Unfinished Business

Civil Rights News: VAWA Passes in Senate; Voter Registration Needs to be Modernized; Obama’s State of the Union Emphasizes the Middle Class

Compiled by Emily Van Dusen, a Spring 2013 intern at The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Domestic Violence Bill Passes Senate: Is GOP Chastened by Election 2012? David Grant
Christian Science Monitor

With yesterday’s passage of the Violence Against Women Act in the Senate, pressure on House Republicans is mounting to pass the legislation. After losing support from women voters in the 2012 elections, the Republican party may be making a new effort to be more supportive of bills that directly affect female constituents. The bill no longer includes an expansion of visas for victims of domestic violence, but it does reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and includes a provision to speed up the processing of rape kits.

According to The Christian Science Monitor:

“Another sticking point from last year – expanding protections to include the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community – is no longer seen as a deal-breaker. The major hurdle that remains is a provision that allows Native Americans to bring charges against their attackers in Indian tribal courts.”

The House is expected to take up the legislation soon.  Rank and file Republicans have circulated a letter urging their leaders to bring the bill to the House floor.

Voting Should Be Easy – Modernize Registration
New York Times

Election reform is an increasingly important issue in light of the 2012 elections, when certain populations faced long lines, reductions in early voting, and other difficulties.  To ensure a vibrant democracy, The New York Times says that Congress needs to mandate and help pay for computerized registration systems to modernize voter registration. The Times also suggests that Congress should require every state to have 10 days of early voting, “and it should set basic standards for the number of polling places and voting machines or scanners that are needed for every thousand residents.”

Currently election reform is seen as a partisan issue, with Republicans resisting voter registration reform.  But as The Times notes, a modernized system will ultimately help both parties by increasing turnout and decreasing the potential for fraud.

Obama, in State of the Union, makes case that middle class is job one – The Washington Post
Scott Wilson
Washington Post

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need for a thriving middle class as he outlined his policy goals for the economy in his second term. Among the goals are a setting $9 an hour minimum wage and “bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform,” as well as investment in infrastructure and education. Though most of the address was spent emphasizing the need for job creation and economic reform for the middle class, President Obama also spoke about climate change, immigration reform, and gun safety, echoing and expanding on some of the themes from his second inaugural address.