Washington Update (January 17, 2014)
I know many of you are planning ahead for the upcoming Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (1/29) anniversary and the State of the Union address (1/28). However, two things happened this week that of which you were a huge part, even though they may not have gotten that much media attention.
The first was the initial meetings of the Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking committee, which is ironing out the regulations to implement the new campus safety law. As you know, AAUW members and supporters led the charge for these critical new provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The meetings are open to the public, and I was there live-blogging what was said! You can learn more in the New Resources section.
The second event was the White House College Opportunity Summit, where more than 100 college and university presidents joined administration officials to discuss how to increase access to higher education. The schools that attended the summit (many of which are AAUW C/U partners) committed to various projects geared toward college counseling, college access, and college affordability.
Both of these events could change millions of lives, and it’s not hyperbole to say that they happened because of the work of AAUW members and supporters. You were the ones who pushed, and then pushed some more, for the VAWA reauthorization to have campus safety provisions. The same thing is true with the college opportunity summit: AAUW members have been committed for years to ensuring that all students, especially women, can access higher education.
As we get ready for the fights ahead of us, it’s important to recognize our victories. Although there’s more work to do, this week couldn’t have happened without you – and for that I thank you.
Government Relations Manager
ONE THING YOU MUST DO…
This week Lilly Ledbetter wrote to AAUW members, asking them to call on Congress to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act. We’ll soon celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – join Lilly in telling Congress it’s time to do more!
BUT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO MORE…
In recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, please urge your members of Congress to support legislation to protect voting rights nationwide.
Want to compete with your friends and hold the president accountable during this year’s State of the Union address? Check out AAUW’s State of the Union bingo – three printable cards with words that are priorities for women and girls. You can also share the bingo cards on Facebook with the following text:
Mark your calendar! The most important bingo game in 2014 is coming up. http://bit.ly/1ak7HUD
Check out the AAUW live blog recap (Day 1 and Day 2) of the negotiated rulemaking for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments to the Clery Act, which requires schools to keep and release information about crime on and near their campuses. The results of these negotiations will help schools reduce campus sexual assault and violence. Look for us to be live-blogging again at the next session on February 24 and 25!
Women’s Policy Inc. released a list of accomplishments on women’s issues during the first session of the 113th Congress (2013).
Congress Passes Spending Bill
Thursday evening, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill after Senate conservatives dropped their resistance. The bill will keep the federal government funded through September 30, 2014. The bill restores over $20 billion for domestic programs that was cut under sequestration last spring, including increases in funding for Head Start and the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention programs. The president is expected to sign this legislation.
This Week at the Supreme Court
This week the Supreme Court reconvened for oral arguments for the first time in 2014. The first case heard was National Labor Relations Board v. Canning regarding the scope of President Barack Obama’s recess appointment power. On Wednesday, the court heard McCullen v. Coakley, which considered whether a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics is a violation of free-speech. McCullen, the anti-choice activist who brought the case, says the law prevents her from having “quiet conversations” with women who approach the clinic, while Massachusetts officials argue the buffer zone is necessary to prevent congestion and protect women’s ability to access clinics. AAUW has signed an amicus brief supporting the buffer zone. Also this week, the court declined to reconsider a lower court ruling that found Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban unconstitutional. This decision means Arizona is unable to enforce the ban.
Shriver Report: The Economy Suffers When Women Suffer
A new Shriver Report released this week, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, describes the economic insecurity faced by women and families across the country. Regarding the gender pay gap, the report (for which AAUW served as a resource) found that the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income and the poverty rate for working women would decrease by half if women received equal pay. AAUW Vice President of Government Relations Lisa M. Maatz spoke to Bloomberg about another issue covered in the report: a lack of paid maternity benefits. These benefits are only available to “the most educated, most privileged among us,” Maatz said. “You don’t see this being offered to waitresses. It’s something that can become very class-based and further create income gaps.”
State Spotlight: VIRGINIA
Governor McAuliffe Bans Discrimination against LGBT State Employees
On Saturday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees. This act was one of McAuliffe’s campaign promises. The order adds gender identity to sexual orientation as a protected class. Not bad for his first day in office!
AAUW Cheer of the Week
Aileen Rizo, an AAUW member and math consultant in Fresno, CA, was featured on NBC Nightly News this week to discuss the pay gap. Rizo became involved with AAUW when she realized she was being paid less than her male colleagues and wanted to take action. She is now preparing to sue her employer. Is she the next Lilly Ledbetter?
AAUW Jeer of the Week
A Milwaukee voucher-funded school disappeared last month after getting $2 million in taxpayer money. LifeSkills Academy, a private voucher program in Wisconsin, received over $2 million in payments before suddenly vacating its premises last month. The school claimed that “loss of funding” forced it to close, although the state education agency said no state funds were withheld. There is no legal mechanism for the state to recoup the voucher funds paid to LifeSkills. Even more disturbing, the husband and wife who ran that program allegedly now live in a gated community in Florida by the beach, records show. As if we needed further proof that vouchers are not a good idea.
Bits & Pieces
- Happy 50th birthday to First Lady Michelle Obama!
- Senator Tom Coburn announced that he will step down at the end of 2014 for health reasons, and Reps. Bill Owens (D-NY), George Miller (D-CA), Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon (R-CA), and James Moran (D-VA) announced they will not seek re-election in 2014.
- A government official indicated that the Justice Department will expand its definition of racial profiling to cover sexual orientation, gender, national origin, and religion.
- The Department of Health and Human Services released a report showing that 54 percent of those who have selected an insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act exchanges are women.
- AAUW’s Vice President of Government Relations Lisa M. Maatz was interviewed by NPR about the Alabama State University’s requirement that its incoming unmarried female president sign a contract that she wouldn’t “cohabitate” in the president’s mansion with a “romantic relation” other than a husband. Maatz said the double standard felt “disrespectful” to the president, an accomplished physicist and university administrator.
- President Obama nominated Maria Contreras-Sweet to head the Small Business Administration. If confirmed, the California bank owner would be the eighth woman in President Obama’s current Cabinet.
- A federal judge ruled Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional on Tuesday. The judge ruled that the ban violates equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
- On Wednesday, Harvard University released a study which surveyed 1,000 adults regarding school reform priorities. Respondents ranked smaller class sizes, more technology in classrooms, and greater school accountability as the three most effective reform measures.
- This week conservatives launched a new political action committee – RightNOW – to encourage conservative women to run for political office. Also this week, a new report found that super PACs and other unrestricted political funding groups further marginalize female campaign donors, who continue to be underrepresented and outnumbered by their male counterparts.