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Election reform—top priority; president Bush signs campaign finance reforms into law – Hill Bulletin

Election reform—top priority; president Bush signs campaign finance reforms into law – Hill Bulletin – Pres. George W. Bush

Shirley Ponomareff

The League and other reformers achieved a major victory when campaign finance reform legislation, banning soft-money contributions and limiting special-interest funding of sham issue ads, was signed into law And now, the Senate and House election administration reform bills are in conference, putting Congress on the brink of passing a second piece of historic legislation in 2002.

ELECTION ADMINISTRATION REFORM

Two years since the 2000 election crisis and Congress seems ready to pass meaningful–and perhaps historic–election reform legislation. The House and Senate have both passed legislation, and now a “conference committee” is working out the differences between the two bills.

The League has worked diligently with other groups and with Congress over these two years to get the best election reform legislation possible. By taking the best of both bills, Congress can ensure that Americans will have equal access to the ballot. A weak bill, however, could offer few protections to voters while pushing many elderly, disabled, student and minority voters onto the sidelines of our system.

The League continues to lobby for a final bill that:

* Creates federal standards for voting machines, provisional ballots and statewide voter registration lists;

* Does not include burdensome ID requirements that could be used to discriminate against certain voters; and

* Protects the privacy of Social Security.

What You Can Do:

Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support and pass a strong bill that includes federal standards tough enough to make sure every citizen is treated equally at the polls.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

Following a long struggle and years of hard work by the League and others, the most significant campaign finance reform legislation in 25 years was signed into law by President Bush in March.

After celebrating, though, work still must be done on two fronts: (1) the FEC is tampering with the law’s soft money ban and issue ad provisions and (2) court challenges are being mounted against the law.

In June, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) drafted regulations that violate the new law and weaken the soft money ban by creating loopholes. The congressional sponsors of the legislation-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA)–plan to challenge the new FEC regulations in court and, perhaps, Capitol Hill as well.

The FEC will also be turning its attention to drafting regulations for the law’s issue ad provisions, with similar weakening effort likely.

Ultimately, these recent FEC activities serve to highlight and put into focus the problems inherent in the FEC as it is now constituted as well as the urgent need to review the structure of that body which is poorly designed and in dire need of reform.

Finally, First Amendment court challenges are being mounted against the issue ad and soft money ban provisions. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is being joined by the National Right to Life Committee, ACLU and National Rifle Association. Court proceedings will start this fall and decisions are expected in early 2003. If the challenges stand, they will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

What You Can Do:

Call, write or e-mail your Senators and Representatives to ensure that the new campaign finance law is fully implemented. Urge them to overturn weakening FEC decisions

OTHER ISSUES

In May, the League wrote a letter to the Senate urging it not to support the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act (TPA). The letter noted the League’s 18-month review of its trade position, underscoring the failure of TPA to provide protection for the environment, developing countries and labor concerns. Subsequently the Senate approved its version. In late July, a compromise was reached, and the House passed the bill. As of this writing, passage by the Senate is imminent. President Bush has said he would be ready to sign the legislation.

This September, the Senate will be considering the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) that has already passed the House. With the belief that the TANF program must not simply focus on the short-term goal of trimming the welfare rolls, the League continues to press for adequate childcare and health care services.

On the energy/environment front, the battle over siting the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain was well fought. Thank you to the Nevada League and all the grassroots supporters for great work in opposing this dangerous proposal! The League will continue to monitor the implementation of this ill-conceived plan.

The Senate is expected to take up the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in September. As the most comprehensive international treaty promoting the advancement of women worldwide, CEDAW would establish a legal framework to which all governments must adhere in ensuring women equality in all aspects of life. CEDAW sets forth criteria for discrimination against women and provides a forum for addressing and resolving women’s rights. It is relevant not just to the lives of women in other countries with poor human rights records, but also to the lives of American women. Historically, the UN adopted CEDAW in 1979, and it entered into force in 1981. Currently it has 169 state parties. The U.S. participated in the drafting of CEDAW, and was signatory to a document calling for ratification in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The League believes the time is right for U.S. ratification.

What You Can Do:

Call, write or e-mail your Senators and urge them to support ratification of CEDAW.

COPYRIGHT 2002 League of Women Voters

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