City slams anti-immigrant HR 4437

In what may be the first such action by a U.S. city, the Board of Supervisors Jan. 24 passed a powerful resolution condemning anti-immigrant HR 4437, now on its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HR 4437 “will do some very scary, chilling things — not only making all undocumented people in the U.S. into felons and criminalizing a whole class of people with the stroke of a pen, but also penalizing U.S. citizens and legal residents who have routine contacts with the immigrant community,” Supervisor Chris Daly told a press conference.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi called HR 4437 “reminiscent of Senator McCarthy’s ‘red scare’ of the 1950s.”

Renee Saucedo of the San Francisco Day Labor Program and La Raza Centro Legal told the World that local immigrant rights organizations plan to meet with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Judiciary Committee, urging her to work to kill the bill.

The resolution urges other local and state governments to follow suit in condemning HR 4437; calls on local, state and national governments to condemn and protect against anti-immigrant violence; and urges immigration reform upholding the rights of all residents regardless of immigration status.

House committee backs ‘Medicare for All’

“Hell, yes!” roared state Rep. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) as the House Health and Welfare Committee passed a resolution, to go to the full Legislature, supporting federal enactment of HR 676, the single-payer health care plan introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

“It would be historic to have a Southern state endorse universal health care and medicine for all,” said Joel Segal, Conyers’ legislative assistant.

The Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association, Louisville-based Falls City Medical Society and Dr. Adewale Troutman, director of the Louisville Metro Health Department, joined the Morehead, Ky., City Council and scores of unions, religious groups and others in supporting the bill.

A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine, an advisory group to Congress, found that 18,000 adults die each year because they have no health insurance.

State lawmakers protect gay rights

After a 30-year struggle, on Jan. 27 the state Legislature passed a measure barring discrimination against gays and lesbians. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) said she would sign the bill, making Washington the 17th state to ban bias against gays and lesbians in housing, employment and insurance and the seventh to outlaw prejudice against transgender people.

Republican state Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, who switched his vote to join 24 Democrats giving the bill a two-vote margin of victory in the Senate, said, “We don’t choose who we love — the heart chooses who we love.” He continued, “It’s unacceptable to discriminate against people because of that.”

The state Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the state’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. A ruling is expected this month.

Battle for mass transit funds continues

The labor-community coalition Save Our Transit rallied in the chilly early morning hours, Jan. 26, then marched into a meeting of the Pennsylvania Funding and Reform Commission. Bus drivers and riders are demanding that the state set up a dedicated fund to keep mass transit rolling and affordable.

The commission was established by the governor last year to find solutions to the chronic transit crisis in the state.

“Transit is an economic competitiveness issue,” said Ken Zapinski, vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Downtown Pittsburgh and the medical/university complex have the second and third highest concentration of jobs in the state and half of the workers get there on the bus, Zapinski said.

Support for dedicated funding for mass transit came from some unexpected quarters, including the Westmoreland County Transit Authority, which provides 300,000 rides a year using outside contractors, a form of “back door” privatization. “That is not the solution,” Director Larry Morris told the commissioners. “What’s still needed is a dedicated, predicable source of funding.”

“Who’s going to take better care of your house? You or a renter?” asked Mary Jo Morandini, director of the Beaver County Transit Authority. Morandini described how the authority converted from outside contractors to in-house drivers and mechanics, saving money and improving service.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this week’s clips.