Friday, October 20, 2017

CONYERS: The Smithsonian Honors VHS Grad John Hasse



Honored By SmithsonianTop officials of the Smithsonian Institution – and Rep. John Conyers, dean of the House of Representative – saluted music curator John Edward Hasse upon his retirement from the Smithsonian on June 30, bringing to a close 32 years of distinguished accomplishments. Hasse was hailed by David J. Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian, John L. Gray, director of the National Museum of American History, and Rep. Conyers, who inserted a tribute into the Congressional Record. Video of the ceremony can be seen at https://goo.gl/aFPpoV.

Hasse, a 1967 graduate of Vermillion High School, was hired as Curator of American Music by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1984. In that capacity, he founded national Jazz Appreciation Month and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; curated exhibitions on Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, and jazz photography; led the museum’s successful drive to acquire the vast Duke Ellington Collection – 100,000 pages of unpublished music and another hundred thousand pages of documents, as well as objects and/or archival materials from Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Jimmie Lunceford, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Paquito d’Rivera, Randy Weston, Steve Cropper of Booker T & and the MGs, and the 12,000-photo Duncan Schiedt Collection. A highlight was Hasse’s acquisition of John Coltrane’s Selmer tenor sax and his handwritten manuscript of A Love Supreme, his most celebrated work.
Hasse’s books include Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington; Jazz: The First Century; and Discover Jazz (with Tad Lathrop). He co-produced/co-authored Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology. He has been awarded two honorary doctorates, two Grammy Award nominations, two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in writing, and the Nica’s Dream Achievement Award. He has contributed articles to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and eight encyclopedias. Often at the request of the US State Department, Hasse has lectured on jazz, the arts, and leadership in 25 countries on five continents.
John Hasse is the brother of long-time Vermillion resident Paul Hasse, and the son of the late USD professors Gladys and Merten Hasse, whose ashes are interred at Bluff View Cemetery. All five of John Hasse’s siblings attended the University of South Dakota: Paul, Trudy, Ann, Ellen, and younger sister Margaret. While attending USD, the three older Hasse sisters were each elected Miss Dakota, breaking records and generating newspaper publicity from coast to coast.

http://www.plaintalk.net/local_news/article_a39662a4-b5cf-11e7-a853-83f7ab40bad0.html

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

CONYERS: CBC, Ranking Members Request Meeting With FBI About "Black Identity Extremists" Assessment


CBC, Ranking Members to FBI: “As you are no doubt aware, the FBI has a troubling history of utilizing its broad investigatory powers to target black citizens.”

WASHINGTON – the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Ranking Members for three House committees requested a meeting with the FBI about its August 3, 2017 intelligence assessment titled, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond and Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. (Judiciary), Bennie G. Thompson (Homeland Security), and Elijah E. Cummings (Oversight) requested to meet about the origins of the assessment and how it will be used, and expressed concern about the assessment given the FBI’s “troubling history” of targeting black citizens, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders.
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CONYERS Condemns Trump Efforts To Sabotage Obamacare; Strip Health Care From Millions Of Americans

Washington, D.C. – President Donald Trump announced that he will be cutting off the Cost-Sharing Reduction payments required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reduce health insurance payments for millions of Americans.  He also issued an executive order that will limit access to care for millions of Americans.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement in response:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“President Trump and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act since its passage and implementation. After many failed attempts to repeal ACA at the congressional level, President Trump has turned to using the presidency to chip away at the ACA’s critical protections.

“The cost-sharing reduction payments that Trump plans to end were required by the ACA in order to help millions of Americans access quality, affordable care. Trump’s childish and cold-hearted maneuver to end these subsidies will cause premiums to rise for many hard working American families and cause insurers to leave the marketplace.

“When Democrats regain a majority it's imperative that we pass and implement a single payer, Medicare for All system that covers all Americans and cannot be tampered with by a petulant president. In the meantime, Republicans in Congress must join Democrats in their efforts to protect and build on the Affordable Care Act’s progress.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums will increase 25 percent by 2020 without cost-sharing reduction payments.

Read more about the Trump ACA executive order below.

The Trump executive order to sabotage ACA will:

Limit access to comprehensive health coverage, threatening coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

·         The ACA requires that most health insurance sold to individuals and small employers be comprehensive and include coverage for essential health benefits; the executive order could unravel these guaranteed benefits.

·         Without guaranteed coverage for needed benefits, such as maternity care, mental health treatment and substance use treatment, people may be left with skimpy and inadequate coverage that doesn’t give them access to the care they need and that does not offer adequate financial protection against serious medical conditions.

Undermine health insurance markets and increase costs for consumers.

·         Both proposals in the executive order will create an unleveled playing field by allowing certain insurance plans – “short-term” plans and association health plans – to play by different rules.

·         As healthier and lower cost consumers get cheap junk plans with skimpy benefits that may not meet their health needs, older, sicker, and higher cost consumers will be left behind with skyrocketing costs for the same coverage.

·         The individual and small group insurance markets could spiral into chaos and consumers may be left without any access to affordable insurance options.

Leave consumers in the lurch, allowing back-door discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

·         By expanding short-term coverage, we will return to the days of charging sick people more than healthy people and leaving people with pre-existing conditions without affordable coverage options.

·         Both short-term plans and AHPs are not held to the same standards as other insurance. This means consumers may have little recourse for problems or complaints, and no guarantee that they will have the coverage they need when they need it.

·         The nonpartisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners has consistently opposed proposals to expand AHPs because they undermine states’ abilities to protect their consumers.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

CONYERS: Statement For "Forum on “Addressing the Long-Term Effects of Sports-Related Brain Injury”


I am pleased to join my colleague, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, in sponsoring this important event.

Today’s Forum brings together some of the Nation’s leading experts from the medical research and athletic communities to review the causes, effects, and treatments of concussions and other head trauma. 

In particular, the Forum examines what is known about brain injuries, what gaps exist in the scientific literature, and what is being done to address those gaps. 

It will also feature first-hand accounts from individuals who suffered from subconcussive trauma or have witnessed its long-term effects on their loved-ones.
                       
When I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we held a hearing on football head injuries in 2009, which was prompted by the mounting scientific evidence connecting head injuries in football and cognitive problems later in life.

During that hearing, the National Football League refused to acknowledge a connection between head injuries on the football field and the subsequent development of brain diseases.

The following year, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing in Detroit, Michigan followed by forums in Houston and New York City as part of our ongoing commitment to calling attention to this problem and examining ways to prevent head injuries in youth, high school, and college football.

This brings us to today’s Forum, where our medical panelists will discuss their recently published study examining the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, which found that an astounding 110 of them had chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as “CTE”.

Although scientific evidence clearly links head injuries in football to cognitive problems later in life,   between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The extent of injury is particularly problematic for our youth as most brains are not fully developed until age 25.  As a result, a concussion is more dangerous for a youth than for an adult.

I hope the panelists today will provide guidance on how we can better protect all athletes, especially our young athletes.
             
I would be remiss if I did not briefly comment concerning President Trump’s recent series of statements concerning our nation’s professional football players.  At his rally in Alabama on September 22, he mocked the National Football League’s efforts to prevent brain injuries, declaring: “Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom! 15 yards. The referee goes on television, his wife’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”

The President of the United States then went on to use the power of his and the Vice-President’s bully pulpits and Twitter feeds to rail against the right of private citizens to express their views and right to protest as guaranteed by the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

Ironically, Mr. Trump has not uttered a single word about the actual underlying issue -- the glaring disparities in how African-Americans are dealt with under our criminal justice system and their treatment by law enforcement officers, which have often had deadly consequences. 

These are problems, by the way, which have gotten worse, not better, under the Trump Administration and Sessions Justice Department.

Today’s forum will allow us to return to the actual facts and evidence, and consider how we can best protect football players at all levels in an incredibly violent sport.

I thank all the panelists and Members for being here today.


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CONYERS: At Judiciary Committee Markup, Conyers Calls On Committee To Address Gun Violence




Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) called on the House Judiciary Committee Majority to investigate gun violence in America.

Ranking Member Conyers delivered the following remarks during the Judiciary Committee markup:

Before addressing the bill before us, I want to begin my remarks today by extending my condolences to the family and friends of the 58 individuals killed in the shooting in Las Vegas, and expressing my hopes for the recovery of the nearly 500 people injured. 

Congress has a responsibility to find a way to help prevent tragedies like this, as well as the daily incidence of gun violence in our communities.  I am disappointed that this Committee has not addressed this issue at all this Congress. 

In fact, when legislation weakening our laws on silencers and armor piercing ammunition was being prepared for floor consideration, this Committee waived jurisdiction.  We were prepared to let it go – without a hearing or markup – as if it didn’t merit our time or attention. 

Of course, I opposed those provisions because I believed they would take us in the wrong direction by making us more vulnerable to gun violence.  I am glad the Speaker has now indicated that he has no plans to bring that bill to the floor. 

In light of the Las Vegas shooting, and the daily toll of gun violence that impacts all of our communities, it is time for the Committee to take action. 

While I’m sure our staff members will benefit from the briefing on so-called “bump stocks” that the ATF will conduct for them on Friday, it is long overdue for us to conduct hearings on the issue of gun violence, and to adopt legislation intended to strengthen our gun laws. 

With respect to “bump stocks,” Speaker Ryan has said that he thinks a regulator approach by the ATF is the appropriate way to address them, but we have not even had a hearing here in this Committee for us to hear about and discuss different approaches. 

Our overall objective on these issues must be to protect our citizens from becoming victims, whether it is from a mass attack or any other, sadly more common act of gun violence. 

Indeed, we do not need mass attacks to remind us of the urgency of the issue, as each day’s news in communities across our country should tell us. 

Every day of inaction is a lost opportunity to do something about this. 

And so, as we prepare to consider the bills scheduled for this markup session today, I hope that the Committee will take up the issue of gun violence as soon as possible. 

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CONYERS: Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017.”  This bill would provide support for law enforcement agencies to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers. 

At the outset, we must recognize that law enforcement officers have a special role in our communities, with exceptional responsibilities to serve and protect.  In the performance of these duties, they see, encounter, and experience events that the rest of us would run from, but they do not. 

Law enforcement officers respond to horrendous situations that are both dangerous and stressful, and oftentimes life-threatening, as they find themselves in harm’s way while protecting the communities they serve.

For example, some recent tragedies which law enforcement officers have responded to include in June 2016 when 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded by a gunman at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; one month later when a gunman killed five officers and wounded another nine officers along with two civilians in Dallas, Texas; and just this month when a gunman in Las Vegas killed 58 innocent citizens and injured nearly 500 others.

And, of course, law enforcement officers must respond to the calls related to violence of many kinds in our communities every day. 

In many cases, these traumatic situations remain with officers long after the threats are reduced and the communities they serve have gained a renewed since of safety.

However, members of law enforcement are left to face the continued trauma from their daily work, which can be difficult to process and impossible to forget.

That is why this bill is necessary. 

H.R. 2228 seeks to help create and improve mental health and wellness services for law enforcement officers.

The bill provides support for law enforcement agencies by requiring reports on mental health practices and services that can be adopted by law enforcement agencies and establishes peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within law enforcement agencies.

H.R. 2228 would also provide support for mental health programs by developing educational resources for mental health providers regarding the culture of law enforcement agencies and therapies for mental health issues common to law enforcement.

This measure would also provide support for law enforcement officers by reviewing existing crisis hotlines, recommending improvements regarding these crisis hotlines, and researching the effectiveness of annual mental health checks for law enforcement officers.

With this legislation, we in Congress can help better provide for and protect the mental health, safety, and wellness of all law enforcement officers as they unselfishly protect each of us daily.

For these reasons, I support this bill and ask that my colleagues join me in doing so today.

115th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 2228

To provide support for law enforcement agency efforts to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
April 28, 2017
Mrs. Brooks of Indiana (for herself, Mrs. Demings, Mr. Collins of Georgia, Mr. Pascrell, and Mr. Reichert) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL
To provide support for law enforcement agency efforts to protect the mental health and well-being of law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017”.
SEC. 2. SUPPORT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES.

(a) Interagency Collaboration.—The Attorney General shall consult with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a report, which shall be made publicly available, on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs mental health practices and services that could be adopted by Federal, State, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies.

(b) Case Studies.—The Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services shall submit to Congress a report—
(1) that is similar to the report entitled “Health, Safety, and Wellness Program Case Studies in Law Enforcement” published by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in 2015; and

(2) that focuses on case studies of programs designed primarily to address officer psychological health and well-being.

(c) Peer Mentoring Pilot Program.—Section 1701(b) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796dd(b)) is amended—
(1) in paragraph (21), by striking “; and” and inserting a semicolon;

(2) in paragraph (22), by striking the period at the end and inserting “; and”; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:
“(23) to establish peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies.”.
SEC. 3. SUPPORT FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDERS.
The Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall develop resources to educate mental health providers about the culture of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and evidence-based therapies for mental health issues common to Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement officers.
SEC. 4. SUPPORT FOR OFFICERS.
The Attorney General shall—

(1) in consultation with Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies—
(A) identify and review the effectiveness of any existing crisis hotlines for law enforcement officers;

(B) provide recommendations to Congress on whether Federal support for existing crisis hotlines or the creation of an alternative hotline would improve the effectiveness or use of the hotline; and

(C) conduct research into the efficacy of an annual mental health check for law enforcement officers;

(2) in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the head of other Federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers, examine the mental health and wellness needs of Federal law enforcement officers, including the efficacy of expanding peer mentoring programs for law enforcement officers at each Federal agency; and

(3) ensure that any recommendations, resources, or programs provided under this Act protect the privacy of participating law enforcement officers.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

CONYERS, GOODLATTE and Judiciary Committee Members Introduce the USA Liberty Act




Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.),  Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) today introduced the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989). This bipartisan bill reforms and reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire at the end of this year, to protect both national security and Americans’ civil liberties.

The USA Liberty Act preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of communications by targeting non-U.S. persons located outside the U.S. in order to identify and thwart terrorist plots against our nation and our citizens. The bill also creates a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles enshrined in our Constitution that protect individual liberty. It provides new accountability measures to address the unmasking of U.S. persons’ identities and new reporting requirements on the number of U.S. persons who have been swept up in Section 702 collection. The bill also enhances national security by increasing penalties for those who leak classified information and calling on the intelligence agencies to share information with each other and with our allies to combat terrorism.
Below are statements from Judiciary Committee leaders on the introduction of the USA Liberty Act.

Ranking Member Conyers: “Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is essential to the intelligence community’s gathering of foreign intelligence and detecting threats to the homeland.  Its reauthorization should include reforms that bring this authority better in line with our sense of privacy and due process.  Indeed, we believe that it will only be possible to reauthorize Section 702 with such reforms in place. The bipartisan USA Liberty Act is designed to accomplish this goal.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The USA Liberty Act protects Americans’ lives and their civil liberties. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes a critical national security tool that keeps Americans safe but also reforms it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. It contains more accountability, transparency, and oversight so that the American people have confidence that our cherished liberties continue to be protected as the intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies wishing to harm our nation and citizens. The bill also contains a number of measures to further enhance national security so that our country remains free and safe. I thank the many members who have worked on this bill for months and look forward to bringing it up in the House Judiciary Committee soon.”

Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “The USA Liberty Act is carefully crafted, bipartisan legislation that represents the type of common sense compromise that we desperately need in this country. It balances privacy and security concerns by requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability of the government’s surveillance powers while limiting the incidental collection of Americans’ communications and requiring a court order to query data. It also puts in place a critical six-year sunset provision, allowing Congress to respond appropriately to the ever-changing threats facing our nation. This is smart, forward-leaning legislation that I urge my colleagues to get behind.”

Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee: “Collectively, what Democrats and Republicans have agreed on is a strategy that secures the homeland, while preserving cherished liberties that still make America the envy of the world.”

IP Subcommittee Ranking Member Nadler: “The USA Liberty Act is an attempt to strike the appropriate balance, as we did in the USA Freedom Act, of giving our intelligence agencies the tools they need to keep us safe while making sure individual liberty and privacy rights are better protected. For the first time, the bill institutes a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—for criminal investigators to query the information obtained by the 702 program. In addition, this legislation significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched, and, most importantly, institutes critical operational norms for the 702 program that make it more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective in striking the critical balance between national security needs and the individual’s constitutional rights. I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for working in good faith on the USA Liberty Act, which goes a long way in reforming government surveillance under Section 702.”

Additional original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

Background: FISA Section 702, which will expire on December 31, 2017, authorizes surveillance of the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States in order to protect national security. It reportedly contributes to a quarter of all National Security Agency surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country. Although Congress designed this authority to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States, it is clear that Section 702 surveillance programs can and do incidentally collect information about U.S. persons when U.S. persons communicate with the foreign targets of Section 702 surveillance.


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

CONYERS: Another lesson from Equifax - We must end the predatory consumer practice of forced arbitration

By John Conyres, Jr., Hank Johnson, David Cicilline, & Don Beyer

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The recent Equifax data breach jeopardized the economic security of nearly half of all Americans because of the credit rating company’s failure to safeguard our most sensitive information, which could now be in the hands of criminals. To make matters worse, many of those affected by this massive security breach are unsure whether they even have legal recourse because of the company’s use of forced arbitration clauses.

Americans are right to be outraged and frustrated and should be especially concerned about the use of forced arbitration by credit rating agencies like Equifax. Forced arbitration clauses are a predatory consumer practice written into the fine print of contracts. Signers unknowingly waive their right to sue and are forced into arbitration if a dispute arises. Americans should have a right to choose whether to sue or to seek arbitration. Preemptively eliminating our access to the justice system is a violation of every American’s right as a consumer. The justice system is one of the few tools that average citizens have to fight deceitful and harmful business practices, vindicate their rights, and pursue justice.

Equifax partially revised its forced arbitration policy in response to public outcry, but a limited change is not sufficient given the systemic nature of this problem and the scope of the lives affected. In recognition of the importance of Americans’ access to justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a rule to eliminate forced arbitration from consumer financial product contracts.

This protection restores the rights of Americans to seek their day in court, and the transparency that comes with it, if their rights are violated by unscrupulous financial services and products. This protection is vital for the economic security of the American people and our country’s commitment to the rule of law. But rather than support this commonsense protection, credit rating agencies, like Equifax, reportedly campaigned against it and spent millions in political contributions to undermine both the CFPB rule and the CFPB itself.

The Equifax data breach shook public confidence in the entire credit rating industry. Companies such as Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian should take this moment to demonstrate their respect for the rights of customers, not undermine them. This is why we wrote to ask the three credit rating agencies to revise their terms of service and eliminate their use of forced arbitration and class action waivers on all the products they offer. Furthermore, we asked that they end their opposition to the CFPB arbitration rule to restore consumers’ day in court.

Forced arbitration clauses are a bald and predatory attempt to shield corporations from liability for their misconduct through the fine print of contracts. The credit rating agencies who we trust with our most sensitive data should not be actively working to undermine consumer rights. They should support the CFPB and the rule against forced arbitration.

Congress must also step forward to protect consumer’s rights. We have led the push in the House to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act, which would eliminate forced arbitration. It deserves a vote. Unfortunately House and Senate Republicans sought a different path. A Republican measure to repeal the CFPB rule, supported by all three credit rating agencies, passed the House of Representatives in July on a nearly-straight party-line vote. It is currently pending in the Senate. We cannot afford to let it pass. The right of your and every other American’s access to the justice system is at stake.


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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CONYERS: House Democrats to Trump Administration: Florida Nursing Home Tragedy Is a Wake-Up Call to Protect the Fundamental Rights of Residents Against Abuse



WASHINGTON – In the wake of disturbing reports of the neglect of nursing home residents in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, 46 members of Congress called on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to maintain current protections for elder Americans against abuse in nursing homes.

In Florida, 12 residents died and more than 100 were hospitalized after a long-term care facility failed to evacuate residents after losing air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. In Texas, similar abuse occurred at a facility that refused to evacuate despite severe flooding. The letter is led by Representatives David N. Cicilline (RI-01), John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01).

They wrote: “The horrific reports of abuse at facilities in Florida and Texas in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey underscore the need for your agency to reconsider upending the legal protections of those who have worked and saved for their entire lives to retire with dignity. This is a time when we should be protecting our nation’s seniors, not rolling back their fundamental right to hold wrongdoers accountable for neglect and abuse.”

Last year under the Obama Administration, CMS finalized a strong rule that prohibited the use of pre-dispute, mandatory (“forced”) arbitration clauses in nursing home admission agreements.

Nursing-home residents stand to lose virtually every cause of action against unscrupulous caregivers unless these current protections against forced arbitration in nursing-home admission contracts are preserved.

As the letter notes, following an extensive notice-and-comment rulemaking process, CMS determined that forced arbitration undermines the ability of health investigators to prevent and remedy abuse in nursing homes.

But under the Trump Administration, CMS has already begun the process to end this protection.

The letter follows a letter from House Democrats—including Representatives Johnson, Cicilline, Conyers, Nadler, and Sanchez—in 2015 that called on CMS to adopt these protections.

The group of House Democrats denounced plans by CMS Administrator Verma to roll back existing protections, writing “Americans in nursing homes deserve better. It is vital that residents and their families are able to enforce their rights and hold nursing home operators accountable for dangerous facility conditions and the inhumane treatment of residents. We strongly urge CMS to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents, particularly in light of recent events, by maintaining the current prohibition of forced arbitration clauses in nursing home admission contracts.”

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CONYERS: In The Wake Of Vegas Mass Shooting, Top Judiciary & National Resoures Dems Call On Speaker Ryan To Pull Gun Silencer Bill From House Floor


Washington, D.C. – Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, that has taken the lives of 58 people and injured more than 500, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) sent a letter, below, to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling for him to remove H.R. 3668, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” from the House calendar indefinitely.

The firearms-related provisions of H.R. 3668 would (1) weaken regulation of the interstate transportation of firearms; (2) make it easier for private citizens to obtain silencers by removing silencers from the protections in the National Firearms Act (NFA), which currently restricts the possession and sale of certain particularly dangerous firearms and accessories; and (3) remove the “sporting purposes” clause, which restricts the importation of firearms with certain features, and eliminate the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to reclassify certain ammunition as “armor piercing ammunition.”

In their letter, the Members wrote, “…we ask that you immediately announce that this legislation will not be taken up by the House of Representatives.  It is not enough to simply hold a moment of silence, or place U.S. flags at half-staff; rather we believe that, in the wake of the horrific shootings last evening in Las Vegas, you must clearly state that the House will not seek to make matters worse by passing this legislation, which includes a number of provisions that would make us more vulnerable to mass shootings and subject our citizens and law enforcement personnel to an increased risk of gun violence.”

The Members continued, “…In active shooter situations, law enforcement must respond quickly to locate the shooter in order to prevent the carnage from continuing.  Silencing or muffling the sound of gun shots would make this more difficult, preventing quick response, such as the brave actions of law enforcement to quickly locate and take action against the shooter last night and those of the police officers that located and took down the man who shot and killed five officers in Dallas last year.  This situation illustrates the danger posed by the proliferation of silencers, particularly when the regulation of them is proposed to be weakened substantially – even allowing them to be sold with no checks whatsoever in some circumstances. ”

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Conyers and Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) also sent a letter, below, to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to renew their call for hearings on these issues.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

CONYERS: Michigan Needs A New State Police Director

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) issued the following statement after Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue posted an uninformed statement on Facebook concerning National Football League (NFL) protests against racial injustice:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I have been defending the ideal symbolized by the American flag for my entire adult life. Here in the U.S. Congress since 1965; before that as a state official; and before that as an officer in the United States Army serving in the Korean Conflict.  When I went off to war, the country I fought for was far from realized: in Korea I was an officer and a gentleman; at home I was a second-class citizen.  But still I fought, because our country is about so much more than a flag or an anthem.  It is about a great struggle, centuries in the making, to make a more perfect union. 

“Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue is entitled to her wrong-headed, spiteful opinion. However, her comments in regards to NFL players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem were completely inappropriate, unbefitting an officer of the state of Michigan, and raise practical concerns about her ability to enforce the laws of our state and country.

“Michigan needs a Michigan State Police Director who understands the very real issue of racial injustice and the blatant disparities that African-Americans face within our criminal justice system and at the hands of some ill-willed law enforcement officers. Instead of bashing the protests, Etue should be looking to address the reason for the protests in the first place, by working with the Michigan police force and the communities they protect and serve to improve relations.  If Etue cannot complete that mission, she should stand down.

“I strongly believe that no one should ever make the mistake that the fight for justice in America is anything less than an act of patriotism.  As a veteran, I served alongside soldiers who fought for this country’s freedom. It is time for us to honor these struggles and commit to working toward a society that so many have sacrificed for.”

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CONYERS Leads Members Of Congress In Filing Amicus Brief Opposing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Motion To Vacate His Conviction Following Trump's Pardon


Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY ), Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN), Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Ranking Member David Cicilline (D-RI), Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), and other Members of Congress, filed an amicus brief opposing Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s motion to vacate his conviction for criminal contempt of court on the ground that President Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio was unconstitutional.

In 2011, a Federal court found that Sheriff Arpaio's police department routinely engaged in racial profiling of Latinos.  The court ordered the department to cease its unconstitutional practices immediately, but Sheriff Arpaio and the department flouted the court's order, and continued to direct their staff to deprive thousands of people of their constitutional rights.  This past July, Sheriff Arpaio was held in criminal contempt of court for repeatedly and blatantly ignoring the court’s injunction against him.  Just three weeks later, however, President Trump pardoned his contempt conviction.

The Members released the following statement:

“The President's pardon of Sheriff Arpaio was not just disgraceful, but also represented what we believe to be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.  As our brief argues, it is essential to the independence of the judiciary that courts be able to enforce compliance with their orders through the contempt power, especially those orders that protect the constitutional rights of private parties.  By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, the President threatened this fundamental judicial power.  Furthermore, if the President’s pardon is allowed to stand, this case could have severe implications for Congress’s ability to compel compliance with its own investigations and orders.

“President Trump’s pardon was not intended to remedy an unduly harsh criminal punishment, or to correct a mistake in the enforcement of the criminal law—the intended purpose of the power—but to usurp the power of the judiciary to vindicate the authority of the courts and to uphold the rule of law.  Despite common misconceptions, the pardon power is not absolute.  As Laurence Tribe, one of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars, explained, ‘when the Constitution says that the president ‘shall have power,’ that does not mean unlimited power.  It means power that is not inconsistent with other parts of the Constitution.’  In this case, the pardon power was used to upset the careful balance of power among the branches of government, and to undermine the rule of law.

“We agree with Professor Tribe and with numerous other scholars and commentators that the President’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio was unconstitutional and, therefore, ask the court to deny Sheriff Arpaio’s motion to vacate his conviction.”
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

CONYERS: Following Trump's NFL Rant, Conyers Urges Focus On Real Issue Of Racial Inequality



Conyers Says Congress Must Move on Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability Legislation; League Owners Must Protect NFL Players Who Speak Out


Washington D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released the following statement in response to President Trump’s continued inflammatory rhetoric urging the National Football League (NFL) to fire players for protesting racial injustice:

“President Donald Trump’s demands that the NFL team owners fire athletes who kneel or otherwise protest during the playing of the national anthem at football games is blatantly inconsistent with our Nation’s most fundamental constitutional and democratic values. The President of the United States, using the power of his bully pulpit and Twitter feed, to rail against private citizens’ political expression can constitute a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.

“While it is important to confront Trump’s divisive words, we should not fall into his rhetorical trap and lose sight of the original purpose of the players’ protest.  The players are calling attention to the fact that there are glaring disparities in how African-Americans are dealt with under our criminal justice system and their treatment by law enforcement officers, which often have deadly consequences. 

“If President Trump and his Administration really cared about racial divisions in our country, they would work with us to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform and meaningful police accountability legislation – both of which have remained bipartisan issues in Congress.  Instead, the Trump Administration and Attorney General Sessions have been undoing the very real progress made by the Obama Administration to address these issues.  Republicans in Congress must stand up to the Trump Administration’s roll backs of critical policing, criminal justice reform and community accountability policies.

“No one should ever make the mistake that the fight for justice in America is anything less than an act of patriotism. As a veteran, I believe the players’ protest is far from ‘un-American.’ To the contrary, their nonviolent protest is in keeping with the traditions and values established by generations of civil rights leaders who have advocated for racial equality. 

“I respect the NFL owners standing up for the players last weekend. However, the true test of their willingness to protect players’ pursuit of justice will be if they ensure that no NFL player loses a job because he has the courage to speak out, as Colin Kaepernick did last year. ”

Background: According to former Yale Law School Dean Robert Post, President Trump threatening or using the powers or imprimatur of his office to coerce a private entity like the NFL to take action against a citizen in retaliation for that citizen’s expression, could constitute a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.

In July 2016, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers announced the establishment of a working group to examine police accountability, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues.

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