Filibuster. Government shutdowns. Budget reconciliations. The words fly effortlessly across the headlines. We know that our system of governance is tied to their strings; yet, we fail to recognize how all of Congress’s action really fits into our everyday lives. With a nod to Schoolhouse Rock!, CPLC presents “I’m a Bill. A What? A Bill!” While there are many nuances, exceptions and peculiarities of the legislative process, this piece should give you a small glimpse behind the veil.
The United States Congress was created by Article I of the Constitution of the United States. It gives Congress the power to create laws for our country. Congress is split into two chambers – the House of Representatives (“the House”) and the Senate. The House is the larger chamber, and its size is based on the US population count. Our population count, of course, is determined by the Census. (That’s why it’s important for each of us to be counted in the 2020 Census—regardless of age, sex, race, or citizenship.) The number of US Representatives, also called Congressmen, in each state is determined by the number of people in that state. The Senate is the smaller Chamber, and each State has 2 Senators to represent it. Currently, there are 535 voting members of Congress – 435 in the House and 100 in the Senate. Congressional sessions typically span two years. 2018 is the second year of the 115th Congress.
You can check for your state’s Congressmen and Senators HERE.
Proposed laws are introduced as bills. Bills can be introduced in either chamber. Once a bill is introduced, it is reviewed in the subject-specific committee of that chamber. There are 20 standing committees in the House and 16 in the Senate. Committees are comprised of representative members of all political parties. Committee members usually already possess some level of expertise in the subject area of the committee (ie. Armed Services). If not, members serve extensive time on the committee, allowing them to gain more knowledge than their colleagues.
Committees are where public hearings and testimony are held. Moreover, other federal agencies like the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office offer expertise to committee members to assist them in making informed decisions. While in committee, bills are debated and amended until all committee members present their agreed version of the bill to the entire chamber. The chamber can accept or reject the revised bill. Assuming it is accepted by vote (simple majority in the House – 218 of 435 – or simple majority in the Senate – 51 of 100), it is passed “across the Hall” to the other chamber.
A bill can only become law if both chambers of Congress have agreed to the same version of a bill. Any differences in the two chambers’ versions are reconciled by a committee represented by both chambers. That agreed upon version is then sent back to both chambers to vote again for final approval.
Simple, right? But how do filibusters, budget reconciliations and presidential vetoes fit in? These snazzy maneuvers are what can hold up legislation. Filibusters are the Senate’s tactics to hold endless debate. Budget reconciliations are Congress’s way to otherwise expedite revenue bills that could be stalled with tricky tactics. Vetoes…well, if the President doesn’t like the bill, he can simply say no. That act has consequences all of its own.
Albeit simplified, you can put some of our recent Congressional headlines in context. Most importantly, familia, our members of Congress represent you. So stand up. Be counted. Your Congressional delegation needs to hear from you on the matters that affect you and your community. They have many paths to navigate. That’s their job. Yours is a right, and that is to be heard.
CPLC breaks down the political process so you can stay informed on how decisions are being made that affect your community. Please consider donating to support our mission of political and economic empowerment! Donations to CPLC are eligible for the Arizona Tax Credit for Contributions to Qualifying Charitable Organizations—meaning you can donate now and receive up to $400 ($800 for couples) of your donation back at tax time, either by reducing the amount you owe or increasing your refund.
Christmas lists. Wish lists. Online. In-store. Alexa. And more. The rhythm of the holiday beats incessantly in restaurants and stores, and on commercials and billboards. Our children, enthralled by the holiday drummer boy, dance along and write letters to Santa - misspelled and sent to the North Pole with all the hope and wonder of untarnished youth. Then comes that long awaited day of judgment, when Santa declares whether they have been naughty or nice.
In A Christmas Story, Ralphie subtly yet adeptly made his request known; he wanted a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle. As Ralphie moved toward the Christmas tree and all the gifts beneath, the narrator relays the scene: “We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.” Would his “oiled, blue steel beauty” be there?
The BB gun has had its heyday. Today, it’s Fingerlings, the Pie Face game, or Lego-anything. But the youthful longing remains untempered throughout the ages. This increasingly so because of the advances in technology which makes information readily accessible and overwhelmingly tantalizing at every turn. Children cannot escape the lure of toys; it’s on the tv, the tablet, the phone, the pop-up ads.
For some children, however, there is a greater lure – food, clothing, heat.
In 2015, the federal poverty threshold was $24,036 for a family of four (with two children); those living below this level are referred to as Poor. According to research, the federal poverty threshold is not sufficient to meet even the most basic needs of a family of four. To meet their basic needs, the family income must be $48,072 (double the poverty level); those living below this level are referred to as Low Income.
25.5% of children in Arizona are poor (v. 21% national average), and an additional 25.5% live in low-income families (v. 43% national average). That is 1,200,583 Arizona children that may dream of a Hatchimal under the tree but would prefer a hot meal on top of a plate.
The numbers in Nevada and New Mexico are equally dismal: In Nevada, 21% are poor and an additional 28% low income. 30% of children living in New Mexico are poor and an additional 25% low income.
In all three states, communities of color struggle in poverty:
Poor: 36% of Hispanics, 30% of African-Americans, 46% of Native Americans
Low Income: 67% of Hispanics, 61% of African-Americans, 75% of Native Americans
Poor: 29% of Hispanics, 38% of African-Americans, 11% of Native Americans
Low Income: 64% of Hispanics, 67% of African-Americans, 35% of Native Americans
Poor: 36% of Hispanics, 29% of African-Americans, 44% of Native Americans
Low Income: 62% of Hispanics, 56% of African-Americans, 74% of Native Americans
Multiple factors influence a family’s income level. They range from parental education, parental employment status, and single versus two-parent home, among other things. Moreover, the state in which the family resides also influences the perpetuation of poverty. The education and health care system of a state, for example, impacts a child’s ability to rise out of the cycle of poverty. In other words, a child who flounders in one of the lowest ranked education systems in the country will struggle to obtain a well-paying job that would help lift him/her out of poverty. In the same way, a parent who is ousted from the Medicaid system, and no longer able to afford medical care for a debilitating condition, may be unable to bring that same child to school. The child flounders. The cycle continues.
Join CPLC as we endeavor to meet both the wants and needs of our children. During this holiday season, at our 49thAnnual Angeles del Barrio, CPLC distributed 10,000 toys and provided health & wellness resources to families in need. In every season, CPLC battles childhood poverty. Our Carl Hayden Community Center provides mentoring and enrichment programs to children. Our Parenting Arizona program teaches parental skills with the mission to promote strong families and improves the lives of children by empowering parents to thrive.
Familia, the beat of the drummer boy is enticing, but may it never be enough for us to ignore the haunting melody of our children that cry not for toys but for necessities.
Even though Christmas is over, it’s not too late to join us with end of the year giving! Donations to CPLC are eligible for the Arizona Tax Credit for Contributions to Qualifying Charitable Organizations—meaning you can donate now and receive up to $400 ($800 for couples) of your donation back at tax time, either by reducing the amount you owe or increasing your refund.
Source for all statistics:http://www.nccp.org/profiles/US_profile_7.html
I: what it means
Shelter. One of humankind’s most basic needs, alongside water and food.
For such a basic need, however, too many experience its absence—homelessness. Homelessness is more than the man holding a sign on a street corner or sleeping in a park. The US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) outlines four categories of homelessness:
- 1. Literally homeless (no fixed, regular residence)
- 2. Imminent risk of homelessness (no identified residence after 14-day period)
- 3. Homeless under other federal statutes (long periods without permanent housing)
- 4. (Attempting to) flee domestic violence.
Most forms of homelessness are the types we may never notice: the coworker whose family has been evicted and is staying with relatives and friends, a young student living out of her car, a child forced out of the home by an abusive parent.
The definition varies, but the need itself remains fundamental and too elusive for many.
In Arizona alone, the Department of Economic Security found that 8,684 people experienced homelessness at any given point in time in 2016. In New Mexico, the number was 2,263, and Nevada reported 7,845 homeless in 2015. Included in these statistics are our nation’s most vulnerable: children and veterans.
Failure to meet this basic need leads to increased mortality, chronic health conditions, mental illness, and substance use, among other issues.
Unfortunately, the consequences of even temporary homelessness are very real. Although it may not command the same attention, homelessness is as serious a gateway as hot topics like marijuana or opioids. The lack of fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime housing becomes a vicious cycle in which housing remains harder to attain, education stretches farther out of reach, and payment for health and other basic necessities (like clothing) is nearly impossible. The lack of permanent housing also becomes the root cause of other problematic health conditions.
Homelessness impacts our families and our community by robbing us of great leaders and contributors. It snuffs the light from those children who have yet to begin their journey, and it conceals the light of those who have given their freedom to protect ours.
Pay attention, familia. Homelessness can be a silent killer of people and potential—the ones you see, and the ones you do not.
II: how you can help
The most effective cure for homelessness is simple: housing.
A widely used practice to address homelessness is Housing First. Unlike programs which require clients to go through a series of steps before gaining access to housing, Housing First prioritizes permanent housing, which serves as a foundation for individuals to improve their quality of life and pursue their personal goals.
Housing First programs offer (not require) additional supportive services which minimize behaviors that lead back to homelessness.
CPLC provides services to address or avoid homelessness, including multiple Housing First models, in four specific populations:
CPLC has successfully implemented Housing First since 2014 with individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness. Currently, 110 such individuals are housed in CPLC properties, where they have access to a client-success administrator.
CPLC is proud to soon provide 16 apartment-style homes dedicated solely to veterans in need of permanent supportive housing, which will be located in our newly-refurbished multi-use complex at 35th St. and Van Buren.
CPLC De Colores’ Housing and Advocacy Intervention offers temporary housing and supportive services for domestic violence survivors, including efforts to find permanent housing for these families.
CPLC Housing Counseling provides interventions to help families avoid foreclosure, preventing homelessness before it happens.
CPLC De Colores helps families experiencing abuse avoid homelessness
Domestic violence creates instability for families that can result in homelessness, even when a victim is employed and able to live independently. By providing temporary financial support including rental, utility, and deposit assistance for up to three months, CPLC De Colores’ Rapid Re-Housing program helps a family make the transition to independent living and avoid the need to move into a shelter.
Housing Advocates work with participants to address their immediate needs and help them transition to self-sufficiency. After this time, participants may choose to continue to receive emotional support and other services through the De Colores Community-Based program.
In February 2017, CPLC received a $2 million loan from the City of Phoenix to rehabilitate a dilapidated hotel and convert the property into quality affordable housing for vulnerable populations. At least 16 units of this property are reserved for victims of domestic violence, providing De Colores with CPLC-owned housing options for program participants in addition to scattered-site housing options.
De Colores housing intervention programs employ a Housing First model. The model is driven by the belief that, given choices and resources, participants will be most effective in working to ensure their own safety and success.
Housing Advocates work with clients to assess needs and develop short- and long-term goals. Advocates then determine which housing intervention is most appropriate and assist clients in securing permanent housing in the client’s own name to help build a credit and rental history. The level of financial assistance—including rental assistance, utility assistance, and deposit/fee assistance—varies based on client need.
Once housing is obtained, Housing Advocates work with the family on issues that will promote permanency including employment and independent living skills. Participants are also provided with legal advocacy, case management, and social support services to meet their social and emotional needs, including connection to more intensive behavioral health services as needed.
CPLC does not maintain any participant requirements except those in the lease agreement in order to obtain housing, such as substance use, criminal history, or participation in services.
Please consider donating to CPLC De Colores to support the critical work of our Rapid Re-Housing program. Donations up to $400 are eligible for a full refund through Arizona’s tax credit program.