Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a major overhaul and expansion of national service.
The House passed H.R. 1388, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act bill by strong bipartisan vote of 321 to 105. According to Alan Khazei, the founder of the Service Nation movement, this represents a 75% super-majority and broad bi-partisan support.
The vote came after a floor discussion where both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress cited numerous examples of volunteers and national service participants helping Americans in need through mentoring at-risk youth, building homes, teaching in under-served schools, caring for veterans and seniors, and helping survivors of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.
According to Voices for National Service, here are some amendments to the legislation:
Amendment offered by Rep. Hill (D-IN) to make sending care packages to soldiers deployed in combat zones overseas an eligible service program.
Amendment offered by Rep. Hunter (R-CA) to remove veteran’s educational benefits from being taken into account when calculating the maximum award an individual could receive for participating in one of the national service programs.
Amendment offered by Rep. Kilroy (D-OH) to make the supervision of in- and out-of- school physical education classes and nutrition education eligible service activities, in addition to providing elderly people with food delivery, legal and medical services and transportation assistance.
Amendment offered by Rep. Loebsack (D-IA) to authorize a new grant program, the Volunteer Generation Fund.
Amendment offered by Rep. Markey (D-CO) to increase the operational support provided to Education Award Only programs.
Amendment offered by Rep. Perriello (D-VA) and Rep. Titus (D-NV) to create a National Service Reserve Corps to engage national service alumni in national disaster and other emergency response.
Amendment offered by Rep. Pingree (D-ME) to expand the Clean Energy Corps to meet the needs of rural communities.
Amendment offered by Rep. Roskam (R-IL) to authorize annual evaluation of the National Civilian and Community Corps.
Amendment offered by Rep. Teague (D-NM) and Rep. Klein (D-FL) to expand service activities to include assistance to veterans in education or career services, medical claims, or transportation needs.
An amendment offered by Rep. Roe (R-TN) to roll back funding for AmeriCorps to fiscal year 2008 levels was defeated.
So exciting! It is about time.
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Another swipe at our freedom to be free of government requirements.
I’m deeply concerned that this will soon become completely mandatory.
This is expensive and it is wrong.
Your concerns are shared by many others. National service in the United States is not going to be mandatory. National service is an honor, a privilege, and completely voluntary.
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I’m concerned about the effect of service on the good intentions of the young artists and musicians who decide to particpate. My experience in Los Angeles with”giving” has been to encounter non profits who exploit volunteers, a city government that goes so far as to charge exploitive fees to use their buildings to do “service work.” (Here in LA they charge $30 per hour to any non profit or individual who accepts any kind of donation on or off city property.Name a non profit that doesn’t accept donations!) And a school system that discourages any kind of service work on their property by a fee structure and administrative indifference. The government perverts the intention of “giving.”
Unfortunately, in our society we don’t respect the intent of service. In a Capitalist society, people who do “free” work are thought of as somehow inferior- or surely we would charge for our services. We are judged by what we earn. The more we earn, the more respect we get.
In my experience “honor and privilege” have not been the outcome of service. I’m concerned that these intitiatives are leading people down the wrong path.
Thank you for your thoughts. I sincerely hope that the red tape of doing good for our communities doesn’t keep people from trying. The musicians and the kids they teach will know the true value of the program as it develops, and the integrity of their experience together.