Congress needs to pass For the People Act
Like many Americans, quarantining at home and worried about the state of our union, I have wondered what our country needs to do to move on. Thankfully, I see a silver lining coming from an unlikely source: Congress.
My congressman, John Sarbanes, just reintroduced the For the People Act (HR1). HR1 is one of the boldest and most comprehensive sets of democracy reforms ever introduced in Congress. Now more than ever after the events of the last few months and year, Americans need these reforms.
There are many reasons HR1 is an important priority:
First, HR1 requires all states to use independent redistricting commissions to curb partisan gerrymandering.
Second, HR1 expands access to the ballot box through a number of measures, including automatic voter registration and expanded early voting, while also providing measures to increase election security.
Third, HR1 makes important reforms aimed at curtailing big money in politics, by creating a matching system for small donations, upgrading the requirements for online political ad disclosure, and strengthening oversight on Super PACs.
Fourth, HR1 fortifies current ethics laws by expanding conflict of interest requirements, with the intent to slow the revolving door between government and private interests or lobbyists.
Fifth, HR1 strengthens divestment requirements and strengthens federal ethics oversight.
In summary, HR1 is a powerful set of democratic reforms intended to empower citizens, level the playing field, and hold our representatives accountable. Indeed, as stated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “HR1 restores the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, the people’s interest, not the special interest.”
At this critical time in our history, with a Democratic president, Senate and House, we need to pass HR1. If need be, I would encourage the Senate to eliminate the filibuster to ensure passage. While such a step may be controversial, bold and decisive action is justified and necessary to protect our democracy from the grave challenges it faces. HR1 helps support foundational democratic principles at a time when it feels, to many, like those very foundations are cracking.
By signing HR1 into law, President Joe Biden would send a powerful message domestically and abroad of America’s renewed commitment to the democratic ideals on which our country was founded. This is why HR1 is now more critical than ever. We must do everything in our power to make Congress act.
The writer is the lead of the Defend Democracy Team of Howard County Indivisible.
Government needs to get its act together
Someone please help me to understand why our government can’t get things right, and all we get is excuses.
Our streets, greenways and byways are littered with trash, fast-food containers, plastic bottles, etc. Years go by and our government fails to address the issue. Every day the blight in Howard County grows worse.
Last year, the state computer system couldn’t handle the volume of unemployment claims, and there are still some 44,000 people waiting for claims to be processed so they can receive their checks. Many can’t even reach anyone in the agency to get their questions answered. Through no fault of their own, those unemployed people suffer and wait.
After scientists developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time, distribution has been a fiasco. The process has been fractured into hundreds of, what seems like, independent (public and private) distributors. I have personally registered with no less than a dozen sites. I constantly wait for an email or call from one of the sites. When I receive an email, I quickly open it only to find that all the vaccination slots in each location had been filled within seconds of the notification. I fall within Phase 1C, and I can’t understand why, even with vaccine shortages, the system is so convoluted, broken, complicated and fractured. I receive conflicting messages, conflicting wait lists and multiple links that go nowhere.
It’s sad and frustrating that we can’t find competent people who can manage and solve these crises. I guess I should adopt the mantra of “No expectations — No disappointments.”
Scott H. Waters