Summer 2005

Legislative Update

On June 13, the Senate issued a formal apology for its failure decades ago to enact a federal law to make lynching a crime (S. RES. 39). Sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the resolution, “expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States.”

Stem cell research continued to make headlines during the 109th Congress when, on May 24, the House passed the “ Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005” (HR 2520), sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and the “ Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005” (HR 810), sponsored by Rep. Castle (R-DE). HR 2520 allows federal money to be used to study stem cells taken from adults and the umbilical cord of newborns, while HR 810 explicitly allows the use of any human embryonic stem cells donated from in vitro fertilization clinics in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking fertility treatment – and with their written informed consent – without receiving financial or other inducements.

Congress also is considering a wide variety of additional bills, which include sexual education curriculums in public schools, changes to the PATRIOT Act, and access to medical information for patients.

AIDS/HIV

On May 23, 2005, Rep. Lee (D-CA), introduced HR 2553, the “ Responsible Education About Life Act,” to make available a grant to those states which conduct programs of family life education, including education on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The bill requires Congress to find that multiple reputable national medical associations including the American Medical Association support sexuality education that includes information about contraception, and that this sort of education respects the diversity of values and beliefs represented in communities. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Civil Rights/Constitutional Law

On Apr. 6, Rep. Berman (D-CA) introduced HR 1502, “ Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2005,” 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 House Committee on Judiciary, Intelligence (Permanent Select), and Homeland Security.

On Mar. 15, 2005, Rep. Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 1310, “ Protection of Civil Liberties Act,” to amend the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 with respect to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Government Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Intelligence.

Criminal Justice

On May 26, Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced S 1145, to provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. A similar bill was introduced in the House and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Death Penalty

On May 5, 2005, Re. Lungren (R-CA) introduced HR 2194, “ The Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005,” which would make murder of any federal or federally funded law enforcement officer’s family member a capital, death-eligible crime. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Election Law

On May 11, 2005, Rep. Green (R-WI) introduced HR 2250, to require the Attorney General to investigate allegations of violations of federal criminal law regarding elections not later than 30 days after receiving the allegation, to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish standards for the distribution of voter registration application forms and the handling of absentee ballots, and to require individuals to produce photo identification as a condition of registering to vote or voting in elections for federal office. The bill was referred to the House Committee on House Administration, and Judiciary.

Health Law

On May 3, 2005, Rep. Levin (D-MI) introduced HR 2058, to amend Titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act and Title III of the Public Health Service Act to improve access to information about individuals' healthcare options and legal rights for care near the end of life, to promote advance care planning and decision-making so that individuals' wishes are known should they become incapacitated, and to engage health care providers in disseminating information about and assisting in the preparation of advance directives, which include living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means.

On Apr. 19, 2005, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) introduced S 839, “ Access to Reproductive Health Information Act,” to repeal the law that gags doctors and denies women information and referrals concerning their reproductive health options. The bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders.

In Feb. 2005, the ABA adopted a Section-sponsored resolution opposing governmental actions and policies that interfere with patients’ abilities to receive from their healthcare providers, including healthcare professionals and entities, in a timely manner: (a) all of the relevant and medi-
cally accurate information necessary for fully informed healthcare decisionmaking; and (b) information with respect to their access to medically appropriate care, as defined by the applicable medical standard of care, whether or not the provider chooses to offer such care.

Immigration Law

On May 23, 2005, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) introduced S 1104, to amend Titles XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act to provide states with the option to cover certain legal immigrants under the Medicaid and state children’s health insurance programs. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

On Apr. 27, 2005, Rep. Graves (R-MO) introduced HR 1912, “ Emergency Immigration Workload Reduction and Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2005,” to suspend certain nonessential visas, in order to provide temporary workload relief critical to the successful reorganization of the immigration and naturalization functions of the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that the screening and monitoring or arriving immigrants and nonimmigrants, and the deterrence of entry and settlement by illegal or unauthorized aliens, is sufficient to maintain the integrity of the sovereign borders of the United States. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

On Apr. 13, 2005, Rep. Foley (R-FL) introduced H J Res 41, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide that no person born in the United States will be a United States citizen unless a parent is a United States citizen or is lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States at the time of the birth. The bill was referred to the House Committee of the Judiciary. A similar bill was introduced again two weeks later.

International Relations

On Mar. 17, 2005, Rep. Payne (D- NJ) introduced HR 1424, “ Darfur Genocide Accountability Act of 2005,” to impose sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The bill was referred to the House Committee on International Relations.

On Mar. 17, 2005, Rep. Rangel (D-NY) introduced HR 1435, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to deny the foreign tax credit and the benefits of deferral to companies doing business directly or though subsidiaries in Sudan until the government of Sudan takes demonstrable steps to end genocide in Sudan. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Native American Concerns

On May 17, 2005, Sen. McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 1057, a bill to amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, to revise and extend that Act. This is an extensive bill covering all aspects of health care for American Indians living in the United States on reservations and in the general community. This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

PATRIOT Act

On Apr. 6, Sen. Craig (R-ID) introduced S 737, “ Safe Act,” to amend the USA PATRIOT Act to place reasonable limitations on the use of surveillance and issuance of search warrants, specifying that the records of libraries and booksellers may not be subpoenaed under the PATRIOT ACT unless there is cause to believe that the holder of the records is an agent to a foreign power, and allowing those in receipt of a National Security Letter (secret administrative subpoena) to disclose the existence of said subpoena to an attorney, and to anyone after a period of 180 days. It also specifies that the issuance of such subpoenas must be held to a specified standard by a federal magistrate and entitles the recipient to a pre-enforcement review by a federal district judge, and later review in the case of a criminal investigation. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Stem Cell Research

On Apr. 26, 2005, Rep. Bono (R-CA) introduced HR 1822, “ Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2005,” to prohibit human cloning and protect stem cell research. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A companion bill in the Senate, S 876, introduced by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On Apr. 14, 2005, Rep. Johnson (R-CT) introduced HR 1650, “ Stem Cell Research Investment Act of 2005,” to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow tax credits to holders of stem cell research bonds. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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