Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Impact of Sequestration on Women, Children and Families

(WASHINGTON) – This afternoon, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement on the devastating impact that automatic end of year budget cuts, mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, would have on women, children and families:

“I rise today as the voice for millions of women, children and low income families to urge my colleagues to work towards a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include deeper cuts to programs designed to promote and protect the health of women and children,” said Conyers.

“By eliminating nearly one billion dollars in federal funding, if implemented, this 8.2 percent across the board cut would drastically hinder access to critical health care services delivered to mothers and babies in need, stunt the impact and development of prevention initiatives, reduce vital funding for medical research, and disproportionately impact low-income and uninsured families. 

“Additionally, it would significantly reduce funding for critical programs important to the development of children such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, the Section 317 Immunization Program, the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education program, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visitation Program, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Safe Motherhood, and the National Institutes Child Health and Human Development.  In Michigan alone these cuts would result in 20,700 mothers and young children being cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and over $1 million cut from the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program, which the state relies heavily on to train its next generation of pediatricians. 

“Playing a game of chicken with budget sequestration is despicable and we must work toward a fair and plausible resolution of this issue that does not trade away the health and well being of our children.

“Furthermore, children depend on healthy moms and millions of women rely on federally funded programs like Title X Family Planning for basic health and prenatal care.  However, this looming budget sequestration would jeopardize the health of these women by inhibiting access to critical health services, thereby increasing the risk of life-threatening cancer and other diseases that could have been prevented by health screenings offered through Title X services.  In Michigan, 2,700 fewer women will be screened for cancer as a result of the sequestration’s cut of over $712,800 from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program.

“Lastly, women’s health would not only be impacted, but also women’s economic well-being.  These automatic cuts will create overwhelming job loss at a time when both men and women struggle to find work due to no fault of their own. Moreover, sequestration cuts coupled with the persistent gender wage gap is a recipe for disaster that middle and lower income families cannot afford.  Therefore, I will not casually stand by while my colleagues threaten unbearable sacrifices that disproportionately impact the well being of children, women and their families.  I urge that with compassionate hearts, we work together to alleviate current suffering and pursue a legislative solution that does not target non-defense discretionary programs for additional cuts.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Conyers Celebrates Small Business Saturday

(DETROIT) – This Saturday November 24th, marks the second annual Small Business Saturday. Taking place between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” Small Business Saturday is designed to support small businesses and boost the economies of local communities. Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement in advance of the weekend events:

“I am proud to support the second annual Small Business Saturday, here in Detroit and across the country,” said Conyers.

“Initiatives like Small Business Saturday underscore our national commitment to rebuilding the cornerstones of America that strengthen our economy: small businesses, entrepreneurs, and a sturdy middle class.

“I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving holiday, and hope that my fellow Detroiters support our small business community this Saturday. Together we can make Saturday a big day for small businesses.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Conyers Applauds Sixth Circuit’s Upholding Affirmative Action in Michigan

“Affirmative Action is a Vital and Active Part of our Social, Economic, and Educational Fabric”

(WASHINGTON) – Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in the state - Proposal 2 - which was passed by voters in 2006 as an amendment to the state constitution.  The Court found that Proposal 2 deprives minorities of equal protection of the law by creating a structural burden that minority students would have to shoulder in order to address admissions policies. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement in response:

“I applaud the Sixth Circuit for rejecting the burdensome consequences of Proposal 2 and would urge the Michigan Attorney General to not further appeal the decision.  Nearly 10 years ago, in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of ‘equal protection of the laws’ was upheld by the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy that used race as a factor in order to achieve greater diversity in higher education.  Since that time, however, a misguided and twisted notion has been promoted about the positive impact that affirmative action policies have on admissions standards.

“Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit provided us with an accurate description of how admissions policies at Michigan Universities benefit lobbying by the sons and daughters of alumni of the University,children of donors, and permits other considerations for admissions not based on merit. The Court also rightly distinguished the effect these consideration have on race-conscious admissions policies, by illustrating how instead of lobbying the admissions committees at Michigan universities, a minority student would be required to launch a Herculean lobbying effort - ‘by convincing the Michigan electorate to amend its constitution - an extraordinary expensive process and the most arduous of all the possible channels for change.’

“Currently, the Supreme Court is considering Fisher v. University of Texas, another affirmative action case where a Abigail Fisher, a young Caucasian woman, has argued that she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of their affirmative action policy.  Notwithstanding the merits of Ms. Fisher’s case, I believe the Sixth Circuit, in rejecting Proposal 2, has provided a significant opportunity for the Supreme Court and for the country to discuss misguided notions opposing racial and ethnic considerations in higher education admissions, and to juxtapose these notions  against other non-merit considerations currently in the admissions processes of Michigan universities.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Conyers Celebrates National Adoption Day

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement to express support for National Adoption Day, a collective national effort to raise awareness about children waiting for adoption in foster care:

“As many Americans prepare to celebrate this holiday season with their families, we should all recognize that there are more than 4,500 children waiting for adoption in foster care who will not have a permanent family to celebrate with this year,” said Conyers.

“On Saturday, November 17, 2012 communities across the country will seize the opportunity to finalize adoptions and celebrate adoptive families.  For the past 12 years, National Adoption Day has made the dreams of nearly 40,000 children come true by working with courts, judges, attorneys, adoption professionals, child welfare agencies and advocates to finalize adoptions and find homes for children in foster care.  Nationally, almost 400 events are held annually for individuals to help make the dream of belonging to a permanent home a reality.

“Above and beyond these efforts, there is still much work that must be done to assist these children.  Each year, children enter foster care through no fault of their own.  As result, they are separated from siblings and will likely spend at least three birthdays waiting to get adopted.  It is also likely that these same children, 30,000 to be exact, will turn 18 without ever having families to call their own.   

“I want to thank all the current and future adoptive parents who will step forward this National Adoption Day.  Every child deserves a loving, caring and supportive family and home they can call their own.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Sunday, November 11, 2012

High court weighs new look at voting rights law

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, John McCormack, Emanuel Celler, Luci Johnson, Everett Dirksen, Carl Albert, Carl Hayden
    FILE - In this Aug. 6, 1965, photo, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a ceremony in the President's Room near the Senate Chambers on Capitol Hill in Washington. Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish that provision off. Surrounding the president from left directly above his right hand, Vice President Hubert Humphrey; House Speaker John McCormack; Rep. Emanuel Celler, D-N.Y.; first daughter Luci Johnson; and Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. Behind Humphrey is House Majority Leader Carl Albert of Oklahoma; and behind Celler is Sen. Carl Hayden, D-Ariz. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision.
The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.
Some of the governments covered — most of them are in the South — argue they have turned away from racial discrimination over the years. But Congress and lower courts that have looked at recent challenges to the law concluded that a history of discrimination and more recent efforts to harm minority voters justify continuing federal oversight.
The Supreme Court could say as early as Monday whether it will consider ending the Voting Rights Act's advance approval requirement that has been held up as a crown jewel of the civil rights era.
The justices sidestepped this very issue in a case from Texas in 2009. In an opinion joined by eight justices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote then that the issue of advance approval "is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today."
Since then, Congress has not addressed potential problems identified by the court. Meanwhile, the law's opponents sensed its vulnerability and filed several new lawsuits.
The advance approval, or preclearance requirement, was adopted in the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to give federal officials a potent tool to defeat persistent efforts to keep blacks from voting.
The provision was a huge success, and Congress periodically has renewed it over the years. The most recent occasion was in 2006, when a Republican-led Congress overwhelmingly approved and President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension.
The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives and Hispanics.
Before these locations can change their voting rules, they must get approval either from the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division or from the federal district court in Washington that the new rules won't discriminate.
Congress compiled a 15,000-page record and documented hundreds of instances of apparent voting discrimination in the states covered by the law dating to 1982, the last time it had been extended.
Among the incidents in the congressional record:
—In 1998, Webster County, Ga., tried to reduce the black population in several school board districts after citizens elected a majority-black school board for the first time.
—In 2001, Kilmichael, Miss., canceled an election when a large number of African-American candidates sought local office following 2000 census results that showed blacks had become the majority in the city.
—In 2004, Waller County, Texas, sought to limit early voting near a historically black college and threatened to prosecute students for illegal voting after two black students said they would run for office.
But in 2009, Roberts indicated the court was troubled about the ongoing need for a law in the face of dramatically improved conditions, including increased minority voter registration and turnout rates. Roberts attributed part of the change to the law itself. "Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirements," he said.
He also raised concern that the formula by which states are covered relies on data that is now 40 years old. By some measures, states covered by the law were outperforming some that were not.
Jurisdictions required to obtain preclearance were chosen based on whether they had a test restricting the opportunity to register or vote and whether they had a voter registration or turnout rate below 50 percent.
In the federal court of appeals in the District of Columbia, Circuit Judge Stephen Williams objected that the law specifies that these criteria are measured by what happened in elections several decades ago. But writing for a majority that upheld preclearance, Circuit Judge David Tatel said the question is not whether old data is being used, but whether it helps identify jurisdictions with the worst discrimination problems. "If it does, then even though the formula rests on decades-old factors, the statute is rational," Tatel said.
Shelby County, Ala., a well-to-do, mostly white bedroom community near Birmingham, adopted Roberts' arguments in its effort to have the voting rights provision declared unconstitutional, but lost in the lower courts. The county's appeal is among those being weighed by the high court.
Yet just a few years earlier, a city of nearly 12,000 people in Shelby County defied the voting rights law and prompted the intervention of the Bush Justice Department.
Ernest Montgomery became the only black member of the five-person Calera City Council in 2004, winning in a district that was almost 71 percent black. The city redrew its district lines in 2006 after new subdivisions and retail developments sprang up in the area Montgomery represented, and the change left Montgomery's District 2 with a population that was only 23 percent black.
Running against a white opponent in the now mostly white district, Montgomery narrowly lost a re-election bid in 2008. The Justice Department invalidated the election result because the city had failed to obtain advance approval of the new districts.
A lifelong resident of Calera and a church deacon, the 56-year-old Montgomery said he doesn't know whether discrimination was involved in the redistricting decision six years ago. But, he said, discrimination still exists and the law is still needed.
"I think things have gotten a lot more leveled out, but we're not to the point we need," he said.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©