Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Conyers & Congressional Advocates Announce Creation of Full Employment Caucus

(WASHINGTON) – Today, in response to the ongoing jobs crisis in America, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), José Serrano (D-N.Y.), and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) announced the creation of a Congressional Full Employment Caucus. To end the unacceptably high rate of unemployment and underemployment in the United States - and achieve a truly full employment society - more than 24 million jobs need to be created. The Congressional Full Employment Caucus will serve as a platform and working group for Members dedicated to identifying solutions to our current unemployment crisis and advocating for legislative action. Ultimately, the goal of the Caucus is to realize the dream of a society in which every American who wants to work has the right to some form of employment. After the establishment of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus was finalized, the Representatives in attendance issued the following statement:


Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, joined by their colleagues Congressman Charles Rangel and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, announcing the creation of a Congressional Full Employment Caucus.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “For far too long, the plight of the unemployed and underemployed in the United States has been - at best - ignored by Congress, or encouraged - at worst - by callous austerity-minded policies. When more than 24 million of our family members, friends, and neighbors are out of work, we cannot allow this to continue or become the new normal in America. It is for this reason that I have come together with a coalition of concerned Representatives from all corners of the country to form the Congressional Full Employment Caucus. Together, we will craft legislative responses to address the jobless crisis - like my ‘Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act’ - and serve as advocates, working towards a society in which employment is recognized as a fundamental human right. As Congress shifts its attention to legitimate concerns over gaping income inequality in the United States, we must not forget about the millions of Americans who lack an income to begin with through no fault of their own. Our work with the Congressional Full Employment Caucus will ensure that the unemployment crisis never leaves Congress’s radar until millions of hardworking Americans are able to find work once again.”

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.): “With nearly 30 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, Congress has a moral obligation to make full employment a reality.  We’ve formed this caucus to fight for a 21st Century New Deal. This means making sure there are no more collapsed bridges, contaminated water, or falling positions in global education rankings.  It also means restoring the dignity of work for millions of people.”

Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.): "In America, if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed. When thousands of men and women work full time but need food stamps to put food on their tables, when they can't get health benefits, when they can't get paid sick days, then we must do whatever we can to stand up for them. In his State of the Union Address, the President has reminded the country that, with optimism for the future and action on all of our parts, we can expand economic opportunities for everyone in America. I look forward to work with Members of the Full Employment Caucus to advancing the set of concrete, practical proposals he has laid out to help more Americans find work, and more workers find the economic security they deserve."

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.): As Congressional leaders, we must focus on long-term strategies that put every American back to work. Our country’s economic recovery will not be complete until we eradicate the chronic unemployment that plagues each and every one of our communities. Collectively, this caucus will work hard to ensure that all Americans are fully employed and set on a sustained path to economic prosperity.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.): “The creation of this Caucus provides a crucial platform for our colleagues in Congress and builds on the great efforts of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1977, that I had the honor of working on as a Congressional staffer decades ago. This Caucus will continue that call to justice by working with advocates and job creators, to take an active role in creating the 24 million new jobs needed to end unemployment and underemployment, to reach full employment, and ultimately to grow an economy that works for all and eliminates poverty in America. We all know that the best way to tackle the deficit is full employment, and the best way to lift folks out of poverty is a good paying job. This Caucus will join with other caucuses in Congress, the Out of Poverty Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and others, to reignite the American dream.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas): “Nearly 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers, including the 64,000 Texas residents, lost their unemployment insurance when benefits expired on December 28. I am proud to be a Member of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus – a Caucus that will work diligently and effectively to find solutions to our current unemployment crisis while advocating for any and all legislative strategies to combat the issue at hand.”

Congressman José Serrano (D-N.Y.): “I was proud to join the Full Employment Caucus, to focus on creating and sustaining good jobs. In too many of our communities – particularly the Hispanic and black communities – unemployment is at levels not seen in the rest of the nation since the Great Depression. We cannot rest until people in all communities have access to good jobs as well as the training and skills they need get them. Our nation is stronger when everyone is employed.”

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.): “Even as America’s economy is steadily improving, American workers are being left behind. Congress has a responsibility to change that, which is why I’m proud to join this effort and work towards meaningful legislation that will create jobs, grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”



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Conyers Invites Candace Adams - an Unemployed Constituent - to State of the Union, Underscoring Necessity of Job Creating Policies


House Democrats Urge Immediate Action to Extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

(WASHINGTON) – Today, House Democrats held a press conference, with unemployed guests they had invited to the State of the Union Address, urging Congressional action to extend the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired on December 28th because inadequate action was taken by House and Senate Republicans. Since then, more than 1.6 million Americans nationwide have had benefits cut off and this number continues to grow by 72,000 additional job seeking Americans every week. Following the press conference and prior to the State of the Union Address, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

“Today, I invited a young unemployed constituent of mine, Ms. Candace Adams, to attend the State of the Union Address to put a face on the millions of unemployed Americans who have received little relief from this Congress. Although she is not one of the 1.6 million Americans who have lost access to unemployment insurance, she is one of 5.8 million young Americans who cannot find work, are not in school, and are ineligible to collect benefits because they have never held a job,” Conyers said.  

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) prior to the State of the Union Address standing alongside his invited constituent guest, Candace Adams.
“Ms. Adams returned to school for a master’s degree in Communications in the hopes that an advanced degree would assist in her search, but it was to no avail. Extending emergency unemployment compensation legislation is critical to help Americans pay the bills and feed their families as they look for a job. House and Senate Republicans must work with Democrats to allow a vote so Congress can extend this vital relief for people who worked hard, played by the rules, and lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This lifeline is not only key for these families to make ends meet, but also will help keep up consumer demand to strengthen local businesses.

“Above all, we must look at long-term solutions to lead this country back to an era of full employment, and put 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans back to work so that they do not have to rely on unemployment insurance. It is long past time for Congress to focus on policies that will create jobs to put all hardworking Americans back to work while rebuilding our communities. My full employment legislation, H.R. 1000, the ‘Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act’ would be a perfect place to start.”

At the end of December, 1.3 million Americans lost unemployment insurance, which has now risen to 1.6 million Americans. This included 43,311 Michiganders in December when the program expired. That number has grown to 53,292 and will continue to grow as 3,327 additional Michiganders lose benefits every week over the next six months. The federal unemployment insurance program - formally called Emergency Unemployment Compensation - took effect in 2008 and was signed by President George W. Bush and has been reauthorized several times as the economy continues to recover. Despite the real progress the economy has made since its near collapse in 2008, there are still over 1 million fewer jobs than there were before the recession and more than 4 million Americans have been out of work for six months or longer. On average, nationwide, the program provides about $300 a week to recipients. Failure to extend federal unemployment insurance will hurt job growth locally and throughout the nation, costing the economy 240,000 jobs this year, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Conyers Assails Republicans’ Fixation on Rolling Back Women’s Rights


(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives debated H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” on the House Floor. Consideration of this bill by the full House of Representatives comes just weeks following a U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the legislation, and an expedited Full Committee Markup. As debate was underway on the legislation, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
The debate today on the House Floor is the latest attack in the Majority’s ongoing campaign to chip away at a woman’s constitutionally protected right to choose. As millions of Americans struggle to find gainful employment, it is a travesty that Congress is again wasting time on a divisive ideological debate instead of working to create jobs and improve the economy,” said Conyers.

“This shameful distraction from the work that the American people elected us to do is only made worse by the fact that the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ is based on a falsehood: there is no federal funding of abortion, due to the Hyde amendment disallowing it. In reality, this legislation places undue restrictions on how women with private health insurance policies can spend their own private money. My conservative colleagues pay a lot of lip-service to limiting the government’s role in American’s affairs, yet I can think of few actions more intrusive than limiting a woman’s access to healthcare options and private insurance.

“Thus far in 2014, the House Judiciary Committee has devoted our first legislative hearing and Markup to turning back the clock on women’s rights, and now one of the first major bills on the House Floor is nothing more than an ideological charade. Meanwhile, bipartisan areas of concern – ranging from immigration to surveillance reform – have languished. Rather than continue to dwell on bitter partisan issues, let us return our attention to the people’s business.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Reps. Conyers & Wilson to Host Press Conference January 29, 2014 at 10AM – Announcing Establishment of the “Congressional Full Employment Caucus”


(WASHINGTON) – In response to the ongoing jobs crisis in America, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) will announce the creation of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus tomorrow morning, January 29th at 10:00 a.m. in 2226 Rayburn House Office Building. With 24 million new jobs needed to end the unacceptably high rate of unemployment and underemployment, and to reach full employment, Congress must take an active role to ensure adequate opportunities are available as it has historically. The Full Employment Caucus will serve as a working group and platform for Members dedicated to identifying solutions to our current unemployment crisis and advocating for legislative action.  Ultimately, the goal of the Caucus is to realize the dream of a society in which every American who wants to work has the right to some form of employment.


For further information about the Congressional Full Employment Caucus or the press conference, please contact Jenny Perrino (Rep. Conyers) at 202-225-5126 or jenny.perrino@mail.house.gov , or Justin Zorn (Rep. Wilson) at 202-225-4506 or justin.zorn@mail.house.gov.

What:
Press Conference – Announcing Establishment of the “Congressional Full Employment Caucus”
Who:
Ø  Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
Ø  Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)
Ø  Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
Ø  Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.)
Ø  Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.)

Ø  Additional Members of Congress
When:
Tomorrow morning - Wednesday, January 29th, 10:00 a.m.
Where:      
2226 Rayburn House Office Building


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

PELOSI, SLAUGHTER, & DeGETTE, ALONG WITH 91 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FILE AMICUS BRIEF IN SUPREME COURT CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE REQUIREMENT CHALLENGE




WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), U.S. Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Diana DeGette (D-CO), along with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Ranking House Judiciary Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI),  Ranking House Education and the Workforce Member George Miller (D-CA), Ranking House Energy and Commerce Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Ranking House Ways and Means Member Sander Levin (D-MI), and Ranking House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v Sebelius.  Those challenging the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) claim that it imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. A total of 91 House members have signed onto the brief.

These members chose to participate as amici in these cases because they want the Supreme Court to hear the full story from Congress.  They strongly believe the contraceptive coverage requirement does not violate the free exercise of religion and will ensure all Americans receive vital preventive health care services. The preventive care provisions, including the contraceptive coverage requirement, are the least restrictive means of accomplishing Congress’ goal of ensuring the necessary healthcare coverage for women.

In the amicus, the members explain how the legislative history of the ACA supports the conclusion that the contraceptive coverage requirement of the ACA satisfies the test applicable to a free exercise of religion challenge under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

As the Congressional amici point out to the court: “The contraceptive coverage requirement does not substantially burden any exercise of religion in which the Corporations might be found to engage because it does not compel the Corporations to administer or use the contraceptive methods to which they object, nor does it require them to adhere to, affirm, or abandon a particular belief. It merely requires the Corporation, like other for-profit employers to provide comprehensive insurance coverage under which their employees may make their own personal decisions whether to use whatever form of contraception, if any, best suits their individualized health and wellness needs.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Conyers Speaking On Voting Rights Act

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Conyers, Nadler, & Scott Hail Government Privacy Watchdog’s Recommendation to End NSA’s Mass-Surveillance Program


(DETROIT) – Today, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released a report criticizing and calling for an end to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) sweeping telephone metadata collection program. The PCLOB cited the program, currently permitted under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, as having “little unique value” in investigating and preventing terrorism. This comes on the heels of President Obama’s speech at the Department of Justice last Friday calling for Congressional action to curb excesses in the United State’s surveillance programs. After the report was released, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “In 2007, Democratic Members of the House Judiciary Committee called for the creation of an independent civil liberties watchdog to respond to expanding government surveillance programs and capabilities. Ultimately, our advocacy resulted in the creation of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.  Today, the board released its long-awaited report on the government’s use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The report concludes that the telephone metadata program has provided no significant contribution to our national security, at great cost to our privacy and pocketbooks. I agree, and urge Congress to take immediate action to discontinue the program as soon as is practicable. Moreover, as many of the PCLOB’s recommendations overlap with bipartisan surveillance legislation I co-authored – the USA FREEDOM Act – I am confident that meaningful reform of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance operations can be realized.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): “I applaud the work of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and welcome their voice in this critical debate over whether our existing surveillance scheme adequately safeguards Americans’ constitutional rights and Congress’s statutory demands. I agree with their conclusion that the National Security Agency must end its indiscriminant bulk surveillance of the American people. We know that this sort of mass collection of data does not make us safer and undermines our constitutionally protected rights. Working from these recommendations, along with those outlined in the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress must reform the law to ensure that there is real and lasting change and that the Constitution is fully respected.”

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.): “Last week, President Obama spoke in detail about the need to reform the program of bulk metadata collection under section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and today the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board issued its report calling for the end of that program.  I have been particularly concerned that the manner in which the statute has been interpreted places virtually no statutory limits on the collection or use of the metadata.  The conclusions reached in this report reinforce the fact that executive action alone will not be enough.  Now is the time for Congress to act, and we must trust but codify.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Conyers & Nadler Mark 41st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade with Call to Embolden Women’s Rights


(DETROIT) – On this date 41 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, affirming the constitutional right of women to make their own health care choices. In marking this historic anniversary, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “Forty one years ago today, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionally protected right of all women to make their own health care decisions. Yet, as we commemorate this historic anniversary, we are reminded of the uphill battle that remains for women’s equality and reproductive rights. In just the first few weeks of 2014, Republicans are already planning a vote on legislation that would turn back the clock on women’s health. Rather than focusing our energy on undoing four decades of progress, I hope my colleagues can recognize the deeply personal nature of private healthcare choices and move past a divisive issue that the Supreme Court settled long ago.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): “In 1973, the Supreme Court issued one of the most important decisions of the 20th century – Roe v. Wade. Despite that landmark ruling, the right of a woman to make health care decisions about her body remains under relentless attack. Anti-choice legislators in Washington, DC and in state capitals throughout America continue their assault on a woman's right to choose by writing absurd anti-women laws and ultimately seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade altogether. I remain committed to fighting against these measures and to protecting the rights of women to make their own health care decisions.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, January 17, 2014

Conyers, Nadler, and Scott Applaud the President’s Pledge to End Bulk Collection at the NSA

House Judiciary Democrats Seek Legislative Action on Comprehensive Surveillance Reform

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) attended President Obama’s address on surveillance reform at the Department of Justice. In his remarks, the President concurred with many of the findings of the Review Group he convened on Intelligence and Communications Technologies—including its recommendation that the government should no longer engage in the bulk collection of telephone metadata at the National Security Agency (NSA). After the President concluded his remarks, Congressman Conyers, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “President Obama has taken a courageous first step towards improving oversight of these surveillance programs, reassuring our foreign allies, and restoring the public’s trust.  Perhaps most importantly, the government will take immediate action to mitigate the damage caused by the NSA’s massive bulk collection programs. Yet, even if implemented in full, the President’s proposals are not the end of our efforts to reign in excessive government surveillance - they are the first steps. Now, with the President’s remarks behind us, it falls to Congress - and, specifically, to the House Judiciary Committee - to begin the hard work of putting these proposals, and others, into practice. In my judgment, the best vehicle for that effort remains H.R. 3361, the bipartisan ‘USA FREEDOM Act,’ which requires more disclosure from the government, places a public advocate within the FISA court, and permanently ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. As President Obama stated, ‘while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future.’ I agree with the President, and look forward to Congress stepping up to the challenge of legislating comprehensive surveillance reform.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): “Today’s speech by President Obama is a welcome step in the right direction, but the reforms proposed by the President are not enough. Executive branch overreach in the name of national security did not start - and will not end - with this Administration.  The balance of powers enumerated in the Constitution must be respected for generations to come, regardless of who occupies the White House. Congress, and specifically the House Judiciary Committee, will continue to work to protect the American people from an intrusive Executive Branch, which all too often operates in secrecy and without proper accountability. We will make sure that President Obama follows through on the promises he made today, and will fight for further legal reforms to safeguard against indiscriminate, bulk surveillance of everyday Americans. We will ensure that our hard-fought freedoms are fully respected.” 

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.): “In his address concerning surveillance conducted by the NSA, the President recognized the need for reform.  I am pleased he is taking steps to limit some of the programs which have raised particular concerns, and I welcome his call for consultation with Congress on these issues.  It is now time for Congress to take the next step by enacting legislation to appropriately limit these programs. For instance, the manner in which Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act has been interpreted places virtually no limits on the collection or use of the metadata, and Congress must take action to ensure reforms are enacted into law. While changes to these programs through executive action are welcome, we must trust but codify.Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Conyers, Leahy, Sensenbrenner Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Introduction of Legislation to Restore the Voting Rights Act


(WASHINGTON) – Following the bipartisan tradition of the Voting Rights Act, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), joined with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) Thursday to introduce bipartisan legislation to uphold the most vital principles of the historic law. The legislation supported by a range of civil rights groups, is a bicameral, bipartisan response to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision which struck down a core provision in the Voting Rights Act. That provision determines how states are covered under Section 5 of the law, which requires Federal preclearance to protect against discriminatory voting measures. The bill updates the coverage formula by making all states and jurisdictions eligible for coverage formula based on voting violations in the last 15 years.  States and jurisdictions that have had a clean record over last 15 years would not be subject to coverage. President Lyndon Johnson signed the first Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, and it has been reauthorized four times since. President George W. Bush signed the most recent reauthorization into law in 2006, after the House voted 390-33 and the Senate 98-0 in favor of the legislation.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Conyers, ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus who cosponsored the original Voting Rights Act in 1965, said that “Nearly fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful vision of ‘jobs, justice, and peace’ inspired my first run for Congress and became the cause of my life. After being sworn in as freshman Member of the 89th Congress, the first vote of consequence that I took was for the Voting Rights Act. Although the Shelby County v. Holder decision struck at the heart of the Act, today, it is with much pride that my colleagues and I are introducing a strengthened and renewed Voting Rights Act to reaffirm our constitutional commitment to the cornerstone of our democracy: the right to vote.”

“Through months of negotiation and compromise, Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Conyers and I have agreed on a bipartisan and bicameral proposal to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision last summer,” Leahy said.  “Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color.  We believe that this is a strong bipartisan bill that accomplishes this goal and that every member of Congress can support.”

Sensenbrenner, who led House consideration in 2006 and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer about the importance of the Voting Rights Act, said Thursday that, “This legislation is a direct response toShelby County v. Holder. When that ruling came down last summer, I knew the VRA must be fixed before the next election and any solution must be politically palatable while complying with the objections of the Supreme Court. The modernized VRA is constitutional and bipartisan. It includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter ID laws. Therefore, it prevents racial-discrimination and gives states the ability to address voter fraud.”

An outline of the legislation can be found here, and text of legislation can be found online.

Key provisions in the bill include:

Ø  A coverage provision based on current conditions.  The bill establishes a rolling nationwide trigger that covers states or jurisdictions that have a persistent record of recent voting rights violations in the last 15 years.
Ø  Allows our federal courts to bail-in the worst actors for preclearance.  The current law permits states or jurisdictions to be bailed in for intentional violations, but the new legislation amends the Act to allow states or jurisdictions to be bailed in for results-based violations.
Ø  Greater transparency in elections so that voters are made aware of changes.  The additional sunlight will deter discrimination from occurring and protect voters from discrimination.
Ø  Allows for preliminary relief to be obtained more readily, given that voting rights cannot often be vindicated after an election is already over.
Ø  Includes modest provisions that continue to permit states to enact reasonable photo identification laws.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Conyers Commends Judiciary Congresswomen for Denouncing Republican Attacks on Women’s Health


(WASHINGTON) – Today, all of the Democratic women on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee – including Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) – sent a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) urging him to shift his focus away from denying women their constitutionally guaranteed right to make their own healthcare decisions, and towards critical Committee issues. This letter comes following the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice’s hearing last Thursday on H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” and a day before a full Judiciary Committee Markup of the same legislation. After the letter was transmitted, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I commend my colleagues for standing up to the Majority’s relentless attack on women. I stand shoulder to shoulder with my female colleagues on the Judiciary Committee in calling for this Congress to begin addressing the challenges facing women and families, rather than pushing a divisive political agenda. The Majority’s focus on undermining women’s constitutional rights has come at the expense of attending to pressing Judiciary Committee issues including: comprehensive immigration reform and a legislative review of our dragnet surveillance programs, amongst other bipartisan concerns. There is no need to squander 2014 on partisan sniping; going forward I urge Chairman Goodlatte to refocus our work towards advancing women’s healthcare not undermining it.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rapes in prisons, foster care and residential facilities go unreported

The same thing happens in foster care, residential institutions and juvenile delinquent facilities. The only difference between the youth and adults who are under the authority of the state is the States do not keep numbers of the sexual abuses of youth.

There are no published reports of child rapes in state care, to put it harshly.

Older male youth on male youth and older female youth on female youth are the taboos that these child welfare institutions refuse to speak upon.

There is even the gag orders of HIPPA which prevents these statistics from being reported.  There is even the omission of SACWIS reporting elements of sexual abuses in child welfare.

Sshhhh.  If you do not talk about it, it will go away when the kids age out.

 One can only hope the Justice Department will take these life events much more seriously. As it stands, the only legal recourse is through CRIPA.  If a youth is under the auspices of a state, does it mean a state will file charges against itself, or mainly its contractual privatized agencies?

In Michigan, the legal guardian of children who are wards of the state is Bill Johnson, Superintendent of Michigan Children's Institute.  When a child is raped in his care, does the state file neglect charges on the legal guardian?

Nope.

The Children's Right federal settlement agreement never even took the time to mention Michigan Children's Institute's role in protecting children in its care.

Perhaps there needs to be a Violence Against Children In State Care Act which holds the States financially responsible..if someone comes up with a way to even report the incidents.

Oh well.  Just script the kid with higher doses of psychotropic medication.  They will stop crying.

Guarded Optimism


Last week, the Justice Department convened hearings under the Prison Rape Elimination Act to examine the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse in the nation’s prisons and juvenile detention centers. As we’ve reported, the department has found alarming rates of abuse by staff on youngsters in custody. In a 2013 survey of more than 8,700 juveniles housed in 326 facilities across the country, 8 percent said they experienced sex abuse at the hands of the staff supervising them. Twenty percent of those who said they were victimized by staff said it happened on more than 10 occasions. But perhaps the most surprising finding: Nine out of 10 victims were males abused by female staffers.
The prison rape elimination legislation first passed in 2003, but it then took the Justice Department nearly 10 years to study the issue and release rules for prisons and juvenile detention centers to implement. Beginning late last year, auditors contracted by the federal government started inspecting these facilities to make sure that staff members are being trained on how to prevent sexual abuse and that there are effective means to monitor it.
American University law professor Brenda Smith has devoted much of her research to studying the problem, and she and her work helped shape the legislation that addresses it. We talked to her about the difficulty of getting the bill passed, the resistance from the corrections industry, and the psychological damage suffered by young boys who are abused by the women overseeing them. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.
People who have worked in this field know that sexual abuse in prisons has been a problem for decades. Why did it take so long to get Congress and the Justice Department to act?
I think gender has a lot to do with it. When legislation was first proposed by Rep. John Conyers in 1998, it was part of the Violence Against Women Act, and it had to get stripped out so the rest of the bill could pass.
But then, in 2001, Human Rights Watch released a report that really focused on inmate on inmate, male-on-male rape. And I think that because men could identify with sort of the vulnerability of being sexually victimized in custody, you got a lot of traction all of a sudden.
And I also think that there were some other groups that came together that were concerned about it. You had the human rights organizations; you had an organization called Stop Prisoner Rape, now Just Detention International, which was comprised of mainly male survivors. Then you had some conservative groups, like the Catholic Church, the Hudson Institute, basically what they were concerned about was the spread of homosexuality.
I also think that there was concern about — well, frankly, there’s just no other way to say it because it’s actually in the statute — the racial dynamics of sexual victimization in custody: That white men were going to be sexually victimized by black men. So the underpinnings of the legislation were not really that wholesome.
But it was this group of very powerful co-sponsors, Ted Kennedy and Jeff Sessions in the Senate and Frank Wolf and Bobby Scott in the House. And so for some reason it just kind of took off like a bullet. And people like me and others who had been doing this work for a long time thought this legislation was going nowhere. Then the next thing we knew it had passed unanimously with unprecedented funding.
There’s a rising female population among the staffs in juvenile settings. What accounts for that? What challenges does that present?
It’s not that men aren’t qualified; it’s that they often can’t meet the requirements, which require a certain degree of education, no past criminal record, and passing a drug test. Women are more likely to be able to do that.
In New York, Rikers Island is majority female staff, 75 percent of them are African American. And that’s very common in cities.
One of the things that people are still trying to understand is what the harm can be to a boy who has experience of abuse with an older woman in these facilities. What’s the current body of scholarship on female-on-male abuse?
The short of it is that anytime a wrong has happened, you need somebody to acknowledge that something wrong has happened. Just the fact that people can’t wrap their head around the fact that this was something that happened to you that should not have happened to you, that it’s not okay.
One of the biggest harms is that these guys are victims, but they don’t even get a chance to name their victimhood because there is such a huge culture of masculinity, it would be like, why are you complaining about that?
If nobody even recognizes that that’s a problem then there’s not going to be any services, or any education, or any intervention to address it. And because people don’t understand that, then what happens is it deepens the harm.
And as far as the long-term consequences?
Anger, violent behavior, depression, the same thing that happens to all victims, post-traumatic stress, hostility and aggression toward women, all of that is in the literature. Many of them were reared by women, who maybe didn’t protect them, so it solidifies this perception that women are not there for them.
And talk about the consequences for women who actually have been caught violating young boys. How often are you seeing prosecutions? How often are you seeing penalties levied against female abusers of boys?
Well, we’ve been studying this, and this whole problem of sanctions has been there from the beginning. We’ve found about 300 cases total of female-on-male abuse – cases that were reported in the media between 1990 and 2013. About 30 of the cases were related to juveniles. And if I remember correctly, of those 30, there were only seven or nine actual convictions.
But what we’re looking at is how the media characterized what happened, were they characterized as relationships? And did that characterization have an impact on the prosecution or the sanction? I think that’s a huge problem, because the likelihood of there being a sanction is really related to the importance that society places on harm to that victim.
For the most part these women pleaded guilty to things that wouldn’t lead you to believe that this person had any kind of sexual relationship with a youth, so they didn’t even have to register as a sex offender. And more often than not there is nothing about their behavior that would’ve led somebody else in a custodial setting not to hire them again.
And these are just the rare cases where there was some visibility in the media. When you talk about what happens at the facility level, and there’s no coverage, the consequences consist of a termination or a resignation. And what happens is people resign and when they resign, you don’t have to say anything. That means they can easily be hired somewhere else.
Do you see any commonalities among facilities where this seems to be particularly problematic, where there is a particularly high incidence rate?
Overcrowding. And this is true with both juvenile and adult facilities. Overcrowding means there’s an inability to supervise and a scarcity of resources, so you’re going to cut corners somewhere.
Culture is also a huge issue. What is the culture of your facility? First of all, there is the culture of corrections, and then there is the culture of the different shifts that people are on. And it really is an ‘okay, you cover me, I’ll cover you kind of situation.’ And the things that can go on that people feel are acceptable are really, really, really astonishing

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