Phyllis Ball

How to submit comments to Trump’s agencies

Trump has been successfully undermining our environmental protections. He has been doing that not by passing new laws (although, as outlined in this post, we are getting ready for that), but by watering down the regulations that require businesses to meet the laws.

One way we can defend the environment is by submitting comments to the agencies that are modifying the regulations that keep our air and water clean.

By law, the agency has to consider public comments. I always wondered what effect comments have, and now I have found out, thanks to a group of former EPA employees who’ve banded together, called Save EPA. They wrote a resistance manual, A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump De-regulatory Agenda, with practical tips on how to submit comments, and what happens with those comments.

I was encouraged by what they have to tell us, and wanted to pass on these key points:

  • The comments gathered form an “administrative record” that can be used by a court to overturn an agency’s decision to roll back or weaken a rule. This alone is good reason to submit a comment.
  • Public comments can show that the regulation under attack has strong public support. Trump appointees may not care much about public opinion, but members of Congress do.
  • If a hearing to roll back a regulation is being held near us, we should use it as a rallying point and to get press and public attention.
  • The more of us that comment, the more we make clear that there are political consequences for taking away our protections.
  • Agencies don’t have a free hand in making or rolling back regulations. They must comply with the laws authorizing the regulation and governing the rulemaking process.
  • Federal law requires an agency to collect and analyze scientific, technical, economic and other information relevant to the rule, and make decisions that make sense in light of that info. If they don’t do this, their decisions can be overturned by a court.
  • The agency must consider all the public comments it receives in making final decisions about a rule, and respond to all significant comments in issuing its final rule. Significant comments are those that make substantive points, such as providing new information, making arguments for how and why the proposal should be changed, or pointing out flawed decision-making.
  • If the agency fails to respond to a good point you’ve made — a well-supported argument— the final rule may be vulnerable to a lawsuit, likely from a public interest group.
  • We may be able to add political heft to our comments by asking our Members of Congress to comment and/or make a public statement along the same lines.

Save EPA now alerts us when comment periods open on rule changes, so we’ll know when we need to take action.

Phyllis Ball

We are the Americans who saved health insurance

I hope you saw the NYT article, The Americans Who Saved Health Insurance. It gives credit to the citizens (us!), the organizers (IndivisibleGuide! Stand Up SF!), and the experts who fought for our healthcare.

If you’re like me, you’ve needed a breather since the TrumpCare battle. We all need to re-charge. And re-charge we did at Caryn’s party last Saturday! Many thanks to Caryn for opening her home and making us a beautiful spread of home-made salsas and a gorgeous assortment of enchiladas and other yummy treats. It was so good to have a chance to connect with everyone. I hope you all left feeling invigorated like I did.

Yesterday we had a promising development on healthcare, with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions announcing they will introduce a bill to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market. As the NYTimes puts it, “it’s good to see politicians actually doing their jobs.”

And speaking of politicians who do their jobs, wasn’t it heartwarming to see the reception that GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski received when they returned home after standing strong against all the various bills to take away our healthcare? Sen. Collins said of her enthusiastic reception at the airport, “I’ve never had that happen in the 20 years that I’ve been privileged to serve in the Senate. It was very encouraging and affirming, especially arriving back home after a very difficult time.”

In other promising news:

Mark your calendars for our August all-hands meeting!

Sunday Aug 20th, 2-4pm
Noe Valley Library, San Francisco

Stand Up SF actions:

  • Thank Senators Harris and Feinstein for standing up for the ACA. You can say something like “Thank you for fighting for healthcare for all Americans! You’ve saved health care for tens of millions of us. Now please do everything you can to ensure Trump does not destabilize the insurance markets.”
  • Call both Senators and tell them to oppose H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. It weakens the Clean Air Act without a single improvement, and delays life-saving health standards already years
  • The Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (S.1460), would greatly expand fracking and natural gas infrastructure. It expedites review of fracked gas export terminals, instructs the BLM to create a pilot program for expediting drilling and fracking permits, authorizes $3 billion in “clean coal” subsidies, and more. Call Senators and tell them we don’t need more fracking and drilling, and to reject Senate bill 1460.
Paul Silverman

Resistance. It gets the job done.

I’m still wrapping my head around what happened this week in the Senate, and how we pulled ourselves back from the brink of tens millions of people having their health care taken away. Let me take a minute to reflect on how Indivisible groups like us worked together to save countless lives.

Our resistance against the cruel Trump agenda didn’t just blossom this week. We’ve been applying constituent pressure to our members of Congress for six months. At meetings with Congressional staff, on phone calls about health care, in outreach to voters in red states, we consistently made it clear that repealing or crippling the Affordable Care Act was unacceptable. From the first day of this appalling administration we kept up the pressure, and this week in the Senate we saw the dramatic results of months of resistance work.

We helped protect essential health benefits. We helped keep pre-existing conditions. We held off lifetime and annual caps. We kept subsidies. Most significantly, and counter to everything the Republicans hold dear, we held on to the expansion of Medicaid.

Your work saved lives.

How? The Republicans have a Senate majority, a House majority and a mean-spirited television pitch man in the White House. But in each vote this week, a handful of Republican senators listened to their constituents (and perhaps their consciences) and came to the conclusion that they could not justify denying Americans basic health care just for a political brag. How did they know that the people would not permit this? Because we told them, loudly and clearly.

Every single No vote was the “deciding vote.” Don’t forget every Democrat and Independent, including our own senators and congresswoman, who banded together and held against these heartless bills — because they knew we had their backs and would accept nothing less. (Stand Up SF will absolutely be conveying heartfelt thanks to Senator Feinstein, Senator Harris and Congresswoman Pelosi for their courage and resolve this week. Just check their Facebook and Twitter feeds.)

Red state outreach. We found new tools this week for lending our support and encouragement directly to friends and family in red states, and Stand Up SF will be working to leverage these tools for the fights to come.

The Republicans have been running on destroying the ACA for seven years. They come out of this failure much weaker, and we emerge not just with a victory, but now more tested, more skilled, and stronger for the next fight.

We know that this week wasn’t the end of the story. We’re playing the long game, and the Republican’s efforts to dismantle health care could return. There are more fights to come. But now we know that the work Stand Up SF does matters, that principled resistance works, and that Trumpism can be stopped.

This win took all of us, and I want to thank you for your dedication and for being a vital part of the team. So take a breath, look around at what we’ve protected, and I’ll see you next time.


Laura Shapiro

Schumer: We’re ready for single payer

Just a few hours ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that single payer health care is “on the table”, along with other options like making Medicare available to people over 55. This is huge news: we said we wanted single payer, and Senate Democrats are listening. As Paul Hessinger quoted at our meeting yesterday, “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

While Schumer is optimistic that the GOP’s latest disaster of a healthcare bill (repeal everything, replace with nothing) will not pass, Sen. Mitch McConnell is not going to stop. Even if you’ve already spoken up on this issue, make sure you check off all six items on Phyllis’ to-do list to stop TrumpCare.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will testify at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, as the Russian collusion case continues to heat up. Unfortunately, the Trump camp has made a bargain with the committee to hold that hearing in private, so we are not likely to learn what is unveiled there anytime soon. Senator Feinstein sits on the Judiciary Committee, so we’ll be continuing to monitor the case and encouraging her to protect our democracy by ensuring that all wrongdoing is ultimately brought to light.

Two weeks ago, I asked you to make calls to reform our predatory and unjust bail system here in California. This week, Senator Harris has unveiled a bipartisan bill (co-authored with Senator Rand Paul) that seeks to reform or replace the practice of money bail nationwide. The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017 creates incentives for states to overhaul or throw out their money bail systems, aiming to ensure that all people, rich or poor, who are accused of a crime receive fair treatment under the law. The bill has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress, the NAACP, the ACLU, and many other organizations working to repair our broken criminal justice system. It’s great to see I’ll be asking you to make some calls about this legislation this week.

Following a spirited and inspiring general meeting yesterday, our members enjoyed beer and munchables on Phyllis’ sunny back deck. We’re grateful to those of you who came out, shared your passion, and raised a glass with us. Special thanks to Suzanne, who stood up at our meeting to share a very personal story about how she came to dedicate her life to improving people’s health, and how that fuels her activism today. We’re grateful also to our guest speaker Susan from Democracy Action, who provided some great ideas about using technology to motivate voters in other districts, and told a great story about registering new citizens to vote in Oakland (see Actions with other groups for how you can get involved. Thanks also to Patrick, who led our action to Sen. Harris’ office last week.

This week’s Stand Up SF actions

Actions with other groups

  • Tue 7/25: part of Litquake, SF’s literary festival: “A Bunch of Bad Hombres: Immigrant Writers Respond to Trump” RSVP
  • Thu 7/27: Join NARAL Pro-Choice America for a webinar on activism for reproductive freedom. Sign up.
  • Thu 8/3: Join Democracy Action to phone bank for Democratic candidates in two key states. Get details and sign up.

Learning opportunity

At our meeting yesterday, Gordon shared information about The People’s Revolution, a coalition of grassroots organizers and activists who have created a progressive platform to ensure racial, climate, and economic justice, democracy, and health care for all. They’re recommending we ask our MoCs to pass eight pieces of legislation aimed at these goals. Stand Up SF leadership will be evaluating the bills, but you can get a head start here. Interested in the People’s Platform? Tell us what you think!

Phyllis Ball

Senators are listening

So the “Take Away My Health Care” bill died. You could almost hear the big collective sigh of relief across America.

No, wait!! It came back to life! EEEEK!!

OK whew! It died again!

Oh Noooo! It’s stirring… it’s… alive!

It’s like that B-rated horror flick where the zombie just won’t die. The latest iteration, “Repeal and Deal With It Later,” rips healthcare away from 32 million people. After 7+ years of attacking the Affordable Care Act, what Republicans need for their better healthcare plan is… more time.

David Leonhardt of the NYTimes has a perspective that has given me hope throughout this ordeal. He explains that once the country commits to a more decent safety net, it becomes an accepted part of society. Poverty, disease and misfortune that had previously been accepted as normal then became rejected as cruel.

In this article today in Vox, The health care resistance is working. Just ask a few Republican senators, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Senate Republicans have privately admitted to him that the resistance’s pressure is making a difference:

At the same time, we must not forget that politicians are willing to take away our health care. We must not let our guard down, as we know what we got last time we said “that can’t happen.”

I want to pass on something else I learned recently that gave me a bit of relief. You may have heard Republicans are using a process called reconciliation for healthcare. They also intend to use the same process for their next project, tax reform. The reconciliation process allows a bill to pass with fewer votes (in this Senate, without Democrat votes). However, it comes with some limitations. Senate rules only allow one reconciliation bill at a time. So, if Republicans want to do tax reform via reconciliation, they have to first either pass or abandon their healthcare reconciliation bill. And if they don’t successfully gut healthcare, they don’t have the new revenue they need to fund their dream list of deep tax cuts.

Stand Up SF actions:

Trump can cancel parts of Obamacare funding. This would be devastating to millions of people who would lose access to affordable health coverage and it would send ACA markets into chaos, risking insurance even for those who don’t require financial assistance. Sign Senator Harris’s petition to keep funding Obamacare.

Trump wants to reverse Obama’s decision to protect the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from risky offshore drilling. Submit a comment to The Department of the Interior and tell them: Our oceans should be protected, not polluted. Keep America’s coastline off limits to drilling.

Actions with other groups:

Move-On is working to train community volunteers to mobilize together quickly in the event of a crisis that threatens our life or liberty. Sign up.

Tue 7/25: How to Help Your Friends When They’re Harassed Online: Bystander Intervention Digital Training by HeartMob. Sign up.