March 31, 2009
The GIVE Act / Kennedy Serve Act PASSED, Moves to Obama
***April 1 UPDATE***
The House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the Serve America Act with a 275-149 yesterday. President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
You can see how your Senators or House Representatives voted here.
Here is an analysis of the latest version by the Independent Sector website - an online forum representing the leaders of America's charitable and philanthropic sector.
Serve America Act
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act will triple the number of service volunteers -- from 75,000 to 250,000 -- and expand service opportunities for all stages of life, focusing on such targeted areas as veterans services, the environment, disaster relief, and arts education. The bill will also create a nationwide community-based infrastructure fund to leverage investments in service and set up a volunteer generation fund to help build the capacity of nonprofits to coordinate, train and manage volunteers.
Serve Act Amendments
Language was included in the House version of this legislation that would prohibit individuals and organizations that participate in National Service programs from engaging in lobbying and advocacy activities outside of National Service programs. The Senate-passed bill contains restrictions on the types of activities for which national service positions can be used, preventing participants from engaging in activities such as voter registration drives, political or legislative advocacy, or providing abortion services. Nonprofit organizations remain free under the bill sent to the President to utilize their own funds to advocate for causes in which they believe.
Nonprofit Capacity Building
The Senate agreed to include the Baucus-Grassley nonprofit capacity building amendment to set up a program in the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand organizational development assistance to small and midsize nonprofit organizations.
Volunteer Generation Fund
This grant program, which was included in the bill sent to the President, will increase the supply of volunteers in the country and strengthen volunteer infrastructure organizations nationwide by helping nonprofits recruit, coordinate, train and manage volunteers. The Volunteer Generation Fund will help communities match volunteers to needs, while providing operational support that enables organizations to fulfill their missions.
Music and Arts Education
The Senate also accepted an amendment offered by Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Gregg (R-NH) that expressly includes music and arts education in the Education Corps activities. The amendment will encourage the use of "skilled musicians and artists to promote greater community unity through the use of music and arts education and engagement through work in low-income communities, and education, health care, and therapeutic settings, and other work in the public domain with citizens of all ages."
SUMMARY OF THE BILL (PDF)
Section by Section (PDF)
Final Text as Passed
Today, March 31, the House is considering the Senate amendments to H.R. 1388, Edward M. Kennedy Serve Act. This legislation is very similar to the version of the bill (then called the GIVE Act) I wrote about two weeks ago, which the House passed with a bipartisan vote of 321-105 on March 18. The Senate passed its version of the bill with a bipartisan vote of 79-19 on March 26 and renamed it the E.M. Kennedy Serve Act. Now, the changes suggested by the Senate are being reviewed by the House.
If the House approves this legislation, it will move to the President's desk for his signature.
I wanted to point out that we've had a good discussion with our readers about this bill.
Our reader cfsg brought up an important issue,
"The GIVE Act authorizes the government to look into the feasibility of mandatory public service for all middle, high and college students. Mandatory means you must serve or you won't graduate ... "
I looked into it, and found out that the GIVE Act does not make any service opportunities mandatory. I just want to make that clear to our readers, since this bill is being considered by the House today.
However, cfsg is right that this language has been moved to a different bill currently in the House HR 1444. The following language is in Section 4. b) 6.
Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.
Thank you for pointing that out, cfsg. Clearly, this is just a requirement to compose a study regarding mandatory civic service, volunteering and national service that will be then open to public debate. Still, WireTap will reach out to the sponsoring representatives to find out the reasoning behind this. We think anything that has a word "mandatory" attached to it warrants public scrutiny.
Thank you for a good, constructive discussion, delriobob and cfsg.