Wednesday, June 18, 2008

House Judiciary Committee Markup - Who Said What and What Went Down


ADA Restoration was taken up in two House committee markups today - the Education and Labor Committee and the Judiciary Committee - just fifteen minutes apart from one another.

Advocates split up, filling both rooms to capacity and into overflow rooms designated to handle the flow.

In the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Conyers (MI-14) and Rep. Nadler (NY-08) opened with positive statements about the restoration effort and its importance in fulfilling the promise of the ADA.

Ranking Member Smith (TX-21), Rep. Franks (AZ-02), Sensenbrenner (WI-05), and Jackson Lee (TX-18) offered remarks in support of the effort as well.

Rep. Sensenbrenner, who introduced the ADA Restoration Act last July with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05), also offered praise for his wife, Cheryl Sensenbrenner, Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), whose tireless advocacy on behalf of the legislation has swayed many a mind in the halls of Congress. Jokingly, Sensenbrenner called for swift action in the House, so she could begin to channel her pressure on the Senate.

Rep. Jackson Lee (TX-18) began her remarks by restating the bill's mission - a restoration of civil rights - and that there is little place for consideration of the "heavy hand of business" and financial assessments when contemplating civil rights.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) stated that she perceived the legislation as a missed opportunity to address the "industry" of lawsuits brought against small businesses for their non-compliance with the ADA, stating that she is a trial bar supporter.

Rep. Keller (FL-08) added his agreement, but noted that he had not offered his own legislation, the ADA Notification Act (H.R. 3479), as an amendment to address that concern out of respect for the delicate environment of the negotiation between the business and disability communities.

Rep. Nadler (NY-08) drew focus back to the restoration intent, stating that the sole focus should be on the Supreme Court decisions that dramatically harmed civil rights protections for people with disabilities and overturning them expressly through the legislation.

Rep. Scott (VA-03) agreed, adding that notice requirements eliminates a business's incentive to be in compliance on their own initiative, since they would then have a built-in cushion of time to comply if and when they are ever identified as being non-compliant.

Once the matter of using the negotiated disability/business language as the substitute language (in place of the original language, as introduced last July), there was unanimous approval in the Committee. A roll call was then taken, with a final vote of 27-0 in support.

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