December Federal Public Policy Update

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From: AAUW Public Policy & Government Relations Dept.
Date: Friday, Dec. 1, 2006

  • Congress Expected to Lamely Duck its Responsibilities– Final FY07 Budget Decisions Left for New Year and New Congress
  • he First 100 Hours of the Next Congress
  • Wouldn’t That Make Them the Gang of 12?
  • On the Road
  • Apparently If They Can Keep the Wage Disparity a Secret Long Enough They Don’t Have To Do Anything about It
  • Supreme Court Declines to Take Voucher Case
  • University Calls for 50/50 Faculty
  • Florida Voters File Suit
  • Americans Believe a Woman Will be President
  • …But Bill Frist Believes that He Won’t
  • America Recognizes AAUW’s 125th Anniversary
  • Sign Up Your Friends and AAUW Colleagues for Action Network!
  • Congress Expected to Lamely Duck its Responsibilities– Final FY07 Budget Decisions Left for New Year and New Congress


More…
When the old Congress returns Dec. 4, they must act to approve continued federal spending by Dec. 8, when the current temporary spending resolution expires. Instead of finalizing all appropriations bills, the current Congressional leadership has announced they will enact yet another stopgap measure, pushing decisions off to next year — and the new Congress. Current speculation is that the new short-term spending bill (called a Continuing Resolution, or CR) will extend to March 1, although a shorter period is possible.

The new CR will be necessary because members recognized that simply extending the tight temporary spending levels was likely to cut more than negotiated final appropriations. According to Congress Daily, the current level of spending will leave appropriations $7 billion below the $873 billion that Congress approved for FY 2007. Some analysts believe the cuts below the cap may be billions greater. The CR in place through Dec. 8 continues funding at the lowest of three levels: House- or Senate-passed appropriations for FY 2007, or FY 2006 approved spending.

The split among Republicans is making the lame duck session especially lame, and frustrating the current Appropriations Committee chairs, who would prefer to finish their work. Roll Call, a daily newspaper that reports on Congress, reported that Senate Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) would consider altering the terms of any subsequent CR to avoid some of the cuts caused by taking the lowest of several levels. As Democrats assume their slim majority in January, bipartisan cooperation may make it easier to reverse the damage from cuts inflicted through the Continuing Resolutions.

The First 100 Hours of the Next Congress

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced today that the House of Representatives will open the first session of the 110th Congress on Jan. 4, 2007 and will remain in session for several weeks in January to take up crucial legislation. As part of the party’s “New Direction for America” the Democrats hope to raise the minimum wage for all Americans and make college more affordable by cutting the interest rate in half on federally subsidized student loans within the first 100 legislative hours. AAUW strongly supports both of these proposals which, if passed, will promote greater access to education and economic security for all women and girls.

Wouldn’t That Make Them the Gang of 12?

Earlier this week, the bi-partisan group consisting of 14 moderate Senators, often referred to as the Gang of 14, vowed to play an even more important role in the upcoming 110th Congress. The “Gang” consisting of 7 Republican and 7 Democratic Senators gained recognition in the previous Congress when they successfully negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called nuclear option over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate. Although two of the former members, Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Mike DeWine (R-OH), saw defeat in the last election, the group is confident that they will remain a uniting force among the two increasingly polarized parties in the future.

On the Road

President Bush recently appointed Dr. Eric Keroack as the new chief of family-planning programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, he will be responsible for overseeing Title X of the Public Health Act, a program that provides family planning services to millions of Americans, and will have authority over hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding meant to provide accurate reproductive health information and access to contraception. AAUW is disappointed by this appointment of Dr. Keroack based on his long history as an anti-birth control and anti-sex education activist. Dr. Keroack is the medical director of A Woman’s Concern, a network of anti-abortion centers that distributes false information on the risks of abortion, prohibits providing information about contraception even to married clients, and equates oral contraceptives with abortion. Return to top

Apparently If They Can Keep the Wage Disparity a Secret Long Enough They Don’t Have To Do Anything about It

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Lilly Ledbetter, a former employee at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Alabama who found she was being paid substantially less than her male counterparts in 1998. Upon learning of the wage disparity, just months before her retirement, Ledbetter filed suit against her former employer. The appeals court later threw out the case asserting that the discriminatory acts she complained of took place outside of the 180-day statute of limitations. Ledbetter then appealed to the Supreme Court, raising the question of just how long an employee has to complain if she is being paid less for the same work because of her gender. The decision, which will be handed down before June 2007, will apply to employees and employers in the private and public sector and, depending on the outcome, could help address the persistent wage gap. Earlier this year, AAUW signed onto an amicus brief supporting Ms. Ledbetter arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 must be construed broadly and fairly in order to effectively combat pay discrimination.

Supreme Court Declines to Take Voucher Case

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court announced that it will not review a ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, which upheld a state program that uses public funds to send students in towns without public high schools to private, but not religious, schools. By failing to review the case, the Supreme Court left intact the earlier ruling which affirmed the state’s right to refuse to subsidize parochial schools with public monies. AAUW believes that, regardless of the constitutionality of certain voucher programs, voucher schemes are not sound education policy and will threaten students and the schools they attend. AAUW believes a strong, free public education system is the foundation of a democratic society, and opposes vouchers of all forms.

University Calls for 50/50 Faculty

A recent study found that John Hopkins University continues to lag behind comparable research institutions in recruiting and hiring female faculty and executive leaders. Women now comprise 51 percent of the student body but only 36 percent of full-time faculty in 2005. A similar trend is seen in the administration of the institution where women comprise two of the university’s five vice presidents and only two of the eight academic deans. Upon the release of the report, the University endorsed a proposal which calls for 50 percent representation of women in senior faculty and leadership positions by 2020. AAUW applauds these efforts, but wonders if they couldn’t do it a little faster.

Florida Voters File Suit

This week, voters from Sarasota County announced that they are filing suit in state court in Tallahassee asking for a revote in Florida’s 13th congressional district. In that highly contested race, electronic ballots cast by more than 18,000 people in Sarasota County showed no vote for either candidate. The suit is being filed under provisions of Florida law that permit voters to contest an election based on misconduct by election officials or on evidence that legal votes were rejected in sufficient numbers to place in doubt the outcome of the election. The plaintiffs, which consist of both Republican and Democratic voters, site misconduct of election officials in their claim and allege that the iVotronic voting machines were improperly certified by the Florida Secretary of State in disregard of early warnings concerning the reliability and trustworthiness of e-voting systems made by ES&S systems. On Monday, Nov. 27, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified Vern Buchanan as the winner of the Congressional District 13 race by 363 votes, despite the fact that 18,000 electronic votes had failed to be recorded on Election Day.

Americans Believe a Woman Will be President

A poll conducted just days after the midterm elections by Lifetime Television and RedBook Magazine revealed that a majority of Americans believe a woman will be president of the United States within the next ten years. When it comes to ethics and trust, women faired far more favorably on the survey, which reported women to be perceived as “trustworthy”more than three times as much as men. Women were also reported to be more “ethical” than men by a majority of respondents, a desired trait when choosing a candidate to serve in public office. Surprisingly, the harshest critics of female candidates appear to be women. One in five female respondents, regardless of partisan affiliation, said that “women are not as effective as men when it comes to politics.” With changing opinions of the public and the gains made politically by women in the midterm elections, it is clear that women can succeed in politics as well.

…But Bill Frist Believes that He Won’t

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announced that he will not run for president in 2008. Sen. Frist honored a 1994 campaign pledge to serve only two terms in the Senate when he decided not to run for re-election this year. He will be replaced in the Senate by fellow Republican Bob Corker in the 110th Congress. Sen. Frist has said he will resume his role as a transplant surgeon traveling to different poverty stricken countries on mission trips.

America Recognizes AAUW’s 125th Anniversary

AAUW has received heavy press coverage lately, both nationally and locally, especially around our 125th anniversary. Our 125th anniversary circulation count is more than 2* million, bringing our total circulation count for FY 07 to more than 11* million – that’s 11* million people who have read about AAUW since July! Some 125th anniversary highlights include:

  • Women’s eNews, “AAUW Turns 125,” http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm?aid=2973
  • Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine, “Celebrating 125 Years of University Women,” http://www.diverseeducation.com/artman/publish/article_6607.shtml
  • IIT Today, the e-newsletter of the Illinois Institute of Technology, “American Association of University Women Celebrates 125th Anniversary,” http://www.iit.edu/publications/iittoday/index.php#1558
  • University Record (University of Michigan), “U-M Graduates were Key to AAUW’s Start,” http://www.umich.edu/~urecord/0607/Oct23_06/12.shtml

Please visit the newsroom to view all the clips (click on national news, state/branch news, and letters to the editor to view coverage) – 125th anniversary articles are marked with an orange icon, http://www.aauw.org/newsroom/. The newsroom is updated every few days so please visit the website often to stay connected with AAUW in the news!

Check out the 125th anniversary virtual celebration on the website at http://www.aauw.org/aauw125th/index.cfm.

Sign Up Your Friends and AAUW Colleagues for Action Network!

To mobilize AAUW members to be constituent advocates, AAUW has created the Action Network, an e-mail alert system that anyone with an e-mail address can subscribe to. Anyone can signup for Action Network, AAUW members and nonmembers alike. It is an excellent way to introduce potential members to AAUW’s advocacy. To subscribe, visit http://www.aauw.org/issue_advocacy/actionnetwork/join.cfm . You can also print out flyers online at http://www.aauw.org/issue_advocacy/actionnetwork/Action_Network_subscription_form.doc. Use flyers to sign up friends, family and co-workers to the AAUW Action Network. These flyers are great to use at branch events, community events, etc.

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