Monday, August 1, 2016

CONYERS: A legacy of jobs, justice, and peace

By John Conyers, Jr.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I have spent my career fighting for the principles I believe in – Jobs, Justice, and Peace — while at the same time working across the aisle, whenever possible, to achieve positive results for the constituents I represent in my congressional district.  This includes key legislation concerning public health and safety; civil and criminal justice; civil rights and civil liberties; and most importantly, the constituents I represent in my congressional district.  As a result of these achievements, in a recent study released by Academicians at the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, during the 114th Congress, I was found to be the most effective Democratic Member of Congress.

Just this month, as the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, I worked  to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which authorizes new programs to respond to the opioid crisis; and last year I helped enact a reauthorization of  the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act benefitting harmed first responders.  Last Congress, I took the Democratic lead to help pass the Death in Reporting Act, the Debbie Smith DNA Rape Kit Act, and to improve the Violence Against Women Act, a bill I originally authored.

As Chair of the Judiciary Committee, I offered and/or managed passage of the Pigford Black Farmers Claims Remedy Act; the Second Chance Act, which facilitates prisoner reentry into society; the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which provides ethics reform; the Helping Families Save Their Home Act; the Court Security Improvements Act; and the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. I also authored the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act; the Sexual Abuse Act, which targets sexual abuse crimes; and most importantly, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration Act, which provides federal funding for state and local law enforcement.

I am particularly proud to work on a number of civil rights and liberties measures that not only respond to wrongdoing and inequity in our society, but help to strengthen and reinforce our democratic and constitutional principles.  These include:
  • Martin Luther King Holiday Act–I introduced this Act three days after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It not only commemorates an American hero, but helps insure that all Americans can learn, study and contribute to their communities as it is celebrated on the third Monday of every January.
  • Voting Rights– I cosponsored and worked to pass the original Voting Rights Act (VRA) and have participated as lead Democrat in several subsequent reauthorizations.  I also managed passage of the “Motor Voter” Act  and introduced legislation that served as the basis for the Help America Vote Act.  Today, I am the lead Democrat on legislation to update the VRA in the wake of the Holder v. Shelby County Supreme Court decision which compromised that law.
  • Police Misconduct– After holding a series of hearings around the country concerning police misconduct, I shepherded passage of my “Pattern and Practice” legislation, which authorizes the Department of Justice to take action against law enforcement agencies that engage in unconstitutional and discriminatory conduct (Title 18, Sec. 14141). This law has been used on dozens of subsequent occasions to respond to police abuses.  I am currently leading bipartisan efforts to enact my Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act to provide additional mechanisms to improve police accreditation and accountability at the local level and have been heartened by the bipartisan support that has come together and is developing around this legislation.
  • Hate Crimes– My legislation tracking the incidence of hate crimes helped pave the way for ultimate passage of my Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the federal law to cover crimes of violence based on gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  • Criminal Justice– I shepherded passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing the discriminatory sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1.  In addition, I am leading a bipartisan effort to pass a series of bills designed to reform the Nation’s criminal justice system to reduce the unfair mandatory minimum sentences which forces sentencing judges to impose penalties he/she might not think is appropriate to the case in front of them.
  • Civil Liberties– After leading the opposition to the ill-advised PATRIOT Act, last year, I was able to enact a legislative response to many of its excesses through passage of the USA Freedom Act, which ends the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program.
My most important legislative pursuit, however, has been helping my constituents in Michigan.  I have helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for Southeast Michigan, including more than $850 million in grants and appropriated funding since 1993 and more than $300 million in funds in the current Congress.  This includes the “Hardest Hit Fund” which provides financial relief for hard pressed Michigan homeowners; helping to save the IRS office in Detroit; bringing the first Patent and Trademark satellite office to Detroit; and  securing an advance payment of funds to help prevent the closing of the Detroit Medical Center.

I have also been able to serve to insure federal judgeships for Metropolitan Detroit, preventing Asian Carp from being imported into the United States, and helping the Great Lakes States preserve and protect their precious fresh water resources.  In this Congress, I have introduced several legislative initiatives which would benefit our citizens by reining in the abuses of emergency managers, modernizing our water infrastructure, preventing termination of water and other utility services, and providing increased law enforcement resources for Wayne County. It is my privilege to serve the citizens of Detroit and Southeast Michigan.

At a time of increasing polarization in our society and racial tension in our cities, I believe it is more vital than ever that both political parties find a way to work together, as we have consistently done at previous critical junctures.  As the Dean of the Congress, I intend to do everything in my power to continue working toward such an end.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

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