Summer 2004

Legislative Update

Sen. Kennedy Introduces Civil Liberties Restoration Act

A variety of bills addressing critical individual rights issues have been recently introduced in the House and Senate, including a bill regarding civil liberties protections for immigrants, the sunset provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, desecration of the U.S. flag, multiple AIDS bills, and others. In addition, a recent U.S. District Court ruling stopped legislation banning late-term abortions, which Congress passed in November of 2003, from taking effect.

On June 16, Sen. Kennedy (D - MA) introduced S 2528, "The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004," to restore civil liberties under the First Amendment, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

According to Sen. Kennedy, "The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 will provide basic civil liberties protections, and restore balance and fairness to our laws in the treatment of immigrants. It will preserve fundamental rights without threatening national security. It will restore the confidence of immigrant communities, especially those unfairly targeted by recent and current policies."

Section Vice Chair and Center for American Progress President and CEO John D. Podesta, described the bill as, "a thoughtful and reasonable effort that limits the government's ability to conduct secret arrests, requires individuals be advised of the charges brought against them, and upholds federal privacy laws."

In other news, last November, President Bush signed into law H Res 257, "The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," prohibiting doctors from committing an "overt act" designed to kill a "partially-delivered" fetus. On June 1, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco declared the law unconstitutional in a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Judge Phyllis Hamilton concluded that the Act imposed an undue burden on a woman's ability to choose a second-trimester abortion, was unconstitutionally vague, and lacked an exemption to protect the mother's health. Additional challenges to the law also have been filed in Nebraska and New York.

On May 21, Sen. Kyl (R - AZ) introduced S 2476, to amend the USA PATRIOT Act to repeal the Act's sunset provisions. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. (In 2003, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy that opposes efforts to repeal the sunset provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and urges Congress to conduct a thorough review of the implementation of the powers granted to the Executive Branch under the Act before considering any extension or expansion of surveillance authority under the Act.)

On June 2, the House passed HJ Res 4, proposing an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. On June 4, the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. (In 1989, the ABA adopted policy that opposes the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution concerning the desecration of the American flag.)

On April 22, the Senate passed, by a 96-1 vote, S 2329, a bill to protect crime victims' rights. The bill sets forth a variety of rights granted to a crime victim, including the right to be reasonably protected from the accused, the right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy, and a variety of others. The bill was sent to the House and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On June 14, the House passed HR 4278, to amend the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 to support programs of grants to states to address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities.

On May 13, the Senate passed S 1248 to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Hate Crimes

On Apr. 22, Rep. Conyers (D - MI) introduced HR 4204, to provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

AIDS

On May 20, Rep. Lee (D - CA) introduced HR 4449, to provide assistance to combat HIV/AIDS in the Republic of India. The bill was referred to the Committee on International Relations.

On April 21, Rep. Millender-McDonald (D - CA) introduced HR 4191, to provide for the establishment of a network of pediatric centers to certain developing countries to provide treatment and care for children with HIV/AIDS. The bill was referred to the Committee on International Relations.

Iraq

On June 15, Sen. Mikulski (D - MD) introduced S 2519, to authorize assistance for education and health care for women and children in Iraq during the reconstruction of Iraq and thereafter; to authorize assistance for the enhancement of political participation, economic empowerment, civil society, and personal security for women in Iraq; and to state the sense of Congress on the preservation and protection of the human rights of women and children in Iraq. The bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Health Care

On June 9, Rep. Ackerman (D - NY) introduced HR 4531, to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct and support research using human pluripotent stem
cells. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Homeland Security

On June 8, Rep. Pallone (D - NJ) introduced HR 4526, to ensure the coordination and integration of Indian tribes in the National Homeland Security Strategy and to establish an Office of Tribal Government Homeland Security within the Department of Homeland Security. The bill was referred to the Committee on Resources.

On June 17, Sen. Collins (R - ME) introduced S 2536, to enumerate the responsibilities of the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security, to require the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to designate a senior official to investigate civil rights complaints. The bill was referred to the Committee on Governmental Affairs.

Immigration

On June 3, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended and approved S 1129, to provide for the protection of unaccompanied alien children. The bill was then placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.

Foreign Aid

On June 3, Sen. Lugar (R - IN) introduced S 2500, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to provide assistance for orphans and other vulnerable children in developing countries. The bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Obscenity

On May 6, Rep. Brady (D - PA) introduced HR 4305, to increase protections for children from obscene material on the Internet. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. On June 29, The Supreme Court, in Ashcroft v. ACLU, let stand a ban on enforcement of a federal law designed to shield minors from Internet pornography. The justices ruled that a congressional effort to curb online obscenity threatens free speech.

Torture

On June 17, Rep. Meehan (D - MA), introduced HR 4609, to amend Title 18, U.S. Code, to modify the definition of the United States for the purposes of the prohibition against torture. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

On June 16, Rep. Berman (D - CA)introduced HR 4591 to restore civil liberties under the First Amendment, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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