Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act Waiting for Obama's Signature

by Amanda Adams*, 3/31/2009

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act has just passed Congress and is now ready for President Obama to sign the measure into law. The House passed the Serve America Act with a vote of 275-149. The bill amends the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and will create two new service-learning programs.

The bill passed the Senate on March 26 by a vote of 79 to 19 after debating the House of Representatives' version, the "Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act," or GIVE Act. The House-passed version of the bill included an amendment sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) that would have far-reaching, negative consequences for nonprofit advocacy. For example, it would have restricted National Service fund recipients from using private funds for lobbying; endorsing or supporting events that endorse or oppose legislation; or engaging in selected nonpartisan voter engagement activities. OMB Watch issued an action alert and encouraged others to tell their Senators to oppose any effort to add similar language in the Senate version.

Senator DeMint (R-SC) offered an amendment very similar to the Foxx amendment. Any organization that engages in political or legislative advocacy would have been disqualified from participating in national service programs. Fortunately, this amendment was not taken up by the Senate. The measure passed after senators adopted a substitute amendment that incorporated the text of the Senate version (S. 277) without any harmful language. The Senate also renamed the bill the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Just from OMB Watch's alert, more than 5,800 e-mails were sent to senators and the White House.

The Serve America Act will provide incentives for students and senior citizens to participate in volunteer community service and includes the Nonprofit Capacity Building Initiative, designed to expand organizational development assistance to small and midsize nonprofits. For more information on the Serve America Act, visit Independent Sector or the National Council of Nonprofits.

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