Hot button issues such as federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, immigration reform, flag desecration, and a constitutional amendment defining marriage have garnered much attention in recent months (see related story, p. 3). But other issues of importance to the Section have also been on the legislative agenda.
Women’s reproductive rights were a focus in the Senate and House as Sen. Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Nadler (D-NY) simultaneously introduced legislation to protect a woman’s freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy. Sen. Clinton (D-NY) later introduced an amendment to Title XIX of the Social Security Act which would expand access to contraceptive services for men and women, thereby reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.
Other legislation of interest to the Section included:
On May 17, Sen. Enzi (R-WY) introduced S 2823, the “Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act” to provide life-saving care for those with HIV/AIDS. The legislation was drafted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
On May 24, Sen. Roberts (R-KS) introduced S 2994, to provide for the mandatory revocation, in addition to the mandatory denial, of passports of individuals who have a certain level of child support arrearages. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Civil Rights/Constitutional Law
On Mar. 28, Rep. Jindal (R-LA) introduced HR 5013, the “Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006.” The legislation would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to prohibit the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during certain national emergencies. Rep. Jindal pointed to the looting and violence that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to illustrate why such legislation is necessary. Thirty three states have “emergency powers” laws which allow the government to restrict or suspend gun sales, and to prohibit or restrict citizens from transporting or carrying firearms. The bill is currently with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
On Apr. 6, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) introduced S 2593, to protect, consistent with Roe v. Wade, a woman's freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy. Rep. Nadler (D-NY) simultaneously introduced HR 5151, the House version of the bill. The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on the Judiciary, respectively. In Aug. 1992, the ABA passed policy, co-sponsored by the Section, in support of state and federal legislation that protects the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
On Apr. 27, Sen. Byrd (D-WV) introduced S J Res 35, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States clarifying that the Constitution neither prohibits voluntary prayer nor requires prayer in schools. On May 4, Rep. Rahall (D-WV) introduced H J Res 85, the House version of the same bill. In Feb. 1995, the ABA passed policy, co-sponsored by the Section, that opposes adoption of a Constitutional amendment or federal legislation that would allow for officially sanctioned prayer in public schools.
On May 19, Sen. Clinton, (D-NY) introduced S 2916, to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to expand access to contraceptive services for women and men under the Medicaid program, help low income women and couples prevent unintended pregnancies, and reduce abortions. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
On Mar. 29, Rep. Gohmert introduced HR 5040, to allow juries in federal death penalty cases to determine whether a person is mentally retarded after the prosecution phase of the trial, rather than pre-trial, as is the standard in most states. It also would require defendants to meet all standards of mental retardation as outlined in Atkins v. Virginia. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. In Feb. 1989, the ABA passed a Section-sponsored policy supporting the enactment of legislation prohibiting the execution of defendants with mental retardation.
On May 5, the House passed by a vote of 218-209, HR 513, to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to clarify when organizations described in Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 must register as political committees. The legislation explicitly states that fundraising, spending limits, and disclosure obligations enacted in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 are applicable to these groups. However, the bill contains an exemption for the advocacy work of groups not engaged in Federal election activities. The bill passed the House (218-209) and has been referred to the Senate for consideration.
On May 16, Rep. Davis (R-VA) introduced HR 5388, to provide for the treatment of the District of Columbia as a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives and on May 17, Rep. Norton (D-DC) introduced HR 5410, to provide for the treatment of the District of Columbia as a state for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bills were referred to both the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on Government Reform. In Aug. 1999, the ABA passed policy supporting the principle that citizens of the District of Columbia shall no longer be denied the fundamental right belonging to other American citizens to vote for voting members of the Congress, which governs them.
On Apr. 24, Sen. Schumer (D-NY) introduced S 2629, to improve the tracking of stolen firearms and firearms used in a crime, to allow more frequent inspections of gun dealers to ensure compliance with federal gun laws, and to enhance penalties for gun trafficking. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In August 2004, the ABA passed policy urging federal efforts to implement and enforce the nation’s gun laws and specifically called for more federal prosecutorial and investigative resources to be devoted to enforcement of existing laws dealing with illegal trafficking in firearms, corrupt dealer practices, and illegal sales to minors and others.
On Mar. 28, Rep. Serrano (D-NY) introduced HR 5035, to provide discretionary authority to an immigration judge to determine that an alien parent of a U.S. citizen child should not be ordered removed from the United States. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Apr. 6, Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced HR 5131, to amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to permit states to determine state residency for higher education purposes and to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain alien students who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children.
On Apr. 5, the House passed HR 3127, to impose sanctions against individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, to support measures for the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations, and to support peace efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
On May 11, Rep. Harman (D-CA) introduced HR 5371, to reiterate that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”)and Title 18, United States Code, are the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance may be conducted. In Feb. 2003, the ABA passed Section-sponsored policy urging Congress to conduct regular and timely oversight of the government’s use of FISA to ensure that FISA investigations do not violate the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.
On May 24, Sen. Spector (R-PA) introduced S 3001, to ensure that all electronic surveillance of United States persons for foreign intelligence purposes is conducted pursuant to individualized court-issued orders, and to streamline the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”). In Feb. 2006, the ABA passed policy that calls upon the President to abide by the limitations which the Constitution imposes on a president under our system of checks and balances and respect the essential roles of the Congress and the judicial branch in ensuring that our national security is protected in a manner consistent with constitutional guarantees and opposes any futureelectronic surveillance inside the United States by any U.S. government agency for foreign intelligence purposes that does not comply with the provisions of the FISA, and urges the President, if he believes that FISA is inadequate to safeguard national security, to seek appropriate amendments or new legislation rather than acting without explicit statutory authorization.
Native American Concerns
On May 12, the President signed HR 3351 (P.L. 109-221), to make technical corrections to laws relating to Native Americans. The legislation modifies the Indian Financing Act; raises the cap on National Indian Gaming Commission fees; provides for the acceptance of State funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw; directs a land conveyance for the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota; modifies the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Water Settlement Fund Act; and makes various other technical changes to statutes concerning Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
On Apr. 25, Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) introduced S 2643, to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to clarify that Indian tribes are eligible to receive grants for confronting the use of methamphetamine. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
On May 5, Sen. Santorum (R-PA) introduced S 2754, to derive human pluripotent stem cell lines using techniques that do not knowingly harm embryos. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.