Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Voter Empowerment Act: More necessary than ever

By Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.)
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
There is no more important right in our society than the right to vote – it is the basis of all of our other rights. It is why generations of Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. And as a result of their sacrifices, today government and society as a whole has become more reflective of the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution.    
Given the importance of this hard-fought right, the American people deserve an election system that not only protects but enhances every eligible voter’s ability to register, cast a ballot, and participate in our democracy. But rather than improve access to the ballot box, over the past year states have enacted laws which undermine this fundamental right.
Legislatures across the country have ended same day voter registration. Many have limited or eliminated early voting opportunities and severely restricted voter mobilization drives. And states have adopted restrictive photo identification requirements which exclude common forms of identification. These laws are barriers to voting and could disenfranchise millions of eligible minority, elderly, military, student, and low-income voters.
U.S. Representative
Bob Brady
As the Ranking Members of the Committees on the Judiciary and House Administration, we believe strongly in Congress’ role as a guardian of voting rights.  In light of this recent trend, Congress must do more to ensure all American citizens are able to freely exercise this precious right. That is why we have joined with Representative John Lewis, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn and many of our House colleagues in introducing the Voter Empowerment Act.       
Congress has long acted on a bipartisan basis to protect and expand the right to vote. Since it originally passed in 1965, Congress has voted three times to enhance the Voting Rights Act, including reauthorizing the Act in 2006.  In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act which improved access to voter registration and provided protection from wrongful purges on voter rolls. And in 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act to enhance voters’ access to the ballot box. Protecting and enhancing the right to vote is a long-standing Congressional prerogative. 
The Voter Empowerment Act protects the integrity of elections by improving eligible voters’ access to the ballot box. It modernizes voter registration using existing technology to automatically and permanently enroll consenting eligible voters while also making certain voter information is secure and accurate.  It would also provide for online registration, allow same day voter registration at the poll, and simplifies the registration process for members of the military serving overseas. The bill also ensures the integrity of elections by providing funds to better train poll workers and by banning officials in charge of elections from participating in campaigns.                    
The first political campaign after passage ofVoting Rights Act.
Additionally, this legislation protects voting rights by outlawing vote caging and deceptive practices designed to interfere with an individual’s right to vote through intimidation and misinformation. Voter caging is the practice of sending mail to voters at their addresses maintained on voter rolls, creating a list of the mail that is returned as undeliverable or without a return receipt, and using that list to purge or challenge a voters’ registrations on the basis that the voters on the list do not legally reside at their registered address. The bill declares that a voter shall not be denied the right to vote unless the challenge is corroborated by independent evidence, and it also prohibits persons other than election official from challenging a voter’s eligibility based on voter caging and other questionable challenges. Majority-minority neighborhoods are often the target of this practice. And Vote caging disproportionately harms individuals who change addresses often such as students and service members.  
These are common sense steps Congress can take to ensure every eligible voter who desires to participate can do so and that federal elections proceed in a fair and transparent manner. Given there is an election six months away, it is our hope that our colleagues on the Committees on the Judiciary and House Administration will demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process by holding hearings on the Voter Empowerment Act.
The loudest sound that exists in a democratic society is the voice of a voter in an election. Ensuring that every minority, every service member, every senior citizen, and every student has the right to vote should not be a partisan issue.
Rep. Conyers (D-Mich.) is the ranking Democrat on the the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Brady (D-Pa.) is the ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee.

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Attorney General Holder Promises to Defend Voting Rights

Attorney General Holder Promises to Defend Voting Rights

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promises to defend voting rights at Conference of National Black Churches annual meeting.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised to uphold voting rights in his keynote address this morning at the Conference of National Black Churches annual meeting in Washington D.C. The three-day event is being held in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus and focuses on issues of concern to members of the nation’s nine largest African American denominations.
The Attorney General promised to defend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially Section 5, which requires Justice Department clearance before changes can be made to voting laws in Southern states and those that have a history of disenfranchising Black voters.
“This process, known as ‘preclearance,’ has been a powerful tool in combating discrimination for decades.  And it has consistently enjoyed broad bipartisan support – including in its most recent reauthorization, when President Bush and an overwhelming Congressional majority came together in 2006 to renew the Act’s key provisions – and extend it until 2031. Yet, in the six years since its reauthorization, Section 5 has increasingly come under attack by those who claim it’s no longer needed,” said Holder.
He also said that between 1965 and 2010, only eight challenges to Section 5 were filed in court, but in the last two years there have been “no fewer than nine lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of that provision.” Each challenge “claims that we’ve attained a new era of electoral equality, that America in 2012 has moved beyond the challenges of 1965, and that Section 5 is no longer necessary,” he said, adding that “nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders” enacted in more than a dozen states “could make it significantly harder for many eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
“We’re now examining a number of redistricting plans in covered jurisdictions, as well as other types of changes to our election systems and processes – including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, to early voting procedures, and to photo identification requirements – to ensure that there is no discriminatory purpose or effect.  If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change.  And, as we have demonstrated repeatedly, when a jurisdiction fails to meet its burden of proving that a proposed voting change would not have a racially discriminatory effect – we will object, as we have in 15 separate cases since last September,” said Holder.
The Attorney General also promised to protect the voting rights of military personnel and other Americans living abroad, as well as veterans, citizens with disabilities, college students, and language minorities at home, but said “no form of electoral fraud ever has been – or ever will be – tolerated by the United States government.”
Coincidentally, in a statement published by The Hill today, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking members of the Committees on the Judiciary and House Administration, announced that they were joining other Democrats in introducing theVoter Empowerment Act, which they say “protects the integrity of elections by improving eligible voters’ access to the ballot box” by modernizing voter registration, “automatically and permanently enroll consenting eligible voters,” providing for online registration, allowing same day voter registration at the poll, and simplifying the registration process for members of the military serving overseas, among other things.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Black mayors come to Atlanta for 38th annual convention

More than 250 mayors and state and federal officials are scheduled to be in Atlanta through Sunday for the National Conference of Black Mayors' 38th annual national convention.
"As leaders of large urban cities and rural areas, mayors play a vital role in ensuring the future economic growth and safety of our nation as we address challenges at home and increasing global competition from emerging economies," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “Crumbling transportation infrastructure, joblessness and failing public schools are issues that mayors tackle on a daily basis."The gathering is billed as a forum in which rural and urban mayors can exchange ideas. The Atlanta convention is expected to deal with job creation, housing, health, sustainability, green technology, international trade, good governance and ethics and broadband.
Reed will serve as official host of the meeting. He plans to welcome the officials on Thursday night with a reception at City Hall.
It's a high-profile event for the 42-year old mayor, who has received doses of national exposure on CNN and Meet the Press and in forums organized by the Aspen Institute and other groups.
Atlanta’s history as the cradle of civil rights and its evolution into an "economic and political powerhouse" led the group to select the city as its meeting place, said Robert L. Bowser, president of the NCBM and mayor of East Orange, New Jersey. The conference will be held at the Marriott hotel in Buckhead.
Founded in 1974, the National Conference of Black Mayors represents more than 650 African-American mayors across the United States.
Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, is scheduled to be there. So are Rep. John Conyers and Ambassador Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta. Representatives from Senegal, Colombia, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are also expected to attend.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Dems push for report on consequences of military strike on Iran

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Democrats on Thursday are hoping the House accepts an amendment that would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to report to Congress on the consequences of a military attack against Iran.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and two other Democrats won the right to have their language considered as an amendment to the 2013 intelligence authorization bill, H.R. 5743. Under their amendment, the DNI would have 60 days after passage to send a report to the congressional intelligence committees that includes an "assessment of the consequences of a military strike against Iran."
Democrats in particular have grown more concerned about what they see as a risk that the United States will soon be at war with Iran. In recent weeks, Congress has taken several steps that worry these members.
For example, both the House and Senate have approved Iran sanctions legislation — the Senate bill, S. 2101, says the United States will pursue all options to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
Earlier this month, the House approved a resolution saying a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable. Also, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 includes language that would require the movement of military assets into the Middle East to counter Tehran, and says the United States will take "all necessary measures, including military action if required," to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee decided against making another Iran-related amendment in order. This one, from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would have required a report on the nuclear activities of Iran, including whether it is trying to build a nuclear weapon.Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said this language is moving the country closer to war. "We're getting ready for war against Iran," he said.
The unclassified text of the Intelligence Authorization Act makes no mention of Iran, although most of the bill is classified, making it hard to determine what steps it might authorize as it relates to intelligence gathering against Iran.
Aside from the Conyers amendment, eight others will be considered today before the bill is passed — these deal with information sharing with Canada and Mexico, improving security clearances for subcontractors and ensuring the rights of racial and ethnic minorities within the intelligence agencies.
More broadly, the bill would authorize U.S. intelligence activities for the next fiscal year, as well as the Department of Defense's new Clandestine Service, which is meant to gather intelligence beyond the countries in which U.S. forces are already engaged.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

House to Vote on Bill Penalizing Abortion Based on Sex of Child

House to Vote on Bill Penalizing Abortion Based on Sex of Child

The House will vote this week on legislation imposing criminal penalties on anyone performing an abortion based on the sex of the child, but the measure runs the risk of failing on the floor because of how the GOP is calling it up.
Republican leaders have scheduled a vote on H.R. 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), under a suspension of House rules, which will require a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Suspension votes are usually reserved for non-controversial bills, but Republican leaders have occasionally used the process for bills that Democrats oppose, and the PRENDA bill appears to be one of those.
Democratic opposition to the bill began with its original name, the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-discrimination Act. Democrats argued in February that while the bill was named after these civil rights heroes, it has nothing to do with protecting civil rights. "It is offensive that the sponsors of this bill would invoke the names of two of our nation's historic civil rights pioneers," House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said. The original name reflected that the bill also sought to ban abortions based on the race of the child, but took out that language in committee. Republicans agreed to strike that language in the Judiciary committee, and also changed the name of the bill. 
Still, the bill was voted out of committee with only Republican support. That partisan vote, and Democrats' ongoing opposition to the bill, could make it difficult for the bill to be approved by a two-thirds vote on the floor. Roughly 50 Democrats would need to join Republicans to pass the bill under suspension of the rules. Democrats point out that the suspension vote violates the Republicans' own rules, which say they will not schedule bills for consideration under a suspension of the rules if they are opposed by more than one-third of committee members. The Judiciary Committee approved the bill 20-13, with all Democrats voting against.
Despite the changes in committee, Democrats argue that the bill looks to erect new hurdles to women's right to abortion. The legislation looks to ensure there are no gender-based abortions by authorizing fines and prison terms of up to five years against doctors who perform these abortions, and requires health professionals to report suspected violations of the law. "This legislation violates a woman's right to privacy as affirmed by the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade," Conyers said after the committee approved the legislation. "The bill would require doctors to police their patients, undermining patient-doctor privilege. It limits a woman's right to choose and jeopardizes her access to safe, legal medical care."
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said when he introduced the bill that his aim is to ensure equal rights for unborn children. In December, his office put out a statement saying, "A minority baby is currently five times more likely to be aborted than a white baby, and nearly half of all black babies are aborted, with over 70 percent of abortion clinics being located in predominantly minority neighborhoods. "Our innate sense of human fairness should make it abundantly clear that aborting a little baby because he or she happens to be black or because he or she has been arbitrarily deemed 'lesser' is fundamentally wrong," Franks said.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Conyers Applauds Renewal of HOPWA grant to Cass Community Social Services

(DETROIT) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement applauding the renewal of a $1,350,000 Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) grant to Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The grant will help CCSS to continue to provide housing for chronically homeless individuals at the Cass House facility, which also provides educational and substance abuse counseling opportunities.

“Cass Community Social Services provides invaluable services and opportunities to the Wayne County community,” said Conyers.  “The Cass House, which offers housing, educational support, and substance abuse counseling to individuals with HIV/AIDS, supplies a vital service to homeless individuals with HIV/AIDS.  I commend the efforts of the staff of Cass Community Services on their work to improve the lives of the homeless.”

The grant is a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.  Organizations that receive HOPWA grants are encouraged to partner with local non-profit organizations, and develop community-wide strategies.  The purpose of the program is to provide housing assistance and related supportive services.  Grant funds may be used to cover housing, social services, program planning, and development costs.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, May 18, 2012

Conyers Joins Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, and Brady in Introducing the Voter Empowerment Act

(WASHINGTON) – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) joined Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.),  Democratic Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and House Committee on Administration Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-Pa.), in introducing the Voter Empowerment Act.   Over the past year, states across the country have enacted restrictive voting laws that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to register or vote.  This comprehensive voting rights bill will modernize voter registration, ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans, and prohibit deceptive practices and voter fraud that keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote.  

U.S.  Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“There is no right more important in our society than the right to vote – it is the foundation of all of our other rights enshrined in the Constitution,” said Conyers.  "Unfortunately, for many citizens the right to vote is in jeopardy and today we stand together to protect that precious right. 

“For the first time since the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s, we are experiencing an unprecedented attack on the right to vote.  In recent years, a vast number of states have enacted voting restrictions through sophisticated methods used to disenfranchise voters.  These new laws do not improve access to voting for millions of minorities, elderly, youth, military, and poor voters and instead may leave these voters without a voice in their government.   

“This is why I am proud to join my colleagues today in introducing the Voter Empowerment Act.

“The loudest sound that exists in a democratic society is the voice of a voter in an election.  Ensuring that every minority, veteran, every senior citizen, every student has the right to vote should not be a partisan issue.  Today, we are at a crossroads: We can make it harder for citizens to register and vote.  Or we can build on the progress of the Civil Rights era and continue to enhance all of our citizens’ access to the ballot.

“I urge this Congress to march forward with the Voter Empowerment Act, and carry out our Congressional imperative to protect every American’s right to vote.”     

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Thursday, May 17, 2012

U.S. Senate Judiciary Antitrust Committee To Hold Hearings on Motown Recording Artists Copyright and Royalty Abuses

U.S. Senate Judiciary Antitrust Committee To Hold Hearings on Motown Recording Artists Copyright and Royalty Abuses

George Clinton and U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.                 

Music icon George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic has previously taken the lead on the issue of recapturing copyrights working with U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. Mr. Clinton has suggested to the Committee that Mrs. Katherine Jackson, matriarch of the Jackson family may be interested in sharing her views in testimony.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Antitrust Committee To Hold Hearings on Motown Recording Artists Copyright and Royalt... Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Kucinich, Conyers look to block White House effort to expand drone strikes

Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) are pushing legislation that would roll back a recent White House decision to expand drone strikes against terrorist targets around the world.

 The legislation was introduced as an amendment to the House version of the 2013 defense budget bill. House members plan to bring that amendment and others up for floor debate on Thursday.

 If approved, the amendment would block members of the Pentagon's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from carrying out unmanned airstrikes under newly rewritten White House authority on those operations. Specifically, the amendment would stop JSOC members from participating in combat operations "in which an unmanned aerial vehicle is used to attack a target who's identity is unknown or is based solely on patters of behavior.

 The Kucinich-Conyers legislation flies directly in the face of the Obama administration's decision to execute those types of airstrikes, particularly against suspected terror targets in Yemen.

 In April, the White House approved a CIA request that would allow the agency to hit terror targets tied to al Qaeda's Yemen cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), even when it doesn’t know their identities.

 Before the new rules, U.S. military and intelligence planners used classified lists of known terror targets to plan unmanned airstrikes. Additionally, those strikes could not be executed until U.S. intelligence confirmed a target was at a certain location.

 Now, American drones can take out targets where suspected terrorists could be at a certain locations, without confirmation of their actual presence. Targets in areas like Yemen can also be hit if U.S. intelligence picks up signs terror groups in that area are planning an attack against American targets, under the new White House rules.

 The newly empowered U.S. drone campaign has produced significant results, particularly against AQAP. A U.S-led airstrike on May 3 against an al Qaeda-run training camp in southern Yemen Wednesday ended in the deaths of 15 militants.

 Yemeni al Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed by a CIA drone strike in eastern Yemen on May 5.

 Weeks before the al-Quso strike, unmanned drones likely operated by the CIA killed a dozen members of AQAP in Abyan province in southern Yemen.

 Information that led to the al-Quso strike reportedly came from a Saudi double agent who had infiltrated the AQAP ranks. That agent, who was working for U.S., British and Saudi intelligence, also reportedly helped foil an AQAP plot to blow up an American commercial airliner to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest commentary: Congress must not weaken the Violence Against Women Act

Guest commentary: Congress must not weaken the Violence Against Women Act

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
For nearly 20 years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been effective at protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence and holding perpetrators accountable. Domestic violence has dropped by more than half since the legislation became law in 1994.

Yet the House of Representatives is set to consider a bill this week that would repeal and weaken some of VAWA's most critical protections.

VAWA has long enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support. Bills to reauthorize and further strengthen its protections passed by near-unanimous votes in 2000 and 2005. Bipartisanship was also on display last month when Senate Democrats and Republicans passed their own bill to strengthen VAWA with supermajority support.

But the bill now being pushed by House Republican leadership is different. Unlike every VAWA reauthorization before it, this bill would leave women less protected than under current law. The bill would endanger victims, embolden perpetrators of violence, and eliminate essential law enforcement tools to keep women safe. It is a giant leap backward.

House Republican leaders argue that opposition to their bill is hollow partisanship. But a diverse and wide-ranging coalition of domestic violence organizations, women's groups, faith-based groups, and law enforcement agencies beg to differ.

U.S. Representative
Zoe Lufgren
The leading domestic violence organizations, including the thousands of service providers in the National Network to End Domestic Violence, strongly oppose the bill because it would "weaken, rather than enhance, protections for victims of domestic violence." Leading researchers in universities across the country echo their concerns over how the bill will "roll back and eviscerate protections."
These are the real people on the front lines against domestic and sexual violence in the country. They are not partisan organizations seeking to score political points.

Neither are the faith-based groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, that also harbor deep concerns over the sections of the bill repealing protections for battered immigrant women. Many of these protections have been in the law for almost 20 years. A recent letter to Congress states that that they are "deeply troubled" by the bill's efforts to "roll back protections in current law for battered non-citizens, making them more vulnerable and, in some cases, endangering their lives."

The National Organization for Women (NOW) denounced last Tuesday's passage of the bill in committee. The Evangelical Church and NOW usually don't agree. But both groups share similar concerns and oppose the House bill.

A coalition of law enforcement officers with expertise in domestic and sexual violence cases has also expressed in a letter to Congress their "strong opposition" to provisions in the House bill. Among other things, the bill fails to include provisions requested by law enforcement organizations -- including the Fraternal Order of Police and its 330,000 officers -- critical to investigating crimes and prosecuting offenders.

In contrast, the few supporters of the House Republican bill we know of include anti-immigrant organizations, groups that purport to represent the interests of men accused of domestic violence and one international marriage brokerage company reported to have a financial incentive in eliminating protections for "mail order brides." A Federal jury in 2006 found that the head of this company, who lobbies for the changes contained in the House bill, intentionally withheld information about VAWA protections to a pregnant and severely battered immigrant woman to protect her company's "95% success rate."

House Republicans can continue to dismiss opposition to their bill as knee-jerk partisanship. But the broad coalition opposed to the bill tells quite a different story.

John Conyers, a Democrat from Detroit, represents Michigan's 14th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and has filed to run for re-election in the 13th District. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from San Jose, Calif., represents that state's 16th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Concert Review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Live at the Cubby Bear (Thursday, 5/10/12 in Chicago)

Concert Review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Live at the Cubby Bear (Thursday, 5/10/12 in Chicago)

Concert Review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Live at the Cubby Bear (Thursday, 5/10/12 in Chicago)

Lakeview made their funk the P-Funk Thursday night as The Mothership descended upon the Chicagoland area once again...
At over seventy years of age, George Clinton shows little sign of slowing down.
Ever the innovator, he's worked tirelessly to educate young artists about copyright laws, is engaged in lawsuits that have the potential to change the way the industry deals with online royalties and copyrights and has even gone so far as to work in conjunction with Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (U.S. Representative from Michigan) on "The P-Funk Initiative" (H.R. 848), a bill aimed at protecting artist's rights.
And while so many musicians (young and old) struggle to try and figure out how to embrace the internet as an artist, George Clinton once again showed his ability to stay ahead of the curve recently completing a successful, online Indiegogo campaign to finance the restoration/preservation of his recordings as well as a series of studio upgrades.
He recently completed a mixtape with hip-hop artist Aleon Craft and luckily he still finds the time to tour.
To the tune of about two hundred tour dates a year.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, May 11, 2012

Conyers to Join President Obama in Honoring Detroit’s TOP COPS

(WASHINGTON) – This Saturday, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) will join President Obama at a White House ceremony honoring the National Association of Police Organizations’ (“NAPO”) TOP COPS award winners.  Since 1994, NAPO has conferred TOP COPS awards on law enforcement officers from around the country for performing actions above and beyond the call of duty during the preceding year.  Among this year’s award winners are 15 officers from the Detroit Police Department.  They earned this honor for stopping a gunman in January 2011 who suddenly attacked the officers upon entering their precinct station.      
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. at swearing in of
Hamtramck Police Chjief Maxwell Garbarino
“I’m proud to join President Obama in honoring these officers, who through a combination of training and personal courage, responded to a gunman who suddenly opened fire upon them within the safety  of their own precinct,” said Conyers.  “Although some were wounded, the officers stopped the assailant and no one but the gunman died that afternoon.  Our police officers work hard to protect us from harm, and we must do all we can to support them as part of a comprehensive effort to prevent crime. 

“That is why I have introduced H.R. 4098, ‘the Shield Our Streets Act’, to establish two new programs to supplement existing grants to help local governments in high crime areas hire more officers and fund public safety programs.  Police officers put their lives on the line to protect our cities and they deserve recognition for their willingness to sacrifice on our behalf.  But Congress also needs to do more to ensure that police officers, like those being honored, have all the tools necessary to get the job done and return home safely to their families.”

The names of this year’s TOP COPS honorees from the Detroit Police Department follow below.

Police Officer Melissa Adams
Police Officer David Anderson
Sergeant Marcellus A. Ball
Police Officer Bradley Clark
Police Officer Rodney Cushingberry
Commander Brian L. Davis
Sergeant Tyrone Guinn
Sergeant Michael Ingels
Police Officer Theodore Jackson, Jr.
Sergeant James Kirklin
Police Officer Lacell D. Rue
Sergeant Ray Toufic Saati
Sergeant Carrie Schulz
Investigator Amir G. Smith
Sergeant Joseph Turner, Jr.

For more information on the National Association of Police Organizations’ TOP COPS award follow this link.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Conyers: President Obama’s Support for Gay Marriage A Courageous Stand

(WASHINGTON) – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) applauded President Obama’s support for marriage equality for same-sex couples.  Ranking Member Conyers is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1116, the “Respect for Marriage Act” which would repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).  As Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee during the 104th Congress, Representative Conyers opposed DOMA in 1996.      
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I commend President Obama for his support of marriage equality.  The right to choose whom to marry is not just a civil right, but a fundamental human right.  That is why I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and support its repeal today.  And it is why  I strongly support President Obama taking a stand on this important moral issue.  President Obama and Vice President Biden have taken courageous, sound, and appropriate positions supporting equal rights for all Americans.”

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Democrats Fight to Protect All Victims of Domestic Violence

House Judiciary Committee Democrats oppose Republican bill to roll back existing protections for immigrant women and omits protections for vulnerable communities included in Senate passed bipartisan bill       

(WASHINGTON) – Today at markup, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Committee Democrats opposed H.R. 4970, a Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) Reauthorization bill that omits protections for vulnerable communities and removes existing protections for immigrant women.  The bill omits language designed to protect Native American women by allowing tribal authorities to prosecute their abusers.  It also omits language to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons do not face discrimination when seeking services from VAWA funded programs.  This language is already included in a bipartisan bill passed by a supermajority in the Senate.  

Additionally, H.R. 4970 rolls back longstanding protections for immigrant women, who are particularly vulnerable because they are reliant on their spouses for immigration status.  It eliminates the confidentiality of VAWA petitions for protection by allowing immigration officials to contact a battered woman’s abusive spouse, tipping off the abuser to the victim’s efforts to leave.  The bill also weakens the so-called “U Visa” process for victims of serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault, and it eliminates existing provisions that allow recipients of U visas who cooperate with law enforcement to apply for green cards.  These changes impede law enforcement officials’ ability to use these visas to protect victims, prosecute serious criminals, and make our streets safer.
All Democratic Members and one Republican opposed H.R. 4970 on the vote for final passage.  House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement following the markup.        
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I cannot consider a bill that worsens existing protections for vulnerable women a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” said Conyers.  “Since the Violence Against Women Act originally passed in 1994, Congress has worked on a bipartisan basis to not only reauthorize the law, but improve upon it.  Until today, every subsequent reauthorization considered by this Committee strengthened the law to make it easier for victims to escape their abusers and for law enforcement officials to prosecute them.  This bill does the opposite.

“This bill omits important provisions that would help protect Native American women and ensure that all victims regardless of sexual orientation can access services without facing discrimination.  Worse, it actually eliminates existing protections for immigrant women, ending the confidentiality of their VAWA petitions, and putting these women in further danger by allowing immigration officials to contact their abusers.  It erects additional hurdles for crime victims seeking a ‘U’ visa, making it more difficult for law enforcement officials to gain the cooperation of immigrant women fearful to speak against perpetrators.  This bill doesn’t just fail to move the law forward, it takes a giant step back. 

“That is why hundreds of advocacy organizations oppose this legislation, including: the National Task Force to end Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women; the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs; the National Council Against Domestic Violence; the National Network to End Domestic Violence; the National Congress of American Indians; the National Organization for Women; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and the Human Rights Campaign. 

“The Senate set aside partisan differences to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.  The Senate bill, which passed with a supermajority of Democrats and Republicans, including every woman Senator, is a true reauthorization of VAWA, as is the bill introduced in the House by Representative Gwen Moore.  This Body needs to consider one of those bills.”            

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