Get me off this island!

Why opponents of the Affordable Care Act are fighting tooth and nail to protect a failing system rather than support what is now law.

By: Li Litombe, J.D. Candidate 2015, City University of New York School of Law

Imagine there is an island in the middle of the ocean. The inhabitants of the island have been informed that it is sinking. Island officials, composed of members of the Blue party and the Red party, vote and a majority agree on a solution. They arrange that a rescue vessel will pick up all the islanders. Immediately after the vessel arrives, the Red party officials complain, “What is this vessel doing here?!” They claim the boat has deplorable conditions. They say the boat is not fast enough and has too few amenities. Nevertheless, in the midst of all the complaints and debates, many islanders are getting on the boat. Why? Because no matter how much the two parties complain, the island will surely sink. So why not get off of the island and employ the only sensible solution. Why not accept that the solution that everyone voted on is here? Rather than waste time and effort searching for blame, why not fix the issues the boat has?

The Affordable Care Act (the Boat) was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. The purpose of the law was to address the failure of the American Healthcare System (the Island) to provide affordable comprehensive health coverage. One way it would achieve its goal would be by lowering the uninsured rate through an expansion of  public and private insurance coverage, and reducing the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government. Prior to becoming law the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went through the legislative process. After enactment the ACA survived constitutional challenges in the Supreme Court. One would think after such a rigorous process officials would work cohesively to ensure the success of what is now law. Wrong! Instead of working to ensure the success of the new law, opponents have focused their efforts on outright attempts at sabotage or assigning blame for its shortcomings. The few alternatives that have been proposed fail to ensure what the Affordable Care Act will ultimately achieve, access to healthcare for millions of Americans.

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The Adverse Impact of Restricted Access to Higher Ed

According to the United Negro College Fund, almost 400,000 students across the country have been denied the opportunity to pursue a college education because of tighter credit rules and requirements attached to PLUS loans.   In 2011, the Department of Education changed its definition of “adverse credit history” and began to take into account delinquencies that are older than 90 days when determining credit worthiness and eligibility for Parent PLUS loans.   If parents had an account in collections or “charge offs” within the 5 years preceding the application, they were denied loans.

The result of this policy change was a flood of denied PLUS loan applications, which has had a disproportionate impact on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Based on some counts, almost 40,000 students at HBCUs were affected by these denials last year, costing the institutions more than $150 million.  Many students were forced to suddenly discontinue their education because they had no way to pay for it.

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“Stand Your Ground” Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force

Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the

Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights

Date:               Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Time:               10:00 a.m.

Location:         Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226

(Room location is tentative; please check Senate Judiciary Committee website to confirm – http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/)

Description:  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, will hold a rescheduled hearing to examine “stand your ground” laws that have significantly expanded the permissible use of deadly force and that have been adopted in 26 states since 2005.  This hearing was initially scheduled for September 17 but was postponed.  The hearing will examine the way that “stand your ground” laws were promoted across the country, the impact of the laws on public safety and civil rights, the “shoot first” mentality that such laws produce, and the concerns posed by the laws in light of the gun lobby’s aggressive efforts in Congress and in statehouses to expand concealed carrying of guns.  Hearing witnesses will urge reconsideration of “stand your ground” laws in light of these developments.  Hearing witnesses will also urge Congressional vigilance against continued efforts by the gun lobby to make changes to federal gun laws that will exacerbate the troubling impacts of “stand your ground” laws.

 

Hearing Attendance:  This hearing is open to the public.  Please encourage advocates and interested members of the community to attend.  A large audience filling both the hearing room and overflow room is critical to showing interest in the issue.  For our planning purposes, please RSVP by filling out this form as soon as possible. If you submitted an RSVP for the previous hearing date, please note that you must submit a new RSVP for the rescheduled date.

  

Senator Dick Durbin is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues, and all legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights. The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee is Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Voting Victory for the Blind

Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco granted voters with visual impairments a victory in an antidiscrimination lawsuit aimed to guarantee their right to vote independently instead of with the assistance of a third party.  Last November, voters were forced to vote with the assistance of a third party after the voting machines experienced problems with the audio and tactile aids that were there to assist visually-impaired voters.  Instead of secretly and privately casting their ballots, they cast their votes by dictation to another individual.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero ruled in favor of the blind voters and the California Council of the Blind, stating, “Even if blind and visually impaired voters can communicate their votes with the assistance of third parties, they certainly cannot enjoy the benefits of the secret ballot afforded to most other voters.”  The Judge continued by saying that the right to vote in private is “one of the central features of voting which must be accorded so long as the modification is not an undue burden or a fundamental alteration of the service.”

Read the full article here– http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Advocates-for-blind-cheer-ruling-on-voter-rights-4904705.php

 

Are There Unwritten Boundaries for Black Law Students and Lawyers, Or Should Marketability Be Achieved By Any Means Necessary?

Why Do Black Lawyers Defend Accused Racists?

By Yolanda Young

Last week Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after she fired a warning shot during a dispute with her husband has been granted a retrial. This is likely a result of the pressure brought by Florida’s black legal community. This got me thinking once again about Channa Lloyd, the black intern who volunteered for George Zimmerman’s legal team.

Shortly after Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Martin, CNN aired an interview with Lloyd, who is a law student at Barry University. Asked if she thought Zimmerman was a racist, Lloyd said no, and implied that she’d have a difficult time working for a client who was. This speaks to her naiveté. The job of a defense attorney isn’t to assess a client’s prejudices (or guilt). It is to defend her client. That goes for clients accused of racism, too.

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Attorney General Declares Halt to NC Voting Rights Suppression Measure

Attorney General Declares Halt to NC Voting Rights Suppression Measure by Tiffany Fountaine Boykin

On Monday, September 30, 2013, the Justice Department announced it would sue North Carolina on Monday over the state’s new voting law, a bold move to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that many, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have said threatens the voting rights of minorities.

Holder stated that the high court’s ruling was a “deeply flawed decision that effectively invalidated a cornerstone of American civil rights law.”  He recently warned that the administration “will not hesitate to take appropriately aggressive action against any jurisdiction that attempts to hinder access to the franchise.”

Under the new law, North Carolina residents are required to show a photo ID at polling places. After the law was signed by the state’s Republican governor last month, civil right groups moved quickly to challenge it arguing that the law’s requirements will make it harder to vote and that racial minorities will be disproportionately affected because they are less likely to have the forms of photo ID required by the law.

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Birmingham Bombing Victims Honored

September 15, 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which was a known meeting place for Civil Rights leaders.  In addition to numerous injuries, the lives of Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, ages 11 to 14, were claimed that day.  In the weeks prior to the bombing, the Civil Rights Movement had been making great strides for equality.  Dr. King had just given his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial and the Court’s had ordered the desegregation of Birmingham schools.

Despite having evidence regarding who the suspects in this horrific crime were, then FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover declined to pursue the case.  It was not until the late 1970s, that Alabama prosecutors were able to secure evidence that had been previously withheld in order to secure a conviction for one of the men responsible.  In 2000, a FBI agent in Birmingham discovered even more evidence that was not disclosed to the original prosecutors.  As a result, three more men were convicted in 2001 and 2002 and given life sentences for their roles in the bombing.  All but one of the men has since died in prison.

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ICYMI: Student Loan Rates Now Higher – or Lower – Depending on Who You Ask

In case you missed it, in late August President Obama signed the Student Loan Certainty Act, a bill rolling back federal student loan interest rates that had doubled earlier in the year. The bill does not return rates to pre-July 1 levels, but according to the White House, the plan “will save millions of students an average of $1,500 on loans they take out this year.” The bill sets most student loans at the rate of the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.05 percent. Loan rates are capped at 8.25 percent.


This infographic released by the White House illustrates the Obama administration’s rationale for signing the bill.

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How to have a fun and productive CBC weekend

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference – usually known as “CBC Weekend” – is a fantastic opportunity to network with politicians, celebrities, and other up-and-coming professionals.  Each year, hundreds of NBLSA members and alumni join the CBC Weekend festivities.  There are plenty of NBLSA meetings and panels to attend, as well as more receptions, happy hours, and mixers than you can count.  Many first-time CBC Weekend attendees are amazed by the sheer number and magnitude of people they encounter in the District of Columbia during this powerhouse event.  As CBC Weekend 2013 approaches, let’s take a look at some tips and strategies for having the most fun and productive CBC Weekend possible.

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Volunteer Opportunities: 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington & CBC-ALC

Check out these two great volunteer opportunities taking place in Washington, DC over the course of the next month or so.  Volunteer for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the end of August and/or for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in September.

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MLK volunteer info