There is a good, bipartisan bill  up for a vote tonight (3/26) or Friday on a generous expansion of funding for AmeriCorps , the national and community service program launched by President Clinton. The bill has been strongly supported by President Obama and by Senator Edward Kennedy, a co-sponsor. The bill would give about $6 billion over the next five years and allow more than a tripling of membership. The House approved the measure by 321 to 105 last week. Senate sponsors are Democrats Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski, and Republicans Orrin Hatch and Mike Enzi. Senators, we salute you.
In a supportive editorial  (3/24) the New York Times explains that the measure would
. . . increase the number of full-time and part-time service volunteers to 250,000 from 75,000 and create new programs focused on special areas like strengthening schools, improving health care for low-income communities, boosting energy efficiency and cleaning up parks. . . . Volunteers receive minimal living expenses and a modest educational stipend after their year of service. The bill raises the stipend to $5,350, the same as a Pell Grant.
We urge our readers to call Republican senators—especially the fiscal conservatives—and ask them to support AmeriCorps expansion (see list below). We have called Senator David Vitter’s  office (504-589-2753; 202-224-4623) and asked him to vote Yes. He has not yet released a statement on the bill, but he should: Louisiana—and its coastal restoration—has a stake in this bill. The America’s Wetland Conservation Corps  (AWCC) has 31 full-time and part-time members who for the past three years have been working on wetlands restoration projects (such as planting cypresses in St. Bernard Parish) and outreach education projects on wetlands and environmental conservation.
Levees Not War has been advocating a new, robust national Civilian Conservation Corps  (CCC) whose Louisiana division can aggressively tackle the work of coastal restoration. The framework is already in place: The AWCC—sponsored by America’s Wetland: The Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana, with funding from AmeriCorps—is already at work and is poised to grow. (Each state’s AmeriCorps program is administered by the lieutenant governor’s office—in Louisiana, the guiding office is called Louisiana Serve —and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu is a big supporter of AWCC.) The AWCC already has partnered with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program . What we would like to see is an expansion of collaborative efforts to include the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana  and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation .
Among the Republican senators who did not vote on Monday’s procedural vote (according to the New York Times) were: Sam Brownback of Kansas, James Bunning of Kentucky, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Michael Crapo of Idaho, Jon Kyl of Arizona, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Ensign of Nevada, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both of Alabama, Tom DeMint of South Carolina, and John Thune of South Dakota. (Contact info can be found on our Political Action page here. ) Call now. Thank you