves 100 million people each year through its 7,800 retail pharmacies, 900 walk-in medical clinics, and a pharmacy benefits manager with nearly 65 million plan members. As part of the company’s commitment to public health, in 2014 Merlo announced the landmark decision to be the first major retail pharmacy to eliminate tobacco sales in all of its stores. To reflect this broader health care commitment, the company subsequently changed its corporate name to CVS Health. Merlo has prioritized the company’s commitment to creating economic opportunities for current and future colleagues at all levels. CVS Health recognizes the value of military service and has a long-standing commitment to hiring qualified veterans and military spouses. The company has also established programs to hire long-term unemployed workers, create summer jobs for youth and transition workers off public assistance. CVS Health also trains pharmacy technicians through apprenticeship programs, offers scholarships to future pharmacists, and engages diverse students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Merlo, a pharmacist by education, joined CVS/pharmacy in 1990 through the company’s acquisition of Peoples Drug, and he and his wife of 36 years, Lee Ann, live in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and have a daughter, Kristen.

Katrice Mubiru (Woodland Heights, CA)
Letter Writer, Career Technical Education Teacher
In January 2012, Katrice Mubiru, a career-technical education teacher for the Los Angeles unified school district, sent a letter to the President encouraging him to support K-12, adult and career technical education. Katrice met and introduced the President in July when he visited Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to highlight programs for citizens to learn the skills that growing technical fields require. As a teacher, Katrice has witnessed how technical education can change lives, and she wrote the President to share stories of students who pursued an education, despite difficult financial odds, on their way to news jobs in the growing health care field. Katrice is a Los Angeles native who graduated from California State University Long Beach, and is married with four children ages 7, 9, 17 and 19.

Astrid Muhammad (Charlotte, NC)
Letter Writer
Astrid Muhammad, a wife and mother of 6- and 10-year-olds, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2013, but at the time she didn’t have health insurance and delayed treatment.  Last year, she enrolled in the Marketplace and obtained health insurance. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have refused treatment for her pre-existing tumor, but on August 28 – now fully insured – she had surgery to remove the tumor. In October, Astrid wrote to the President — thanking him for passing the Affordable Care Act. Without her surgery, her neurosurgeon said the outcome would have been fatal and that Astrid, 39, could have lost her battle in only two years. She wanted to share her gratitude and new lease on life with the President, writing, “I would love to shake his hand and thank him.” On Tuesday, she will have that opportunity.

Kathy Pham (Washington, DC)
United States Digital Service
Kathy Pham is a computer scientist with a passion for public service. Throughout her career, she has used technology to tackle pressing challenges. From Google to IBM to Harris Healthcare Solutions, she has designed health care interoperability software, studied disease trends with data analytics, and built data warehouses for hospitals. At the United States Digital Service, her background in technology unites with her commitment to service. This commitment is rooted in her family’s story—her parents came to America in pursuit of a better life, her mother received critical cancer treatment thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and her brother earned the Purple Heart for service in Afghanistan. Today, Kathy is applying the cutting-edge skills she honed in the private sector to improve health IT for more Americans, expand veterans’ access to benefits, and transform the way government provides services to families like hers.

Captain Phillip C. Tingirides (Irvine, CA)
Los Angeles Police Department
The south Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts has seen dramatic improvement in the crime rate since the area was tied to the eponymous race riots of 1965 and a spate of gang violence in the ’90s – and Captain Phillip C. Tingirides has worked toward and seen a continued decrease in crime since the start of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program in late 2011. Working for the LAPD since 1980, Captain Tingirides has in recent years spearheaded the CSP program, which fosters cooperation between the LAPD and residents of the Watts housing developments scarred from decades of distrust. In recent years, there has been a 50 percent reduction in violent crime thanks in part to the CSP program, which encourages dialogue at community meetings with police who personally engage with residents rather than only make arrests. Captain Tingirides is married to Sergeant Emada Tingirides of the LAPD, and the LAPD coordinator of the CSP program. Together they have six children.

Catherine Pugh (Baltimore City, MD)
Maryland Senate Majority Leader
Senator Catherine Pugh is a small business owner who currently serves as the Maryland Senate Majority Leader and is also President-elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. First elected to office in 1999 as a member of the Baltimore City Council, during her time in the state legislature, Senator Pugh has passed more than 100 bills, garnering praise and a reputation as a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for improving the lives of Maryland families. A supporter of raising the minimum wage, Senator Pugh supported and worked with the Maryland’s Women Caucus to pass a $10.10 minimum wage increase in Maryland. A believer that workers should not have to choose between going to work over taking care of themselves and their families’ health, Senator Pugh recently introduced the “Healthy Working Families Act,” a bill that seeks to provide Maryland workers with earned paid sick leave.

Carolyn Reed (Denver, CO)
Letter Writer, Small Business Owner
Carolyn Reed wrote to the President about how she was able to expand her small business and open an additional Silver Mine Subs shop in Denver thanks to a loan from the Small Business Administration. In her note, she also mentioned that she looked forward to benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, and currently she and her husband, David, are enrolled in the Colorado state exchange. Earlier this year in Denver, the President had dinner with Carolyn and other Coloradoans who wrote to him. The day after their meeting, Carolyn and her husband – inspired by the President’s call and the story of another letter writer – announced that they would give their hourly employees a raise to $10.10. Carolyn and David now own seven Silver Mine Subs shops, and they are looking to continue their expansion. They have six children, four of whom work for their growing business.

Dr. Pranav Shetty (Washington, DC)
International Medical Corps
Dr. Pranav Shetty is the Global Emergency Health Coordinator for International Medical Corps, a critical partner in the U.S.-supported effort to bring the Ebola epidemic under control in West Africa. In August 2014, Dr. Shetty deployed to Liberia to establish and oversee two Ebola treatment units, teams of rapid responders that deploy to Ebola hot spots across the country, and a training center for local and international health care workers now working on the frontlines of the Ebola response effort. Dr. Shetty arrived back in the U.S. in late December and will return to West Africa later this week to help establish International Medical Corps’ first Ebola treatment center in Guinea. Prior to the Ebola crisis, he responded to emergencies in Haiti, Libya, South Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, and the Philippines. Dr. Shetty is a U.S.-trained emergency medicine physician with a Masters of Public Health and has worked for International Medical Corps since 2011. He is based in Washington, DC, and serves as the initial health technical lead for International Medical Corps’ major emergency response operations worldwide.

Prophet Walker (Carson, CA)
Watts United Weekend, Co-Founder
While serving a six-year prison sentence for robbery, Prophet Walker, now 27, vowed never to get caught in the revolving door of a life of crime and continued incarceration. He turned his focus to education, starting a program in prison that provides fellow inmates a chance to complete a two-year degree. Once out of prison, Prophet attended Loyola Marymount University’s school of Engineering, and more than 100 others in the program he founded have gone on to attend various universities. Ever since, Prophet has enjoyed a career as construction engineer and served the community, working with InsideOUT Writers, a group that teaches juvenile offenders to express themselves through writing, and also as a founding member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which advocates for sentencing reform and supports young men and women after incarceration. Prophet has also worked to strengthen the bonds between law enforcement, community stake holders, parents and the children of local housing projects by co-founding Harold Robinson Foundation’s’ Watts United Weekend, which provides weekend camp retreats for hundreds of people weekly. Through his work in the south Los Angeles community of Watts, Prophet has worked with Captain Tingirides of the LAPD – also a guest in the First Lady’s State of the Union box. They’ve collaborated on the Community Safety Partnership, which encourages building positive relationships and mutual trust between the community and law enforcement. Prophet credits his young daughter, Pryia, for his continued inspiration when working with young people.

Tiairris Woodward (Warren, MI)
Working for the local school system, Tiairris Woodward, 43, wasn’t making enough money to support herself and her three children, the youngest of whom has special needs. She started working for Chrysler in 2010 on the assembly line, and after doing both jobs full time, working 17 hours a day, Tiairris was in a position to move solely to Chrysler – a union job that makes her a member of United Auto Workers Local 7. After a year on the job, she saved enough to buy a car and rent a new apartment, and through Chrysler’s Tuition Assistance Program, Tiairris is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business management. Tiairris’ story is one of many made possible through the comeback of Detroit and the American auto industry. The President is focused on ensuring more Americans like Tiairris – not just a fortunate few – share in the benefits of our American resurgence.

Ana Zamora (Dallas, TX)
Letter Writer, Student, DREAMer
Ana wrote to the President in September, “As with any other dreamer, my parents came to this country with a dream of a better future for their children.” And through the Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Ana is closer than ever to fulfilling those dreams. In 2012, she qualified and was granted temporary relief and work authorization – an opportunity Ana credits with getting a job in line with her career path and a better livelihood while finishing up her last year at Northwood University in Texas. Ana’s life has fundamentally changed for the better as a result of DACA. And because she has siblings who are U.S. citizens, her parents, a small business owner and a construction worker, are among the millions of people who are potentially eligible for the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program announced by the President last November. She hopes others can learn from her experience and mentors fellow students hoping to request temporary relief through DACA. After college Ana hopes to continue her studies and attend graduate school. She will also remain committed to supporting young students looking for an opportunity like she’s been afforded. Ana celebrated her first birthday in the U.S. and as she wrote the President, “The United States is my country. It is where I grew up, took my first steps, learned to read, write, play, graduated from high school, and will graduate from college.”

Source: whitehouse.gov

Chairman Butterfield and CBC Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Butterfield’s Remarks During CBC Visit to Ferguson in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) visited Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, MO in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and to show support for the local community.  Below are Chairman G. K.  Butterfield’s remarks:

“The Congressional Black Caucus is honored today to share with Wellspring United Methodist Church and the greater Ferguson community as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  We have looked forward to this day.  My colleagues are seated in front of you.  Please receive them with your love and embrace.

“The public life of Dr. King spanned 13 years, from 1955 to 1968.  During those years, Dr. King’s vision and leadership and bold obstruction to the status quo embarrassed this Nation and forced a change to civil rights and voting rights laws.

“But nearly two years ago, the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 this year, was severely wounded by the Supreme Court when the preclearance section was made unenforceable.  In its decision, the Supreme Court called on Congress to adjust the formula used in deciding which states should pre-clear election changes.  Just last week, Republican House Members announced they have no intentions of doing so.  This means Dr. King’s work–our work— continues.

“It must be remembered that Dr. King was not a politician.  He was first and foremost a preacher of the gospel who believed that we could become a better Nation if men and women of good will came together to reconcile their differences.  In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Dr. King said:

‘More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.’

“Black America continues to be victim of decades of discrimination and neglect by those in power.  Dr. King demanded change.  Today, the Congressional Black Caucus and the people of Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland demand change in the way African Americans are treated in this country.

“And so, the CBC comes today united in purpose.  We’ve come in solidarity for this moment; a moment that in future years will be known as a turning point in race relations and opportunity.  When Dr. King was in his prime, he didn’t have 46 members of Congress to be his voice in Washington.  He only had five black Congressmen to coordinate his work.

“We have come to commemorate Dr. King; but we have also come to promise Ferguson and America that the issue of Criminal Justice Reform is the centerpiece of the CBC agenda.  Empowering black communities to make political change is our agenda.

“We will use our positions to expose racism when and where it is found.  We will use our positions to introduce legislation to address the need for systemic change in the criminal justice system – changes not only regarding the means by which law enforcement officers carry out their duties, but the misconduct of prosecutors and grand juries.  Your fight is our fight.  Your success is our success.

“May God bless this community; May God bless the Brown family and provide grace and comfort to each of them.  We pray that our God will move in a powerful way to change the hearts and minds of those who diminish the value of black life and the empowerment of African American communities.  Thank you.”

www.TheCongressionalBlackCaucus.com

ICYMI: Wall Street Journal & Washington Post Endorse Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Legislation

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON – The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post editorial boards this week endorsed legislation written by U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would impose additional sanctions on Iran if negotiators fail to reach a deal over the country’s nuclear weapons program by the June 30 deadline. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, the text of which is available here, will be introduced in the coming days. A Senate Banking Committee hearing on the legislation, originally scheduled for this week, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 27.

Below are excerpts from the Wall Street Journal editorial (“Obama, Congress and Iran”) published today and the Washington Post editorial (“Iran doesn’t hesitate to use a human pawn as nuclear negotiations go on”) published on Sunday.

Wall Street Journal – Review & Outlook

Obama, Congress and Iran: The President objects to support for what he claimed was his policy.

“If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the [sanctions] relief and ratchet up the pressure.” That was President Obama in November 2013, pledging he would not allow an interim nuclear deal with Tehran to become an opportunity for the mullahs to play for time while wringing economic concessions from the West. The President’s interpretation of “six months” turns out to be as elastic as his reading of U.S. immigration law.

That became clear on Friday when Mr. Obama warned he would veto any Congressional attempt to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if the latest round of negotiations fail.

…

The bill that is likely to emerge after the Senate Banking Committee holds hearings Tuesday will be a revised version of last year’s bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill, named after sponsors Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. It would reimpose the sanctions Mr. Obama suspended when he signed the interim deal, impose visa bans and asset blocks on top Iranian officials, and further tighten oil and financial sanctions.

Passing the bill now could help persuade Iranian negotiators that they cannot string the West along indefinitely without paying a price. Would that cause Iran to walk away from negotiations? It’s a strange argument coming from an Administration that boasts that Iran agreed to the interim deal thanks to the bite of strong sanctions.

All of this ought to persuade waverers to back Kirk-Menendez, especially the 12 Democrats who supported the bill last year and remain in the Senate. It’s never easy to oppose the foreign policy of a sitting President from your own party, especially on a deal that Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes recently called the foreign-policy equivalent of the Affordable Care Act. Then again, Democrats might reflect on what their lockstep support for ObamaCare has done for their Senate majority.

The next two years will be full of foreign-policy dangers as adversaries seek to exploit Mr. Obama’s weakness and desire for diplomatic agreements of any kind. Passing Kirk-Menendez would at least send a signal that the American people are not as pliable and that help is on the way after 2016.

Read the entire editorial here.

Washington Post – Editorial Board

Iran doesn’t hesitate to use a human pawn as nuclear negotiations go on

AS NEGOTIATIONS with Iran on its nuclear program resumed last week , President Obama reiterated his opposition to new sanctions legislation. The legislation, which has strong bipartisan support, could “undermine the negotiations” and isolate the United States from its allies, Mr. Obama said Friday. “Just hold your fire,” he urged Congress, vowing to veto the bill if it reached him.

The logic of that argument has always been a little hard to follow, since the measure the Senate is likely to take up, sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Republican Mark Kirk (Ill.), would mandate new sanctions only if Iran failed to accept an agreement by the June 30 deadline established in the ongoing talks. Common sense suggests the certain prospect of more punishment for an already-damaged economy would make the regime of Ali Khamenei more rather than less likely to offer the concessions necessary for a deal.

We gave Mr. Obama’s argument the benefit of the doubt when Congress first considered the legislation more than a year ago. But the president’s logic has been undercut by the manifest willingness of the Iranians to adopt their own pressure tactics — including steps that are considerably more noxious than the threat of future sanctions. On the day before talks resumed between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last Wednesday, Tehran announced that construction has begun on two new nuclear reactors. The next day its news agency reported that the case of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been imprisoned since July 22, had been referred to the Revolutionary Court for “processing.”

…

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that he is being used as a human pawn in the regime’s attempt to gain leverage in the negotiations.

If tactics such as that do not ruin the chance of an agreement, then neither should action by Congress.

Read the entire editorial here.

Governor Rauner Signs Executive Order for Minority and Veteran Empowerment

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – Governor Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order 15-12 designed to help bring more economic opportunities to minorities and veterans.

“Illinois is an incredibly diverse state, and we benefit from that diversity,” Gov. Rauner said. “But the unemployment rate for minorities and veterans is way too high. This Executive Order will help reveal some of the causes and identify ways to solve this injustice.”

Executive Order 15-12 orders state agencies to require every labor organization, contractor or subcontractor that is party to a state contract to obtain and report within thirty days the total number of minority and veteran participants in any offered training program as well as the minority and veteran participation rate in said programs.

CMS is also ordered to conduct a thorough review of all goals, preferences and considerations provided under state law and regulations concerning the hiring and training of veterans and the awarding of contracts to veteran-owned businesses. CMS is also to study the participation of minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses’ ability to obtain opportunities in the State of Illinois. The goal of the study is to identify any disparity in awards and make recommendations to fix those differences.

“We need to ensure jobs and business opportunities are open to everyone, but especially those who serve our country or are underrepresented in the economy,” Gov. Rauner added. “I will be a governor who champions our veterans and historically-disadvantaged communities. This Executive Order will help give my administration the tools to do exactly that.”

Disenfranchisement News: Gov. McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights of More Than 5,100 People

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

(From The Sentencing Project)

Virginia

Governor restores voting rights of more than 5,100 people

In the past year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has restored voting rights to 5,113 people, a record for a governor’s first year in office. In order to accelerate the restoration process, the administration has reduced the waiting period before applying for people convicted of violent crimes from five years to three, and removed drug crimes from the list of felony offenses that require a waiting period. (Non-violent felony offenses do not require a waiting period before one can apply for restoration of voting rights.)

Of the 5,113 people whose rights were restored, 3,577 have already registered to vote. McAuliffe says, “By providing Virginia’s former offenders with a second chance, we can reduce recidivism, increase participation in our democratic processes, and build a new Virginia economy.”

Iowa

Task force fails to fix problems with database of ineligible voters

Errors within Iowa’s database of ineligible voters with felony convictions have disenfranchised at least a dozen people who were incorrectly reported as having a felony conviction by court officials, or had their rights restored under former Governor Vilsack. A task force was created last April by Secretary Matt Schultz to address this problem. The task force met once in August and disbanded without finding a permanent solution to the problem.

Minnesota

Minnesota Conversations: Felony Voting

Hosted by Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, this half-hour program looks at Minnesota’s felony disenfranchisement laws, their disproportionate impact on communities of color, and how felony disenfranchisement laws vary by state.

Florida

State legislators and advocates propose automatic rights restoration

Senator Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, recently proposed a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights for some of the 1.3 million disenfranchised Floridians who have completed their felony sentence and are living in the community. The voting rights measure (SJR 208) is for consideration during the 2015 legislative session, which begins in March.

Grassroots efforts continue by the ACLU, NAACP, and the League of Women Voters to gather the 683,000 signatures needed by February 1, 2016 to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot. The proposed ballot initiative would automatically restore voting rights for people convicted of a felony offense, excluding homicide and sexual offenses, upon completion of their prison, probation, and parole sentence.

Kentucky

Bi-partisan support for voting rights bills in General Assembly

Five pre-filled bills in the Kentucky General Assembly, sponsored by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, propose a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for most people convicted of a felony offense.

Similar legislation, House Bill 70 in 2014, has passed the House legislature each year since 2007, but each year the bill has died in the Senate. In 2014, the bill received special attention after U.S. Senator Rand Paul testified in favor of the bill at the State Government Committee. However, the bill died after state Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer amended the bill to include a five-year waiting period before applying for restoration, which the House refused to accept.

Senator Paul continues to urge the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment saying, “Restoring voting rights for those who have repaid their debt to society is simply the right thing to do.”

International

Nigerian court upholds the right of citizens in prison to vote in all elections

A Federal High Court in Nigeria has recently ruled that all incarcerated people have the right to vote in all elections throughout the country, and that any act “to deny inmates the right to vote is unconstitutional, illegal, irregular, unlawful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” The judge gave orders to the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Prisons Service to update the National registry of voters to include names of citizens in prison.

Attorney General Holder to Receive NAACP Chairman’s Award at the 46th NAACP Image Awards

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Two-Hour Special Airs Live on Friday, February 6 on TV One at 9:00 p.m. ET (PT tape-delayed) One-Hour Pre-Show Airs Live from the Red Carpet at 8:00 p.m. ET (PT tape-delayed)


LOS ANGELES, CA – The Honorable, Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder, Jr. is set to receive the NAACP Chairman’s Award during the 46th NAACP Image Awards, broadcast live on Friday, February 6 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT tape-delayed) on TV One, the civil rights organization announced today.

The Chairman’s Award, chosen by Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, Roslyn M. Brock, is bestowed in recognition of special achievement and distinguished public service. Past honorees include United States Navy Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, Radio One Founder and Chairperson Cathy Hughes, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Tyler Perry, Former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, Aretha Franklin, Bono, then-Senator Barack Obama, The Dave Matthews Band, Danny Glover, and Forest Whitaker.

“Eric H. Holder, Jr. has a national reputation for his significant work around civil rights and race in America, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.  In honoring Attorney General Holder, the NAACP focuses on his life’s work and accomplishments as our nation’s first African American Attorney General” stated Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors. “I am personally inspired by his many civic commitments including service on the board of Columbia University, the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Meyer Foundation, and the Save the Children Foundation, his expansive legal career including working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as his positions on a number of tough race-related issues to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all Americans.  It is my honor and privilege to recognize Mr. Holder.”

President Barack Obama nominated Mr. Holder to be Attorney General and his nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 2, 2009. Mr. Holder began his service as the eighty-second Attorney General of the United States the next day. Eric H. Holder, Jr. was born in New York City and attended public schools there, graduating from Stuyvesant High School, before earning a B.A. in American History from Columbia College in 1973 and a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1976.

Upon his graduation from law school, Mr. Holder joined the Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.  He was assigned to the newly-formed Public Integrity Section, where he investigated and prosecuted corruption involving officials in local, state, and federal government.  In 1988, President Reagan appointed Mr. Holder to serve as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where he presided over hundreds of criminal and civil trials during his five years on the bench.  In 1993, President Clinton appointed Judge Holder to serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.  In 1997, President Clinton appointed Mr. Holder to serve as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, a position that he held until the end of the Clinton administration.  At the request of President George W. Bush, Mr. Holder served as Acting Attorney General in 2001 pending the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Mr. Holder has received numerous awards in recognition of his professional and civic contributions, including the Department of Justice’s Special Achievement Award, the District of Columbia Bar Association’s Beatrice Rosenberg Award, and George Washington University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal for Outstanding Service in Human Rights.  The District of Columbia Bar Association recognized Mr. Holder as its Lawyer of the Year in 1997.

The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the accomplishment of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners will be voted upon by NAACP members and announced when the envelopes are opened on Thursday, February 5 during the Awards Ceremony for non-televised categories. The remaining categories will be announced LIVE on stage during the two-hour star-studded TV One telecast on Friday, February 6 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT tape-delated). The telecast will also include a one-hour pre-show airing live from the red carpet (8:00 p.m. ET/PT tape-delayed).

The 46th NAACP Image Awards are sponsored by: AT&T, Bank of America, FedEx, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Gilead Sciences, Hyundai Motor America, PepsiCo, Southwest Airlines and Wells Fargo.

For all information and latest news, please visit the official NAACP Image Awards website at http://www.naacpimageawards.net.

FB: /naacpimageaward | Twitter: @naacpimageaward

Book Encourages Black Biz to Pursue Government Contracts

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Small Business Coach, Cal Stevens, Pens Book on Obtaining Government Contracts

You Can Sell to Uncle Sam by Cal Stevens


Atlanta, GA — al Stevens, a small business consultant and career enhancement coach and trainer, has released his newest and third publication entitled, You Can Sell to Uncle Sam: Getting Government Contracts. This detailed self-help book encourages small businesses, especially Black-owned small businesses, to pursue federal government contracts.

Stevens, a South DeKalb County, Georgia resident and President of TACADA Marketing Consultants, LLC, comments, “It takes tenacity to succeed in government sales or to sell your products or services to ‘Uncle Sam’. Establishing a small business in the federal marketplace can be frustrating. Yet small business preference programs, along with knowledge of how procurements are conducted, can cause small business revenues to increase in a few short years performing on government contracts.”

He continues, “This book will provide guidance on how your company can position itself in selling your products or services to Uncle Sam.”

You Can Sell to Uncle Sam offers a comprehensive overview of what you need to do to prepare for procurement opportunities, the types of schedules, and the award process. It focuses on specific information useful for determining if getting a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule Contract is the right decision for your company, and if it is, how to meet requirements for obtaining an award more quickly.
What others are saying:
“Having TACADA Marketing, specifically Cal Stevens, consult us at Contract Business Interiors, on getting a GSA schedule has been a great business decision. Acquiring a schedule is a complicated process. Cal’s years of experience in the General Services Administration gives him first-hand knowledge of the process and the best…and quickest…way to succeed. Cal also provides usable information on marketing opportunities related to our scope of work. I frequently receive interesting articles and notices of events that can help how I do business at CBI. In my view, he’s the expert and I trust what he says.” — Quentin Bradford, Account Manager, Contract Business Interiors, Inc., East Point, GA.
Book Details:
You Can Sell to Uncle Sam: Getting Government Contracts
By Cal Stevens
ISBN: 978-1-4917-5135-0
The book can be purchased from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
For more information about TACADA Marketing, go to: www.tacadamarketing.com

Photo Caption: Bookcover and author, Cal Stevens

Representative Duckworth, US Army Iraq Veteran Honored With The Abraham Lincoln Veteran Champion Award

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL — In a career spanning over 23 years as an officer, leader of veterans’ services, and as a member of Congress, Tammy Duckworth has focused on her mission, her people, and her responsibilities, always seeking the best possible results.  For her leadership, energy, and efforts, she was honored today with the Abraham Lincoln Veteran Champion Award, presented by Harry Sawyer, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Interim Director, at an event attended by state-level leaders of the major veteran organizations, supporters, and friends in Wood Dale, Illinois.

“I am honored to have known Tammy Duckworth for ten years, “said Harry Sawyer. “She represents the very best of what our veterans give to the nation, and bring back with them from service.  She’s been a soldier, a leader, and now continues to serve as an elected official, and yet still focuses on her fellow veterans.”

She is the first Asian-American woman elected Illinois to Congress, the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.

She is an Iraq War Veteran, former IDVA Director, former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and currently represents the Illinois 8th District in Congress.

“It is a really great honor to serve, “said Rep. Duckworth in thanking Governor Rauner and the IDVA for the award. “I will hold it dear; I will display it proudly.  It’s really a testament to all the people I’ve worked with…” citing the veteran leaders in attendance she worked with on programs to help veterans.

In 2004, Duckworth deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard and was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her helicopter was hit by hostile fire on Nov. 12, 2004, and Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm as result.  She was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries, and also earned the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Expert Marksmanship Badge (Pistol and Rifle Bars), and the Army Aviator Badge.    She is active in her community, in volunteer service, and recently retired from the National Guard.  She and her family reside in Hoffman Estates.

Sawyer presented Duckworth the Abraham Lincoln Veteran Champion Award, which includes a framed proclamation as well as a State Flag, on behalf of Governor Bruce Rauner.  She was nominated in March 2014 by Theresa Mah, former advisor to then-Governor Pat Quinn, for the award. 

The Abraham Lincoln Veteran Champion Award (ALVCA) highlights and honors Illinois veterans whose contributions in service to the veteran community and their local communities are truly above and beyond. Nominees are evaluated on the basis of their leadership, dedication, innovation, and impact in serving these communities. ALVCA recipients are those whose efforts add to the powerful narrative that veterans are dedicated, lifelong public servants from whose efforts all of Illinois’ communities stand to benefit. In contributing to this narrative through their service to veteran and local communities, the ALVCA recipients not only impact the lives of those they serve, but also the overall advocacy effort for Illinois veterans.  The IDVA readily accepts nominations of veterans for consideration to receive the ALVCA.

Please contact Ryan Yantis, communication manager, IDVA, ryan.yantis@illinois.gov or 312-814-0778 with any question concerning the IDVA or the Abraham Lincoln Veteran Champion Award.

Fioretti to Unveil Parking Ticket Amnesty Ordinance at Wednesday Council Meeting

Posted by Admin On January - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – During Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting, Ald. Bob Fioretti will submit a parking ticket amnesty ordinance (see below).

“Let’s give people the opportunity to pay their tickets in a responsible way,” said Fioretti.  “This proposal would give people with tickets some flexibility and would put much needed revenue in the city coffers.  It is the responsible thing to do and I hope my colleagues and the mayor can join me in supporting this ordinance.”

O  R  D  I  N  A  N  C  E

WHEREAS, The City of Chicago is a home rule unit of government under Section 6(a), Article VII of the 1970 Constitution of the State of Illinois and, therefore, may pass legislation regulating matters that pertain to its municipal government and affairs; and

WHEREAS, In an effort to enforce collection of fines imposed on individuals who were adjudicated to be in violation of their vehicular traffic and parking laws, the city saw fit to double and triple these fines if they were not paid in a timely fashion; and

WHEREAS, It was determined that these penalties, while motivating some individuals to pay what was owed before the amount escalated, imposed an undue burden on many who might be willing and able to pay their original fines given the opportunity and the time to do so; and

WHEREAS, An amnesty program to provide relief from these accumulated penalties brought in more than  $7,000,000 when it was last granted almost a decade ago. It behooves this legislative body to extend such a program at this time, now therefore

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY OF CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL:

SECTION 1. The above recitals are incorporated herein by reference and made the findings of the City Council.

SECTION 2. Beginning April 15, 2015, any person who owes the City $10,000 or less in unpaid fines and penalties for any final determinations of parking and/or compliance violations under Chapter 9 of the City of Chicago Municipal Code and pays to the City the amounts remaining due on any or all final determinations of liability shall not be required to pay more than the original amount of the fine relating to any final determination on any violation which occurred prior to April 15, 2014 and the city comptroller is hereby authorized and directed to waive any amount above the original fines relating to those violations that occurred prior to said date.

SECTION 2. In addition, the city comptroller is authorized and directed to allow all active-duty or veteran United States military personnel, senior citizens above the age of 65 and persons with a net income below the current poverty level as set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services for 2014 to enter into a monthly installment plan of up to 24 months after paying 25% of the amount due under the provisions of Section 1 of this ordinance regardless of a previous history of defaults prior to passage of this ordinance.

SECTION 3. All other persons shall be allowed to enter into a monthly payment plan of 12 equal installments after paying 50% of the amount due under the provisions of Section 1 of this ordinance provided they do not have a previous history of defaults prior to passage of this ordinance under conditions to be determined by the city comptroller.

SECTION 4. All provisions of this ordinance shall expire on December 31, 2017.

SECTION 5. This ordinance shall take effect upon its passage and publication.

__________________________

ROBERT W. FIORETTI

Alderman – 2nd Ward

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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