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Federal Legislative Update July 2009


July 27, 2009

July 23, 2009

July 16, 2009

July 9, 2009

News from Capitol Hill

7/27/2009

SPECIAL ALERT: NATIONAL CALL-IN DAY ON HEALTH CARE TODAY! (JULY 28)

Today, July 28, the Health Care for America Now coalition, of which NEA is a member, will hold a National Call-In Day on health care, aimed at generating thousands of calls to Members of the House of Representatives. The message is simple: Support quality affordable health care for all — now.

You have three options for participating in the national call-in day:

1. Call 1-877-264-HCAN (4226) to be connected to your Representative’s office

  • This is a toll-free call.
  • This system will look up your Representative’s name and connect you directly to his or her office.
  • You will need to know your zip code or have a phone number with an area code that matches the Representative’s District.

2. CALL the congressional switchboard—1-888-436-8427

  • This number connects you to the switchboard.
  • Ask for the Member you want to speak with and you will be connected by the operator.
  • You do not need to know your zip code or area code; you can just ask for the Representative by name to be connected.

3. Click to call on-line tool

Learn more about NEA’s position on health care

7/23/2009

News from Capitol Hill...

URGE CONGRESS TO SUPPORT SMALLER CLASS SIZES

Educators know that reducing class sizes helps improve student learning. It is simply common sense -- when qualified teachers teach smaller classes in modern schools, students learn more. Teachers with small classes can spend time and energy helping each child to succeed. Smaller classes also enhance safety, discipline, and order in the classroom.

Representative Wu (D-OR) has introduced legislation (H.R. 3010) that would provide grants to reduce class size by hiring additional fully-qualified teachers. The goals of the bill are to:

Reduce class sizes nationally, in grades one through three, to an average of 18 students per classroom; and
Improve teaching in those grades so that all students can learn to read independently and well by the end of the third grade.

Ask your Representative to support this important bill.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT IS CONGRESS DOING FOR EDUCATORS?
(A new periodic feature highlighting Members of Congress who are supporting public education and educators)

Representative Scott Murphy (D-NY) is sounding off on the healthcare debate. Murphy, who just took his congressional seat in late April after defeating Republican Jim Tedisco, discussed with Politico magazine whether it’s worth voting for a tax increase to get health care reform.

“There are a number of things in the plan that are going to save money, but we can do a lot more to figure out how to pay for this before we turn to cash-strapped New Yorkers, who are hard hit already, and ask for more of their tax dollars,” said Murphy. “We need to have real reform before we turn to taxes.”

More than 48 million Americans—including 9 million children—have no health coverage. And with the economy in its current downturn—the situation is expected to get worse with more people losing their coverage.

Meanwhile, Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) wants to see health care reform include a robust public plan. Massa has reportedly joined a group of about 50 progressive lawmakers who have all agreed to vote against any bill that did not meet certain criteria for a public option.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was quoted this week on National Public Radio in support of a public plan saying, “I believe that the reforms we are creating will result in more competitive, affordable, and innovative options for Mainers, yet we can all agree that we must not leave universal access to chance. That is why I also support a public plan which must be available from day one."

As we have reported over the last few months, NEA supports and is working aggressively for reform that ensures that every person in America has quality, affordable health care coverage. The Association opposes health care proposals that would tax employer-provided health benefits. NEA also supports a choice of plans and providers—both public and private. July 16, 2009
July 9, 2009

7/23/2009

News from Capitol Hill...

URGE CONGRESS TO SUPPORT SMALLER CLASS SIZES

Educators know that reducing class sizes helps improve student learning.  It is simply common sense -- when qualified teachers teach smaller classes in modern schools, students learn more.  Teachers with small classes can spend time and energy helping each child to succeed.  Smaller classes also enhance safety, discipline, and order in the classroom. 
 
Representative Wu (D-OR) has introduced legislation (H.R. 3010) that would provide grants to reduce class size by hiring additional fully-qualified teachers.  The goals of the bill are to:

Reduce class sizes nationally, in grades one through three, to an average of 18 students per classroom; and
Improve teaching in those grades so that all students can learn to read independently and well by the end of the third grade.

Ask your Representative to support this important bill.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT IS CONGRESS DOING FOR EDUCATORS?
(A new periodic feature highlighting Members of Congress who are supporting public education and educators)

Representative Scott Murphy (D-NY) is sounding off on the healthcare debate.  Murphy, who just took his congressional seat in late April after defeating Republican Jim Tedisco, discussed with Politico magazine whether it’s worth voting for a tax increase to get health care reform.

“There are a number of things in the plan that are going to save money, but we can do a lot more to figure out how to pay for this before we turn to cash-strapped New Yorkers, who are hard hit already, and ask for more of their tax dollars,” said Murphy.  “We need to have real reform before we turn to taxes.”

More than 48 million Americans—including 9 million children—have no health coverage.  And with the economy in its current downturn—the situation is expected to get worse with more people losing their coverage.

Meanwhile, Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) wants to see health care reform include a robust public plan.  Massa has reportedly joined a group of about 50 progressive lawmakers who have all agreed to vote against any bill that did not meet certain criteria for a public option.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was quoted this week on National Public Radio in support of a public plan saying, “I believe that the reforms we are creating will result in more competitive, affordable, and innovative options for Mainers, yet we can all agree that we must not leave universal access to chance.  That is why I also support a public plan which must be available from day one."

As we have reported over the last few months, NEA supports and is working aggressively for reform that ensures that every person in America has quality, affordable health care coverage.  The Association opposes health care proposals that would tax employer-provided health benefits.  NEA also supports a choice of plans and providers—both public and private.    

7/16/2009

News from Capitol Hill...

CONGRESS MOVING FAST ON HEALTH CARE REFORM

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a health care reform bill.  The Affordable Health Choices Act addresses many of the central problems affecting our nation’s health care system, including those related to health care affordability, access, and quality.  The bill includes a strong public plan option. 

The Senate Finance Committee continues to work on a draft bill that would address the financing of health care reform, with the possibility of taxation of benefits still looming.  The two bills will be combined for consideration by the Senate later this summer.

Meanwhile, three committees in the House of Representative — the Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees — released their draft bill this week.  The America’s Affordable Health Choices Act includes a public health insurance plan option and does not include any tax on health care benefits.

Keep up the pressure:  Urge Congress to pass health care reform that ensures quality, affordable coverage without taxing health care benefits. 

Reminder: NEA’s Message on Health Care Reform:

  • Support health reform to ensure that every person in America has quality, affordable health care coverage. 
  • Oppose proposals that would tax employer-provided health benefits.  Telling hard-working employees that benefits will be cut or that they will pay more taxes would unfairly penalize them — particularly when they have bargained those benefits and foregone wage (salary) increases in the past.  Taxing benefits would also place burdens more heavily on some workers than others.  Coverage is more expensive for employers whose workforces are older or female-dominated, such as in education.  Studies also show that premiums vary by geography and by industry. 
  • Health reform must guarantee a choice of health care plans and providers through a private health insurance plan (including one that employees may currently have through their employer) and a government sponsored public health insurance plan option 
  • A public plan option should not be delayed but established immediately and should be an integral part of any health care delivery reform.  The public plan will compete with the private insurance industry in terms of cost and quality.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT IS CONGRESS DOING FOR EDUCATORS?
(The first in a new periodic feature highlighting Members of Congress who are supporting public education and educators)

Lawmakers on the Hill want to see educators recoup more of the money they spend “out-of-pocket” for classroom expenses.  Several of them—including Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)—are sponsoring legislation that would make positive changes to the educator tax deduction.
           
Currently, K-12 teachers can deduct up to $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket classroom expenses.  Both Titus and Kosmas have introduced bills that would double the deduction amount and make it a permanent part of the federal tax code.  Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) has also introduced legislation to double the deduction. 
           
Meanwhile, Representative Larry Kissell (D-NC) has introduced a bill that would extend the deduction in its current form through 2011, while Representative Zach Space (D-OH) has introduced legislation to make the deduction permanent. 

According to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, educators’ out-of-pocket expenses for the 2005-2006 school year, on average, totaled nearly $2,000.

7/9/2009

News from Capitol Hill...

YOUR MESSAGE ON HEALTH CARE IS GETTING THROUGH! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

As Congress returns from the July 4 recess and prepares to continue work on health care reform legislation, it is clear that your messages to Congress have been heard. An article in the July 8 Wall Street Journal reports “Senators are cooling to a proposal that would impose a first-ever tax on employer-provided health insurance….”

NEA members are contacting Congress in record numbers. In the past week, activists at the NEA annual convention wrote over 8,000 postcards to their Senators (which will be hand-delivered by NEA) and cyberlobbyists at the convention and at home sent over 1,300 messages on health care reform to Congress.

Keep Up the Pressure. Urge Congress to pass health care reform that ensures quality, affordable coverage without taxing health care benefits.

Reminder: NEA’s Message on Health Care Reform:

  • Support health reform to ensure that every person in America has quality, affordable health care coverage.
  • Oppose proposals that would tax employer-provided health benefits. Telling hard-working employees that benefits will be cut or that they will pay more taxes would unfairly penalize them — particularly when they have bargained those benefits and foregone wage (salary) increases in the past. Taxing benefits would also place burdens more heavily on some workers than others. Coverage is more expensive for employers whose workforces are older or female-dominated, such as in education. Studies also show that premiums vary by geography and by industry.
  • Health reform must guarantee a choice of health care plans and providers through a private health insurance plan (including one that employees may currently have through their employer) and a government sponsored public health insurance plan option.
  • A public plan option should not be delayed but established immediately and should be an integral part of any health care delivery reform. The public plan will compete with the private insurance industry in terms of cost and quality.