Week Ending June 12, 2020

Congress begins to address police reform.

  • Congressional Democrats Introduce Policing Reform Bill
  • What is Needed to Ensure Public Schools Can Reopen?

Congressional Democrats Introduce Policing Reform Bill

On Monday, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerold Nadler (D-N.J.), introduced the “Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” along with 166 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 7120) and 35 in the U.S. Senate (S. 3912). Hearings on police issues occurred in the House Judiciary Committee on June 10 and are scheduled in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 16.

Major provisions of the Justice in Policing Act would:

  • Prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandate training on racial, religious and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amend federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Repeal qualified immunity provisions to permit civil suits against police officers for alleged constitutional rights violations.
  • Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and require the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
  • Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion and age.
  • Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and create a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establish a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

What You Need to KnowCongress may act quickly on the policing reform bills. The House plans to pass a bill before the July 4 break. Senate Republicans are reportedly working on their own bill. AFSCME is closely monitoring action in both the House and the Senate. 

What is Needed to Ensure Public Schools Can Reopen?

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) held a hearing to examine how schools can reopen safely this fall, with testimony from education commissioners from Nebraska and Tennessee, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and former U.S. Secretary of Education John King, who leads The Education Trust.

  • Deep Budget Cuts – State and local governments face budget cuts that could reduce school budgets by 20% to 30%. At the same time, schools are facing extreme challenges to provide exponentially more with far less amid a climate of heightened awareness regarding racial and economic disparities.
  • Safety First – Reopening K-12 schools will require everything from personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to additional support for students, particularly those who lack access to online learning. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) highlighted disparities, including access to digital connectivity needed for distance learning, and urged more federal funding to address increased needs and massive budget cuts. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) concluded the hearing by asking for an analysis of what financial support is needed and why the money already appropriated won’t cover the needs.

What You Need to Know: Current COVID aid, including the CARES Act funds for education stabilization, is insufficient. A new analysis by the National Education Association projects the loss of 1.9 million education jobs by 2022 absent more aid. While the House-passed HEROES Act would provide additional stimulus funding for education, the Senate has no plans to introduce its own package soon and will likely recess in July without providing more funding for education. That’s the time when school districts will be preparing for the fall term. 

Additional State and Local Aid Is Still Needed

We urgently need you to call your senator. Time is running out for Congress to provide aid before state and local governments lay off more workers. Nearly 1.6 million public employees have already been pink-slipped. Front-line public service workers like you are critical to fighting this pandemic and reopening our economy. America can’t do either without you.

Senate: 1-888-981-9704

Tell your senator that it’s urgent to fund the front lines NOW with no less than $1 trillion for states, counties and cities – including more Medicaid and education funding – for essential public services to fight COVID and reopen our economy.

For more ways to take action, visit the AFSCME COVID-19 webpage.

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