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Phoenix DNC hearing showcases environmental reform, universal healthcare


A blue banner hung behind the panel members of Democratic National Committee's platform drafting committee June 18, 2016 during the second of four hearings before the Democratic National Convention in July.

The Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee held its second session of hearings last week in Phoenix to discuss three democratic issues: climate change, health and safety, and the preservation of democracy.

The DNC held this hearing as part of a four-session drafting process, in hopes to connect the platform with the party’s base.

Hearings are open to the public, and this session included a diverse list of more than 40 people including award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

Mark Ruffalo’s testimony included a call for a ban on fracking, requesting that the committee "adopt a rule for the DNC to be fossil fuel free by 2050.”

Michael Mann from the Earth Science Center also gave a testimony about climate change, urging the committee to integrate strong language regarding fossil fuel regulation into the party’s platform.

“We can see the changes playing out in real time," he said. "Climate change is taking a real toll with floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, heat waves and more. (This is) the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is still possible to reverse catastrophic warming of the planet. We must keep 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground.”

Testimony covering environmental issues ran more than an hour over the allotted time.

Dozens of doctors, nurses and health care advocates also testified with a unanimous message: Single-payer health care. 

Gerdaline Schaumburg, one of several National Nurses United members to testify, has over 43 years of nursing experience.

Schaumburg broke into tears as she read her testimony. She described living through a life-threatening incident, and being left in a financial situation where she must travel to Mexico for medical care, encountering armed guards and bomb squads at the hospital.

"When a nurse first meets a patient, she assesses them and creates a plan to bring the patient to optimum health," she said. "If, as a nurse and a lifelong democrat, I were to assess the DNC, I would have to say I see an anemic patient who needs an infusion in order to stay viable. The treatment would be to adopt something substantial; to adopt Medicare for all. This could save the Democratic party from going on life support."

Joesline Mata, who is the President of Arizona Democrats at the UA and an advocate for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America testified by stressing the importance of healthcare for all as well as pro-choice language in the platform.

"(In America), 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime," Mata said. "It’s time to recognize abortion for what it is: A safe and legal healthcare service that is essential to women's health, wellbeing and autonomy.”

Campaign finance reform and protection of democracy were among some of the longest and most substantial testimonies.

William Barber from the NAACP outlined problems with the diminishment of the Voting Rights Act and called on the party to be clear in their platform with regard to voting rights.

"Any national platform that does not call for the immediate restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, beginning with the passing of the Voting Rights Act Amendment Act, and any platform that does not champion legislation to reverse the citizens united decision would be morally indefensible, and constitutionally inconsistent." Barber said.

He also called out the racist undertones of voter suppression.

“We need to talk about real racism," he said. "Not just calling someone the N-word, or a flag, but real systemic racism.”

There will be two more hearings in this series. The next will be June 24 and June 25 in St. Louis Missouri. The final meeting will be in Orlando, Florida July 8 and July 9, preceding the Democratic Convention later that month.

The State Press will bring you continuing coverage of the DNC through the convention in July.

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