In Tennessee we typically sigh in relief when our General Assembly session ends before it creates too much additional damage. Sadly, we seem to be most secure when our Legislature is not in session. The current session just ended with a flourish, given the Casada mess, leaving in its wake actions such as strengthening State control of the charter school approval system, adopting an educational voucher system, and threatening our well being and democracy with restrictions to voting access, steps to further undermine immigrant rights, and the loosening of gun restrictions.
There is so much to report on … to share with you … but these are some of the most glaring things on our minds as we head into the summer. We are grateful to have you as our partners and will be calling on you to raise you voice with ours in the weeks and months ahead.
MEDICAID BLOCK GRANT LEGISLATION
Among the things we are most alarmed about are the steps taken to reduce Medicaid services and coverage by authorizing the governor to pursue a Medicaid block grant, legislation Gov. Lee touts as a means to control spending, but which further distances Tennessee from the Affordable Care Act. Tennessee is now the first state in the Union to embrace the new system of Medicaid funding supported by the Trump Administration which will undermine health care expansion. The good news is that block grants aren’t actually in operation yet as the program still needs to be approved by a sharply divided Congress. The process will likely be delayed by legal challenges at both the federal and state levels. We need to stand strong against block grants and continue the battle for Medicaid expansion.
A block grant will give state officials more control over how federal Medicaid dollars are spent and is not guaranteed to provide as much funding as the existing system. Currently, about one-fifth of Tennesseans get their health coverage through TennCare, which is largely funded with uncapped federal money, funding that can grow or shrink as more people join or leave TennCare. A block grant, however, is capped, creating the possibility that there will not be enough to support TennCare services if the program grows or health care costs continue to rise. This will result in less coverage for those without traditional health insurance. This would not have been at risk if the legislature had approved Gov. Haslam’s attempt at adopting something similar to the Affordable Care Act. Please share your thoughts with the Governor’s office.
NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope)
NOAH will hold its Delegates Assembly on Sun., June 2, from 3-5 p.m., to determine the issues the organization will focus on in the next three years. The event will be held at Greater Bethel AME Church. At its first Delegates Assembly in 2014 held at The Temple, NOAH membership voted to address Affordable Housing, Job & Economic Equity and Criminal Justice Reform. Much has been accomplished in these areas, although there is certainly more to be done. On June 2, the membership will determine if NOAH will continue to focus on these issues, add an issue, or refocus its work. If you are a member of a NOAH congregation (The Temple, West End Synagogue or Congregation Micah), please make plans to attend the important assembly. You will have a vote on how NOAH moves forward. Greater Bethel AME Church is located at 1300 South Street, Nashville, TN.
In this the wealthiest nation on earth, nearly 1 in 5 children live in poverty. Children often face inadequate healthcare and nutrition, untreated illness, unsafe childcare, unstable housing and inferior schools. Our Roundtable joins the cry that permitting nearly 13 million children to live in poverty when we have the means to prevent it is unjust and unacceptable, as well as economically and socially dangerous. The United States can eliminate the terrible human and economic waste of child poverty if we choose to fight it rather than ignore it. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, by investing an additional 1.4 percent of the federal budget into proven policies and programs, our nation can reduce child poverty by at least 57 percent, lift 5.5 million children out of poverty, and make an immediate down payment on ending child poverty for all children. As the national budget is scrutinized in Washington, our Roundtable Steering Committee will call on our membership to voice our opposition to any proposed cuts in the safety net and, instead, call on Congress to strengthen it.
THE BATTLE TO END ABORTION
Less than two weeks ago, Georgia joined Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, Utah, and North Dakota in banning abortion at six weeks or earlier, before most women even know they are pregnant. Then last week, Alabama banned all abortion from the moment of conception—with no exceptions, even for child rape victims. This was followed by the Missouri legislature voting to ban abortion at just eight weeks, with one Republican claiming that most sexual assaults are “consensual” rapes. Meanwhile, abortion bans have been introduced in at least 28 states, and the United States Senate is holding hearings on a nationwide, 20-week ban.
Here in Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee signed into law a trigger bill that bans abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. Our Roundtable Steering committee will call on our membership to raise its voice in opposition to these disturbing actions. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable strongly endorses and supports the JCPA STATEMENT issued earlier this week.
CHANGES IN IMMIGRATION LAW
The Trump Administration recently unveiled its new plan “to create a fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the United States.” It is anything but that. Our Roundtable stands strongly against this new proposal because it clearly tilts the nation’s immigration policies in favor of the wealthy at the expense of reuniting families. The proposal would make damaging changes to family-based immigration by implementing a “merit based point system” that prioritizes special skills and advanced education. The proposal would also require English language proficiency and passing a U.S. civics exam, among other things, and impose patriotic assimilation as a prerequisite to entry. What is also glaring is that the Administration’s new plan ignores any reference to addressing the 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and protected from deportation during the Obama-era (DACA).