***If you have not read Part I of this series – please do!
**Also read the series on the ADA attack explaining the concerns with H.R. 620
From the end of Part I: And then November 8, 2016 happened and that people was the game changer for the possibility of an ADA notification bill becoming law of the land.
The shock and sting of November 8, 2016 for civil rights advocates remains to this day. I still have some friends who say, “I just can’t believe he’s in that office”. My reply to all is the line that Cher had in the wonderful movie Moonstruck where her character tells Nicolas Cage’s character, her lover who is in love with her (but he’s her fiancé’s brother) as she slaps him multiple times across the face, “Snap out of it!”
The fight to save the ADA is no time to be in shock or in a fog! So many of us signaled the alarms way back in 2015 with H.R. 3765 in the 114th. We were ignored because of complacency. Many advocates did not think this bill would move. I have emails from people telling me “You are over exaggerating this! These bills never go anywhere – don’t worry about this! We have other things to fight!” They also told me this to my face at multiple gatherings. I put up a petition to fight this and could barely get 1,000 sign ons in 5 months. Now I know more that 1,000 people across the country who are disability rights advocates. As a member of NCIL, I found this to be impossible. If every CIL who is a member of NCIL had every employee sign onto this petition that congress will see – I am sure the number is much more than the 25, 000 goal I set 11 months ago! Yes 11 months ago!
Now here we were at the start of the 115th and on January 24, 2017 just a few days after the end of the Obama Administration. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduces The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. He just took the version that reported out of committee in 2016 and put it into the record. Both he and his good friends remained on the House Judiciary Committee along with Rep. Goodlatte as the Chair. But one thing did change on the other side. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) the only Democratic vote in the mark-up, he went to another committee. He is now a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
This was a new congress and so there were new members on committees and that was no different for the House Judiciary Committee. We knew that the Chairman would be busy with the things that keep the Judiciary committee busy in a new congress and it would be a while before they got to H.R. 620. But we knew they would get to working it in committee. The committee was busy with working on funding the federal government and the programs within Department of Justice that fall within their jurisdiction.
Since the committee was busy on other things we had time to get the word out and get advocates mobilized to make noise about this bill. But for disability rights the fight to save the ACA (Affordable Care Act) was imperative! ADA/Civil Rights is in my portfolio so the work on H.R. 620 remained at the forefront of my work and a few others here in DC. (THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU) I believe we must learn how to be multi-purposeful and multi-task in this work or we don’t stand a chance over the next three years.
A number of problems and concerns developed and we were in the territory of some more firsts that would change the trajectory of this legislation. In the 115th Poe did not introduce this legislation alone. He had a Democrat join him – great strategy by the supporters of this legislation. They started off the process demonstrating the bipartisan support for this bill. Do I have to tell you who that Democrat was?
Of course, he left the Judiciary Committee but he kept his hands in the pot. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) did the honors. But he was not alone.
The headline for Poe’s press release: Poe Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Curb Abusive ADA Lawsuits and Improve the ADA. From the press release: WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) along with Reps. Peters (D-CA), Bera (D-CA), Calvert (R-CA), Speier (D-CA) and Conaway (R-TX) introduced H.R. 620, The bipartisan ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. This legislation will curb frivolous lawsuits filed by cash-hungry attorneys and plaintiffs that abuse the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
You read that right! Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) joined in as a cosponsor of the bill the day it was introduced. The first time in now 17 yrs and 10 congresses that we have Democrats supporting an ADA Notification bill from day one and on a Republican bill not their own. OH MY! ALARMS are now blaring but yet this is still not strong enough.
Rep. Speier is known for her amazing work on LBGTQ issues and she served as a CoChair of the Equality Caucus. She is a human rights icon. She is a survivor of a well-known traumatic incident. She was on the tarmac at “Jonestown” in 1978 with her boss Rep. Leo Ryan when he was shot and killed. She was shot multiple times and left to die. But she survived and went on to win the seat of her late boss.
She is the architect of the bill in the House that addresses sexual harassment in the workplace for congressional staff. We are all on board and support this legislation and the work being done to end this for all. Rep. Speier is fighting to end the 90day waiting period for congressional staff to have to wait prior to filing their sexual harassment complaint. H.R. 620 will make people with disabilities have to wait up to 180 days (six months) to file their complaint for accessibility. Things that make you say UMMM! We don’t think anyone should have to wait any amount of time to defend themselves or their human or civil rights.
If this woman who claims to be a civil and human rights icon can be on board supporting this horrific bill we’ve got problems. Then the supporters of this bill put forth their strategic plan of getting one Democrat, one Republican to cosponsor the bill. Rep. Peters and Speier assisted by asking Democrats personally to join them in supporting H.R. 620.
This was done to show leadership there is bipartisan support for the legislation. By the summer of 2017 there were 13 Democrats listed as cosponsors. We were steadily fighting to keep the other Democrats off and desperately trying to get those on to withdraw their names.
Now this is right after the election of 2016 and supposedly a time when the Democratic Party is healing wounds, strategizing for the upcoming years and reaching out to communities they need to be on board in the next election season. There was much debate and conversation about this dichotomy among many disability rights advocates. This quite frankly is the same conversation that many marginalized communities are having about supporting the Democratic Party. A conversation that should be had for that is how we deal with issues and concerns.
Remember when a member of congress cosponsors a bill they are telling leadership they support this bill and that they will vote yes for this should it come up for vote. They are saying they support the bill as it is written the day they put their name into the clerk. There is a process in both the House and Senate where a member can go to the clerk and withdraw that support for the legislation prior to the bill going to a floor vote. This was a procedure designed for congress because bill language changes all the time. If it was not supposed to be used why is it part of the procedures? In the original bill H.R. 3765 Section 3 was removed in the mark-up. That is the reason for mark-ups. It is very rare that the original version of a bill in congress is the same language in the resulting law.
The author of the bill can edit their language at anytime. So the process of withdrawing ones name is part of the workings of congress. Yet in the past few congresses members try to say that it is impossible for them to take their name of a bill once they sponsor. This is not true. It takes a few minutes to do and they can do it quietly without any fanfare. It only became “Taboo” when the Tea Party advocates (Do they still exist? I digress) put in their strategy plan to “get these Republicans in line” and hold them accountable which they did through report cards. So they would give the member a bad mark if that member put their name in as a cosponsor and then removed their name.
This was an effective part of their mobilization for their causes but also another part of their work, that many don’t discuss and that is how the Tea Party changed the culture of the Hill. This practice was for Republican members but some how Democratic members took this on as well. This is being done by the Party of change.
In our struggle we received a number of excuses: “I can’t come off the bill, it will show a bad sign in my work!” “I have never come off a bill” “I don’t know how that works. How do you come off a bill?” Really, each new member of congress has an orientation, they give them a packet of information during that time and there is a clerk on staff to assist with these types of questions. Do they use google? “This just isn’t done!” That is completely false especially when it comes to this ADA Notification bill.
In the 114th with H.R. 3765 we had two members withdraw their names as cosponsors of the bill. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) who was in congress for over 40years (1971-2017) withdrew his name once he learned more about our concerns with the bill. He is a human and civil rights champion and we did not want him to be on record for all of history as supporting this horrible legislation. Then Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) withdrew his name. He thought there would be some compromises or updates made to the bill and he was retiring at the end of the congress. He did not want to be on record supporting H.R. 3765. Currently on H.R. 620 Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) (THANK YOU NY Advocates) and after much advocacy (THANK YOU ADAPT IL and IL advocates) Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) both withdrew their names as cosponsors.
The other 11 Democrats on this legislation not only refuse to withdraw their names they will not confirm that they see flaws in this bill and that they will vote no for it when it comes to the floor next week. Their names will be on record for history as sponsors/supporters of H.R. 620. This is when communities must hold members accountable and not have short memories. Being a Cosponsor on this bill was a statement of support for legislation that will weaken the civil rights of people with disabilities. That accountability is not only during their time in congress but also after they depart office (forever).
There is a Daily Kos petition online with over 56,000 signatures and titled: Sign the petition to Congress: Do not gut Americans with Disabilities Act that actually calls out the Democrats supporting H.R. 620. B-U-T before you get excited many have been in contact with the organizers, because this petition has not been sent to congress members. They were told it won’t be sent to congress. (Ummm!) Can you say we need names for our database?
The policy and advocacy work to keep other Democrats off was successful. We worked with both the Democratic leadership and other prominent members of the House to provide information and guidance as to why their caucus members should not support H.R. 620. The last Democrat to get on the bill was in August of 2016. Why is this important? Because having so many Democrats on the bill shows leadership that there is bipartisan support for this legislation and that they can move forward with a vote with little problems. Yes the Republicans have the majority and you ask why do they care about bipartisan support? This is a civil rights law and as I have stated should this pass it will be historic. They want to have records showing that they “played nice” when it came to this work.
On the other hand unfortunately in the 115th we had another Democrat introduce a bill that is worse than H.R. 620. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced Reasonable Compliance Act of 2017 H.R. 3571. She like Rep. McNerney (D-CA) did not talk with the disability rights community advocates or policy makers. This language includes all of Title III of the ADA not just architectural barriers. She has updated the language, but her edit was not an improvement. We are just leaving that alone as it is going no-where. Currently there are three ADA Notification bills in the House but the only one moving is H.R. 620.
On September 7, 2017 Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) still chair of the House Judiciary Committee held a mark-up for H.R. 620. He yet again bypassed the rules and this time there was no hearing in the Subcommittee. And how is that possible? It is possible because that was already done in the 114th with H.R. 3765 (the original bill). Strategy at work again, the supporters of this bill went through those hurdles. There is no need to do another hearing when one was done not so long ago, in fact less than 2yrs ago. Also this bill passed out of committee with a wonderful vote that had both Republicans and a Democrat vote in favor. More history that moves H.R. 620 closer to a House floor vote that much quicker.
The mark-up was held early in the morning and it was a repeat of the proceedings in July of 2016. Committee members say some of the same things they said in the hearing on H.R. 3765 in the 114th. There were amendments offered by the Democrats and just like before they all failed. We worked hard to get a count of how the Democrats would vote for this bill. All of them said they would not vote yes for this bill in mark-up (re-read these words). The final count was (15-9) see the vote sheet here: https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/RC-4.pdf
Yet again Democrats either did not show up or they left the room when it came time to record a vote. What does that mean? They said they would not vote yes – they never said they would vote no. They are not on record showing that they do not support this bill. They are also members that need to hear from their constituents all next week. Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) who was in congress for the passage of the ADA also remained silent, was only in the room for a few minutes and did not cast a vote. Silence is compliance.
The wave of House members calling it quits started to swell at the end of the year and on November 7, 2017 Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. The ALARM gets louder but its still not enough! (Texas has 8 open seats for 2018 election)
Two days later and believe me they coordinated this I am sure, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announces he will not seek re-election in 2018. Now the ALARMS are blaring all day every day, but still not enough. This is the shoe that dropped and let all know that H.R. 620 will come out of committee and be recommended for a full House floor vote. Why you ask?
Neither Poe nor Goodlatte are going to leave congress without H.R. 620 passing in the House. A form of ADA Notification bills has been on the books for 17 –now 18 years –without so much as a vote on the floor. Their Party has the majority and they made a promise to the supporters they would get this done. It would be historic and they can ride on the accomplishment for the rest of their lives. They will forever be able to say. “I did my job and got the first ADA Notification bill passed in the House of Representatives.” Even if the senate does not pass this bill. Having H.R. 620 come to the House floor for a full vote is the accomplishment for them. It is the opening of Pandora’s box for all of us who are fighting to protect civil rights.
The supporters of this bill (Discussed in Part II of my Series the attack on the ADA) decided to end their process of one Republican, one Democrat because that was not working. They moved onto getting Republicans and moving the number of cosponsors to the threshold needed for leadership to bring this bill to the House floor vote. They have done just that and they have also been able to keep all Republicans on the support side of this bill. We have not been able to get one Republican to say that they will vote no for this bill. They could tell leadership that they have concerns with voting on an historical civil right, but that has not happened.
The announcements of no re-elections were a clear sign that H.R. 620 will move to the floor for a vote before April 1, 2018, which is the start of 2018 Election primaries. Last February congress began the process of removing, reversing and repealing multiple regulations as they messaged, for “the improvement” of businesses functions. The supporters of this bill have messaged H.R. 620 as legislation that will remove regulatory strong holds on businesses. This analogy of the bill is completely incorrect for this section of the ADA is about Title III, which deals with public entities like stores, restaurants and theatres and civil rights within those places. But regulatory fix sounds good to those who control the floor calendar. Things have slowed down with the budget passed they need to fill the calendar with work.
We got word early this week that H.R. 620 will be up for a rules bill vote on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.
What is a rules bill? – here is a short answer.
A Rules bill vote is a procedure that the House Rules Committee will do in order for a bill to be considered in the regular order (on the House floor) it requires a rule that sets forth the process – parameters of debate (how long, if there will be amendments allowed etc.) which we do not want! There will be a Rule that is voted on before they get to the actual legislation (H.R. 620).
We have confirmed that this will happen on the Tuesday the 13th in the Rules Committee at 5:00pm. You can watch live via TV or the web. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has put out next week’s calendar and H.R. 620 will go to the floor for a vote on Thursday, February 15, 2018. See below for things you can do to help.
Let me bring this full circle to the beginning of both posts on this work.
Why now? Because – It is the perfect storm:
- House and Senate with Republican majority
- White House that will sign an ADA Notification into law – 1st X since 1990
- Congress with 33 members left who helped with the passage of the ADA – the others are not well informed about the ADA
- House Judiciary Committee no longer chaired by members who champion the ADA – Sensenbrenner/Conyers – allowing movement of the legislation
- ADA Notification bill – not using that word
- ADA Notification bill – supported by Democrats 1X in the 1114th; 2nd time in the 115th not only support but sponsor bill in a bipartisan manner
- ADA Notification bill- that went through Full Committee mark-up 1X in the 114th with a Democrat vote; 2nd X in the 115th
- Election year 2018 is going to be unique – supporters of bill will play a large role in the campaigns of many
- Advocacy/Activism fatigue – we are fighting so many different issues – “divide and conquer”
This final bullet – we can’t have! We must remain vigilant in this struggle. This is not over – see the alerts below – get involved – stay involved.
(I will continue to write about having hope in these times)
What’s Next? Should this pass in the House (it more than likely will) then it’s onto the senate – we must protect it there – as of today no bill has been introduced. Stay tuned!
What can you do? THANK YOU for any help you can give
*You can reach out to your House of Representative member and tell them to vote NO for this bill.
Use this Alert from NDRN on H.R. 620: http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51104/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=24265
You will notice the Salsa alert also calls for people to contact their Senators as we increase our advocacy over there.
You Can fill out the Change.org petition: Don’t Tread on My ADA – and tell all you know to do the same: https://www.change.org/p/dara-baldwin-don-t-tread-on-my-ada-vote-no-for-ada-education-reform-act-of-2017-h-r-620
For resources and information you can go to CCD Save the ADA Website: http://www.c-c-d.org/rubriques.php?rubpage=43
List of Cosponsors of H.R. 620:
My Three part series: Don’t Tread on My ADA –
Part I: https://thewiyatt.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/dont-tread-on-my-ada-a-three-part-series-on-the-attack-on-the-ada-in-the-115th-congress/
Part II: https://thewiyatt.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/dont-tread-on-my-ada-a-three-part-series-on-the-attack-on-the-ada-in-the-115th-congress-part-ii/
Part III: https://thewiyatt.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/dont-tread-on-my-ada-a-three-part-series-on-the-attack-on-the-ada-in-the-115th-congress-h-r-620-part-iii-media-coverage-and-state-work-on-weakening-the-ada/
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