Spring 2006

Legislative Update

On Mar. 9, President Bush reauthorized the USA Patriot Act. The Act, which expired in Dec. 2005, was temporarily extended twice by Congress while it considered whether the law violated certain civil liberties. The bill’s revisions contain changes aimed at protecting civil liberties, such as the provision stating libraries functioning in their “traditional capacity” would no longer be subject to National Security Letters requesting electronic records. The reauthorization also placed four year sunsets on the FBI’s authority to conduct “roving wiretaps” and the government’s powers to seize business records using FISA Court approval. The remaining provisions of the Act were made permanent.

Immigration reform continues to be a controversial topic in Congress. At the end of 2005, the House passed H.R. 4437, which seeks to impose sanctions on those who assist illegal immigrants and calls for the construction of a 700 mile fence along the Mexican border. In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is considering a compromise bill by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), which would focus on border security while creating a “visa program enabling employers to hire foreign workers when no willing U.S. workers are available.” Opponents of this bill say that it also includes provisions which would criminalize social service workers who aid illegal immigrants by classifying them as human traffickers.

Numerous other bills have been introduced over the past weeks as well.

Children/Families

On Feb. 15, Rep. Emanuel (D-IL) introduced HR 4760, to amend Title XXI of the Social Security Act to make all uninsured children eligible for the state children’s health insurance program, and to encourage states to increase the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and state children’s health programs by simplifying the enrollment and renewal procedures for those programs.

On Mar. 2, Rep. Owens (D-NY) introduced HR 4848, to provide for permanent resident status for any alien orphan physically present in the United States who is less than 12 years of age and to provide for deferred enforced departure status for any alien physically present in the United States who is the natural and legal parent of a child born in the United States who is less than 18 years of age.

Courts/Judiciary

On Feb. 15, Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced S 2285, to improve the protection of witnesses, victims, and informants.

On Feb. 17, Rep. Chabot (R-OH) introduced HR 4772, to simplify and expedite access to the federal courts for injured parties whose rights and privileges under the United States Constitution have been deprived by final actions of federal agencies or other government officials or entities acting under color of state law.

Criminal Justice

On Mar. 8, the House passed HR 4472, to protect children, to secure the safety of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and their family members, and to reduce and prevent gang violence.

On Feb. 28, Rep. Gillmor (R-OH) introduced HR 4815, to establish a National Sex Offender Risk Classification Task Force to create guidelines for the establishment of a risk-based sex offender classification system for use in sex offender registries.

On Mar. 7, Rep. Porter (R-NV) introduced HR 4894, to provide for certain access to national crime information databases by schools and educational agencies for employment purposes, with respect to individuals who work with children.

Elder Law

On Feb. 15, Rep. Santorum (R-PA) introduced S 2281, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Americans to age with respect and dignity by providing tax incentives to assist them in preparing for the financial impact of their long-term care needs.

Election Law

On Feb. 15, Rep. Doolittle (R-CA) introduced HR 4759, to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to reform the financing of campaigns for election for federal office.

On Feb. 15, Rep. Millender-McDonald (D-CA) introduced HR 4762, to secure the federal voting rights of a person upon the unconditional release of that person from prison and completion of sentence, including parole.

On Feb. 28, Rep. Leach (R-IA) introduced HR 4819, to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit nonparty multi-candidate political committees from making contributions in support of campaigns for election for federal office.

Federal Government  

On Feb. 16, Rep. Doolittle (R-CA) introduced HR 4787, to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to require reporting of federal funds received by clients of lobbyists.

Homelessness/Housing

On March 3, Rep. Ramstad (R-MN) introduced HR 4873, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to encourage investment in affordable housing.

Immigration Law

On Mar. 3, Rep. Owens (D-NY) introduced HR 4847, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for legal permanent resident status for certain undocumented or nonimmigrant aliens. (In 2006, the ABA adopted Section co-sponsored policy supporting lawful permanent residence for undocumented persons who entered the United States as minors and have significant ties to the U.S.)

On Mar. 6, Sen. Burr (R-NC) introduced S 2365, to improve sharing of immigration information among federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, to improve State and local enforcement of immigration laws, and for other purposes.

On Mar. 6, Sen. Nelson (D-NE) introduced S 2368 and S 2377, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and other acts to provide for border security and interior enforcement improvements.

On Mar. 8, Rep. McGovern (D-MA) introduced HR 4886, to designate Colombia under Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to make nationals of Colombia eligible for temporary protected status under such section.
In Feb. 2006, the ABA House of Delegates adopted several policies regarding immigration reform. Visit our website at www.abanet.org/irr/policieschron.html for more details.

International Law

On Mar. 2, Sen. Coleman (R-MN) introduced S Res 387 and on Mar. 8, Sen Harris (R-FL) introduced H Res 714. Both resolutions recognized the need to replace the United Nations Human Rights Commission with a new Human Rights Council.

On Mar. 6, Sen. McConnell (R-KY) introduced S 2370, to promote the development of democratic institutions in areas under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority.

On Mar. 2, the Senate passed S Res 383, calling on the President to take immediate steps to help improve the security situation in Darfur, Sudan, with an emphasis on civilian protection.

National Security

Mar. 3, Sen. Byrd (D-WV) introduced S 2362, to establish the National Commission on Surveillance Activities and the Rights of Americans. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Native American Concerns

The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005 (S 147), introduced by Sen. Akaka (D-HI) is expected to reach the Senate floor this spring. The bill aims to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States’ relationship with Native Hawaiians and to provide a process for the recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity.
The ABA House of Delegates recently adopted Section-sponsored policy calling for Congress to establish a process of federal recognition for a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Science/Technology

Feb. 16, Rep. Smith (R-NJ) introduced HR 4780, to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes.

Substance Abuse

Feb. 16, Sen. Burns (R-MT) introduced S 2315, to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a federally-supported education and awareness campaign for the prevention of methamphetamine use.

Tort Law

On Feb. 14, the Senate continued consideration of S 852, to create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure.  The discussion stalled when a budget point of order was raised and the chamber fell short of the needed 60 votes to waive the point of order. The bill was recommitted to the Judiciary Committee and its future is in doubt.

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