Thursday, October 5, 2017
“Removing Mr. Palij from American soil will send a message not only to the citizens of New York, but to the entire world. It will make clear that the United States does not condone hatred and will not shelter those who have committed atrocities against innocents. For Holocaust survivors, Mr. Palij’s deportation will confirm that the heinous crimes committed against them during the Nazi era will never be forgotten,” the lawmakers said.
A copy of the lawmakers’ letter is below:
The Honorable Rex Wayne Tillerson
Secretary of State
2201 C St, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary,
Last month, many of us reached out to you regarding the stalled deportation of Jakiw Palij, a Nazi-era guard who was stripped of U.S. citizenship but is still currently residing in Queens, New York. A response from the Bureau of Legislative Affairs described the State Department’s efforts to urge the governments of Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to accept Mr. Palij and enable his deportation. As this has been going on for more than a decade, we write as bipartisan, bicameral representatives of the people of New York to ask that you personally step in to settle this long-standing injustice and ensure Mr. Palij is removed from the United States.
In 2004, after finding that Mr. Palij was allowed to enter the United States by concealing his prior service to the Nazi regime, he was stripped of his citizenship and it was ordered that he be deported. However, because no country has agreed to accept him, Mr. Palij has not yet been made to leave the U.S. despite these rulings. Mr. Palij must be deported immediately. It has been 13 years since Mr. Palij lost his right to remain here, and it has taken far too long for these court orders to be carried out.
Removing Mr. Palij from American soil will send a message not only to the citizens of New York, but to the entire world. It will make clear that the United States does not condone hatred and will not shelter those who have committed atrocities against innocents. For Holocaust survivors, Mr. Palij’s deportation will confirm that the heinous crimes committed against them during the Nazi era will never be forgotten. We ask that you act now, and show decisively that the United States stands firmly against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hatred in all forms.
We appreciate your personal attention to this matter and we look forward to your swift action. This man, and the hatred he represents, should no longer be allowed to enjoy the freedoms that America provides – freedoms that Mr. Palij has been enjoying for decades under false pretenses.
Senator Charles E. Schumer
Sens. Schatz, Paul and Rep. Cohen Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Expand Responsible Use of Police Body Cameras
“We can’t restore trust between our communities and law enforcement without transparency and accountability. Body cameras alone won’t repair that relationship, but they have proven to be effective and can do a great deal to keep both police officers and community members safe and accountable,” said Senator Schatz
“Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” said Senator Paul. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian are respected.”
“Justice is supposed to be blind, but it is not supposed to be blind to the facts. Police body cameras can help provide evidence and restore some much-needed trust between police and the communities they serve,” said Congressman Cohen. “The cameras could show the officer’s actions for what they were, proving both lawful and unlawful activity. The vast majority of police are well meaning, dedicated public servants, and we depend upon them to keep us safe from criminals. But the fact remains some officers go beyond the law in a callous disregard for due process. Their actions damage the public trust that is essential for good police to be able to serve and protect our communities. Police body cameras, alone, will not solve this problem, but they are an important step in the right direction. I would like to thank Senators Schatz and Paul for their leadership on this issue and for partnering with me on this legislation.”
The Police CAMERA Act of 2017 would establish a pilot grant program using existing funding to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with the purchasing or leasing of body-worn cameras. It would also authorize an impact-study after two years. The study would assess the impact body-worn cameras have on reducing the use of excessive force by police, its effects on officer safety and public safety, and procedures to protect the privacy of individuals who are recorded.
“The resulting benefits of the body-worn cameras after almost two years of usage have greatly exceeded my expectations,” said Darryl D. Perry, Chief of Police of the Kauai Police Department. “Not only have our officers embraced this technology wholeheartedly, but our community has commended KPD for being open and transparent.”
Original cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“It’s a lot harder to beat your opponent when they’re reading your playbook, and it’s even worse when someone on your team gives it to them. If these reports are true, Russia has pulled that off. The men and women of the U.S. Intelligence Community are patriots; but, the NSA needs to get its head out of the sand and solve its contractor problem. Russia is a clear adversary in cyberspace and we can’t afford these self-inflicted injuries.”
“Extending these targeted trade preferences helps boost key American exports and solidifies fragile economies, like Haiti’s, in a crucial region for U.S. security,” said Rubio. “This bill will help reaffirm the U.S. commitment to developing deeper economic relationships with our regional allies, and supporting stable and democratic political institutions in the Caribbean.”
“These trade programs are a lifeline for some of our closest allies, which also happen to be some of the poorest countries in the Caribbean.” said Nelson. “Extending this trade program not only helps provide stability in the region, it also helps the Florida businesses that rely on international trade.”
The bill extends the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), which was established in 2000 to allow certain Caribbean countries to export goods made with U.S. yarns, fabrics and threads into the U.S. duty-free.
Under current law, CBPTA’s preferential trade treatment for these Caribbean countries is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020. This legislation would extend the program through Sept. 30, 2030.
To be eligible for preferential trade treatment under CBTPA, participant countries are required to uphold strict labor standards and help further other various U.S. interests in the region, including countering narcotics trafficking and ending government corruption.
U.S. Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Terri Sewell (D-AL) introduced the companion bill in the House.
“The FSA Loan Guarantee program provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who want to expand and improve their operations,” said Rounds. “Increasing both the individual cap for these loans and the total amount of money available for lending will allow a greater number of producers to utilize the program. Farming and ranching has become increasingly costly. The FSA Loan Guarantee Enhancement Act would more accurately reflect inflation and the increasing costs of agriculture production today, and make sure lenders have the flexibility to allow farmers and ranchers to weather times of economic downturn.”
Specifically, Rounds’ legislation would:
Since it was established in 1979, the authorization amounts and funding for FSA loans have never been increased. The FSA Loan Guarantee Enhancement Act would increase and update the authorization of resources available for these loans for the first time in nearly 40 years. It is supported by the Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA), SD ICBA, the American Bankers Association and the Farm Credit Council.
Reed is introducing the legislation in the wake of several notable instances of negligent behavior by financial institutions - including Wells Fargo’s exploitation of its customers by opening unauthorized accounts and Equifax’s endangering millions of consumers by compromising critical personal information - that continue to undermine public confidence in the financial marketplace.
“Senior executives, many of whom are eager to take credit for a company’s good news, must also take more responsibility for the bad news, especially if it is true that the buck stops with them,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee. “For example, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded ‘the financial crisis reached cataclysmic proportions with the collapse of Lehman Brothers,’ and yet, according to the Congressional Research Service, not a single senior executive officer at Lehman Brothers at the federal level was charged, went to jail, or personally paid a federal fine or penalty for the damage caused at Lehman Brothers that rippled through our economy in 2008. Companies must do a better job of aligning executive incentives so that they are motivated to put their shareholders, and not themselves, first.”
According to Professor Peter J. Henning, who writes for the White Collar Watch column for the New York Times: “A problem in holding individuals accountable for misconduct in an organization is the disconnect between the actual decisions and those charged with overseeing the company, so that executives and corporate boards usually plead ignorance about an issue until it is too late.”
The Corporate Management Accountability Act is one attempt at helping to solve this problem by asking publicly traded companies to disclose whether they expect senior executives or shareholders to pay the cost of corporate fines or penalties.
In the wake of the Wells Fargo scandal, Senator Reed questioned former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf during a Banking Committee hearing and pushed for answers as to why the bank opened up millions of fake bank accounts for customers. In August, after it was revealed that as many as 570,000 Wells Fargo customers may have been charged premiums for unwanted auto insurance they did not need, he joined his fellow committee members (Ranking Member) Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and others in leading the call for a public hearing to review consumer rights violations by Wells Fargo.
In September, after Equifax revealed that unauthorized parties had obtained sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers for as many as 143 million people, Senator Reed led a bipartisan group of 37 senators asking the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the sale of nearly $2 million in Equifax securities held by high-level Equifax executives shortly after the company learned of the massive cybersecurity breach. According to the New York Times, Equifax “increased its estimate on the number of Americans whose personal information was potentially exposed to 145.5 million, some 2.5 million more than it had previously disclosed.”
While current law bans the sale, manufacture and transfer of most automatic weapons, the legislation Nelson filed today with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and others would close a current loophole in the law that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the same rate as automatic weapons.
“I’m a hunter and have owned guns my whole life,” Nelson said, “But these automatic weapons are not for hunting, they are for killing. And this commonsense bill would, at the very least, make it harder for someone to convert a semi-automatic rifle into what is essentially a fully-automatic machine gun.”
The legislation would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. While a typical semi-automatic rifle can fire at a rate of between 45 and 60 rounds per minute, a fully-automatic weapon can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute.
The bill makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. Legitimate accessories used by hunters would be exempt. The bill also contains exceptions for lawful possession of these devices by law enforcement and the government.
“I hear all the time from parents in Connecticut who are struggling to get their kids with dyslexia the attention and special instruction they need,” said Murphy. “These parents often have to fight hard and long before they finally get hold of the proper resources. We need to do better for these families. I’m confident our resolution will help raise awareness about what needs to be done.”
“One in five Americans has dyslexia. By increasing awareness we can help ensure those students receive the evidence-based instruction and resources they need to succeed,” said Cassidy.
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Angus King (I-Maine) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) are also original cosponsors of this resolution.
Read the resolution below:
Calling on Congress, schools, and State and local educational agencies to recognize the significant educational implications of dyslexia that must be addressed and designating
October 2017 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month”.
Whereas dyslexia is—
(1) defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader; and
(2) most commonly caused by a difficulty in phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and often, learn a second language;
Whereas dyslexia is the most common learning disability and affects 80 percent to 90 percent of all individuals with a learning disability;
Whereas dyslexia is persistent and highly prevalent, affecting as many as 1 out of 5 individuals;
Whereas dyslexia is a paradox in that an individual with dyslexia may have both —
(1) weaknesses in decoding that result in difficulties in accurate or fluent word recognition; and
(2) strengths in higher-level cognitive functions, such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, or problem-solving;
Whereas great progress has been made in understanding dyslexia on a scientific level, including the epidemiology and cognitive and neurobiological bases of dyslexia; and
Whereas early screening for and early diagnosis of dyslexia are critical for ensuring that individuals with dyslexia receive focused, evidence-based intervention that leads to fluent reading, promotion of self-awareness and self-empowerment and the provision of necessary accommodations that ensure in school and in life: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) calls on Congress, schools, and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed; and
(2) designates October 2017 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month”.
Just last year, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously (8-0) in favor of Mr. Sturgeon, who has fought his way through federal courts for 10 years to secure justice and his right to have reasonable access to lands and waters in Alaska. His fight has become symbolic of the burdensome and unwarranted use restrictions the federal government has sought to apply in Alaska in recent years.
“This is a hard punch in the gut. Eighteen months ago, the nation’s highest court rejected what it called the Ninth Circuit’s ‘topsy-turvy approach’ to Mr. Sturgeon’s case, sending it back for further proceedings,” Murkowski said. “Unfazed, the same judge on the Ninth Circuit has announced a follow-on decision that again denies Mr. Sturgeon his rights. This is an affront to all Alaskans, and yet another example of a court that is deeply out of touch with both the law and the people. This decision cannot be allowed to stand.”
Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Along with Sen. Dan Sullivan, also R-Alaska, she is cosponsoring S. 296, a bill to reform the present division of the federal Courts of Appeals. Murkowski believes the Ninth Circuit should be split into two courts so that Alaskans have at least a chance of laws, such as the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, being fairly interpreted and applied in their legal proceedings.
“This is a dangerous and irresponsible step backward in our fight to combat climate disruption and protect our families’ health. It formalizes exactly what I feared: that the Trump administration is recklessly unwilling to act on one of the greatest challenges of our time.
“Already we are seeing the cost of climate disruption in longer and more dangerous wildfire seasons and record-breaking hurricanes that threaten our health, economy and way of life. Yet the Trump administration continues to ignore the facts on the ground and refuses to act. America must display bold global leadership in taking on this challenge, not shameful obstruction.
“Today at an Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee confirmation hearing, I asked Bill Wehrum, the EPA nominee who would be tapped with scrapping the Clean Power Plan, a very basic question: is human activity causing climate change? Shockingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, he used the same line every nominee of this administration seems to use: it's an 'open question.’ Wehrum refused to give a straight answer. I will do everything in my power to block his nomination and protect the Clean Power Plan.”
“How many lives need to be senselessly taken across our nation at the hands of a gun before the United States Congress wakes up and takes common sense steps to protect the public’s safety,” said Sen. Menendez. “What happened in Las Vegas is an unspeakable tragedy, but it is inexcusable for this Congress to remain silent in its aftermath. When 49 people in an Orlando nightclub were brutally slaughtered, it was time to act. When 20 young, defenseless children in a Connecticut elementary school were tragically gunned down, it was time to act. It was time to act after every mass shooting in America, and it’s time to act now after its worst. Large-capacity magazines have one singular purpose—to kill as many people as possible. They have no place in a civil society and must be banned to protect a weapon of mass murder getting in the hands of a killer.”
The Keep Americans Safe Act is cosponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Sen. Menendez introduced a similar measure, the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, in 2015.
“There’s no good reason that high-capacity magazines, in some instances capable of storing as many as 100 rounds, should be available to the public,” said Sen. Booker. “Our country is a model for others in so many ways, but not when it comes to our broken gun laws. We must do the things that are necessary to make us safer and this bill is an obvious step in the right direction. Every day we fail to enact common sense gun safety measures brings death, injury, and heartbreak to countless American families and communities.”
“Limiting the size of magazines can give law enforcement an opportunity to stop a shooter who is on a rampage,” Sen. Kaine said. “We should pass this commonsense bill and other measures to curb deadly gun violence like the tragic shooting in Las Vegas this week. For too long, Congress has don’t nothing to stop these horrific events. We must do better.”
“Large-capacity magazines are not needed for sport shooting or to hunt deer; they are only meant to kill people – and they do far too often in this country. We need to do everything in our power to stop the carnage of these shootings. There are common sense steps we can take now, steps that are supported by an overwhelming number of Americans, including gun-owners, that can help break the cycle of callous disregard for the victims of gun violence,” said Sen. Cardin. “More talk and more prayers will not save lives. Only action and real changes in our federal and state laws can.”
“Large-capacity magazines exist for a single purpose: inflicting the most lethal damage possible in the shortest period of time,” Sen. Blumenthal said. There is no rational reasoning behind legalizing access to this degree of deadliness. It is long past time we ban large capacity ammunition. It is the very least we can do to keep our children, coworkers, and neighbors safe.”
“In the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas, our country has united to grieve the lives we’ve lost. But it’s also time for us to work together to stop the terrible toll of gun violence in our country,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “We need to take common sense steps – like prohibiting large capacity magazines. Our thoughts and prayers won’t end the bloodshed and save lives. It’s time to put politics aside and take action to stop this epidemic of gun violence.”
“Like many Americans, I was horrified that one individual could inflict so much carnage in Las Vegas this past weekend, and that he could do it in a matter of minutes,” Sen. Carper said. “Large-capacity magazines make dangerous weapons even more deadly, and we’ve had to endure the loss of too many innocent lives because of their use. It’s time for Congress to use common sense to update our gun laws, and restoring the ban on these dangerous devices is an important step toward much-needed reform.”
“The higher the bullet count, the higher the death count. Large capacity magazines are about causing mass carnage. We need to end the sale of these weapons of mass destruction before any more tragedies occur,” said Sen. Markey.
“What happened in Las Vegas is a national tragedy—and one that we seem to keep repeating. In Las Vegas, the killer was able to wound or kill nearly 600 people in less than ten minutes. We must do everything we can to prevent people from being able to accomplish so much destruction in such a short period of time,” Sen. Sanders said. “While it is too late for the victims in Las Vegas, Newtown and Charleston, it is not too late to prevent the next set of innocent Americans from becoming victims.”
“Congress must finally stand up to the gun industry and protect Americans from horrific gun violence like we saw in Las Vegas,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “These weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible as rapidly as possible, and that includes high-capacity magazines that let violent killers fire dozens of rounds without having to frequently stop and reload. We must take gun violence as seriously as we take the threat of terrorism, and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to support this legislation to keep our country safe.”
“I urge my colleagues to join us in putting an end to the epidemic of mass shootings in our country,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. “The Keeping Americans Safe Act is a commonsense bill that will help address one part of this senseless violence. Until we take action, it’s only a matter of time until the next tragedy.”
Full text of the Keep Americans Safe Act can be downloaded here. In addition to prohibiting large-capacity ammunition magazines, the bill includes the following provisions:
“Large capacity magazines have no place in our communities. Hunters don't use them. Killers use them to hurt as many people as they can, as fast as they can. Large capacity magazines are a threat to all of us, and to our often outgunned law enforcement community. That is why Brady is proud to support this legislation,” said Brady Campaign Co-President Avery Gardiner.
In addition to Las Vegas, high-capacity magazines have been used in some of the country’s most horrific mass shootings:
Sen. Menendez has a long history of supporting common sense gun safety measures, including closing background check loopholes, banning bump stock devices, and preventing those on the Terror Watch List from purchasing guns and explosives. He cosponsored measures to ban large-capacity magazines in the 112th, 113th and 114th Congresses.
“Recent news reports have underscored the vast extent of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at dividing Americans and influencing the 2016 presidential election. Among the thousands of online advertisements reportedly purchased by Russian entities over the last year is a photo falsely suggesting I met with the leaders of ISIS, which has no basis in truth and has been debunked by every major fact-checker. Other advertisements purchased by the Russians during the 2016 election sought to fuel racial divisions, stoke fear of immigrants and refugees, and undermine support for U.S. foreign policy.
“These Kremlin-backed advertisements are just one element of Vladimir Putin’s long-term goal of undermining democracies around the world. Putin’s Russia has no meaningful allies, so it seeks to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other. Putin knows that his power and influence is inferior to ours, so he seeks to subvert us, erode our will to resist, and terrorize us into passivity. Putin knows he has little to offer the world beyond selfishness and fear, so he seeks to undermine our confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.
“We know that Putin’s Russia has not slowed its efforts to interfere in our elections and domestic affairs. The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue working to address this challenge, which is a threat to our national security.”
“To anyone who says that taking action now to address gun safety is ‘too soon’, it’s already too late for at least 59 people in Las Vegas,” said Senator Markey. “We need to pass commonsense gun legislation that keeps these weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them. The Handgun Trigger Safety Act utilizes technology to ensure that only authorized users can operate a gun. We have technology that requires a fingerprint to operate an iPhone; we should do the same for a handgun. Smart gun technology is smart gun safety policy.”
The Handgun Trigger Safety Act would support the use of personalization (or smart gun) technology that allows the purchaser of a gun to designate authorized user(s) who can operate the gun and would make the gun inoperable for all others. Personalized handguns are already sold overseas and have been available in the United States since 2011.
Specifically, the Handgun Trigger Safety Act would:
SENATORS INTRODUCE “NO CHECK, NO SALE” BILL TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE ALLOWING GUN SALES WITHOUT A COMPLETED BACKGROUND CHECK
"Background checks can help keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them," said Markey. "If you cannot pass a background check, you should not be able to buy a gun, period. As the tragedy in Charlestown made clear, giving law enforcement the time to perform a full background check could help save lives."
“No check, no sale must be the rule. When Dylann Roof walked into a gun store two years ago, he shouldn’t have been able to walk out with a weapon. But a loophole in current law allowed Dylann Roof – and thousands of others like him every year – to access weapons they are already legally ineligible to buy. Waiting for a background check, even if longer than 72 hours, is a minor inconvenience far outweighed by the benefit of keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Blumenthal.
“If you can’t pass a background check, you shouldn’t be able to walk out of a store with a gun. As we saw in Charleston, this loophole allows dangerous people to get their hands on deadly weapons – it has literally cost innocent lives. This is a commonsense bill to give law enforcement the time it needs before a gun leaves the store,” said Murphy.
“Current law allows gun sales to proceed after 72 hours—even if background checks aren’t approved. This is dangerous loophole that could allow criminals and those with mental illness to complete their purchase of firearms even though it would be unlawful for them to possess them,” said Feinstein. “The shooter in Charleston who killed nine parishioners of Emmanuel AME Church would have failed his background check if the law had allowed it to be completed. Our commonsense proposal will ensure all background checks are completed before sales can move forward.”
When a criminal background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale even though there is a heightened risk that the purchaser is legally disqualified from purchasing a gun.
The Background Check Completion Act would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer.
The Background Check Completion Act is co-sponsored by: U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
SENATOR MARKEY JOINS BLUMENTHAL, MURPHY & SCHIFF TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO GIVE GUN VICTIMS THEIR DAY IN COURT AND END GUN INDUSTRY’S LIABILITY SHIELD
In 2005, Congress passed PLCAA, which provides immunity in state and federal court from civil liability for manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of firearms, as well as their trade associations, in most negligence and products liability actions. This immunity from liability under well-established common law principles that apply to everyone else in society is unique to the gun industry. As a result, gun makers and sellers have a lesser obligation to act with reasonable care for the safety of the public. It also means that gun sellers can turn a blind eye to straw purchasers or traffickers who may buy hundreds of weapons and traffick them to others with no background check whatsoever. As most gun companies are responsible businesses, this immunity only protects the worst actors in the industry.
"It's time to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and take away the gun manufacturers’ immunity from civil liability," said Senator Markey. "We want PLCAA to stand for Protecting Lives, Creating Arms Accountability. No other industry has this 'Get out of jail free' card when its products kill thousands of Americans each year."
“When ten Sandy Hook families courageously took the manufacturer and distributor of the AR-15 used in that horrific tragedy to court, the deceptively named Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was used as a complete barrier to their pursuit of justice. That’s because under current law – and unlike virtually every other manufacturer of consumer products – the gun industry cannot be sued by consumers who are harmed by their products,” Blumenthal said. “Our simple measure will give victims of gun violence their day in court and unlock the doors to justice —repealing the sweetheart deal that Congress granted to the gun lobby.”
“Making the gun industry immune from lawsuits effectively handed them a license to kill,” said Murphy. “Toy manufacturers are held legally responsible if their neglect or irresponsibility hurts people, so why on earth aren’t gun manufacturers? I challenge my colleagues to put the safety of our constituents ahead of the gun lobby’s interests and support this bill. Repealing gun industry immunity will encourage gun manufacturers to make safer products, and it will save lives.”
“Our nation is plagued by an epidemic of mass shootings and everyday gun violence. While not every murderous act can be prevented by any single measure, we should use a comprehensive approach that includes holding the gun industry accountable when it acts negligently, just as we do with other industries.” Rep. Schiff said. “This bill would pierce the gun industry’s liability shield by putting an end to the special protections the gun industry receives when they shirk their fundamental responsibility to act with reasonable care for the public safety.”
When Congress passed the PLCAA, its supporters argued that it was necessary to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits, but that victims of gun violence would not be shut out of the courts. Senator Larry Craig, the sponsor of the legislation and at the time a member of the NRA’s board, stated during debate on the Senate floor, “This bill will not prevent a single victim from obtaining relief for wrongs done to them by anyone in the gun industry.” In reality, numerous cases around the nation have been dismissed on the basis of PLCAA even when the gun dealers and manufacturers acted in a fashion that would qualify as negligent if it involved any other product. Victims in these cases were denied the right to even discover or introduce evidence of negligence.
This legislation allows civil cases to go forward against irresponsible bad actors. Letting courts hear these cases would provide justice to victims while creating incentives for responsible business practices that would reduce injuries and deaths.
“Every pay period, hard-working Americans choose to defer their hard-earned wages in order to earn pension benefits for their retirement. That pension gives them a piece of mind that their future, and their family’s future, will be funded, taken care of, and without worry,” Senator Manchin said. “However, companies that file for bankruptcy are frequently relieved of their obligation to give pensions back to their workers and are able to use the money that should have funded those workers’ hard-earned retirement benefits for other bankruptcy costs. Retired employees are left high and dry with no other way to pay for their bills through no fault of their own. This is not just or right and it’s not the American way. I am proud to introduce this legislation that will make sure companies that file for bankruptcy keep their promises to their workers first.”
When employer sponsors of pension plans fail to make required contributions to these pensions and go bankrupt, current law provides a priority claim for unpaid pension contributions. However, these priority claims are only necessary for contributions due within 180 days before a bankruptcy filing, and up to $10,000 per worker. These claims must also compete with other priority claims for payment in the event of an employer bankruptcy.
A large portion of American workers feel the impact of cut pension benefits. According to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation’s 2016 Annual Report and 2015 Multiemployer Guarantee Study, over 146,000 workers experienced cuts in their pension benefits as a result of employer bankruptcies in 2016 alone.
“By introducing POWA, we are ensuring workers, the backbone of our nation’s economy, that they will receive their hard earned pensions,” Senator Manchin said. “Companies enter bankruptcy for a number of reasons, but the decisions that lead to this unfortunate outcome are made by management, not workers. Yet, far too often, workers bear the brunt of the bankruptcy pain by sacrificing their hard-earned pension benefits. This bill remedies the problem, and gives assurance to our laborers that they won’t be left to suffer in the event of a bankruptcy.”
“American bankruptcy laws are a travesty for working families, who are left with nothing when a company goes bankrupt while the big banks and corporate executives walk away with millions. It is long past time for Congress to take action to reform bankruptcy laws. Senator Manchin's bill takes a huge step toward leveling the playing field for workers, and we support it wholeheartedly,” said Cecil Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America.
The POWA would change bankruptcy practices to benefit workers who paid toward a pension at a company filing for bankruptcy. This is accomplished by:
Its companion was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Donald Norcross (D-NJ).
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), David Perdue (R-GA), and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced legislation to strengthen criminal intent protections in federal law. Their bill, the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2017, would set a default intent standard for all criminal laws and regulations that lack such a standard. This legislation would ensure that courts and creative prosecutors do not take the absence of a criminal intent standard to mean that the government can obtain a conviction without any proof a guilty mind.
“Rampant and unfair overcriminalization in America calls for criminal justice reform, which starts with default mens rea legislation,” Sen. Hatch said. “Requiring proof of criminal intent protects individuals from prison time or other criminal penalties for accidental conduct or for activities they didn’t know were wrong. In recent years, Congress and federal agencies have increasingly created crimes with vague or unclear criminal intent requirements or with no criminal intent requirement at all. The Mens Rea Reform Act will help correct that problem and ensure that honest, hardworking Americans are not swept up in the criminal justice system for doing things they didn’t know were against the law.”
“Prosecutors should have to show a suspect had a guilty mind, not just that they committed an illegal act, before an American is put behind bars,” Sen. Lee said. “Unfortunately our federal laws contain far too many provisions that do not require prosecutors to prove a defendant intended to commit a crime. The result is criminal justice system that over penalizes innocent acts which only undermines the rule of law."
“I’m proud to join Sen. Hatch in addressing one of the biggest flaws in our modern criminal justice system,” Sen. Cruz said. “Currently, the federal government can send men and women to prison without demonstrating criminal intent. As Congress works to address criminal justice reform, the Mens Rea Reform Act needs to be enacted to protect the rights of all Americans.”
Statements of Support
John Malcolm, Vice President for the Institute for Constitutional Government and Director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Heritage Foundation:
Senator Hatch deserves a lot credit for keeping the issue of mens rea reform on the front burner. Mens rea reform is a matter of fundamental fairness. By having adequate mens rea standards, we ensure that moral blameworthiness is front and center in our criminal justice system. The intent of the actor should make a difference in whether he is criminally prosecuted or is dealt with through the civil or administrative justice systems. We should not be so cavalier about labeling someone a criminal, with all of the collateral consequences that flow from that, when someone does something unwittingly that causes harm. Restoring moral blameworthiness to greater prominence in our criminal laws will revitalize our criminal justice system and preserve its moral authority, which, in turn, will engender respect for the rule of law.
Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL):
NACDL lauds this important solution among several solutions that it actively supports to help address the fundamental imbalances and the destructive consequences of this country’s criminal justice system. Its members urge Congress to support Senator Hatch’s continued commitment to this fundamental principle of fairness.
David Patton, Executive Director and Attorney-in-Chief, Federal Defenders of New York, Inc.:
As Federal Defenders, we are acutely aware of the need for mens rea reform. Over 80 percent of people charged with federal crimes are too poor to afford a lawyer, and nearly 80 percent of people charged with federal crimes are Black, Hispanic, or Native American. These are our clients, and too many of them are subject to laws that are neither fair nor consistent with traditional principles of criminal liability. This bill would help to remedy some of those failings.
Efforts to reform mens rea intent requirements for federal criminal statutes are supported by the US Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, Koch Industries, and many others.
Washington, D.C. - October 5, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Walter B. Jones and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley are calling for full public disclosure of documents pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Today, Jones and Grassley introduced companion resolutions to accomplish just that. The first, H. Res. 556 in the House and S. Res. 281 in the Senate, calls on the President of the United States to allow the release of all remaining documents currently held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and reject any efforts to postpone their release. The second, H. Res. 557 and S. Res. 282, commends NARA and its employees for working to release those records by October 26, 2017, the date established by the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.
“To me, the tragedy that took place in Dallas continues to raise many questions that go unanswered,” said Jones. “After 54 years, there is no reason, for the sake of honesty and integrity in America, that the facts of the JFK assassination should not be made public. Virgil once said, ‘Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.’ It’s time to reveal what happened that awful afternoon in 1963.”
“Transparency in government is critical not only to ensuring accountability; it’s also essential to understanding our nation’s history. The assassination of President Kennedy occurred at a pivotal time for our nation, and nearly 54 years later, we are still learning the details of how our government responded and what it may have known beforehand. Americans deserve a full picture of what happened that fateful day in November 1963. Shining a light on never-before-seen government records is essential to filling in these blank spaces in our history,” Grassley said.
“I am proud to cosponsor Chairman Grassley’s resolutions calling on the Trump Administration to publicly disclose all government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – as required by a 1992 law authored by my good friend, the late Senator John Glenn,” responded Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate cosponsor. “The assassination of President Kennedy was one of the most shocking and tragic events in our nation’s history. Americans have the right to know what our government knows. Transparency is crucial for our country to fully reckon with this national tragedy, and that is the purpose of these resolutions. Chairman Grassley and I both believe that a government of, by, and for the people simply cannot be one that needlessly hides information from them, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to make our democracy ever more transparent to the American people.”
"Twenty-five years ago, both Houses of Congress unanimously passed a bill mandating that these records would be released this month. It is time for the National Archives to do what it was directed to do and release these documents," said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, an original cosponsor.
Several academics with research interests in the life of President Kennedy are also calling on the release of all classified documents.
"Historians and political scientists have been patiently waiting for this information for many years. If the full true story is to be told, then the full release of these files is essential," said UVA Professor Larry J. Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Surely, 54 years of hidden secrets is more than enough. It's time to bring all the facts into the bright sunshine of public disclosure."
Additional House cosponsors include Representatives Dana Rohrbacher, John Conyers, Matt Gaetz, Gerald Connolly and Marcy Kaptur.
Klobuchar, Blunt Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Address Confidentiality of Victims of Domestic Violence
Washington, D.C. - October 5, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the address confidentiality of victims of domestic violence. Address Confidentiality Programs provide a confidential substitute mailing address for victims of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, sexual assault, and stalking who have relocated to a residence unknown to their abuser or stalker. Currently, thirty-six states have established these programs to help victims keep their true address undisclosed to their perpetrators. The Safeguarding Addresses from Emerging (SAFE) at Home Act would ensure that federal agencies and federal courts recognize state created Address Confidentiality Programs. Last week, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon joined Klobuchar and Blunt in Washington to announce the legislation.
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve been focused on helping victims of domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking break free from abuse,” said Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan legislation would provide survivors with the peace of mind of knowing that their addresses are confidential as they work to rebuild their lives.”
“For over a decade, Minnesota’s Safe at Home program has been one of the strongest in the nation and has played a leading role in assisting others states develop address confidentiality programs,” said Secretary Simon. “Safe at Home offers critical life-saving services to so many women, men, children and families. The support and work being done by Sen. Klobuchar to ensure these protections are guaranteed at the federal level is not only necessary, but it will save lives.”
Specifically, the SAFE at Home Act would:
<li>Ensure that federal agencies and federal courts accept the designated address as an Address Confidentiality Program participant’s actual physical address when creating a new public record.
<li>Allow Address Confidentiality
<li>Program participants to provide their designated address to any federal agency without being charged with the crime of giving a false statement or information in regards to the address they provide.
<li>Clarify that no federal agency or court may obtain an Address Confidentiality
<li>Program participant’s actual physical address without first complying with the requirements set forth by the state in which the participant is enrolled.
<li>Set requirements that if a federal agency or court obtains a participant’s actual physical address, the participant’s actual physical address shall not be public record and shall be kept confidential and exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are cosponsors of the legislation.
The SAFE at Home Act has been endorsed by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Klobuchar is a national leader in the fight to combat human trafficking and prevent domestic violence. Earlier this month, the bipartisan Abolish Human Trafficking Act she introduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) passed the Senate. The legislation strengthens and reauthorizes key programs that support survivors of human trafficking and provide resources to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the front lines of the fight against modern-day slavery. The bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act Klobuchar and Cornyn introduced with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also recently passed the Senate. The legislation would establish and reauthorize critical programs to prevent human trafficking, promote justice for survivors, provide services to victims, and increase federal coordination to enhance the federal government’s response to the crisis of exploitation. In addition, Klobuchar and Cornyn authored the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a 2015 law that increased the resources and tools available for combating human trafficking in the United States. The law ensures that American law enforcement is equipped to fight this crime, while helping victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against their exploiters to fund restorative services and compensation.
Klobuchar was also a cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which contained many important changes to the previous law, such as consolidating duplicative programs and streamlining others; providing greater flexibility for how communities use resources; and including new training requirements for people providing legal assistance to victims.
HOUSE PASSES PORTMAN-KAINE BILL TO PROMOTE EARLY HEARING DETECTION IN NEWBORNS, INFANTS & YOUNG CHILDREN
Washington, D.C. - October 5, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, today announced that the House of Representatives passed their bipartisan Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, legislation that will reauthorize current research and improve public health programs for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children. The Senate passed the bill on September 6, 2017. The measure is now headed to the president’s desk for his signature.
“Early hearing detection is critical because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech development, cognitive skills, and social skills,” said Portman. “This bill takes important steps to improve early hearing detection and intervention for newborns, infants, and young children. I am pleased my House colleagues acted quickly on this important legislation, and I urge the president to sign it into law.”
“This bill will help kids by strengthening health programs that can detect, diagnose, and address hearing loss. I’m proud we were able to get our bipartisan bill passed by Congress so it can start making a difference in the lives of families in Virginia.” Kaine said. “I was glad to join Senator Portman on this important piece of legislation and look forward to the President swiftly signing this into law.”
“The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is pleased that the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) legislation has passed in the House and Senate and is headed to the president’s desk,” said ASHA President Gail Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP. “We are grateful for the efforts of Senators Portman and Kaine as well as Congressmen Guthrie and Matsui in promoting this legislation. The EHDI program has been successful in ensuring hearing screening at birth for more than 97 percent of all newborns. This legislation will build on the success of the program and place more emphasis on ensuring that those identified with a hearing loss receive the care they need.”
NOTE: The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act reauthorizes current research and public health activities related to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns and infants. In addition, to ensure the continued success of existing early hearing detection and intervention programs, the bill makes a number of key improvements. Specifically, this bill expands early hearing detection and intervention programs to include young children, improves access to appropriate follow-up and intervention services when hearing loss is identified, and clarifies the roles of the Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Specifically, this legislation:
· Authorizes development of programs for hearing screening of newborns, infants, and young children;
· Authorizes prompt evaluation and diagnosis of children referred from screening programs;
· Provides for educational, audiological, and medical interventions for children confirmed to be deaf or hard-of-hearing;
· Allows education and medical models to ensure that newborns, infants, and young children who are identified through hearing screening receive follow up by qualified early intervention providers, qualified health care providers, or pediatric medical homes; and
· Continues research and development for early hearing detection and intervention, including development of technologies and clinical studies of screening methods.
A wide variety of groups support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance, the American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Hands and Voices, Schools for the Deaf, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, and AG Bell.