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                              Families First
                        The 2000 Democratic Agenda

Advance the growth of technology and fully realize the potential of the Internet for all Americans

          Invest the Surplus to Strengthen Social Security and 
                 Medicare, and Pay Off the Debt by 2013

Strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations: Guarantee that 100 percent of the Social Security surplus will be saved for Social Security. Extend the solvency of Social Security for 50 years or more by dedicating the benefits of fiscal discipline to improving Social Security's finances. Reserve over half of the non-Social Security surplus to extend the solvency of Medicare and help pay for prescription drug coverage.

Pay off the debt by 2013: Invest the entire Social Security surplus and a portion of the non-Social Security surplus to eliminate the national debt by 2013 and save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in interest charges.

Ensure Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans

Protect and modernize Medicare, including the addition of a voluntary prescription drug benefit: Extend the solvency of Medicare to at least 2025; make the program more efficient and competitive; and add a long-overdue prescription drug benefit. This new prescription drug benefit would be voluntary and would be available and affordable to all Medicare beneficiaries.

Pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights: Finish the overdue job of passing patients' rights legislation that covers all Americans in all health plans and includes guaranteed access to needed health care specialists; access to emergency room services when and where the need arises; access to a fair and timely internal and external appeals process; effective recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions; as well as other protections to ensure that doctors and patients, not insurance companies, make medical decisions.

Provide affordable health insurance coverage to uninsured Americans: Significantly expand affordable health insurance coverage for uninsured Americans, including accelerating the enrollment of uninsured children in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and making working parents eligible for the S-CHIP program which currently only covers their children. Enable Americans ages 62 to 65, and displaced and retired workers ages 55 to 65, to buy into Medicare if they lose coverage. Expand access to health insurance for Americans facing unique barriers to coverage, including workers between jobs and the employees of small businesses.

Improve quality of care by preventing medical errors: Ensure that the medical community has a strong system of safeguards to prevent needless injury and death from medical errors. Develop appropriate ways to collect information and measures to identify problems and ensure patients are safe from accidental injury.

Protect Privacy

Protect Americans' personal privacy: Provide consumers with control over their personal, medical and financial information. Guarantee key privacy protections for Americans' medical information, including: notice of data uses; consent before records are used for non-medical purposes; patient access to records; proper security; and effective enforcement. Provide further protections for financial information before financial firms can share private information.

Prevent genetic discrimination: Ensure that genetic information used to help predict, prevent, and treat diseases will not be used to discriminate against Americans seeking employment, being evaluated for a promotion, or purchasing health insurance.

     Help Communities Improve Public Education with Quality Teachers,
       Smaller Classes, Greater Accountability, and Modern Schools

Recruit and train high quality teachers and principals: Improve public schools, which are attended by 90 percent of America's children. Ensure that every class is led by a highly qualified teacher by increasing support for training in core subjects and teaching skills. Establish new incentives to recruit highly qualified teachers.

Reduce class size: Finish the job of hiring 100,000 highly qualified teachers over seven years to reduce class size in grades one through three to a national average of 18 students, making sure that every child gets a solid foundation in the basics. Help districts create small learning communities in larger schools.

Accountability and higher standards: Build accountability measures into Federal support for education to ensure that school districts and states set high standards and help every student achieve by building on proven reforms.

Build and repair schools: Provide Federal help to enable states and school districts to build or renovate 6,000 local public schools and repair an additional 8,300 schools to improve learning conditions, attract good teachers, end overcrowding and make smaller classes possible.

Expand educational technology: Continue to provide schools with Internet capacity and resources for teacher training, and bring technology into the classroom. Protect the e-rate discount for schools and libraries.

Promote lifelong learning: Put America on the path to have pre-school universally available to every child through a major expansion in Head Start, and bring the dream of a college education closer to reality for everyone by making tuition more affordable through tax relief and increased funding for college grants and loans.

Cut Taxes for Working Families

Reward work: Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in order to help low-income working families, including expanding the maximum credit for families with three or more children.

Increase access to higher education: Make college more affordable for millions of American families by providing up to $2,800 annually in tax relief to help cover college tuition expenses.

Support families: Provide marriage penalty relief for middle-class families. Provide greater tax relief for working families and businesses who pay child care expenses. Provide a $3,000 tax credit for elderly and disabled individuals needing long-term care and the family members who care for them. Give alternative minimum tax relief to working families.

Promote retirement savings: Create Retirement Savings Accounts to provide matching contributions for low- and moderate-income families saving for retirement. Give tax credits for small businesses providing pension coverage to their employees.

Secure affordable health care: Use tax credits to expand access to affordable health insurance, including tax credits for the near-elderly to buy into Medicare and for workers between jobs to continue their insurance. Give tax credits for small businesses offering health insurance.

Make our Communities and Schools Safer

Put more police on the streets: Help communities put up to 50,000 more law enforcement officers on the beat over five years. Help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies coordinate more effectively and use modern technology to solve crimes.

Keep guns and drugs out of our schools: Empower communities and parents to reduce school violence by providing resources to make every school gun-free and drug-free. Expand the number of School Resource Officers placed in the schools to improve school safety.

Expand after-school programs: Help prevent youth violence by dramatically expanding safe after-school opportunities for our young people.

Keep guns out of the hands of criminals: Improve enforcement of federal gun laws. Hire more federal and local gun prosecutors and more ATF agents to crack down on illegal gun traffickers.

Continue and expand the Violence Against Women Act: Extend the Violence Against Women Act to add vital new protections for women and children victimized by violence in their homes and on the streets.

Stop hate crimes: Strengthen federal hate crimes law to enhance federal, state and local prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability and to deter future incidents.

Support Working Families

Raise the minimum wage: Recognize the value of work and support working families. Give millions of Americans a pay raise by increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour over the next two years.

Ensure equal pay: Help guarantee equal pay for women and men by strengthening enforcement of equal pay laws, ending wage discrimination, and improving access to wage information for all workers.

Expand access to child care: Improve the accessibility and safety of child care through expansion of the child care and development block grant to help working families, and improve quality by increased training and support services for caregivers. Provide tax relief for families and businesses to help with child care expenses.

Extend prosperity: Extend prosperity to America's economically underserved markets by expanding empowerment zones and encouraging private investment in our poorest urban and rural communities.

Encourage responsible fatherhood: Support policies to encourage responsible fatherhood and help noncustodial parents stay involved in their children's lives.

Save family farms: Reform our farm policy to provide a meaningful safety net for family farmers.

Secure Retirement for Seniors and Protect Pensions

Enforce nursing home standards: Protect elderly and disabled Americans from abuse and neglect by cracking down on bad apple nursing homes that violate basic standards for adequate care and endanger the health of their residents. Take aggressive new steps to enforce high standards for health and safety, including: improving inspections, increasing accountability for violations of standards, and providing the resources necessary for positive steps to meet those standards. Develop long-term solutions to problems with staffing and resources that might jeopardize quality and safety in our nation?s nursing homes.

Expand pension benefit coverage: Make it easier for small businesses to start private pension plans that provide predictable and secure benefits, and for employees to save in IRAs through payroll deductions. Permit employees to roll over benefits from different types of retirement plans.

Strengthen women's retirement security: Allow workers to count time taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act toward their retirement benefits, and require pension plans to let families choose joint and survivor annuity options.

               Protect the Environment, Preserve Our Lands 
               Legacy, and Help Build Livable Communities

Protect our environment and our families' safety: Ensure clean air and safe food. Strengthen clean water protections. Continue accelerated toxic waste cleanup and make polluters pay. Spur new environmental technologies through targeted tax cuts. Work to ensure enforcement and prevent rollback of environmental protection laws.

Preserve our lands legacy: Provide lasting protection for our national parks and other natural treasures. Enhance funding for new parkland to provide increased recreational opportunities for future generations.

Help build livable communities: Provide new tools and resources to help communities across America reduce traffic congestion, preserve green space, and grow in ways that ensure a high quality of life and strong, sustainable economic growth. Pass the Better America Bonds program for acquisition and enhancement of open spaces.

Promote Technology

Advance the growth of technology and help realize the potential of the Internet: Ensure that America's technology industry remains a world leader. Promote the growth of e-commerce. Bridge the Digital Divide by promoting policies that give urban and rural areas greater access to technology. Make essential investments in education, worker training, research and development that will ensure the future of technology as the driving force of the American economy.


Published jointly by the Democratic Leadership of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives