Friday, April 26, 2013

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. Presents: The Paycheck Reduction Act...In Song

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Conyers Co-Sponsors Legislation Boosting Mental Health Access to Veterans

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) co-sponsored the bipartisan “Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act,” introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa). Currently, veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status.  This legislation would eliminate that five-year waiting period and allow veterans to seek treatment for mental illnesses stemming from service, regardless of when their conditions arise. Following his co-sponsorship of the bill, Rep. Conyers issued this statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“It is an appalling figure, yet unfortunately 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. Sixty years after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established, it is time for Congress to renew its commitment to providing the men and women who served our nation - from Detroit and all across the country - with the healthcare services they earned," said Conyers.

“Currently the VA provides healthcare treatment and services to veterans who suffer from service-related mental or physical disabilities. Typically, the diagnosis of physical injuries is made before or shortly after separation from the military. However, mental illnesses may not arise until years later. In addition, some serious mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As the United States armed forces and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses. Fortunately, the ‘Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act’ will go a long way towards ensuring that the services and treatments relating to mental health that are available to recently discharged veterans are also made available to all who served.”

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Conyers Issues Application Reminder for COPS Hiring Program

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the application period for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program (CHP) opens for interested participants. CHP is a grant program within the Department of Justice that offers funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire additional officers to bolster community policing measures. The deadline for participating in CHP’s competitive grant program is 7:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Following the application announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“As the grant application window re-opens for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program (CHP), I strongly encourage all interested local law enforcement agencies to apply for funding before the May 22nd deadline,” said Conyers.

“Since the program was established in 1994, CHP has been a tremendous boon to the Detroit metropolitan area and surrounding suburbs. Through CHP’s competitive grant program, local law enforcement agencies have been able to hire new full-time officers and re-hire officers who had been laid off due to city-wide budget cuts. In addition, the hiring process affords priority consideration to veterans and school resource officers.

“While CHP grant funding is limited, this program has nonetheless played a critical role in reducing both crime and unemployment in our community. For these reasons, I hope that local law enforcement agencies will take advantage of this opportunity before the grant application window closes next month.”

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Conyers Applauds National Endowment for the Arts Grant Recipients

Grant Recipients Include Allied Media Projects, InsideOut Literary Arts Projects, Inc., and the University of Detroit Mercy

(DETROIT) – Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announced its second round of grants for 2013. Three of the grants will go to projects in Michigan’s 13th congressional district. The grants awarded in this funding cycle total over $26 million and will go to over 800 organizations in 46 states. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The grants awarded today total over $100,000 and will go to support programs for multimedia performance, literacy, and cultural activities in the city.

“These grants will help support projects in the district that involve the creation and presentation of artistically excellent work.

“I am proud that creativity is continuing to be encouraged despite the drastic cuts to arts funding that we are seeing around the country.

“I encourage more of my constituents to seek funding for their art programs through the National Endowment for the Arts.”

The programs that received grants are Allied Media Projects, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, Inc. and the University of Detroit Mercy. Constituents in search of guidelines or information about upcoming grants should visit

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Conyers to Speaker Boehner: Appoint Budget Conferees Today

(WASHINGTON) – Following passage of budgets in both the House and Senate, Congress was obligated by law to pass a reconciled final budget by April 15th of this year. For the House and Senate budgets to be reconciled, the Speaker of the House must appoint budget conferees to negotiate. Marking a week ago today that the budget deadline passed, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“It is now exactly a week past the legal deadline for Congress to have submitted a final budget to the President. This is entirely unacceptable. Rather than have Congress abdicate its duty, I urge Speaker Boehner to appoint budget conferees today to finish the budgeting process,” said Conyers.

“As Congress and the Obama administration work to strengthen the economy, it is essential that we have a budgetary framework that guides our investments and informs our values. A fair, forward-thinking budget will go a long way towards creating good-paying jobs as well as shoring up the middle class.

“The House and Senate have already acted, and with the so-called budgetary ‘sequester’ beginning to take a serious toll on the economic well-being of the country, it is time to produce a final budget. Only by appointing budget conferees can Speaker Boehner allow Congress to get back to the people’s work.”

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Michigan Attempts To Drug Test Civili Rights

Michigan wants to drug test welfare recipients.  If it is suspected a welfare recipient is abusing
substances, there are penalties, ultimately 12-month ban from the program.

This sounds logical but let's examine Michigan legislators' lack of analytical forecasting of costs.

Abuse v. use: there must be consideration between the terms of "abuse" and "use"; there are no legal definitions.  If the bill is relying upon the Social Welfare Act, then any positive test result becomes an indicator of "abuse".  Then there are the false positive test.  This means there will be substantial cost in developing departmental policy in administration.

Contract monitoring: Typically, substance abuse facilities are contracted in bulk by the state.  With large volumes of referrals, there are group rates.  The bill calls for the welfare recipient to pay the costs of the testing, taken out of the FIP benefits, but there should be concerns if the testing will be billed to other federally funded programs like Medicaid.  This becomes an issue of double-billing and a false claim, further putting the state at-risk of being penalized, again.

Suspicion v. profiling: There is no mention of retesting or even challenge to the authority of the decision to be referred to testing.  What training is provided and what are the qualifications?  Is it strictly "suspicion-based" or by any other name called socio-economic-profiling?   The question of what is to be considered as a substance can be profiled to particular groups.  Could it be cigarettes?  Could it be alcohol?  Could it be prescription drugs?  Could it be medical marijuana?  It does not matter as the referral is not about "controlled" substances.  Since there is no difference between "abuse" and "use", any referral could be considered situationally punitive.

Administrative redress:  Because of the omission of redress from the Bill and the pathetic operations of the Administrative Law Judge ,  It would be remiss not to mention that administrative law does not recognize civil rights.  The Bill goes further to state that, in the event an individual tests negative for controlled substances, there is no reimbursement for the cost of the test.

Child Protective Services:  In the event there is a referral for testing, pursuant to the Social Welfare Act, there is mandator referral to Child Protective Services which would lead to automatic state intervention. To make a long story short, as the rate of substance abuse referrals increase, there will be an immediate, perfect correlation with the rate of child abuse referrals.  Michigan is already under a settlement agreement with regard to its child welfare operations and has even been federally financially penalized for its poor operations and treatment of children.  

With the prediction of more children being placed under state jurisdiction, this violates the Section 1915 of home-based/community-based services where the state will loose more funds and the state costs of providing out-of-home services will put another huge burden upon taxpayers.

Legal fees:  I see salivating attorneys waiting to lodge civil rights legal challenges against the state.  I see SCOTUS filings.

Michigan lawmakers back changes to welfare benefits that include 

Some low-income Michigan families would have to pass drug tests and make sure their children don't miss too many days of school in order to qualify for welfare benefits, under legislation being considered by the state Legislature. 

Supporters say the bills, taken up by the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee this past week, are designed to protect against the misuse of taxpayer dollars and boost school attendance.

But some say the measures unfairly penalize low-income families without addressing the deeper problems.

 "It's hard for me to really understand what the impetus is for this myriad of bills ... that seem to want to punish welfare recipients," said Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

 Legislation recently approved by the committee and now heading to the House floor would allow for suspicion-based substance abuse screening and testing for people applying for and receiving benefits in the family independence assistance program.

The Department of Human Services would start screening in certain, yet-to-be determined, counties next April. Republican Rep. Jeff Farrington of Utica said he introduced the bill after hearing from constituents who were concerned their taxpayer dollars were being used to pay for drugs.

The department says the proposal isn't about saving money, but helping those on assistance get clean. Under a recent change in the bill — which Farrington said was encouraged by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration — people who test positive for the first time would be referred to a substance abuse treatment center and would continue receiving benefits throughout their treatment. But if they drop out of the treatment or test positive for a second time, their assistance would be dropped, Farrington said.

 "They had their chance," Farrington said. "If they don't want to take that opportunity to get back on the right track, then they don't deserve to have the cash assistance."

 Cassandra Walker is a volunteer with the Westside Mothers Welfare Rights Organization in Detroit, which helps people navigate the state's welfare system. Walker, who spent four years on welfare, called the proposal a personal swipe at the poor and an invasion of privacy. She said families use cash assistance to pay for items such as rent and utility bills.

The average monthly benefit for a family of three is $492 a month, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy. "The money is not being wasted," Walker said. "There are some cases where it might, but that happens the same way in government. I bet that's happening in Lansing," she said. 

Jacobs said addressing substance abuse problems is important and acknowledged that people often have to be drug-tested before starting a new job. But she said the state must ensure that substance abuse centers are well-funded so people don't lose their benefits because they can't receive the help they need.

Another bill, which has yet to be voted on in committee, would strip a family of benefits in the family independence program if a child under the age of 16 doesn't meet school attendance requirements.

DHS put the policy in place in October, but this bill would write the policy into law to ensure it continues in future governors' administrations. "This is a priority of the (Snyder) administration, to ensure that education remains a prime mover for helping our children escape the grip of generational poverty, and to that end having current policy supported strongly by the force of law would be a benefit moving forward with combating truancy statewide," department spokesman Dave Akerly said in an email.

 It's meant to provide an incentive for families to send their children to school, but DHS officials told the committee it is too early to say whether the new policy has impacted school attendance rates. 

Walker said parents sometimes have little control over whether their teenagers are actually making it into the classroom. "If the child is absent so many days, the whole family gets turned off of benefits," she said. "How much sense does that make?" 

Excessive school absences are not exclusive to one socio-economic class and therefore shouldn't be treated as solely an issue for lower-income families, Jacobs said.

 "If we truly want to address keeping children in school, there are other ways to do it and not this punitive measure," Lisa Ruby, a public benefits attorney for the Michigan Poverty Law Program, told the committee. She suggested implementing innovative programs that make children want to come to school, but that takes funding.

 Lawmakers say the measure is not meant to punish families or save the state money. "It's about saving kids, saving lives and putting kids in the best position to be successful," said Rep. Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican who is sponsoring the legislation.

 But Walker said she worries about the impact the two measures will have on families that sometimes need state support to get back up on their feet, like after losing a job. "We want to stand up on our own, but some people do need a helping hand," she said.
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Are Michigan Children's Educational and Medical Programs Joining Forces?

It has been brought to my attention by one of my glorious fans that 800 special needs students of the Detroit Public Schools were being “removed” from special needs programs.  As I do not fully understand the entire situation nor have I verified the information presented, I have formatted a basic approach to clarify the concern and identify the issue utilizing my most successful technique: Follow the money.

Reviewing the agenda of the Special Meeting Education Achievement Authority Executive Committee, March 12, 2013, it was found that reference was made to improve: (1) administration; and, (2) special needs enrollment. As documented, keywords became illuminated which crossover into the lexicology of child welfare.   Here is an excerpt of the MEAA minutes:

Dr. Covington introduced Kevin Magin, Executive Vice President or Futures Education, for an overview of the Special Education Report for Futures Education. Mr. Magin reviewed the Special Education Book that was passed out to Board Members titled ‘Transforming Special Education Practices; A Primer for School Administrator’s and Policy Makers’ by Dr. Peter Bittel. He also discussed the following areas:

 IEP Status
Cognitive Impairment – Enrollment Comparison
Special Education Enrollment Percentages (Elementary and High School)
The Inclusion Process – Recommended/Ineligibility
IEP Team Eligibility Determination
Evaluation Completion

Dr. Covington discussed the dis-proportionate number of special education students enrolled as well as the monitoring process.

Chairperson asked if there were any additional questions. There were none.

Member Pickard went back to the Special Education reimbursement formula concerns that were presented earlier and asked about the qualification entitlements of Special Education. Member Roberts discussed the Special Education percentage requirements in reference to the State of Michigan.

Mr. Winfrey introduced Nicole Stallworth and Dr. Keith Stallworth to present their ‘Navigation to Success’ Behavioral Intervention overview in the following areas:

Life Skills Program – Primarily 9th Grade Students in High School at Ford, Mumford, Denby and Pershing

Murphy Elementary/Middle Has a Program as Well
Instructional Modules – Currently in Week 6
Behavioral Assessments for Each Child

Child Welfare, specifically Child Protective Services, uses terms such as “monitoring”. Currently,
Michigan is still under federal monitoring agreement regarding its child welfare services.

One mandate of the federal settlement agreement was to hire 300 more child welfare workers. This severely strained Michigan's DHS budget. DHS went further to put a program called “Pathways to Potential” in Detroit Public Schools. This was a CPS funded program.

Michigan was approved for its SSA Title IV-E waivers and SSA 1915 (Medicaid funding for home-based/community-based services). This funding is uncapped and outside the typical block grant concept, meaning it is a “pay-as-you-go”, or rather, “bill-as-you-go-program”.

Due to budget cuts, DHS had to cut almost 300 of the new CPS workers who are to work in DPS “Pathways” program. Here is a list of plausible reasons 800 DPS students were taken from IEP special needs programs:

  • The youth may be foster children. (It should be noted most foster children do not get IEP tested.)
  • Youth are to be removed from Special Needs classification to be placed under Child Protective Services to access an uncapped, direct federal funding streams of Medicaid TCM and child welfare waivers.
If these assumptions are not completely ruled out, it can safely be stated that an inter-departmental partnership has been formed between DCH, DHS and DOE, under the MEAA to maximize revenue in order to provide services to children in the wake of possible financial federal penalties for the state's failure to comply with grant program goals and the state's failure of sub-receipient monitoring of DPS and Wayne County RESA. Further investigation is necessary.

I do not see a problem with this scenario.  It looks like a major step to reform child welfare.  It actually makes sense.

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HHS Finds Multiple Medicaid False Billing In New York

A similar scheme was, and probably still, operating in Wayne County. Michigan Children and Family Services Division.

The feds have yet to do anything about it.
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Tar Baby Central Registry Of Abuse and Neglect Needs Its Diapers Changed

The main reason the law was changed was because of a lawsuit where the state would never notify an individual that they were placed on the central registry nor provide opportunity to be removed.

In Michigan, an individual is placed on the child abuse central registry about 48 hours after there is a child protection case validated.  This means, even before the child is removed from the home, even before there are charges filed, before an investigation, far before a conviction or dismissal, one is placed on the central registry, typically without notification.

In Michigan, an individual who is tried and convicted, with opportunity to appeal, of sex crimes must register to be placed on the central registry of sex crimes.

In Michigan, lawmakers refuse to play with the tar baby central registry of abuse and neglect.  It would be destruction of one's political career.

It's not just a sticky issue, it also stinks!

Police: Law change makes child abuse hard to track
 — LOS ANGELES (AP) - Law enforcement officers and child welfare advocates are concerned about a little-noticed change to California's child abuse database, saying it could hamper their ability to keep tabs on hundreds of suspected abusers who work with kids outside the home, including teachers, coaches and clergy.

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SCOTUS To Decide What Is An Indian Family

Just as the United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)  there were other cases questioning child welfare law.

One of the issues that did not make it before the one hour window for oral arguments was shuttered was the question of the rights of military.  The father was deployed oversees for war when the State of South Carolina decided he was not considered he and his daughter were not considered to be a family.

The Supreme Court's agenda of this session is heavily seasoned with child welfare cases.  Even though the term may not headline a particular case, child welfare has made it to the national agenda. 

It is time we, as a nation, re-examine how we define child welfare because so far, the country's track record is not looking too good.


Facts of the Case 
When the biological mother of Baby Girl became pregnant she did not live with the father and the father did not support the mother financially. The mother sent the father a text message asking if he would rather pay child support or relinquish his parental rights. He sent a text back, saying that he would relinquish his rights, though he later testified that he thought he was relinquishing his rights only to the mother. The biological father was a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. The biological mother attempted to verify this status, but spelled the father’s name wrong and misrepresented his birthday in the request, so the Nation could not locate the father’s registration. The mother listed Baby Girl’s ethnicity as “Hispanic” instead of “Native American” on the birth certificate. The mother decided to put Baby Girl up for adoption because she had two other children that she struggled to support.
Adoptive Couple, who resided in South Carolina, began adoption proceedings in that state. The Cherokee Nation finally identified the father as a registered member and filed a notice of intervention, stating that Baby Girl was an “Indian Child” under the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The father stated that he did not consent to the adoption and would seek custody of Baby Girl. After trial, the family court denied Adoptive Couple’s petition for adoption and granted custody to the biological father. The court held that the biological father was a “parent” under the ICWA because of his paternity and pursuit of custody as soon as he learned that Baby Girl was being put up for adoption. Adoptive Couple did not follow the procedural directives in the ICWA to obtain the father’s consent prior to initiating adoption proceedings. The Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed.
Can a non-custodial parent invoke ICWA to block an adoption voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent under state law?
Does ICWA define “parent” to include an unwed biological father who has not complied with state law rules to attain legal status as a parent?
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Hamtramck Investigation May Validate Emergency Manager Law

It seems the City of Hamtramck is slated to reluctantly receive an Emergency Manager, again.  What is even more interesting is the fact that the FBI is conducting an investigation into the city's contracts, or rather its questionable procurement process.

Not referencing employment contracts it seems federal investigative findings may comport an Emergency Manager decision to terminate contracts.  Whether or not federal charges are sought have yet to be seen, but is highly speculated.  

In the event there are federal indictments, without discussions of a trial, conviction and appeal, PA 436 would be significantly validated, further dissolving arguments in other pending federal cases challenging the emergency manager law.

Simply put, whatever the outcome of the federal investigation, the fact that there is a federal investigation becomes fodder to terminate contracts.  Hamtramck is a sub-receipient of federal funds and it is the obligation of the state to monitor how the funds are used.  This is the same logic of a state removing a child from the parent for neglect and abuse.  

It should also be taken into consideration that Hamtramck Public Schools has a strong likelihood to also receive an emergency financial manager and become part of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority.

Hamtramck Financial Review Team Appointed By Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a financial review team Wednesday to look at the books of Hamtramck, a city within Detroit.
The appointment under Public Act 436, commonly known as the emergency manager law, follows the Michigan Department of Treasury's preliminary review of the City, which found a "serious financial condition."
Hamtramck was historically a Polish enclave that now has a particularly ethnically-diverse population. The small city is surrounded by Detroit and has faced similar problems, like unemployment, loss of auto jobs and decreased services.
The review was undertaken at the request of city officials, the state said.
According to a Treasury statement, the review team members are:
  • Ed Koryzno, administrator, Office of Fiscal Responsibility (State Treasurer’s designee). Koryzno was previously city manager of Ypsilanti for more than 15 years.

  • Doug Ringler, director, Office of Internal Audit Services within the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) (DTMB's designee). Ringler is a certified public accountant and certified internal auditor.

  • Eric Lupher, director of Local Affairs, Citizens Research Council of Michigan (nominee of the Senate Majority Leader). Lupher has worked for the organization since 1987, most recently on "local government matters, including intergovernmental cooperation, governance issues, and municipal finance."

  • Max Chiddister (nominee of the Speaker of the House of Representatives). Chiddister was formerly the executive director of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, spent 18 years as vice president of government affairs for J.P. Morgan Chase/Bank One and previously served two terms as mayor of Goshen, Ind.

  • Frederick Headen, legal advisor for the Michigan Department of Treasury. Headen worked with the Treasury since 1997. Previously he had a position as legal counsel for the Citizens Research Council.
The Department of Treasury pointed to several problems in Hamtramck, according to a statement. State officials don't believe the City's submitted deficit reduction plan is sufficient, or that it adequately addresses structural debt. Current budgets don't comply with laws about deficit spending. They also have not made $2 million of required pension contributions to avoid problems with cash flow.
In 2012, Hamtramck's City Council fired City Manager William Cooper after he issued a warning about impending payless paydays. At the time, a projected budget shortfall of $2 million prompted speculation that Hamtramck might be the subject of a state takeover.

If Snyder does eventually appoint an emergency manager to Hamtramck, it wouldn't be the first time. It was declared to be in a financial emergency under an older law in 2000, and Louis Schimmel, the current EM of Pontiac, Mich. was appointed Hamtramck's emergency financial manager by Gov. John Engler in 2000. According to an online biography, Schimmel served for five years, during which time he "sold unused assets, out sourced services, resolved numerous long standing legal matters and streamlined city government operations."
The review team has 60 days to determine whether a financial emergency exists in the City of Hamtramck, after which they are allowed to request one 30-day extension.
Under the new emergency manager law PA 436, EMs have extraordinary powers, including the ability to revoke collective bargaining contracts, sell off public assets, impose taxes on residents without a vote and discharge elected officials. The law is an updated version of Public Act 4, which was repealed by voters last November. State legislators passed the new version last December and it took effect in March. During the interim period, an older law was in place that allowed the state to appoint officials with more limited powers, known as emergency financial managers.
Last month, the state appointed Kevyn Orr as emergency manager for Detroit after a financial review team found a severe fiscal emergency. Including Detroit, six Michigan municipalities (as well as three school districts) have emergency managers:
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story identified financial review team appointee Max Chiddister as the executive director of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, as stated in a release from the Michigan Department of Treasury. Chiddister no longer holds the post of executive director as of October 2012, a spokeswoman for the foundation said.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Conyers Votes Against Cybersecurity Bill; Says Congress Must Not Forsake Privacy Protections

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the House of Representatives voted 288 to 127 to pass H.R. 624, the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA). This legislation overrides current privacy laws to permit private companies to share information with the federal government if there is a suspected cyber threat, but does not require the companies to remove unrelated private information of customers from what they turn over. Under the bill, companies would also enjoy broad liability protection.  Following passage of the bill, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“While it is essential that Congress address our nation’s glaring cybersecurity deficiencies, I am disappointed that the House of Representatives passed CISPA, over the veto threat of President Obama, without critical privacy safeguards,” said Conyers.

“In its current form, CISPA would allow the federal government to potentially have access to a private citizen’s email, medical records, and other personal information. Unfortunately, the House did not approve amendments to require companies to use reasonable efforts to remove unrelated private information from what they turn over to the government.” 

“In addition, CISPA contains provisions that limit private companies from liability. If a company makes a poor cybersecurity decision based on information it obtains that harms public, the company would not be held responsible for their actions.
“Our nation faces very real cyber threats, but this bill is not the right way to address them.  Effective cybersecurity legislation must protect our privacy and encourage better cybersecurity practices, but this bill fails to do both.   We must address these shortcomings before a bill reaches the President’s desk.”

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