Abortion Services and Referral Added to List of AmeriCorps Prohibited Activities

A little talked-about change in the Serve America Act that recently passed into law includes a new “prohibited activity” for AmeriCorps members.

A new category has been added to the list of prohibited activities in the new law that will take affect October 1: AmeriCorps staff and members will be barred from “providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.” The category seems to be included in order to quell the concerns of conservative groups that Federal funding will go to support abortions since, for example, Planned Parenthood chapters often host AmeriCorps members to work on public health education topics.

Check out the full text of the legislation.

And a word on prohibited activities which seem to confuse people unfamiliar with national service to no end.

While charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program or the Corporation for National and Community Service, staff and all Continue reading

Obama’s Remarks on Signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

Today, President Obama made the following remarks before signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

Barack Obama on national service

The transcript was released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary. Re-play the signing and hear the speech for yourself on CSPAN.

Thank you.  Please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, what an extraordinary day.  It is good to be here with all of you.

I want to, first of all, thank President Bill Clinton for joining us here today — where’s President Clinton? — (applause) — for his lifetime of service to our country, but also the fact that he created AmeriCorps, and that not only made this day possible, it has directly enlisted more than half a million Americans in service to their country; service that has touched the lives of millions more.

Now, it just so happens that one of those people who have been touched by AmeriCorps was FLOTUS, otherwise known as First Lady of the United States — (laughter) — Michelle Obama, who ran a AmeriCorps-sponsored Continue reading

The Signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

SAA signingToday President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law. It will take affect October 1 of this year. Read more about the Act.

During one of the most exciting National Volunteer Weeks in recent memory, President Obama and national service supporters gathered today at the SEED School in Washington, D.C., an academic and boarding charter school.

At the signing, Obama said, our “government cannot do everything alone,” but needs the help of citizens in local communities everywhere. And national service isn’t just for recent college graduates (watch news footage from AARP.) Sounding Whitman-esque, he called people every where to “Put your shoulder to the wheel” of service — and if you do, you can look back on the “moment when your own story and the American story converged.”

Michelle Obama and Bill ClintonHe also recognized Bill Clinton for launching AmeriCorps during his administration, and the First Lady Michelle Obama who was the founding executive director of Public Allies Chicago, a national service program.

Obama went on to talk about the long legacy of service contributed by the Kennedy family including Ted Kennedy, for whom the legislation is now named.

He also introduced Maria Eitel his nominee for the new chief executive post at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and Acting C.E.O. Nicola Goren.

The bill re-authorizes CNCS and its programs through 2014, and authorizes sweeping expansion of national service (with a nod Continue reading

National Service Legislation Goes Back to the House for a Final Vote

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

According to Voices For National Service, the House could send the National Service Bill to President Obama this week.

Monday and Tuesday of this week, the House of Representatives will consider the version of the national service legislation that was amended and passed last week by the Senate. The legislation goes by the names The GIVE Act and the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and is also known as H.R. 1388.

If the House passes the bill, the legislation will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.

The House is considering H.R. 1388 on the Suspension Calendar, and debate will be limited to 40 minutes. Under suspension, no one can further amend the bill, or recommit it to the House Labor and Education Committee where it originated. The bill must get a two-thirds super majority to pass.

Because the Senate’s bill is more costly than the original bill passed in the House, getting it through the House with a super majority may prove challenging.

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Answering the Call from Citizens Who Want to Serve

AmeriCorps muscleThese days the fate of national service seems tied more than ever to the greater economic struggles our nation is facing. Citizens want to serve in their communities, and this week the Senate is debating legislation that would make it possible for more people to serve than ever before.

September 11th and 12th of last year, the Service Nation Summit convened hundreds of leaders, service corps alumni, and celebrities to talk about the need for expanded national service opportunities, to meet the growing demand among people of all ages to serve full-time in their communities.

While Summit participants were still returning home in the glow of that inspiring event, Lehman Brothers—just blocks from where the Summit took place in mid-town Manhattan—crumbled, and the bottom began to fall out of the economy.

This week, the U.S. Senate will take a hard look at the Serve America Act, a piece of legislation announced at the Service Nation Summit by Senator Orrin Hatch (while his partner Sen. Edward Kennedy, convalescing at home, joined him in spirit).

Little known in September was just how desperately needed this legislation would become by the time it saw the floor of the Continue reading

Senate HELP Committee Authorizes the Serve America Act

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

The Senate’s companion bill to the GIVE Act (which passed on the floor of the House yesterday) successfully moved out of committee yesterday and will likely be voted on by the entire Senate membership next week.

In the Senate yesterday, the Serve America Act (S.277) was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Similar to the GIVE Act, the Serve America Act seeks to expand national service and volunteer programs, to engage citizens in solving problems facing communities throughout the country.

In his State-of-the-Union-esque address to Congress last month, President Obama specifically asked congressional leaders to pass the Serve America Act introduced by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Hatch (R-UT). (Read also his TIME Article from today, calling for a “New Era of Service.”)

Read the joint press release (PDF) issued yesterday by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Enzi (R-WY), Hatch (R-UT) and Mikulski (D-MD).

Read the amended Serve America Act (PDF) approved by the Senate HELP Committee.

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Pres. Obama Calls for Swift Passage of the Serve America Act

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

In an address to a joint session Congress tonight, Feb. 24th, President Obama urged lawmakers to pass the picture-24Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act which would expand funding for national service.

The Serve America Act, co-authored by Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Hatch (R-UT), was introduced in the Senate January 16 and would:

  • Engage more Americans in a term of national service to solve critical challenges in local communities by increasing AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 Continue reading