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Public Policy: Washington Update

 

by Carrie Langner, SPSSI James Marshall Scholar 

 

This Fall in Washington, there have been several developments in the major policy areas that I have been monitoring: poverty and hate crime. Below, I outline an array of advocacy activities including coalition partnerships and a coordinated set of hill visits with SPSSI members.

Poverty & Inequality

World Poverty Day. On October 17, 2007, in observance of World Poverty Day, I coordinated several Congressional visits for SPSSI members to discuss psychological research on poverty and related legislation. World Poverty Day presented a good opportunity to make congressional offices more aware of the resources of SPSSI while at the same time addressing this social issue. The Hill visits took place in cooperation with APA’s Public Interest Directorate Government Relations Office and their Office on Socioeconomic Status. SPSSI brought in two experts in this area (members Heather Bullock and Beth Shinn) to participate in these visits so that we could share psychological research findings with the staffers with whom we spoke. The offices we targeted were chosen because of their strong track records in poverty-related legislation. Congressional staff expressed interest in the intersection between socioeconomic status and several policy areas (particularly investment in early childhood, Head Start, and gang-related violence). In addition to raising awareness of the work that SPSSI and APA are doing on the topic of poverty, these visits laid the groundwork for the infusion of psychological science in poverty-related legislation. We have followed up with the offices we visited and developed a  model that SPSSI can use to advocate for other social issues of interest to policymakers on the Hill and to build further awareness of what SPSSI has to offer. 

Children’s Health and Development. I have continued to participate in the Child Care NOW! Coalition, visiting legislators to discuss appropriations for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. After President Bush’s veto of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, there is a possibility that Congress will cut programs in order to get the bill passed. In the ongoing struggle over health care for lower income children, the House passed a new version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill but the President vetoed this one as well.

Hate Crime

After passing the House and Senate, the Senate added the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (LLEHCPA) as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization measure because some viewed this as must-pass legislation that the President could not afford to veto.

Background. The LLEHCPA (H.R. 1592, S.1105, also called the “Matthew Shepard Act”) would expand current law to recognize crimes motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It would enable the federal government to address those cases that other jurisdictions are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute, and expand the scope of data collection and reporting guidelines regarding hate crime.

In early December, the committee removed the provisions of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act from the Department of Defense Authorization conference report because there were not enough votes to assure passage on the House floor. There was opposition from social conservatives over the hate crimes provision, from progressive members who objected to the Iraq War language, and from moderate Democrats who were reluctant to risk a veto that would delay the military pay raise. The Hate Crime Coalition plans to find another way to put this bill on the President’s desk during the 110th Congress.

As the SPSSI James Marshall Public Policy Fellow, I look forward to representing SPSSI’s interests and keeping you updated on my public policy work here in Washington, DC. I welcome your feedback and ideas at clangner@apa.org or 202-675-6956.


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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin