Promoting Facets of Peacebuilding from CA to the Halls of Congress
In the midst of government dysfunction, electioneering, national platform discussions, and continuing violence – including the unthinkable mass shooting murders in Orlando, FL – the CA Peace Alliance promoted facets of peacebuilding at the CA Democratic Party (CDP) statewide Executive Board meeting in Long Beach from 7/17/16 to 7/19/16.
We gathered letters and signatures and, following the Executive Board meeting, we took peacebuilding messages and thousands of signatures to legislators in Sacramento, CA and Washington, DC that it is time to stop the violence and make peacebuilding a national priority. We reached out to a bipartisan group of 61 legislators, including 15 CA State Assembly members (7 Democrats/ 8 Republicans), 12 CA State Senators (6 Democrats/ 6 Republicans), 32 U.S. Congress members (27 Democrats/ 5 Republicans), and 2 U.S. Senators (2 Democrats).
Peacebuilding has many facets. At the Executive Board meeting, the CA Peace Alliance promoted legislation and resolutions relating to: 1) the U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2015 (HR 1111/ DoP); 2) the Youth PROMISE Act (HR 2197/ S 1770); 3) No to Juvenile Solitary Confinement/ Yes to Restorative Justice; and 4) CA Gun Safety legislation.
Peace takes a village. It took a team to relay our peacebuilding messages from CA to DC. Thank you to:
- the CA Peace Alliance/ Department of Peacebuilding Endorsement team and the CA Peace Alliance/ Southern CA peacebuilders for doing the work leading up to the Executive Board meeting, for being our presence at that meeting, and for following up on our Executive Boards actions
The Democratic Endorsement team includes: Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Maggi Koren(Windsor), Lily Marie (Rough and Ready), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco/ East Bay), Lorrie Norby (Mill Valley), Josh Roebuck (Oakland), Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles) and the Southern CA team who represented us at the meeting includes Jo Ann Gaines (Los Angeles), Brain Gibbs (San Diego), Terry Mason (Los Angeles) and Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles).
- hundreds from the CA Democratic Party for continuing to sign our letters and petitions
- the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee for facilitating and organizing hand delivery of 27 DoP letters urging members of Congress to cosponsor the Department of Peacebuilding legislation to MOCs in their DC offices on 6/30/16
The National DoP Committee includes: Anne Creter (NJ), Karen Johnson (IL), Nancy Merritt (CA), Kendra Mon (CA), Debra Poss (GA), Pat Simon (MA) and Jerilyn Stapleton(CA).
- the Peace Alliance lobbying team which delivered letters, signatures and messages to the DC offices of 27 CA members of Congress.
That lobbying team included: Anne Creter (NJ DoP & National DoP Committee), Dan Kahn (DC Peace Alliance Field Director), Taylor Onderko (PA student intern from Claremont College in CA) and Jeimy Ruiz (PA student intern from Middlebury College in VT).
At the CDP Executive Board meeting, in addition to our “actions for peacebuilding,” the CA Peace Alliance group dialogued with attendees about facets of peacebuilding, the cornerstones of peace, election and platform issues and how to prioritize peacebuilding in this nation.
During the weekend of 7/17/16 to 7/19/16, CDP activists and leaders from throughout the state gathered to discuss issues, Party business, and candidates and to elect CA members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The CA Peace Alliance/ Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding attended its 17th consecutive CDP statewide meeting to lobby for peacebuilding.
A. CA Peace Alliance Booth Discussions
At our booth, the discussions centered on our ‘facets-of-peacebuilding’ legislative actions. (For details about those actions, see Section II.) One booth visitor talked about starting movement to establish an international government for all countries to be a part of, with a condition of abolishing the military. Another, who was a Bernie Sanders supporter, discussed unifying the Western states, especially the Bernie supporters and engaging them for the Peace Alliance. One person said his focus was labor issues, supporting union workers, and anything related to that. An Orange County individual from Military Families Speak Out stopped by to promote Lenore Albert for State Assembly in District 72.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), both of whom were running for Democratic National Committee (DNC) seats and won, stopped by our booth. Congresswoman Lee left rainbow-colored stickers at our table and elsewhere.
B. Caucus Discussions
Topics at the Caucus meeting included:
- Arab American Caucus with Asian Pacific Islander Caucus discussed Islamophobia.
- Children’s Caucus discussed college affordability.
- Environmental Caucus featured a panel discussion on urban oilfields and environmental justice.
- Native American Caucus featured Dr. Jely Proudfit, NSC Vice-Chair, appointed by President Obama to the Indian Education Advisory Council, discussing DNC Native American Engagement.
- Progressive Caucus discussed primary election and candidate analysis from two perspectives: 1) Norman Solomon (co-founder of RootsAction.org and coordinator of ExposeFacts.org) and Glen Ford (executive editor of “The Black Agenda Report”)
- Rural Caucus speaker Mark Toney, from The Utilities Reform Network (TURN), talked about the impact of AT&T taking out land lines throughout CA, potentially leaving rural Californians without 911 access, internet access, cell phone problems.
- Senior Caucus discussed annuities, fraud, reverse mortgages, and patient rights while in the hospital
- Veterans Caucus discussed pending state and federal legislation affecting veterans.
C. Demonstrations, Presidential Nominating Procedure & Resolutions
Throughout the weekend, Bernie Sanders supporters were a visible presence. On Sunday morning, they demonstrated outside of the general session to ensure that messages from the Bernie presidential campaign were heard, including reform in how the Party nominates its presidential candidates.
The CDP, with the urging of both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters, unanimously approved a resolution urging the DNC to change the nominating rules for the 2020 presidential contest by eliminating state caucuses in favor of primaries and eliminating most super-delegates. The issue of super-delegates, who are elected officials and party leaders who are not bound by elections results and support whomever they want, has been a major point of discontent in the 2016 Democratic presidential contest. The CDP resolution calls for Democratic governors and members of Congress to lose their status as voting super-delegates. Members of the DNC would remain super-delegates, but would be required to vote for the candidate who won their constituency.
The CDP took positions on fall ballot measures. It also passed resolutions relating to universal voter registration, diversity and transparency in hiring practices, clemency for non-violent marijuana offenders, support of a “Fair Hotels Program,” standing with the people of Flint, Michigan, protecting students and teachers from PCBs in public schools, tuition-free higher education, ending the blockade against Cuba, and thanking Senator Barbara Boxer for decades of public service. It also passed resolutions relating to the Orlando/ Latino LGBT massacre and others.
II. PROMOTING FACETS OF PEACEBUILDING
Peacebuilding has many facets from creating a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding to advocating for legislation to curtail gun violence in this nation. Thirty-three thousand American die as a result of guns every year. We acted for peacebuilding by talking with attendees and collecting letters and petition signatures to CA and federal legislators, and following up with delivery of those letters to legislative offices in CA and Washington, DC.
See below for a summary of the legislation actions and follow-up.
A. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF PEACEBUILDING
Federal legislation (HR 1111) will establish a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding to make peacebuilding a national organizing principle and to give peace an institutional platform in our government, utilizing and promoting best practices to prevent domestic and international violence. This legislation is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13). It was endorsed by the CDP in 2013 & 2015.
Number of letters/ petitions/ signatures. At the Executive Board meeting, the CA Peace Alliance collected 57 petition signatures.
Follow-up. After the Executive Board meeting Nancy Merritt prepared letters to the 27 remaining CA Democratic members of Congress who do not yet cosponsor HR 1111. Each of those letters was amplified with letter signatures on behalf of 14 CA Peace Alliance leads, and was accompanied by the signatures of 309 Californians (including 57 from the CDP Executive Board meeting in 6/16 and 252 from the CDP Convention in 2/16) – 8,721 AMPLIFIED signature messages!
The National Department of Peacebuilding Committee oversaw delivery of the messages to the offices of Congress members on 6/30/27 when our lobbying team made drop-offs on Capitol Hill and held some impromptu meetings with Congressional staffers. That group included Dan Kahn (TPA Field Director – DC), Anne Creter (National Department of Peacebuilding Committee – NJ), TPA intern Jeimy Ruiz (Middlebury College – CT), and intern Taylor Onderko (Claremont College – CA). Nancy Merritt oversaw follow-up on the DoP Executive Board action.
Current status. Shortly after the Executive Board meeting, Congressman Tony Cardenas (CA-29) signed on as a cosponsor. As of 7/5/16, the bill has 39 cosponsors and the sponsor and 10 cosponsors are CA Democrats.
Recipients of Letters Regarding the Department of Peacebulding. The Peace Alliance lobby team delivered letters to the following 27 members of Congress: Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Karen Bass (CA-37), Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Ami Bera (CA-7), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Lois Capps (CA-24), Jim Costa (CA-16), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Jared Huffman (CA-2), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Scott Peters (CA-52), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Mike Thompson (CA-5), Norma Torres (CA-35) and Juan Vargas (CA-51).
B. YOUTH PROMISE ACT
Federal legislation (HR 2197/ S 1770) addresses youth violence through Prison Reduction through Opportunity Mentoring Intervention Support and Education. Violence reduction programs will be determined at the community level with input from stakeholders and programs will be measured for effectiveness and success. HR 2197 is sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3) and S 1770 is sponsored by Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA). This legislation was endorsed by the CDP in 2013.
Number of letters/ petitions/ signatures. At the Executive Board meeting, the CA Peace Alliance collected 55 petition signatures.
Follow-up. After the Executive Board meeting Jo Ann Gaines prepared and mailed letters to 12 CA Democratic members of Congress. Each of the letters was signed on behalf of 16 CA Peace Alliance leads and was accompanied by 55 signatures CDP Executive Board – 660 AMPLIFIED signature messages!
Current status. Shortly after the Executive Board meeting, Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) signed on as a cosponsor. As of 7/5/16, the House bill has 53 cosponsors, including 15 CA Democrats. The Senate bill has 4 cosponsors.
Recipients of Letters Regarding the Youth PROMISE Act. The letters were sent to: Janice Hahn (CA-44), Mike Honda (CA-17), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Mike Thompson (CA-5), Norma Torres (CA-35), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Maxine Waters (CA-43).
C. NO TO JUVENILE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT/ YES TO RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
California AB 2590 calls for implementing Restorative Justice programs throughout the state and was authored by Shirley Weber (D-San Diego). The legislation calls for moving CA’s criminal laws away from a system that relies solely upon incarceration and punishment in its treatment of offenders. It changes the purpose of sentencing to “public safety” and encourages the Department of Corrections to provide opportunities for education and rehabilitation to all inmates, not just non-violent offenders and those with short sentences.
California SB 1143 addresses greatly restricting the use of Solitary Confinement for Juveniles and was authored by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Studies show the that placement of incarcerated individuals in locked rooms or cells with minimal or no contact has potential psychiatric consequences including depression, anxiety, psychosis and potential suicides.
For details on follow up relating to AB 2590 and SB 1143, see Section E. below.
D. GUN SAFETY
At the time of the Executive Board meeting, CA state legislation relating to gun safety passed in the State Senate and was in the State Assembly, including the following for which the CA Peace Alliance lobbied at the Executive Board meeting (summaries are from the Sacramento Bee on 4/19/16):
- Senate Bill 880 – Expands California’s 1989 ban on assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles with ammunition magazines that can be easily detached with the press of a button. It was co-authored by Senators Isadore Hall (D-Compton) and Steve Glazer (D-Orinda). This was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on 7/1/16.
- Senate Bill 894 – Will institute a 5-daydeadline for owners to report lost or stolen firearms. Author says it will cut down on activity by “straw purchasers,” who illegally acquire guns for people prohibited from owning them and often falsely claim they were lost or stolen if the weapons are recovered after use in a crime. This was authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). This was vetoed by Governor Brown on 7/1/16 as “premature.”
- Senate Bill 1235 – Writes a more explicit definition of ammunition. A law the author previously championed to require in-person ammunition sales was thrown out in court for being too vague. This was authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. This was signed into law by Governor Brown on 7/1/16.
- Senate Bill 1407 – Requires anyone who assembles their own firearms to be licensed with the state and prohibits the sale or transfer of those weapons. This was authored by Senate President Pro TemKevin de Leon. This was vetoed by Governor Brown on 7/1/16.
- Senate Bill 1446 – Forbids the possession of high-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. California outlawed their manufacture and sale in 1999, but grandfathered in weapons that residents already owned. This was authored by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley/ Oakland). This was signed into law by Governor Brown on 7/1/16.
For details on follow up gun safety legislation, see Section E. below.
E. FOLLOW UP ON JUVENILE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
And GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION
Number of letters/ petitions/ signatures & advocacy before Legislation Committee. At the Executive Board meeting, Jerilyn Stapleton advocated for the Legislation Committee to recommend endorsement of AB2590. While there was a good discussion about this legislation, the Legislation Committee did not pass it at this Executive Board meeting.
Additionally, the CA Peace Alliance collected 107 signed letters and petition signatures relating to peacebuilding and gun safety, including:
- 40 letters to 15 CA State Assembly members relating to juvenile solitary confinement/ restorative justice/ DoP and to gun safety – including 7 Democrats and 8 Republicans
- 19 letters to 12 CA State Senators relating to juvenile solitary confinement/ restorative justice/ DoP – including 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans
- 18 letters to 14 members of Congress relating to juvenile solitary confinement/ restorative justice/ DoP and to gun safety – including 9 Democrats and 5 Republicans
- 1 letter and 14 petition signatures to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer – Democrat
- 1 letter and 14 petition signatures to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein – Democrat
Follow-up. Brian Gibbs over saw delivery of letters and petition signatures relating to juvenile solitary confinement, restorative justice, peacebuilding and gun safety.
Current status. On 6/30/16, the CA State legislature passed 11 gun safety bills and sent them to Governor Jerry Brown, who signed 5 into law and vetoed 6. Of the 5 gun safety bills promoted by the CA Peace Alliance at the Executive Board meeting, the State legislature passed 5 and Governor Brown signed 3 of those into law (Senate Bills 880, 1235, 1446). The Governor vetoed some bills as ‘premature’ and some of ideas from the vetoed bills are included in Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s upcoming ballot initiative. Opponents of the laws signed by Governor Brown have filed paperwork to overturn the laws by ballot referendum, which may result in enough signatures to force a statewide vote either in the fall of 2016 or in 2018.
The November 2016 “Safety for All” initiative, of which CA Lt. Governor Newsom is the architect, calls for background checks, requires ammunition sellers to be licensed like firearms dealers and establishes a process to seize guns from people prohibited from owning them because of their criminal records, mandates that lost or stolen guns be reported to law enforcement and requires the state Justice Department to notify federal authorities when someone is added to the database of prohibited firearm owners. (See www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article74536792.html)
On the federal level, when House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to allow a vote on gun legislation on starting on 06/24/16 Democratic members of Congress staged a 26-hour sit-in demanding a vote. Rep. Ryan adjourned Congress until after the July 4th holiday. Over the recess, members of Congress throughout the country took their messages home.
Recipients of Letters Regarding Peacebuilding (AB2590, SB 1143, HR 1111/ DoP) And Gun Safety Legislation:
40 letters relating to peacebuilding and gun safety were mailed to the following 15 State Assembly members: Travis Allen (D72/ Rep -2 letters); Frank Bigelow (D5/ Rep – 2 letters); Matthew Dababneh (D45/ Dem – 4 letters); Brian Dahle (D1/ Rep – 2 letters); Mike A. Gipson (D64/ Dem – 2 letters); Jimmy Gomez (D51/ Dem – 2 letters); Shannon Grove (D34/ Rep – 2 letters); David Hadley (D66/ Rep – 2 letters); Chris R. Holden (D41/ Dem – 2 letters); Jacque Irwin (D44/ Dem – 2 letters); Brian W. Jones (D71/ Rep – 6 letters); Adrian Nazarian (D46/ Dem – 2 letters); Patrick O’Donnell (D70/ Dem – 2 letters); Donald P. Wagner (D68/ Rep – 4 letters); and, Scott Wilk (D38/ Rep – 2 letters).
19 letters relating to peacebuilding were mailed to the following 12 State Senate members; Benjamin Allen (D26/ Dem – 2 letters); Joel Anderson (D38/ Rep – 3 letters); Tom Berryhill (D8/ Rep – 1 letter); Kevin De Leon (D24/ Dem – 1 letter); Jean Fuller (D16/ Rep – 1 letter); Ted Gaines (D1/ Rep – 1 letter); Isadore Hall (D35/ Dem -1 letter); Ricardo Lara (D33/ Dem – 1 letter); Carol Liu (D25/ Dem – 1 letter); John M. W. Moorlach (D37/ Rep – 2 letters); Janet Nguyen (D34/ Rep – 1 letter); and, Fran Pavley (D27/ Dem – 4 letters).
18 letters relating to peacebuilding were mailed to the following 14 U.S. Representatives: Julia Brownley (D-26/ 1 letter); Judy Chu (D-27/ 2 letters); Susan Davis (D-53/ 1 letter); Janice Hahn (D-44/ 1 letter); Duncan D. Hunter (R-50/ 2 letters); Steve Knight (R-25/ 1 letter); Doug LaMalfa (R-1/ 1 letter); Ted Lieu (D-33/ – 1 letter); Alan Lowenthal (D-47/ 2 letters); Kevin McCarthy (R-23/ 1 letter); Tom McClintock (R-4/ – 1 letter): Loretta Sanchez (D-46/ 1 letter); Adam Schiff (D-28/ – 1 letter); and, Brad Sherman (D-30/ 2 letters).
1 signed letter, including 14 petition signatures was sent to Senator Barbara Boxer and 1 letter, including 14 petition signatures was sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Thank you to all who act for the many facets of peace.