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The UUMUAC Task Force issued this Action Allert on February 24th, 2017, to Illinois Representatives to support HB 3421

I am writing to urge you to join in co-sponsoring H.B. 3421, which was introduced this month by Rep. Christian Mitchell. This legislation would amend Illinois’ laws related to criminal justice to abolish the use of money bail in Illinois. Modeled after the system in place in the District of Columbia, and now being instituted in other jurisdictions around our country, this legislation would establish a system under which release before trial would be based on a risk assessment system, rather than on an individual’s ability to post money bail. Where an individual is assessed as posing a threat to society he or she would be held in jail until trial. Where an individual is not found to pose a risk to society he or she would be freed on an I-Bond, rather than posting a money bond. This creates a system that is much fairer, in that it does not tie release to an ability to pay standard.

To enable accused individuals to meet their obligation to appear, enhanced pretrial services that would remind defendants of upcoming court dates via phone or messaging and offer transportation assistance for indigent defendants will be required. Public availability of court dockets online would also help.

By not tying the release of poor defendants to an ability to pay standard, tax payers would be relieved of the costs of jailing defendants who do not pose a threat to society during the period prior to their court date. Poor defendants, who do not pose a threat to society, would not risk the loss of their jobs due to missing significant days of work, and the individual and his or her dependents would not risk loss of housing and other adverse impacts, due to the loss of income/employment.

Our communities will be stronger, our criminal justice system more fair, and our taxpayers less burdened, by the changes proposed in H.B. 3421. I again urge you to join in co-sponsoring this legislation. I look forward to your response, with your position on this legislation.

Sincerely,  


The UUSJ Peace Task Force issued an Action Alert on March 3rd to Senators and Representatives against using nuclear weapons

Dear Senator or Representative
                                                  
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor HR 669 the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act.  Too many war powers have been granted to the President by Congress, and when someone is sitting in the Oval Office who has a tendency to raise his voice and retaliate against those who are critical of him, we need to make sure our future is protected.

As a person of faith I believe in the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.  Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee and fourteen other nationwide groups are supporting HR 669 and have stated:  ‘While no one person should have the sole authority to launch a civilization ending nuclear war, [Trump’s] aggressive temperament and chaotic behavior are terrifying considering his authority over nuclear war-fighting.’

This change to the nuclear launch protocol is long overdue, and it’s never been more important to change the policy than it is now.  Please support this bill and make it illegal for President Trump or any successor to unilaterally start a nuclear war.

                                                                           Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert Prosting all Trump's Deep Cuts in the EPA and Other Environmental Programs on March 20th

Dear Senator or Representative
                                                  
As a person of faith, I believe we have an obligation to protect the web of life and the human rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and a livable climate. I support the important work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help restore ecosystems, study climate change, and support communities disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution. The Administration’s proposed federal budget includes severe budget cuts to environmental and climate programs of the EPA and NOAA. The proposal show the Administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens. I urge you to oppose severe budget cuts to governmental environmental programs, climate research, and climate change adaptation and mitigation programs, such as the following:

• Funding to combat algae blooms, invasive species and other water pollution problems in the Great Lakes, which are proposed for a cut from $300 million to $10 million.

• The Environmental Justice program budget, which has historically supplied grants to 1,400 frontline communities, which is proposed to have a 78% cut, from $6.7 million to $1.4 million.

• Funding for restoration in Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary, is proposed to be cut from $73 million to $5 million, while funding for restoration work in Puget Sound is proposed to be cut from $28 million to $2 million.

• The EPA’s work studying endocrine disruptor chemicals that can interfere with the body’s reproductive and development systems would nearly be eliminated, dropping from $7.5 million to $445,000.

• Funding for state testing of bacteria levels at beaches around the country would be totally eliminated.

• NOAA’s budget cuts endanger climate science research and data collection, and coastal resilience programs meant to help coastal communities adapt to the increased risk of extreme weather and sea level rise. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent of its current budget. I look forward to your reply, laying out your position on the Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA and NOAA budgets.

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Peace Task Force issued an Action Alert on April 21, 2017 to Senators and Representatives to exert their authority to have a say before the Executive Administration expands the use of bombings.

Lately there seems to be a growing tendency for America to respond with air power in cases of intractable military conflict.  Our bombers have hit targets in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan without prior Congressional approval. Civilians are being killed and wide swaths of the countryside are being destroyed after a blanket “authorization” of military action by President Trump.

As a person of faith, I’m concerned about not only the increased use of the military, but also the erosion of our democratic principles.  As a Unitarian Universalist I believe in the sanctity of each human life and the importance of using the democratic process.  While the use of chemical weapons may be deplorable and a stronger cadre of ISIS fighters on the Afghanistan / Pakistan border something to fear, we shouldn’t immediately respond by initiating an air strike.

The UN charter only approves the use of force in self-defense or after a vote by the Security Council.  The US Constitution requires Congressional approval for military action, while the 1974 War Powers Act was enacted to "insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities."  It doesn’t seem that Congress is fulfilling its designated role, and the President seems to have been left to act on his own.

The decision to use military force is one of the most serious actions a nation can take.  It ought to be a collective decision, approved by Congress and debated by our elected representatives.  The current tendency of the President to take unilateral action and the Congress to duck its duty to approve his decisions is unacceptable.  Please make your voice heard and insure that military incursions don’t continue to proliferate without Congressional approval,

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert Prosting all Trump's Deep Cuts in the EPA and Other Environmental Programs on July 11th

Dear Senator
                                                  
H.R. 953, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, would reverse a 2009 decision issued by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that pesticides applied to waterways should be considered pollutants under federal law and regulated under the Clean Water Act, through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.
          If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by the President, H.R. 953 would:

  1. Undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act,
  2. Allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight; and
  3. Contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

   Backers of the bill continually argue that the permit requirement places undue burdens on farmers, but in reality the majority of pesticide applications obtain a permit with little restrictions, and agricultural activities are exempt from the requirement.  What the bill will actually do is take away Americans’ right to know what toxic chemicals  are entering their waterways.

I urge you to vote against H.R. 953 in the U.S. Senate.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on October 13. 2017 to Governer Rauner opposing Dynegy and Illinois EPA Plan to Weaken Clean Air Laws

Please oppose changing the Illinois clear air multipollutant standards that protect public health and the environment in Illinois communities.
Dynegy and the Illinois EPA are seeking to change the longstanding Illinois clean air “multipollutant standards,” which requires Dynegy to soon install modern pollution control equipment to clean up its old coal plants in Illinois. According to documents uncovered by the Environmental Law & Policy Center through Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, Dynegy management’s apparent goal is to:

  1. Close some of its Central and Southern Illinois coal plants that are not economically viable in the competitive electricity market
  2. Keep running some of its other coal plants, but delay installing modern pollution control equipment that is important to avoiding harms to public health and environmental quality in Illinois communities.

Dynegy knew about its environmental compliance responsibilities long ago. The Illinois clean air standards were negotiated and approved in 2007, and they provided Dynegy and other coal plant owners a glide path for cleanup actions. None of these Dynegy coal plants should be run like “old Chevy beaters” without installing effective modern pollution control equipment. It’s time to better protect the public’s health with healthier clean air in Illinois communities. 

It’s time that these Dynegy coal plants be cleaned up and environmental pollution reduced if they still run!
I look forward to your response.

                                                          Sincerely,


 

The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on November 13. 2017 to US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao urging the FHWA to preserve the dailly CO2 measurements

Dear Secretary Chao,

Please preserve the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirement that states and metropolitan planning organizations must measure and set targets for CO2 emissions on the National Highway System. This requirement is part of a larger set of updated reporting requirements and was the result of a two-year process that included input from states, cities, and the public.

Measuring carbon pollution in our transportation system is about encouraging efficiency with our limited transportation dollars.
Repealing the carbon pollution reporting metric would mean the loss of an important way to determine if our state DOTs and cities are using transportation dollars to improve the efficiency of how we connect people with destinations and move goods to market.

We should be able to hold our states and cities accountable for how they spend our transportation dollars and whether or not they are striving to reduce carbon pollution. Our states and cities should be encouraged to pursue projects that encourage more trips to be taken on public transit, by foot or by bike, or coordinate with land use decisions to make trips shorter altogether. Measuring carbon emissions is one important way for the public to hold our transportation agencies accountable for their spending decisions. Transportation has now overtaken power plants as the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S. The reporting requirements the USDOT issued in January of this year, which include carbon pollution, are one way to reduce this pollution through better planning and spending. Also, as we reduce climate pollution we can help make our air cleaner to breathe across our cities and states.

I urge you to leave the requirement that our states and cities measure and report carbon pollution in place. We are paying for our transportation system and deserve to know whether or not our investment is delivering a healthier, cleaner environment and a better transportation system for today and for the future!

                                                          Sincerely,


The UUSJ Peace Task Force issued an Action Alert on MArch 22, 2018 to US Senators urging them to stop funding the war in Yeman

Dear Senator [whichever],                    

The US is indirectly involved in a devastating war in Yemen by providing arms to Saudi Arabia which are then used in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia may be a long-standing ally of the US in the region, but it is time for the US to stop funding this war.

As your constituent, and a Unitarian Universalist person of faith, I urge you to take action to end American complicity in the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen.  There have been too many deaths and too much destruction.

As a first step, I strongly urge you to co-sponsor and support the bipartisan War Powers Resolution S.J. Res. 54, sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT).  This resolution would end U.S. military involvement in the Saudi –led war in Yemen. It is a call “to remove U.S. armed forces from hostilities between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen pursuant to the War Powers Resolution. “

As the Iraq Veterans against the War stated: “The U.S. military has provided vital intelligence, logistics, and weapons to make our country not just complicit but responsible for enabling the continued bombardment of Yemen, so it is up to us to stop it.” They remind us that last year Rand Paul was just six votes away from passing a similar bill; so there not much more support needed in Congress to end this senseless war.  

As Pat Garofolo wrote in a February 28th opinion piece in the U.S. News and World Report,
On every level, the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen is a catastrophe. It's left thousands dead and tens of thousands injured. There's widespread famine.  Disease. Landmines. You name it, Yemeni civilians are suffering from it. Currently, UNICEF considers Yemen one of the worst places on Earth to be a child.
Like so many armed conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged in recent years, this one was never approved by Congress or even debated publicly before the American people in a real way. . . But there's no case to be made for the U.S. having any part of this conflict.
Thank you in advance if you join in co-sponsoring this bill.


Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on April 2, 2018 urging the inclusion of a referendum on the November ballot on whether of not to have a graduated income tax in Illinois

During the current General Assembly session, I urge you to co-sponsor and vote in support of a resolution to put a Fair Tax referendum of the November ballot. This referendum (probably SJRCA0001, but possibly HJRCA0039) should allow voters to decide whether or not to amend the Illinois Constitution to remove the provision that requires the state to have a non-graduated income tax.

Our state income tax structure is deeply unfair and unsustainable. Because of our poorly designed revenue system, Illinois has been unable to consistently provide support for programs that strengthen communities—including education, healthcare and housing.

I believe that a Fair Tax, with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes, is a necessary long-term, structural reform that will produce stable and sustainable revenues and help get our fiscal house in order. So do the vast majority of my fellow Illinoisans-- 72 percent, according to a 2018 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale.
Thank you for considering my perspective. I hope you'll stand up and take action on this important issue during April, or the start of May, as the proposed Constitutional
Amendment must pass both houses of the General Assembly no less than six months prior to the November general election.


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on April 8, 2018 to IL Senate and House members protesting SB3292 and HB5134 which bail out Dynergy so they can build coal power plants

Texas energy giant Dynegy purchased five uneconomic coal-fired electricity plants located in Illinois in 2013 for $1 using a shell company that protected its shareholders from financial losses. Even then Dynegy claim it could not afford to install pollution controls, conduct maintenance, or make repairs and asked the state of Illinois for multiple exemptions from state air pollution laws. Dynegy is currently working to re-write the Multi-Pollutant Standard to exempt its future owner, Vistra Energy, from installing modern pollution controls at the most-polluting Illinois plants.  While Dynegy continues to claim financial hardship, the corporation is currently undergoing a merger with another Texas corporation, Vistra Energy, a financial deal that will value Dynegy at $20 billion. 
   Now Dynegy wants American customers to bail them out, costing Central and Southern Illinois families (on average) a $115 per year rate hike, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. The problem bailout offers no guaranteed benefits for Illinoisans but guarantees profits for the Texas energy giant. Illinois jobs would not be protected. Corporate profits would. 
  This unnecessary coal bailout would set Illinois back from the progress we’ve made to reduce carbon and dangerous air pollution and grow our clean energy economy, amidst Federal inaction. Instead of a bailout, now is the time for Illinois to consider policies that prepare communities and workers for an inevitable transition beyond uneconomic, dirty energy sources and diversify local economies across Central and Southern Illinois.
  Again, I urge you to oppose SB 3292 (and its House counterpart HB 5134).  I look forward to hearing your position on this legislation.


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on May 1, 2018 to Illinois Representatives and senators urging the support of H.B. 5508 which further supports the rights of Homelessness

Dear Representative (or Senator)
I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor, or at minimum support, H.B. 5508, which amends the Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.  Under Amendment 1 it was renamed the Access to Affordable, Permanent and Supportive Housing and Services Act.  The Act provides that a unit of local government may (no State mandate is created) provide certain housing and supportive services upon a determination that a person experiencing homelessness is living in public space.
The Act provides that a person receiving assistance from a unit of local government in accordance with the Act shall have the right to request housing a geographical area based on his or her ties to the community, access to services, access to ongoing employment, and access to public transportation.  It prohibits a unit of local government from requiring a person to vacate a public space unless adequate affordable housing, and supportive housing units, are available within the unit of local governments geographic area and a permanent housing option is offered to that person.  The Act prohibits a unit of local government from disposing of a person’s personal belonging in any manner, and provides that a person has the right to decline any housing assessment and services offered by a unit of local government.

Lastly, the Act provides that a plaintiff in any civil action alleging a violation of the Act may request a jury trial and the court may award a prevailing plaintiff appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief, actual damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
I look forward to hearing your position on H.B. 5508.

                                                         

Sincerely,


The UUSJ UUMUAC Task Force issued this Action Alert on May 11, 2018 to IL Representatives urging the legalization of medical marijuana

Dear Representative
I write to urge your support for The Alternatives to Opioids Act (SB 336), which recently passed the IL Senate and would expand the Illinois medical marijuana program to allow individuals to use medical cannabis as a substitute for prescription opioids.
Last year, nearly 68,000 Americans died from drug overdose, including 45,000 from opioid abuse.  Drug overdose deaths in Illinois increased by more than 70% between 2013-1016.
But research is showing that cannabis as medicine can make a difference.  It can ease withdrawal for recovering addicts and limit the pain that drives many individuals to become addicted.
This legislation would also eliminate the shameful practice of fingerprinting those who apply to the medical marijuana program in Illinois.
Please co-sponsor, or at least support this bill in the IL House.

                                                          Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on July 2, 2018 to IL House members supporting SB3174 which makes more infomation public on hazardous chemicals from directional drilling and fracking

I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor, or at least support, SB 3174, which amends the Illinois Oil and Gas Act, to make more information available on the chemicals involved with horizontal wells, also known as directional drilling or fracking.  SB 3174 has passed the IL Senate and may come up for a vote in the House during either the veto sessions in late 2018, or the lame-duck session in early January, 2019.         
          SB 3174 provides that horizontal wells or wells drilled utilizing directional drilling shall be prohibited from classification as confidential. If provides that the Department of Natural Resources shall, on a weekly basis, post a notice on its website indicating all permits issued during the preceding week with specified information. It provides that a well drilling and completion report for horizontal wells or wells drilled using directional drilling shall contain specified information. It also provides that, subject to specified provisions of the Act, the Illinois State Geological Survey and the Department shall make all well drilling and completion reports for horizontal wells or wells drilled using directional drilling public by posting the information on their websites within 30 days after receipt of the reports. It provides requirements for an applicant, permittee, or person subject to the Act that furnishes chemical disclosure information to the Survey or Department under a claim of trade secret. It provides appeal procedures for the denial of a trade secret request. It also provides that the information furnished under the claim of trade secret shall be protected from disclosure if the Survey or Department determines that the information has not been published, disseminated, or otherwise become a matter of general public knowledge and the information has competitive value. It requires the Survey or Department to adopt rules concerning the provision of information furnished under the claim of trade secret to a health professional who states a need for the information and articulates why the information is needed. It also provides that the Survey or Department shall disclose information furnished under a claim of trade secret to specified personnel when there is a release of a chemical or additive used for drilling or completing a well and it is necessary to protect public health or the environment.
          Again, I urge you to co-sponsor, or at least commit to supporting SB 3174.  I look forward to your reply.

                                                                  

Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on July 9, 2018 to Illinois Governon Bruce Rauner urging the signing of SB 3388 which amends the Illinoin Crime Reduction Act of 2009 so people charged with or convicted of a probation-eligable crime may participate in the Adult Redeploy Illinois program.

Dear Governor Rauner,

I am writing to urge you to sign SB 3388, which was passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate and by a margin of 89 to 28 in the Illinois House, and which is now before you for your consideration.  SB 3388 amends the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, providing that an offender who is charged with or convicted of a probation-eligible offense (rather than a non-violent offender) may participate in the Adult Redeploy Illinois program.
Adult Redeploy Illinois was established by the Crime Reduction Act (Public Act 96-0761) to provide financial incentives to local jurisdictions for programs that allow diversion of offenders from state prisons by providing community-based services. Grants are provided to counties, groups of counties, and judicial circuits to increase programming in their areas, in exchange for reducing the number of people they send to the Illinois Department of Corrections. 

The Crime Reduction Act is based on the premise that crime can be reduced and the costs of the criminal justice system can be controlled by understanding and addressing the reasons why people commit crimes. It is also based on the premise that local jurisdictions (judicial circuits or counties) know best what resources are necessary to reduce crime. Rigorous evaluation processes with standardized performance measurements are required to confirm the effectiveness of services in reducing crime. 

Again, I urge you to sign SB 3388.

                                                                   Sincerely,


The UUSJ Interfaith Criminal Justice Task Force issued an Action Allert on July 16, 2018 to Illinois Governon Bruce Rauner urging Passage of HB 3920 Addressing Individuals with driving licences suspended due to not paying civil bills.

Dear Governor Rauner,

            I am writing to urge you to sign House Bill 3920, which addresses the issue of individuals whose Illinois driving privileges are suspended due to having unpaid civil penalties.  This is an issue which disproportionately impacts Illinois residents of limited financial means.  Individuals with unpaid civil penalties often need to be able to drive in order to hold employment that will allow them to pay those civil penalties.  HB 3920 passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan support and is now before you for your consideration.

            HB 3920 amends the Illinois Vehicle Code, providing that a person who drives a motor vehicle while his or her driver’s license or privilege to drive is suspended due to certain violations of the Code (i.e. unpaid civil penalties) shall receive a Uniform Traffic Citation from the law enforcement officer.  The amendment provides that a person who receives 3 or more Uniform Traffic Citations without paying any fees associated with the citations shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

            Again, I urge you to sign HB 3920.

 

Sincerely,


The Task Force on Economic Justice and Homelessness issued an Action Allert on July 17, 2018 to Illinois Governon Bruce Rauner urging the signing of HB 4165 which safeguards the protection to citizens under the ACA.

Dear Governor Rauner,

          I am writing to urge you to sign HB 4165, which safeguards protections provided to our citizens under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This legislation was passed by both houses of the IL General Assembly and has now been sent to you for your consideration (i.e. to sign or veto).

          HB 4165 amends the Illinois Insurance Code. prohibits the State from applying for any federal waiver that would permit an individual or group health insurance plan to reduce or eliminate any protection or coverage required under the ACA that was in effect on January 1, 2017, including, but not limited to, any protection for persons with pre-existing conditions and coverage for services identified as essential health benefits under the ACA. Provides that the State or an agency of the executive branch may apply for such a waiver only if granted authorization by the General Assembly through joint resolution.

          HB 4165 also amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. prohibits the State or an agency of the executive branch from applying for any federal Medicaid waiver that would result in more restrictive standards, methodologies, procedures, or other requirements than those that were in effect in Illinois as of January 1, 2017 for the Medical Assistance Program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or any other medical assistance program in Illinois operating under any existing federal waiver authorized by specified provisions of the Social Security Act. Provides that the State or an agency of the executive branch may apply for such a waiver only if granted authorization by the General Assembly through joint resolution.

          Again, I urge you to sign HB 4165, to safegrard protections provided to our citizens under the Affordable Care Acts.

                                                          Sincerely,


The UUSJ Environvental Task Force issued this Action Alert on August 17, 2018 to Senators Durbin and Duckworth urging them to change H.R. 2 (the Farm Bill) which is currently in committee -- to oppose adverse affects on our national forests allowing clear cutting

Dear Senator [Durbin or Duckworth],

H.R. 2, commonly known as the Farm Bill, is now in conference committee.  While the wording that will come out of conference committee is not known, I am writing to urge you oppose language that is (or was) in H.R. 2 which would allow Forest Service officials to sanction clear-cuts up to 6,000 acres with no environmental review, and open now-protected stretches of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging, road-building and other development. 

The Act also proposes to ease the environmental restrictions on mining in our National Forests, which I also ask you to oppose.

                                                Sincerely,