Social Policy

Local Issues Director: Joyce Hothan, The League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn

Our chapter of the League follows major issues of interest to our membership; each area is the responsibility of a local issues director.  They track legislation and items of particular timely interest. Our Observer Corps attends meetings to report back to the board and members on key issues.

LATEST REPORT: september 2019


Social Policy –Gun Violence Prevention

This year alone there have been 4 mass shootings, generally defined as having 4 or more people killed. Illinois experienced its own mass shooting in February when a disgruntled employee at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora pulled out a gun and began shooting in their offices. 7 persons including the gunman were killed. 

More recently after a shooting outside a Walmart in El Paso, an employee decided that he could not be complicit working for a company that made profits off of selling firearms. Thomas Marshall led his co-workers to gather 140,000 online petition signatures to have Walmart reconsider selling arms and ammunition. 

Initially getting pushback from the company, eventually the CEO of Walmart announced a sweeping change to its gun sales policy. The supermarket Kroger along with CVS and Walgreens followed Walmart’s lead in asking customers to not openly carry firearms in their stores. 

While this is not a sea change in a country that already has a massive amount of guns per capita compared to other countries, it does speak to the power of individuals who stand up on important issues. Until now the gun lobby has prevailed in defeating any new legislative initiatives nationally. The League continues to hold a strong position on restricting access to semi-automatic assault type weapons and to stop the proliferation of private ownership of handguns and their irresponsible use. 

While some states like Illinois have made small changes and improvements to their gun policies, it still makes the most sense to have a unified federal policy.  This would incorporate universal background checks and the banning of assault weapons that are not for recreational purposes but are made for killing people in war. In the 1990’s the League advocated for the ban on assault weapons and was able to get one passed which was in effect from 1994 until 2004 when the ten- year sunset clause went into effect and advocates were notable to get it renewed. In the 15 subsequent years, the trajectory of gun massacres has been sharply upward. This also is in consort with the growth of ownership of military-style weapons and high capacity magazines. 

Despite critics pointing to mental illness as the cause, statistics do not bear this argument out. 

While the House of Representatives has already passed some legislation related to gun control, it sits on the desk of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Since the President is still very unwilling to stand firm on advancing sensible gun control policy,it is unlikely that Mitch McConnell will take the lead. 

It is important that groups like Moms Demand Action, The Illinois GunViolence Protection Coalition, The League of Women Voters and others continue their strong advocacy efforts to protect our children as well as all persons in our state and in our country against the senseless effects of gun violence. 

Joyce Hothan, Social Policy Chair

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Affordable Housing Update

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has asked Congress to enact the “Making Housing Work Act of 2018”. If passed the changes in how rent is calculated could impact 4.7 million families HUD helps to obtain affordable housing.

It would triple rents from $50 to $150 for some of the neediest  families and increase the share of other poor families from 30% of their gross income to 35%. It would also eliminate deductions to income for child care and medical expenses, affecting families with young children as well as being costly for older adults with steep medical bills.

Overall, the analysis shows that in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, low-income tenants-many of whom have jobs-would have to pay roughly 20% more each year for rent. According to an analysis by the Charleston Housing Authority, that works out to about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earning for poor workers in this country, already a population at significant risk of homelessness.

The proposal is part of an array of proposals set forth to scale back the social safety net with the belief that being less generous will cause those receiving federal assistance to get jobs. Secretary Carson was quoted as saying “It ‘s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty”.

Affordable housing advocates like Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition states that “This proposal to raise rents on low-income people doesn’t magically create well-paying jobs needed to lift people out of poverty.”

“Making Housing Work Act of 2018” would also allow a number of state housing authorities the ability to impose work requirements. This would make it the third program besides Medicaid and SNAP or food stamps to allow for the imposition of work rules.

According to the National Low Income Coalition only 6% of households receiving aid include adults who are not elderly and physically able to work but don’t. Housing advocates generally feel it is based on a faulty premise that most public housing residents don’t have jobs and that rent increases will incentivize work.