As 2003 ended, Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) and the Office of Government Relations (OGR) reported "a busy fall" working on key issues before Congress. Acting on resolutions passed at General Convention or by the Executive Council, the Washington office delivered its progress report on the following pieces of legislation.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria: Grassroots efforts were key to getting the appropriation increased to $2.4 billion in the omnibus bill the House has passed and the Senate will vote on when it returns January 20.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The relatively small amounts of oil that would be recovered, the importance of wilderness space, and respect for the Gwich'in Indian culture (90% of whom are Episcopalians) have accounted for key votes against opening up the refuge to drilling, most recently during consideration of energy legislation.
Middle East: The Episcopal Church supported the Road Map for Peace and seeks co-sponsors for House Resolution 479 and Senate Resolution 279, calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the President to seize the opportunity presented by recent Israeli-Palestinian initiatives to move toward a lasting peace in the region.
Head Start: The Episcopal Church opposed the House bill reauthorizing the Head Start program because of changes redirecting funding and oversight to cash-strapped states with no guarantee that those funds would go to Head Start or that states would retain the current high performance standards. The bill also eliminates the existing Head Start prohibition against employment discrimination on the basis of religion. The Senate is expected to consider Head Start reauthorization early in 2004.
Nuclear Disarmament: House and Senate negotiators on the energy and water appropriations bill cut half the funds for the nuclear "bunker buster" from $15 million to $7.5 million.
Child Care: The House passed welfare reauthorization that includes increased work requirements for parents moving from welfare to work but no additional funds for child care. When the Senate considers the legislation, the Washington office will support an amendment to increase child care funds between $5-7 billion over five years.
"We hope you will join our grassroots network and encourage others to do so at our website, http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/ said OGR director Maureen Shea. "We need many voices as the second session begins and we continue our critical work in these and other areas."