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The UUMUAC Task Force issued this Action Allert on February 24th, 2017, to Illinois Representatives to support HB 3421

I am writing to urge you to join in co-sponsoring H.B. 3421, which was introduced this month by Rep. Christian Mitchell. This legislation would amend Illinois’ laws related to criminal justice to abolish the use of money bail in Illinois. Modeled after the system in place in the District of Columbia, and now being instituted in other jurisdictions around our country, this legislation would establish a system under which release before trial would be based on a risk assessment system, rather than on an individual’s ability to post money bail. Where an individual is assessed as posing a threat to society he or she would be held in jail until trial. Where an individual is not found to pose a risk to society he or she would be freed on an I-Bond, rather than posting a money bond. This creates a system that is much fairer, in that it does not tie release to an ability to pay standard.

To enable accused individuals to meet their obligation to appear, enhanced pretrial services that would remind defendants of upcoming court dates via phone or messaging and offer transportation assistance for indigent defendants will be required. Public availability of court dockets online would also help.

By not tying the release of poor defendants to an ability to pay standard, tax payers would be relieved of the costs of jailing defendants who do not pose a threat to society during the period prior to their court date. Poor defendants, who do not pose a threat to society, would not risk the loss of their jobs due to missing significant days of work, and the individual and his or her dependents would not risk loss of housing and other adverse impacts, due to the loss of income/employment.

Our communities will be stronger, our criminal justice system more fair, and our taxpayers less burdened, by the changes proposed in H.B. 3421. I again urge you to join in co-sponsoring this legislation. I look forward to your response, with your position on this legislation.

Sincerely,  


The UUSJ Peace Task Force issued an Action Alert on March 3rd to Senators and Representatives against using nuclear weapons

Dear Senator or Representative
                                                  
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor HR 669 the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act.  Too many war powers have been granted to the President by Congress, and when someone is sitting in the Oval Office who has a tendency to raise his voice and retaliate against those who are critical of him, we need to make sure our future is protected.

As a person of faith I believe in the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.  Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee and fourteen other nationwide groups are supporting HR 669 and have stated:  ‘While no one person should have the sole authority to launch a civilization ending nuclear war, [Trump’s] aggressive temperament and chaotic behavior are terrifying considering his authority over nuclear war-fighting.’

This change to the nuclear launch protocol is long overdue, and it’s never been more important to change the policy than it is now.  Please support this bill and make it illegal for President Trump or any successor to unilaterally start a nuclear war.

                                                                           Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert Prosting all Trump's Deep Cuts in the EPA and Other Environmental Programs on March 20th

Dear Senator or Representative
                                                  
As a person of faith, I believe we have an obligation to protect the web of life and the human rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and a livable climate. I support the important work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help restore ecosystems, study climate change, and support communities disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution. The Administration’s proposed federal budget includes severe budget cuts to environmental and climate programs of the EPA and NOAA. The proposal show the Administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens. I urge you to oppose severe budget cuts to governmental environmental programs, climate research, and climate change adaptation and mitigation programs, such as the following:

• Funding to combat algae blooms, invasive species and other water pollution problems in the Great Lakes, which are proposed for a cut from $300 million to $10 million.

• The Environmental Justice program budget, which has historically supplied grants to 1,400 frontline communities, which is proposed to have a 78% cut, from $6.7 million to $1.4 million.

• Funding for restoration in Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary, is proposed to be cut from $73 million to $5 million, while funding for restoration work in Puget Sound is proposed to be cut from $28 million to $2 million.

• The EPA’s work studying endocrine disruptor chemicals that can interfere with the body’s reproductive and development systems would nearly be eliminated, dropping from $7.5 million to $445,000.

• Funding for state testing of bacteria levels at beaches around the country would be totally eliminated.

• NOAA’s budget cuts endanger climate science research and data collection, and coastal resilience programs meant to help coastal communities adapt to the increased risk of extreme weather and sea level rise. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent of its current budget. I look forward to your reply, laying out your position on the Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA and NOAA budgets.

Sincerely,


 

The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on April 17, 2017 to REDUCE the HUGE wealth inequities in it's tax reform bill

During the upcoming months the Republican majority in Congress will be developing and putting forth legislation to “reform” taxes.  I am writing to share my views, which I would like you to consider when the subject of tax reform comes up.
          What measures are considered regarding changes to the tax laws should always keep our nation’s escalating income inequality in mind.  Between 1979 and 2007, paycheck income of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners exploded by over 256 percent.  Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent of earners have seen little change in their average income, with just a 16.7 percent increase from 1979 to 2014.  Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average nearly nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent.  Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher.  They average over 38 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.
          With those numbers in mind I ask that you:

  • Oppose repeal of the inheritance tax.
  • Oppose “reforms” that would reduce the overall tax obligation of those in the top 10 percent of income earners, and vehemently oppose anything that would reduce the overall tax obligations of those with incomes in the top 1 percent.
  • Work to end the lower tax rates on income from investments.  Income from wages and salaries should have the same inherent value as income from investments

With regard to corporate tax rate changes, I would urge that such measures be revenue neutral, with any reduction in the general corporate tax rate funded through the elimination or sharp curtailment of corporate tax deductions.

                                                          Sincerely,


The UUSJ Peace Task Force issued an Action Alert on April 21, 2017 to Senators and Representatives to exert their authority to have a say before the Executive Administration expands the use of bombings.

Lately there seems to be a growing tendency for America to respond with air power in cases of intractable military conflict.  Our bombers have hit targets in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan without prior Congressional approval. Civilians are being killed and wide swaths of the countryside are being destroyed after a blanket “authorization” of military action by President Trump.

As a person of faith, I’m concerned about not only the increased use of the military, but also the erosion of our democratic principles.  As a Unitarian Universalist I believe in the sanctity of each human life and the importance of using the democratic process.  While the use of chemical weapons may be deplorable and a stronger cadre of ISIS fighters on the Afghanistan / Pakistan border something to fear, we shouldn’t immediately respond by initiating an air strike.

The UN charter only approves the use of force in self-defense or after a vote by the Security Council.  The US Constitution requires Congressional approval for military action, while the 1974 War Powers Act was enacted to "insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities."  It doesn’t seem that Congress is fulfilling its designated role, and the President seems to have been left to act on his own.

The decision to use military force is one of the most serious actions a nation can take.  It ought to be a collective decision, approved by Congress and debated by our elected representatives.  The current tendency of the President to take unilateral action and the Congress to duck its duty to approve his decisions is unacceptable.  Please make your voice heard and insure that military incursions don’t continue to proliferate without Congressional approval,

Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on July 8, 2017 to IL Governor Rauner to Sign HB 1688 which would allow convicted
individuals much more opportunity for licence and jobs when released

Licenses should be administered in a manner that protects public safety without reducing opportunity.  This means that a license applicant’s background should only be used in a licensing decision if it is relevant to the functions of the job.  SB 1688, passed by the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan support, will accomplish this.

SB 1688, if enacted, will safely reduce unnecessary and broad conviction-based occupational licensing barriers.  It will enable people with arrest and conviction records to secure living wage employment which will reduce the high rate of recidivism.

If SB 1688 becomes law:

  • It will benefit rehabilitated adults with backgrounds who are qualified and want living wage licensed employment in a number of fields, like nursing, real estate and insurance.
  • It will prevent agencies from using sealed or expunged records to deny a license.
  • It will require licensing agencies to accept Certificates of Rehabilitation as evidence of rehabilitation for a lot more occupations.
  • If a person with a record spent 5 years crime-free after a felony conviction or 3 years crime-free after release from incarceration agencies are asked to consider it favorably.

If this bill is signed into law, it will open doors that have been closed far too long and help address community violence.  I urge you to sign SB 1688 into law.

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert Prosting all Trump's Deep Cuts in the EPA and Other Environmental Programs on July 11th

Dear Senator
                                                  
H.R. 953, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, would reverse a 2009 decision issued by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that pesticides applied to waterways should be considered pollutants under federal law and regulated under the Clean Water Act, through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.
          If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by the President, H.R. 953 would:

  1. Undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act,
  2. Allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight; and
  3. Contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

   Backers of the bill continually argue that the permit requirement places undue burdens on farmers, but in reality the majority of pesticide applications obtain a permit with little restrictions, and agricultural activities are exempt from the requirement.  What the bill will actually do is take away Americans’ right to know what toxic chemicals  are entering their waterways.

I urge you to vote against H.R. 953 in the U.S. Senate.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on July 26, 2017 to oppose cuts in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants

Dear [Senator(s) and Representative]

As a person of faith I care about those who would go hungry or homeless without the assistance of fellow Americans.  Some of that assistance we provide as a nation, through our Federal government programs. 
          I ask that you oppose all or most of the cuts that the Administration is proposing to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.  The $295 million in proposed cuts to the Continuum of Care program would significantly curtail the rapid re-housing program, permanent supportive housing, supportive services for those who need such services to maintain housing, plus technical services to help communities improve their homeless assistance.  The Emergency Services grant program is also scheduled for cuts, while the National Homelessness Data Analysis program would almost be cut in half.  The proposed cuts are expected to result in approximately 25,000 more people becoming homeless, while limiting communities’ ability to respond compassionately.
          Rental assistance for low income people, and investments in a public and affordable housing infrastructure, helps protect the most vulnerable people from becoming homeless in the first place.  Consequently, I urge you to oppose all or most of the almost $1 billion in cuts to the Tennant-based Rental Assistance/Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program.  I also ask that you oppose the $1.31 billion cut to the Public Housing Capital Fund, the $500 million cut to the Public Housing Operating Fund, and a $5 million cut to Jobs Plus, an evidence based program for increasing the employment and earnings of Public Housing residents.  Lastly, please oppose the elimination of the National Housing Trust Fund, a critical housing resource exclusively targeted to help build and preserve housing affordable to people with the lowest incomes, including those experiencing homelessness.  Further cuts to affordable housing programs will put additional pressure on the already strained homeless assistance program.

    Please act with compassion to preserve our programs that serve the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on September 19. 2017 to President Trump urging him to fight climate change in light of recent hurricanes and drought/fires

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are NOT Fake News!  Extreme weather events caused by warming ocean waters, the result of global warming, are really happening! Increased drought hurts American crops and food security, while increasing forest fires in the American West threatens Americans’ homes.  American cities, such as Miami Beach, FL, and Norfolk, VA, and many communities along the Louisiana coast, are being flooded by rising oceans, the result of global warming melting the ice and glaciers around the world. 
          The United States is, and will continue to be, under attack from the effects of global warming.  As President and Commander in Chief you need to defend the United States!  That means fighting to halt global warming and the extreme weather and rising seas that it is causing.  You need to declare war on global warming!  You could ask Congress to do the same.  Then fight global warming with the fervor that the U.S. brought to its fight against Germany and Japan in WWII.  Americans across the political spectrum will appreciate you for defending America by fighting global warming.

                                                                   Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on October 13. 2017 to Governer Rauner opposing Dynegy and Illinois EPA Plan to Weaken Clean Air Laws

Please oppose changing the Illinois clear air multipollutant standards that protect public health and the environment in Illinois communities.
Dynegy and the Illinois EPA are seeking to change the longstanding Illinois clean air “multipollutant standards,” which requires Dynegy to soon install modern pollution control equipment to clean up its old coal plants in Illinois. According to documents uncovered by the Environmental Law & Policy Center through Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, Dynegy management’s apparent goal is to:

  1. Close some of its Central and Southern Illinois coal plants that are not economically viable in the competitive electricity market
  2. Keep running some of its other coal plants, but delay installing modern pollution control equipment that is important to avoiding harms to public health and environmental quality in Illinois communities.

Dynegy knew about its environmental compliance responsibilities long ago. The Illinois clean air standards were negotiated and approved in 2007, and they provided Dynegy and other coal plant owners a glide path for cleanup actions. None of these Dynegy coal plants should be run like “old Chevy beaters” without installing effective modern pollution control equipment. It’s time to better protect the public’s health with healthier clean air in Illinois communities. 

It’s time that these Dynegy coal plants be cleaned up and environmental pollution reduced if they still run!
I look forward to your response.

                                                          Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert to oppose cuts in the Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits on October 18, 2017 to Governor Rauner

I urge you to intervene on behalf of the very poor Illinois residents faced with the termination of their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. 
 
Specifically, I urge you to request a waiver for calendar year 2018 of the federal time limit that restricts SNAP eligibility for non-disabled adults without minor children to 3 out of 36 months unless they are working at least 20 hours per week. 
 
The most recently available data indicates that all of Illinois, except for DuPage County, will qualify for a waiver in 2018. Not extending the waiver of the 3 in 36-month time limit will cause grave hardship. SNAP helps low-income households purchase adequate, nutritious food. The Illinois Department of Human Services estimates indicate that there are 260,000 individuals at risk of losing SNAP. They are veterans struggling to find work, men and women experiencing homelessness or living with serious and persistent mental illnesses, and mothers and fathers who took time away from the workforce to raise their children. They face significant and often multiple barriers to working at least 20 hours per week, including very low education levels, functional illiteracy, sporadic work histories and criminal records.  
 
Loss of SNAP will leave these men and women without desperately needed supports. Most live in deep poverty—their average income is just $283 per month—and they do not qualify for other benefits, such as cash assistance. Losing their monthly SNAP benefit—$138 on average and a maximum of $194—will put them at risk of severe hunger. Many leaders of Illinois food banks have said that their emergency food networks cannot absorb an increase of 260,000 individuals into an already overburdened system. 
 
In addition, it is in the state’s financial interest to extend the waiver. There is no savings for the state in not extending the waiver since SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded. However, should the time limit take effect, Illinois would lose as much as $410 million in federal funds annually, a blow to the state’s economy that would severely impact businesses in neighborhoods where SNAP recipients are concentrated, and increase costs for the State’s Medicaid program by making it more difficult for these adults to obtain food and stay healthy.  In fact, obtaining this waiver would save Illinois substantial costs since administering the time-limit would be time consuming, expensive, and create additional bureaucracy.
 
Finally, we must protect people with disabilities and others who could mistakenly lose food assistance. When the three-month limit is imposed, states must carefully assess each participant to ensure that people who are exempt and unable to work continue to qualify for SNAP and do not erroneously lose vital SNAP benefits. If states fail to do this accurately, many vulnerable individuals could lose food assistance inappropriately. For example, states may struggle to identify people with temporary disabling injuries or mental illness who are unable to work for a period of time and thus are supposed to be exempt from the time limit. 
 
If the time limit is reinstated in Illinois, we will have more hungry people in line at community food banks and more patients returning to clinics and hospitals because they cannot afford regular access to food. 
 
Considering the potential impact and cost to our State, ensuring access to SNAP by applying for a waiver of the time limit is both a compassionate and smart choice. 
 

Sincerely,