I Wrote My Senators…

Well, I wrote both of them actually about the ADA Education and Reform Act, or HR 620. It may have passed the House, but it still needs to get through the Senate. Funny thing, I have written more letters to my Senators and House Representative under the current administration than I have in the previous years. That’s saying something.

Anyway, Senator Kaine wrote me back. It’s probably a form email that he sent out to everyone who has contacted him about the potential ADA changes, but I am impressed nonetheless. He, or someone he pays, took two minutes out of trying to solve the DC Metro traffic problem (Senator Kaine’s pet project) and read my email. I can’t say that my House Representative has done as much the numerous times I have written him. I normally get a thing back from Representative Wittman that says “Thank you for your email, this is what I am currently doing” and proceeds to list his latest accomplishments (or what he thinks are accomplishments).

The email I received back:

 

Dear Mrs. Hackworth:

Thank you for contacting me about potential changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  I appreciate hearing from you.

As a former civil rights lawyer, I believe in a commitment to the basic equality of all persons regardless of race, religion, gender, age, or disability.  I have and will continue to strongly support federal programs that provide support for individuals with disabilities.  I support the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which addresses the unique learning needs of children with disabilities, by providing these students with the resources and support they need to succeed.  I also support passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is modeled after the ADA; this multilateral agreement addresses the rights of people with disabilities by promoting, protecting, and ensuring their full and equal enjoyment of human rights.

In January 2017, Congressman Ted Poe introduced the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, which opponents argue would undermine many of the protections individuals with disabilities have under the law to engage in daily activities and access public accommodations.  This legislation passed the House of Representatives on February 15.

I have cosigned a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, expressing strong opposition to H.R. 620, or any legislation that would repeal or weaken rights under Title III of the ADA.

Please be assured I will keep your views in mind as the Senate debates legislation addressing the needs of persons with disabilities.  Again, thank you for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Tim Kaine

UPDATE: It took much longer to hear back from Senator Warner, but he did write me back. I really do appreciate the fact that both he and Senator Kaine took the time to respond (even if it took a while) and that they are against H.R. 620.

Dear Mrs. Hackworth,

       Thank you for contacting me regarding the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R.620). I appreciate the benefit of your views on this important issue.

As you may know, the House of Representatives passed H.R.620 by a vote of 225-192 on February 15, 2018. The bill would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act – the landmark civil rights law that, in part, requires businesses to secure removal of architectural barriers to individuals with disabilities, where readily achievable. H.R.620 creates new thresholds for an aggrieved person to take civil action against a property owner who violates the law. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to create a training program for property owners and state and local governments on disability access, which may include guidance on remediation of potential violations. H.R.620 also directs the Judicial Conference of the United States to develop a model program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve such claims.

I have heard from Virginians across the Commonwealth on this bill, including many who believe that as drafted H.R.620 would weaken rights under the ADA. I recently joined Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and 40 of my colleagues in writing a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressing our opposition to H.R.620 as it is currently written. That letter outlined our concern that the bill would remove the legal incentive for a business to make itself accessible prior to a person with a disability encountering a physical barrier.

While I am interested in efforts to improve business compliance with the ADA, I do not believe H.R.620 is the right solution.

Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should the Senate consider H.R.620 or similar legislation. Again, thank you for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at http://www.warner.senate.gov.

Sincerely,
MARK R. WARNER
United States Senator

 

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