November 01, 2011

Washington News Briefs

RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES: The ABA expressed support last month for legislation to prevent abuse and neglect of children and young people in residential treatment programs in the United States. Such programs, which include residential therapy, outdoor wilderness and boot camp programs, are part of a largely unregulated industry. In an Oct. 12 letter to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman pointed out that a Government Accountability Office study found that in 2005 alone 33 states reported 1,619 staff members involved in incidents of abuse at residential facilities. Examples of abuse included denying youth food and water and holding them down in stress positions for extended periods of time. In 2006, 28 states each reported at least one death in a residential facility. Susman explained that “while day care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals are required to meet state operational standards, many residential treatment programs, which care for and house some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth, remain largely unmonitored by any state or federal regulatory body.” The ABA supports provisions in the legislation — H.R. 3216, introduced by Miller, and S. 1667, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — to create new federal support for states to require licensure of, or otherwise regulate, private residential treatment facilities and further urges requiring government monitoring and enforcement of program operational standards. “Parents of troubled children need greater confidence that when they place their child in a residential facility their child will be safe and properly cared for, the child’s human rights and dignity will be protected, and the staff of the facility will be qualified to help their child,” Susman wrote. The House passed similar legislation during the last Congress, but there was no action in the Senate.

GUARDIANSHIP: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation Oct. 20 that would provide federal funding to state courts for assessing and improving the handling of proceedings relating to adult guardianship and conservatorship, a step supported by the ABA. In a letter to Klobuchar, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman said that the legislation, S. 1744, captures principles adopted by the ABA in 2002 that include effective monitoring, personal and financial reporting, and accountability for all guardianships and developing innovative and creative ways by which funding sources are directed to guardianship. The legislation also advances policy objectives adopted by the ABA in 2009 that encourage the federal government to provide funding and support for training, research, consistent collection of data, and development of state, local and territorial standards regarding adult guardianship. Susman explained that Title I of the bill is patterned on the concept of court improvement projects underway in the child welfare arena for many years and Title III would create a state grant program to improve conservator monitoring efforts through electronic filing based on a system operating in Minnesota. The ABA does not have a position on Title II, which would require background checks for prospective conservators, but Susman noted that the idea appears be a sensible part of the effort to improve the guardianship system contemplated by the ABA’s 2002 policy. In a statement for the record of a Sept. 22 hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Susman emphasized that the ABA, a leader in adult guardianship reform, has tracked state guardianship legislation since 1988. The association’s Commission on Law and Aging is developing, through a project supported by the State Justice Institute and the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging, a handbook for courts on volunteer guardianship monitoring and assistance programs.

CONCEALED FIREARMS: The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Oct. 25 that would allow an individual with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state to carry a concealed firearm in other states that allow their residents to carry concealed guns if the individual complies with the concealed carry laws of the other states. The provisions would apply only if the individual is not prohibited from possessing, transporting, shipping or receiving a firearm under federal law. The committee approved the bill, H.R. 822, by a 19-11 vote following two days of contentious markup. Supporters of the legislation argued that it would allow individuals who travel to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but opponents of the legislation said the bill would prevent states from determining who should be allowed to carry concealed firearms in their jurisdictions. The ABA, in policy adopted at the August 2011 Annual Meeting, opposes federal legislation that would force states to recognize permits or licenses to carry concealed weapons issued in other states. In the background report accompanying the policy, the association maintains that such “concealed carry reciprocity” legislation would undermine the authority of individual states to set strict standards for concealed carry and adversely impact public safety by generally weakening state standards for concealed carry of weapons.

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