Archive for Informational Articles

Congressman Ami Bera Staffer Visits American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato speaks to the American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato is Congressman Ami Bera’s District Director at his California office, for the 7th Congressional District. Ceccato is a military veteran who was wounded in Iraq, and returned to attend grad school thanks to the G.I. Bill, and began work with Bera as a caseworker on veterans’ issues. He shared a lot of information with the club in a 2015 visit regarding help for veterans in need. Since then, he has been promoted to District Director overseeing the office, and as a guest speaker at the June meeting, shared more information about the operations and what is available to constituents through the Congressional office.

Ceccato said that there were three main categories of staff that he oversees in the office. Caseworkers are the heart and soul of the office. They are there to help people who have problems or issues with any federal government, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid issues, veterans’ issues, immigration and more. Field Representatives are there to represent the Congressman at various events and meetings he is unable to attend himself, to get feedback and share information with his constituents. The interns are a hardworking group who take calls, meet visitors, and process correspondence and social media feedback, and record all the information that comes in. It is all shared with Congressman Bera, who is then able to act on it—including making personal callbacks when possible. Ceccato said it is an amazing team, and your connection to the federal government, on anything from a denial of benefits to a visit to Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, he said that it was a whirlwind going on in Washington. They get about 1000 calls a week, and sacks of mail. And voices are being heard—calls about health care are making an impact. Ceccato said that even if the Senate had passed their version of the “Trumpcare” bill, it was dead on arrival at the house. Now tax reform is on the table, and the same kind of feedback can stop the kind of spending cuts that would be needed to give a tax break to the wealthiest. He said that calls and letters help even if your representative is already on your side. Reaffirmation helps, and feedback contributes to debate.

Ceccato also highlighted some real accomplishments made on veterans’ issues. A Post-9/11 Veterans Memorial is now underway. “Blind scheduling”—medical appointments made without confirming dates and times—is being eliminated. The National Guard overpayment problem has been resolved. Bera is also working to improve woman veterans’ care. Homeless veteran women with kids is a growing problem that needs addressing on a national level.

In conclusion, Ceccato urged the club, and anyone in the Seventh Congressional District to contact Bera’s office for any federal government issues people would need help with. Stalled tax refunds, students in need of financial aid, homeowners needing loan modifications, immigrant citizen applicants, small business loans, stalled passport issues, veterans medical or educational benefits, and Social Security and Medicare problems are just examples of assistance they can offer.

Contact the Sacramento office at 916-635-0505, or visit during office hours of 9 am to 6 pm at 8950 Cal Center Drive, Building 3, Suite 100, Sacramento CA 95826. Send a letter, or contact them online at bera.house.gov. The Washington DC office can be reached at 202-225-5716; 1535 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC, 20515.

Common Sense Kids Action Helps Make Children a Top Priority

How do you know if your representatives are voting for and pushing legislation that is helping our kids? Common Sense Kids Action is a nationwide organization that tracks measures in the legislation, and how they will affect kids, either positively or negatively. They are also involved in media and education, helping parents and teachers make informed decisions about media and technology.

Jeri Dahlke speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

In May, Jeri Viera Dahlke, an American River Democrats club member, who is also involved with Moms on the Left and Indivisible, spoke at our club meeting about her involvement with Common Sense Kids Action and how we can use it to make a difference in issues affecting children and teens in our area and state.

Dahlke said that her husband had been a teacher in Watts, and she soon learned that the life of kids in school is not nearly the same across the state, despite funding goals. Access to books and facilities, and parents with little time to help made the differences stark from one district to another. She felt she needed to be more involved to make a difference for kids and their families who need support. She began working with Common Sense Kids Action, to help make it easier for people to understand what is going on and how it impacts children. She said “Doing good things for kids helps others—the benefits expand.”

Common Sense Kids Action serves by rating legislation, proving voters’ guides, educating and advocating. Advocating begins with visiting legislators at the Capitol, sending emails, making phone calls, and sending cards and letters. Every measure should be evaluated for its direct impact on kids—is it a good benefit? Common Sense Legislative Ratings allows you to choose Federal or State, and find a list of bills pending, with their positive or negative impact on kids. (California currently has 62 positive, one negative—not bad!) This guide can help you determine which bills you want to encourage (or discourage) your representatives to vote for, including Senator Richard Pan and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia’s Bill of Rights for Children and Youth (SB 18 and SCR 41.)

The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth states that all children deserve:

  • High-Quality Early Learning and Care
  • High-Quality Education Opportunities
  • Supportive Family Environments
  • Preventative, Accessible, and Comprehensive Health and Dental Care.

You can join Common Sense and sign up for email notifications of actions. Common Sense Kids Action will send you periodic email alerts on legislative activity that impacts your community; You will have the opportunity to share your actions and these issues with your friends by sending them Common Sense Kids Action alerts and issues; Common Sense Kids Action may share with our affiliates and like-minded coalitions working on behalf of children the email address and/or zip code that you provided to us when you signed up to participate in Common Sense Kids Action.

Common Sense want to help you “Get inspired, get the tools, get to work on behalf of kids.” In addition to their website, you can follow on Facebook or Twitter at CSKidsAction.

Single Payer Health Care a Real Possiblity

Zulma Michaca and Shirley Toy speak at the American River Democrats April meeting

Though the Affordable Care Act—AKA Obamacare—was a major step forward to giving Americans universal affordable health insurance, it still has flaws, notably cost control. And now that the Trump Republicans are continuing to devise an even less accessible system, the California legislature is working on putting a system in place to provide the kind of health care most of the developed already has. State Senate Bill 562 is currently being heard in committees with a real chance of being passed and signed by the Governor. It recently passed the Health Committee and is due to be heard in Appropriations.

At the American River Democrats’ April meeting, we welcomed Shirley Toy and Zulma Michaca from the California Nurses Association. Their organization supports SB 562, because health care (not health insurance)is a human right. The Affordable Care Act was a great improvement, said Toy, but not enough. Costs continue to rise, and ACA didn’t do enough to change that. While the rest of the developed world pays less and gets better care, in the U.S., costs continue to rise while the Trump administration and Republican congress try to reach a compromise to end the ACA, and replace it with something “fantastic.” While the house finally passed their version, the Senate Republicans are struggling to make a less “objectionable” bill, but every proposal so far has robbed millions of the benefits they now have, while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Meanwhile, American businesses large and small have problems competing with each other, and with international firms who don’t need to provide health insurance to their employees. Companies are forced to bargain health benefits with current and potential employees, while those in the “gig economy” and small business start-ups have to face big bills to get health care for themselves and their families.

The big question for bringing single-payer health care to California is how to pay for it. Toy pointed out that we already pay—and one-third of our insurance money goes to administration, marketing, doctors’ staff who deal with insurance, and profits for the private insurance companies. And the cost hospitals incur for treating uninsured people, especially in emergency rooms, gets built into the fees they charge paying customers. But just saying we already pay too much doesn’t actually fund the alternative! As club member Dr. Bill Durston pointed out, even the best idea needs a funding mechanism—the previous single payer bills would not have worked had there not been a companion bill to cover funding.

The bill currently says “It is the intent of the Legislature for the state to work to obtain waivers and other approvals relating to Medi-Cal, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, the PPACA, and any other federal programs so that any federal funds and other subsidies that would otherwise be paid to the State of California, Californians, and health care providers would be paid by the federal government to the State of California and deposited in the Healthy California Trust Fund.” So that means that any money coming into California from the Federal government for healthcare would be funneled into the fund first. Additional money would obviously be needed. The remaining funding is not specific in the current bill, stating “It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would develop a revenue plan, taking into consideration anticipated federal revenue available for the program. In developing the revenue plan, it is the intent of the Legislature to consult with appropriate officials and stakeholders.”

So clearly, funding will also come from a combination of taxes and fees, to be specified in a companion bill, most likely. Though many, especially Republicans (and some Democrats) will claim it is a big tax hike on Californians, it should save money overall, as both the elimination of insurance company overhead, and using the power of large-pool negotiation with providers and drug companies, should allow for big savings. But then there is always the danger of bureaucratic waste and fraud, so the managers—the “Healthy California Board” and their staff—will have to be extremely vigilant in managing the program. If California proposes to provide a viable alternative to the national Trump/Republican plan, all of the citizens will need to see they are getting a good deal for good health care.

What do we get if SB 562, and a companion funding bill, are passed? All California residents will be eligible to enroll in a common health care system (like insurance, but different.) You choose your doctor, and/or “Care Coordinator,” who keeps track of your records and treatment. You may go to specialists without referrals, and coverage includes dental care, emergency, diagnostics, rehabilitation, substance abuse, prenatal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and more. You may also use a health care organization; a non-profit that coordinates care (like Kaiser, and others.)

Rates paid to providers are negotiated to insure both fairness to the doctors, medical staff, facilities, and drug companies, as well as the taxpayers of California who support the system. An immediate savings of at least 25 to 30 percent will come from the elimination of the insurance company costs. The system will be run by an independent board of nine Californians, appointed by the Governor and legislature, and chosen based on a background and expertise in health care; and must have at least one member from the general public, a nurses labor org., another labor org., and someone from the medical provider community. There will also be an advisory committee, representing a wide variety of citizens and representatives of various medical fields.

The political will needed, and fight to get this passed, will be formidable. Conservatives hate any government control of the market, even for essential services like health care. And conservative Democrats are reluctant to go too far, and risk losing support of the insurance and medical industry. While many organizations, like the California Nurses Association, labor unions, and many more support the idea, many doctors may fear losing income under this system.

But there is a lot to recommend it too, even to conservatives. Imagine the boon to businesses large and small if they no longer need to worry about providing health insurance benefits to attract good employees, and for the larger companies who are compelled to provide some form of coverage by law. Workers will have more choice to choose better jobs without worrying about losing or interrupting their health coverage. And entrepreneurs will be free to follow their dreams without the threat of bankrupting their families to buy insurance while they try to launch a small business. Is it worth paying somewhat higher income tax and potential business tax, if the payoff is so great? After eliminating the cost of health benefits for both employees and retirees, businesses will have a huge surplus of cash to help them chip in.  And individuals who have insurance costs deducted from their paychecks today may not even notice a tax increase. A successful launch of this system will no doubt draw more businesses to California once it has proven it works.

healthy california logoThe plan was designed following the model of developed countries around the world who provide better health care to their citizens than the U.S. does today. And as the bill progresses through the legislative process it will no doubt evolve further, especially the funding process. But the time to strike is now, with Democratic majorities and a Democratic Governor, (but one who still needs to be convinced.) For more information about this bill, see Healthy California.org, and let your representatives know you are behind it, especially those who may be on the fence, like Assembly Members Cooley and Cooper, and State Senator Pan.

Update: Senate Bill 562 passed 2 committees in the Senate and was approved on the Senate floor by a 23-14 vote, right down party lines. It has been sent to the Assembly, where it is currently in the Rules committee awaiting action to send it forward, likely to the Health and Human Services Committee, and then Appropriations. However, the companion funding bill has not been crafted as yet, causing Speaker Anthony Rendon to hold it in Rules for now.

Rendon stated: “As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562.

However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete. Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.

In light of this, I have decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.

Because this is the first year of a two-year session, this action does not mean SB 562 is dead. In fact, it leaves open the exact deep discussion and debate the senators who voted for SB 562 repeatedly said is needed.

The Senate can use that time to fill the holes in SB 562 and pass and send to the Assembly workable legislation that addresses financing, delivery of care, and cost control.”

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

How Does Supreme Court Nominee Stand on Gun Control?

The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In responding to questions from California Senator Dianne Feinstein during his confirmation hearing on March 21, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, demonstrated that he was a party to that fraud. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Click on this link for contact information for your U.S. Senators.) For more information regarding Judge Gorsuch’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment during his confirmation hearing, please read on.

The Second Amendment states, in its entirety:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Prior to 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had never ruled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns. On the contrary, it had been repeatedly established in Supreme Court decisions, in decisions of lower courts, and in reviews by legal historians that the Second Amendment was intended to protect a collective right of the people to maintain armed state militias, such as the current day National Guard, not a right of individual citizens to own firearms. In particular, the Supreme Court ruled in 1939 in the case of U.S. v. Miller and reiterated in 1980 in Lewis v. United States that, “The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.’”

In 2008, however, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court reversed over 200 years of legal precedent by ruling in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment did, indeed, confer an individual right to own guns, at least handguns of the type kept in the home “for protection.” The majority opinion in Heller, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is internally contradictory and relies heavily on literature published in law journals over the past two decades by a small group of authors with direct ties to the gun lobby. Prior to the Lewis decision, it was virtually unheard of for any legal history expert to argue that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns.

Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision effectively deleted the phrase, “A well regulated militia” from the Second Amendment. In doing so, it opened the floodgates for a torrent of lawsuits challenging all sorts of gun control laws. Although handgun bans in Washington DC and Chicago were overturned, most other gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons, withstood post-Heller challenges.

In questioning Judge Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked him if he agreed that bans on civilian ownership of weapons such as M-16 rifles that are typically used in military service are consistent with Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision. Gorsuch evaded answering the question directly.

Gorsuch: Senator, Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply. The question is whether it’s a gun in common use for self defense and that may be subject to reasonable regulation. That’s the task as I understand it. There’s lots of ongoing litigation about which weapons qualify under those standards and I can’t prejudge that litigation.

Feinstein: No, I’m just asking you do you agree with this statement, yes or no.
Gorsuch: The statements of, the, uh, Heller decision?
Feinstein: Justice Scalia’s statement.
Gorsuch: Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law.
Feinstein: Do you agree?
Gorsuch: Well, it’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law, and my job is to apply and enforce the law.

Judge Gorsuch clearly knows, or should know, that the 2008 Heller decision represented a radical reversal of the Court’s prior interpretation of the Second Amendment. He also knows, or should know, that courts have ruled post-Heller that bans on assault weapons do not violate the Second Amendment, but the gun lobby, which enthusiastically supported his nomination by Donald Trump, wants the Supreme Court to rule that civilian ownership of AR-15’s, the civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle and currently the most popular gun in America, is protected by the Second Amendment. Finally, Gorsuch definitely knows that the Heller decision could be reversed by a change in a single justice on the Supreme Court, and that had Hillary Clinton become President instead of Donald Trump, she almost certainly would have nominated a Supreme Court Justice who would have tipped the balance on the Court and reversed the Heller decision.

In stating, “Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” Gorsuch is endorsing what the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In refusing to answer Senator Feinstein’s question concerning a ban on assault weapons, Gorsuch is also signaling that he would likely vote to expand the category of constitutionally protected firearms beyond handguns protected by Heller to include assault rifles such as the AR-15’s which are currently “in common use.”

It’s ironic that Gorsuch, like the late Antonin Scalia, claims to be an “originalist,” basing his decisions on the original intent of the framers of the constitution. In his introductory comments before his Senate confirmation hearing, he paid tribute to the late Antonin Scalia, stating: “He reminded us that words matter—that the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law—not replace them with words that aren’t.”

If words matter, then what is it about the phrase, “A well regulated militia,” that Neil Gorsuch doesn’t understand? And where in the Second Amendment does he find the words, “a gun in common use for self defense?”

Recognizing that Gorsuch was not going to give her a straight answer concerning whether he thought bans on assault weapons were consistent with the Heller decision, Senator Feinstein went on to ask him whether he agreed with Fourth Circuit Court Judge Harvey Wilkinson who wrote in the case of Kolbe v. Hogan that the Second Amendment was ambiguous and that the ambiguity should be resolved by legislators representing the people who were directly affected by gun violence, not by judges who were relatively insulated from it. Again, Gorsuch refused to give a straight answer.

Gorsuch: I begin by saying I hold Judge Wilkinson in high regard. He is a very fine man and a very fine judge.
Feinstein: Can you say yes or no?
Gorsuch: No, I’m, I wish I could, um, but…
Feinstein: I wish you could too.
Gorsuch: You know, the Supreme Court of the United States isn’t final because it’s infallible, as Justice Jackson reminds us. It’s infallible because it’s final. And, uh, Judge Wilkinson had his view, and the Supreme Court has spoken, and, and, Heller is the law of the land, and Judge Wilkinson may disagree with it and I understand that, um, and he may, but he will follow the law no less than any other judge in America. I am confident of that. Um, he’s a very fine judge who takes his oath seriously.

Gorsuch knows that the Supreme Court is neither infallible nor final. It’s not uncommon for the Supreme Court to reverse a previous ruling. According to the Government Accounting Office, the Supreme Court has issued rulings that overturned all or part of previous decisions on 236 occasions from 1810 through 2016. The 2008 Heller decision has been called by some legal scholars one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history. Heller may be the law of the land today, but Heller overturned the rulings in Miller in 1939 and Lewis in 1980. If confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch himself could choose to be the deciding vote in overturning the radical Heller decision and in returning the Second Amendment to its original meaning. It’s clear from his answers to Senator Feinstein’s questions, though, that Gorsuch does not intend to do so.

The issue of the Second Amendment is only one of many on which Judge Neil Gorsuch refused to provide a straight answer to questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during two days of confirmation hearings. His evasive answers on the Second Amendment alone, though, along with his endorsement of a fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns, are reason enough to deny him a position on the Supreme Court. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thanks for your support of Americans Against Gun Violence and our efforts to stop the shameful epidemic of firearm related deaths and injuries that afflicts our country. If you haven’t already done so, please become a paid member and consider making an additional donation if you’re able. Please also visit the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website to learn about other actions that you can take right now to help stop gun violence.

We can’t call ourselves a great nation until the day when rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country are at or below the rates in other high income democratic countries. In order to achieve that goal, we must reverse the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment in the Heller decision and adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world. I look forward to working with you to make that day come sooner rather than later.

Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence

Reaching Out to Muslims

The American River Democrats welcomed Yannini Casillas, a representative from CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations—to their March meeting. Ms. Casillas spoke about pre-conceptions, misconceptions, and the nature of Muslims in the U.S. and around the world, and Senate Bill 31, the California Religious Freedom Act.

Yannini Casillas speaks to the American River Democrats

Casillas opened her talk with “Islam 101.” She said that the Islamic faith is very diverse, and that the largest percentage of Muslims are Asian, with Indonesians being the greatest number. She said the media does a poor job covering the Islamic faith, and that there is a big difference between certain cultures and the Islamic religion. ISIS does not represent Muslims any more that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christians.

Muslims are largely peaceful and diverse, and will adapt to the culture they belong to. The tenants of their faith are prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage. They believe you cannot force anyone to do anything; it is the “hand, tongue, and heart” that will guide people to social justice on earth. Women have rights as well, and repression seen in places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan reflect their culture, not the religion. When asked about LGBT rights, she said that everything is between the individual and God; that Muslims are to respect the human, and it is not okay to hurt anyone.

Casillas said that CAIR is working hard fighting the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. She pointed out that even people like Muhammad Ali Jr., the American-born son of the world famous boxer, was detained and questioned by officials. CAIR is training people on their rights, and working with law enforcement officials to fight harassment and vandalism against Muslims.

Particularly concerning are actions by the FBI. There are over 100 cases in California alone of agents coming to investigate Muslim people at their homes and workplaces. They are fishing for terrorist leads, and intimidating people to provide information, threatening to report uncooperative people to ICE agents.

California Senate Bill 31, authored by Ricardo Lara, prohibits state or local agencies from providing or disclosing to federal authorities information regarding a person’s religious affiliation for use in a national database. Though such a database would apply to all religions, the target is clearly Muslims. (Though, of course, any group, including Jews, Hindus, or atheists, could be next.) The bill requires a two-thirds majority vote, but fortunately enjoys some bipartisan support, with a Republican listed as a co-author. It passed two committees unanimously and, as of this writing, awaits a Senate floor vote, before moving to the Assembly. (It requires a two-thirds majority vote because it is an “Urgency Bill” which will take effect immediately on passing.) Casillas encouraged everyone to contact their state representatives to support this bill.

How else can you help? Get to know your Muslim neighbors! Visit an Islamic center, like The Islamic Society of Folsom, and meet the people there. (I have a friend who is a Christian pastor and visits the center on a regular basis, and finds it quite rewarding.) And watch out for hate incidents against Muslims, or any people of a different culture. Women are more often victims of these crimes because they are usually more visible due to their dress. Report these incidents and intervene if possible. If you see a stranger, especially someone who may be from another culture or religion, smile and say hello!

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

Report from Ami Bera Town Hall

Recently Louise Lopez attended Ami Bera’s Community Engagement Forum, and shared this report on the Moms (and Friends) on the Left Facebook page.

Congressman Bera addresses the crowd at his community forum. (Twitter – @RepBera)

March 11, 2017

Following topics were covered as responses to questions that were asked of Ami Bera.

1) Investigation of Russian Interference in the Election

Bera’s response: We need to protect the integrity of our democracy with an independent investigation. The congressman supports the Protect Our Democracy Bill which calls for such an independent investigation of Russian interference.

2) Travel Ban

Bera’s response: Co-sponsored the bill opposing the first Muslim Ban and is co-sponsoring the bill which opposes the Muslim Ban 2.0. This ban provides the wrong message to the world. It is dangerous and is also causing an increase in hate crimes at home.

3) President’s conflicts of interest

Bera’s response: A resounding ‘yes’ to an investigation. We need to ask for his tax returns.

4) Format for Town Halls (a Town Hall where he is the only speaker)

Bera’s response: Has held regular Town Halls from his first term. He started out as the sole speaker, but found that questions were often posed that would be better directed to others—State Assembly Persons or local city council members, for example. So he began inviting others respond to specific questions along with him. He has no problem with holding some meetings with no one else present on stage.

5) Is Donald Trump mentally ill?

Bera’s response: We should keep in mind that Donald Trump legally won this election via the Electoral College. He does not want the presidency or the government to fail. Bera is, however, concerned about Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, both before and after the campaign. Trump should listen carefully to his own words. The president also needs to step up: Post-9/11, President Bush visited a mosque. Trump is doing nothing along those lines to speak out against hate crimes. Also, “Someone needs to take his Twitter account away.” We are not the only ones reading his tweets, they become front page news in foreign countries as well and are cause for concern among our allies. Also, with regard to foreign countries, Bera is concerned about the diminished role that foreign diplomatic policy is being given by this administration while the military is being built up at diplomacy’s expense. When pressed on the question as to Trump’s mental health, Bera did say he felt Trump was a narcissist.

6) Rising Cost of Health Care

Bera’s response: Bera has publically rejected the current Republican bill, the AHCA. There are two things a federal health care plan should address: access and cost. The original ACA addressed access, but did not change the cost structure. The thought was to address this as well after initial passage, but the Republican majority’s complete opposition made this impossible previously. We don’t want to take away access, but we do need to find a way to make health care more affordable. We also need to address the cost of prescription drugs. The president should be bringing us together to work on these issues. Presently, we need to continue to protect the 20 million people who have gained healthcare under Obamacare as well as looking at cost. We have a good example of a successful plan in Medicare—this is a system that works well for older people and we should be talking about how to get younger people to be able to buy into this type of health care. Bera returned to the topic of health care later in the meeting with the following comments: He stands firmly with Planned Parenthood. It is disappointing to have an exchange with only 1 option. This creates a monopoly, not competition. To be viable, younger folks need to participate. Allowing people under 26 to remain on their parent’s policy is an example of this. We need to expand the possibilities by expanding different options.

7) Gun Violence and the Gun Lobby

Bera’s response: The majority of Democrats and Republicans– -at least those not in Congress—can find common ground with regards to gun laws. This is not about repealing the Second Amendment, it’s about keeping our communities safe. People with a history of violent criminal activity including domestic violence, as well as mental illness should not be able to easily acquire weapons. To that end, Bera supports background checks and a waiting period before a gun can be obtained. We should all be contacting members of congress regarding this issue.

8) HR 1215, which would limit the right to sue in Elder Abuse cases and negate California laws already on the books.

Bera’s response: Bera was not familiar with this bill and will look into it.

9) Stance on Refugees and Sanctuary Cities (this question seemed to reference votes which were not in support of these issues during previous terms).

Bera’s response: He is not against refugees. These are people in need of our help. With regards to illegal immigrants: police officers, nurses, and teachers should not be working as immigration officers. Children shouldn’t be living in fear that their parents may not be there when they get home. He did vote against a specific Sanctuary City bill because he does feel that illegal aliens who are criminals should be held by local agencies for deportation.

10) How can we achieve our objectives when Republicans control the majority of the Senate, Congress and the Presidency?

Bera’s response: As a result of the recent election, people are coming out from all over the country and speaking out. We need to continue making our voices heard. There will be elections this year as well as in 2018 and 2020. If we don’t show up and vote, we lose our voice.

10) Climate Change

Bera’s response: Climate change is real. As a member of the Science and Technology Commission, he will fight to protect the EPA. He noted that the EPA had being scrambling to save data out of concern that it could disappear. He lauds the return of investigative journalism as also having a positive effect in this area. He will fight to protect California’s climate laws.

11) What can be done to better represent the middle class?

Bera’s response: We cannot just be a party of opposition, we need to be a party that stands for something. To that end, we need to maintain a strong public education system. We need to provide an affordable college education, this is a forming of paying it forward. We need to create jobs which pay decent wages. We need to figure out how to rebuild trade and manufacturing jobs. An example would be coding technology. We’re not teaching our kids how to code but other countries are. We should also focus on America’s infrastructure, but we also need to teach kids these skill sets. It would be a good idea to bring instruction of vocational skills back to high schools.

Note: *At this point he also stated he was against school vouchers. This would only take away from public schools which all children already have access to.

12) Deregulation of Wall Street

Bera’s response: Will vote against the repeal of Dodd Frank. He will also fight against assaults on the media and gives them kudos for the job they are doing.

12) Why don’t you partner with local progressive groups?

Bera’s response: Because he is responsible for representing all 720,000 members of his district, it would be inappropriate to do so. He is willing to come as a private person to speak to various groups, according to his availability.

13) Hate crimes/hate speech

Bera’s response: We will do what we can to fight back. When this occurs in schools, schools need to figure out a way to deal with it. Incidents need to be reported and CARE as well as other groups can help with diversity training and instruction on how to push back against bullying.

At the end of the allotted time, Bera made these additional statements, not in response to specific questions:

Democrats and Republicans must come together. Different states may have different challenges, but we still must come together. With consideration to executive orders, if Republicans hated them when Obama made them, they should hate Trump making them as well. The founders designed the legislative branch to be the strongest—this is where our laws should be coming from. The job is to negotiate, debate and find a middle ground so that we can move forward. Otherwise, we will be stuck in a cyclical back-and-forth and stay the same.

Our thanks to Louise for this great report, and all who showed up to let Congressman Bera how we feel and how much we care!

(Note: Louise Lopez is not a currently a member or affiliated with the American River Democrats.)

Indivisible Sacramento Rep Visits ARDems

Scarlette Bustos addresses a packed crowd at the American River Democrats meeting

It was a packed house at the American River Democrats’ February Meeting, as many current and brand new members filled every seat and then some, while the club welcomed guest speaker Scarlette Bustos, representing Indivisible Sacramento, part of a nationwide movement to resist the Trump and Republican agenda.

Ms. Bustos introduced herself the the Sacramento-born daughter of Nicaraguan refugees who grew up inspired by people stepping up to contribute to their community. She got involved in campaigns and issues herself. She opened with a sobering thought—the Republican establishment will happily give up Donald Trump, and impeach him if (or when) he gets too far out of control, leaving everyone else in the Congress and his appointees (like VP Mike Pence) behind, running the government. Should that happen, the people who are so energized today may not care so much any more—but we cannot allow that to happen! His agenda—or worse—will remain a devastating legacy that will still need to be fought against.

The room was packed at the February American River Democrats meeting!

Bustos introduced the Indivisible Guide, a Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. She said the best way to affect your leaders is to call their office, as an individual citizen or as part of a group—like the American River Democrats, or whatever clubs or groups you may belong to. Make you call concise and short, talk to a single issue and thank the staff member who deals with you. Calling is usually the most effective method, as it is hard to ignore, but mailing postcards is also a good way. Emails to the office are easier to ignore, so not as effective. If you have the time, showing up at the office is by far the best way to make your point—it shows a strong commitment to being heard!

Besides the Indivisible Guide, Bustos recommended signing up for Jennifer Hoffman’s Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience to get a weekly email of action items. She also recommended breakupwithyourmegabank.org, by Green America, dedicated to encouraging banks to invest in a just and sustainable society, and pulling your money out if they don’t! (More information on contacting your representatives, and other progressive groups may be found on our Information & Links page on this website.)

Besides reading the Indivisble Guide you can sign up to join their Facebook group—search Indivisible – Sacramento, or email IndivisibleSacramentoCA@gmail.com to subscribe to their newsletter. You can also follow Sacramento Indivisible Regional Action Network on Facebook. Bustos noted that these organizations are not chartered Democratic Party clubs, as they also wish to involve independents, Green Party members, and even Republicans who see the need to stop the “Trump Movement.”

Groups like Indivisible, and the many others now becoming active, are taking a cue from the “Tea Party” movement that rose to prominence early during the Obama administration. They were very effective in stopping a lot of the progress he tried to make, and turned-over both the House and Senate within two years of Obama’s election. The stakes are even higher for us now, as the progress we did make is being torn down daily by this administration. Can we hope to do as much as the Tea Party did – or even more? It will take a lot of grassroots efforts. That old saying is still true—Think Global, Act Local—and call your representatives today. If it gets to to the point where they know you when you call, Scarlette said, you know you’re being heard!

Democrats Moving Forward in 2017

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, our club president, Barbara Leary, presented an informational session about how our club and others like us fit into the overall structure of the party, and how we can make an impact on elections and issues.

This is basically how the Democratic Party is organized, from grass roots to the presidential elections, and how we may get involved!

The Clubs – organize fundraising, notify members to help phone bank, canvas neighborhoods, educate members about candidates and issues, host elected official speakers for Q&A, host advocacy representatives for ballot measures.  Working with other clubs to share ideas, voter registration, booths at fairs is an important component of success in a “red” district. Terry Schanz, the Chair of the Sacramento Democratic Party, stated the the local clubs are “the roots of the party” that make the party strong.

Democratic Party of Sacramento County (DPSC) – chartered clubs each have one group representative and one alternate; the club pays dues.  Individuals may also run for a 4 year term seat, individual pays dues.  Monthly meeting at which endorsements are considered, resolutions and platforms are reviewed and endorsed.  Selects representatives to CADEM convention.

CADEM – the California Democratic Party. Delegates selected to each Assembly District every 2 years through elections held in each District (7 Men, 7 women). The County parties have a set number of delegates as well, assigned by each chartered County party. Annual meetings take place, resolutions and party platform changes are considered in alternate years by the E-Board.  Candidate endorsements take place every 2 years. E-Board meetings take place twice a year. Meetings alternate between sites in Northern and Southern California. Caucuses—Progressive, Environmental, Senior, Latino, Veteran’s, etc. CADEM.org

Democratic National Committee – delegates chosen to attend the convention every 4 years.  There are 3 ways of being selected and the application process is outlined and applications are available on the CADEM website.

Why do we need to organize? What and who do we need to organize? Volunteers of all ages, willingness to research, time taken out of the day to day routine

OUR COMMON PRINCIPLES:

Here are few:

  • Universal Health Care
  • Freedom of Religion for All
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Ending Citizens United—taking money out of politics
  • Comprehensive Public Education
  • Climate change action
  • Universal Health Care
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Public (not private charter school) education
  • Gender Equality
  • Reducing Gun Violence
  • Immigration Reform
  • Prison Reform
  • Resisting the Trump Agenda

There are barriers to progress, including hate speech and divisive language within the party. This doesn’t mean we don’t strive to make change, but name calling, yelling, and blaming with less than all the facts at hand will not help unite us.

What our club needs to keep growing and be strong:

  • More active board members, transition to new participants to survive as a thriving club.
  • A Membership Chairperson/Outreach
  • Voter registration coordinator – Folsom Lake College, New Citizens Events, and other opportunities.
  • Members who will research and become active in issues, and report on progress or other information to include on the website, Facebook page, and to present at a meeting.
  • Precinct captains
  • Hosts for phone banks
  • Educational outreach coordinator/liaison to like-minded groups
  • Activity coordinator – marches, inter-club tabling

Other ways to help:

501 C-4 Political donations to clubs and the Democratic Party are used to support the election of candidates/issues—End Citizens United, DPSC, CADEM, candidates. 501 C-3 organizations file Lawsuits, defend of protesters, support for programs facing massive cuts, etc. Sample list of Organizations to join/donate to – the ACLU, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Center, Planned Parenthood, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brady Foundation, Americans Against Gun Violence, etc.

Despite everything, we are lucky to live in California. We just elected two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, we have a Democratic governor, and our officials have made it clear they are behind the fight against Trump and his efforts to undo climate change laws, take away affordable health care, deport millions, and the rest. If any good can come from this, California may once again try to institute a single payer health care system, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They passed a system in 2008, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Schwarzenegger. We may have another chance to show the country a system that works!

But we must hold our leaders accountable, pay attention to their votes and action, and contact them regularly. Most of us in this area are represented in the state houses by two Republicans—Kevin Kiley and Ted Gaines. They will need to hear from us on those important issues! Some of us are represented by Ken Cooley, a Democrat who doesn’t always vote the way we like (he didn’t support overtime pay for farmworkers, for example.) He needs to hear from you as well. And our Congressman, Ami Bera, who many of us worked hard to elect, to his credit tries to cross party lines to get things done. But that sometimes means he will also sometimes vote for issues you may not approve of. Let him know as well!

Help for Childhood Immigrants

dacaDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA does not provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide temporary protection from deportation, work authorization, and the ability to apply for a social security number. But President-Elect Trump has promised to end DACA when he takes office. Whether he keeps that promise or not, Trump will not be President until he is inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Until that time, DACA will remain in place and USCIS, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, will continue to process both initial and renewal DACA requests.

It should also be noted that if Jeff Sessions is nominated and confirmed as Attorney General, he will likely push ending DACA and any immigration reform.

But our Congressman Ami Bera, (whose re-election was just recently confirmed), offers support for those in need.

One of the staff at Dr. Bera’s office contacted us with more information. They are advising people with DACA status to contact an immigration attorney through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  They noted that each case is approached individually, depending on each person’s needs, and that this group is the most trustworthy resource for up to date information. There is a link under their quick links to find a lawyer in each area and there are a number of attorneys in Sacramento.

The staff suggested contacting several and asking enough questions to sort out who would be the best fit for you.  Right now the US Congress and State Legislators are also trying to sort out how to work various issues out.

Lawyers can be expensive, and larger firms are usually more costly than smaller or individual firms, so be sure to ask what the costs are for a consultation, for hours of work, etc.

Also, if you’d like to talk to someone in Congressman Bera’s office you can call 916 635-0505 and ask for Jeanine.

17 Propositions in the Fall Election

At the American River Democrats meeting in August, Ken presented a discussion of the seventeen choices California voters will be facing in the November Election.

Here is a handy guide to what they each mean, and recommendations on each.

2016 props

Of course, the get the full details of any of them, review your Voter’s Information Guide when it arrives in the mail, or visit the California Secretary of State’s website.