This week in Washington the House debated legislation related to police reforms, patent programs, and several other issues. Additionally, I was pleased to see another one of my bills pass in the House, and I look forward to it being considered in the Senate. As the nation reopens and Congress begins to resume a more regular schedule, I will continue working to represent the values of the Sixth District and its residents.
The horrific killing of George Floyd led to millions across the country to call for additional transparency and accountability in policing. Instead of working across the aisle on this important matter, Democrats rammed a partisan bill through the House that will impede the ability of good police officers to do their jobs effectively and uphold the Rule of Law. During the markup of this legislation my colleagues and I offered a dozen thoughtful amendments in an effort to improve this bill. However, our ideas were voted down. While I could not support this legislation on the Floor, I have cosponsored the House version of a police reform bill called the JUSTICE Act. Offered on the Senate side by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the JUSTICE Act would:
Improve law enforcement transparency through additional reporting, including annual reporting on the use of force and reporting on no-knock warrants.
Ensure law enforcement agencies and officers are held accountable by developing accessible disciplinary records systems.
Provide $500 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to equip all officers with body cameras, improve the use of body cameras, and store and retain footage.
Eliminate the use of chokeholds except for when the use of deadly force is permitted under law.
Improve officer training by directing the Attorney General to develop curricula related to the duty to intervene and de-escalation tactics.
Includes the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, making lynching a federal crime.
Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act:
Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, and this week, I was pleased to see it pass the House with unanimous support. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s “Patents for Humanity” competition recognizes inventors who develop creative solutions to global humanitarian problems. Through this competition, the USPTO awards inventors with a certificate for an accelerated review of a future patent. The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act supports this program and the innovators it recognizes by making these acceleration certificates transferable while codifying the program into law. Smaller companies and the USPTO encourage the growth of this vital program. This bill increases the power of the program to encourage those seeking to make global change to pursue their innovations, as well as the opportunity for similarly-sized start-ups to receive a certificate via transfer. Innovations recognized in the past by the program have included better ways to diagnose and treat HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases, improved crops and better sources of nutrition energy sources for those without a reliable electric grid, and methods to preserve clean drinking water and improve sanitation.
This week, I joined the Virginia Alzheimer’s Association for a virtual town hall. I appreciated the opportunity to hear folks’ first-hand experiences with this illness and welcomed the suggestions on how together we can make progress on this issue. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5 million Americans are currently suffering from it. Congress must work toward realistic solutions to help combat this ever-growing disease and bring an end to the pain and suffering it has inflicted on far too many. To that end, I announced my cosponsorship of the bipartisan Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act.
Phase Three Reopening:
This week Governor Northam announced that on July 1, the Commonwealth will move into Phase Three of reopening. Previously, Virginia moved into Phase One on May 15 and Phase Two on June 12.
Once in Phase Three, non-essential retail, restaurants and beverage services, beaches, and state parks will be open in full capacity but with proper distancing. Entertainment venues will be open with 50 percent capacity. Fitness and exercise centers will be open at 75 percent capacity with no restrictions on shared equipment but an increase in sanitization is encouraged. Childcare and personal grooming businesses will be open in full capacity. The 50-person limit on gatherings will increase to 250 people. Please keep in mind that even as these businesses open, face covering and physical distancing is still required.
COVID-19 Data and Testing:
Increased COVID-19 testing is important to maintaining the move towards reopening Virginia and the nation. As we begin to see an increase in new coronavirus cases across the country, it is important that we continue to expand testing and pursue data on coronavirus recovery in the U.S. and around the world. This important information could indicate how easily people can build immunity against the virus, as well as help us predict a timeline for getting recovered and immune segments of our population back to work. As your Representative I will continue to advocate for Federal support for testing at locations with high infection rates around the country.
At vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus, you will find a map searchable by zip code intended to help provide information of known locations of various COVID-19 test sampling sites. I also recommend that you keep up with local media networks, which may be providing information on testing sites in their respective localities.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.