Wednesday, June 18, 2008

House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes ADA Restoration!









From the Office of Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Raj Bharwani
(202) 225-5101
June 18, 2008


House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes Sensenbrenner/Hoyer Bill

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Earlier today, by a vote of 27 to 0, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed HR 3195, the ADA Restoration Act, introduced by former Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Additionally, the House Education and Labor Committee also marked-up the bill, where it passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 43 to 1. The following statement was made by Congressman Sensenbrenner at the Judiciary Committee mark-up:

“One of our finest moments occurred eighteen years ago when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. It was with that stroke of a pen that this country took a significant step forward in eliminating the barriers that for far too long kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American dream. Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, disabled Americans faced not only physical barriers in almost all aspects of society but also attitudinal barriers, which relegated them to a form of second class citizenship. Moreover, because federal and state laws were ill-equipped to protect disabled Americans at the time, the false stereotypes and discriminatory treatment employed by others created a vicious cycle.

“Last summer, I joined with my friend, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, to introduce the ADA Restoration Act (ADARA). The bipartisan legislation that we introduced quickly garnered nearly 250 cosponsors. We introduced the ADARA to enable disabled Americans utilizing the ADA to focus on the discrimination that they have experienced rather than having to first prove that they fall within the scope of the ADA’s protection. With this bill, the ADA’s “clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination on the basis of disability” would be properly restored and the ADA can rightfully reclaim its place among our Nation’s civil rights laws.

“The ADARA was originally drafted as a response to a number of Supreme Court cases that chipped away at the broad protections of the ADA. The impact of these Supreme Court decisions has been to exclude millions of disabled workers from the ADA’s protections and requirements for employers. Let me say that again—millions of Americans who want to work and who were otherwise intended by Congress to be able to work free from discrimination, have had the door shut in their faces because of these decisions.

“The courts have created a situation in which disabled Americans can now be discriminated against by their employers because of their impairments, but these citizens are not considered disabled enough by our federal courts to invoke the protections of the ADA.

“This is unacceptable. No other civil rights law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requires a victim of discrimination to first prove that she or he is worthy of the law’s protections before proving a discrimination case. Nor should the ADA require such proof. The ADA is a civil rights law and should be interpreted as such.

“The Substitute Amendment that I am joining Chairman Conyers in offering reflects a hard sought compromise between members of the disability community and members from the business community. By its very nature, no one is completely satisfied with a compromise. Both sides made concessions to the other during their arduous negotiations.

“As in the original ADA that passed Congress in 1990, the substitute keeps the requirement that an impairment must “substantially limit a major life activity” in order to be considered a disability. As written, the ADARA would have broadened the definition of disability. The compromise defines “substantially limits” as “materially restricts” and contains explicit language rejecting the Supreme Court’s more restrictive interpretation.

“The substitute also contains a non-exhaustive list of examples of major life activities. It further notes that major life activities also include major bodily functions and contains a non-exhaustive list of examples of major bodily functions.

“The substitute amendment contains language making it clear that the “regarded as” prong of the definition covers situations in which an employee is discriminated against because of his or her actual or perceived impairment, whether or not the impairment is perceived to substantially limit a major life activity. “Regarded as” would not apply to transitory and minor impairments where an impairment is considered “transitory” if it has an expected duration of six months or less. Accommodations need not be made to someone who is disabled solely because he or she is “regarded as” disabled.

“The ADA has been one of the most effective civil rights laws passed by Congress. Its continued effectiveness is paramount to ensuring that the transformation that our nation has undergone continues in the future and that the guarantees and promises on which this country was established continue to be recognized on behalf of all its citizens.

“The substitute amendment before us today is the result of hard work and countless hours of good-faith negotiations between staff, disability advocates, and business groups. I look forward to passage by this Committee today, and expect broad bipartisan support when this bill reaches the House floor.”



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