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Higgins, Jacobs have different opinions on House passage of George Floyd, HR 1 acts

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Fri, Mar 5th 2021 11:20 am

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, on Thursday announced the approval in the House of Representatives of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (HR 1280), legislation aimed at addressing systemic racism and rebuilding the relationship between the police and the community toward the goal of saving lives.

“The system is broken, and we need to find a way to better keep everyone safe,” Higgins said. “This bill addresses inequities that exist, strives for fairness, and allows for communities to lead in the creation of a better path forward.” 

The legislation:

  • Bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants
  • Prohibits racial and religious profiling, and mandates related training
  • Builds community trust through professional development programs
  • Requires use of body cameras on federal uniformed officers and dashboard cameras on marked federal police vehicles
  • Empowers communities to lead in the development of programs that reimagine safe and equitable public safety measures, providing $25 million in FY2022 for grants to community-based groups
  • Creates law enforcement development and training programs teaching de-escalation over use-of-force
  • Improves transparency, accountability and data collection related to police misconduct

The House previously approved the Justice in Policing Act in June. The legislation, co-sponsored by Higgins, is named for Floyd, whose death led to a nationwide call for change. This approval, under the new Congress, advances the legislation to the Senate for further consideration.

Congressman Chris Jacobs, R-NY-27, voted against what his team called the Democrat’s policing reform package.

"This legislation will not protect our communities – it will undermine police officers who are forced to make life or death decisions in service of the public,” Jacobs said. “The bill will make it easier to sue officers for reasonable mistakes and creates a public registry of complaints against them before those allegations can be properly investigated.

"In addition, this legislation further strains our police with unfunded mandates and by limiting their access to life-saving surplus equipment, such as bulletproof vests. It further hinders officers' ability to effectively respond to dangerous situations by limiting the tools and resources at their disposal.

"There are challenges in local law enforcement that we need to address. We need to ensure those entrusted to protect our communities are highly trained and act responsibly, and we must hold those accountable who commit crimes and break public trust. However, it is critically important that we support the brave men and women of our law enforcement and ensure they have every resource needed to continue to protect our communities – this legislation focuses more on partisan politics than effective policy.”

H.R. 1

Higgins also announced House passage of H.R. 1, the For The People Act. His team said, “This omnibus legislation is an ambitious template to ensure safe and easy access to the ballot box, make meaningful reforms to make election campaigns more transparent, and end the influence of undisclosed, dark money.” 

Higgins said, “Our country and its democracy are at a pivotal and fragile moment. A pandemic created new hurdles to conducting elections, a domestic terror attack on our Capitol was meant to subvert the election processes plainly enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, and the cowardly acts of GOP elected officials to overturn our election underscore those threats. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court continues to undermine the right to vote in our constitution through efforts to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act and through decisions like Citizens United that allow undisclosed dark money to exploit our democratic processes. These actions must stop, and we should instead increase access to voting, improve transparency in electoral processes, and put elections squarely in the hands of the American people." 

Per Higgins’ camp, H.R. 1:

  • Improves access to voting, allowing for automatic and online voter registration, same-day registration, preregistration for those 16 and 17 years of age, and early absentee voting 15 days before a federal election. It also limits the unjustified removal of voters from voter rolls and provides enhanced vote security with measures like paper ballots. 
  • Increases Transparency by requiring additional financial disclosures from corporations using political advertising and donations, as well as enhanced rules on dark money, and requires that presidents, vice presidents and candidates for the presidency must release their tax returns for the public.
  • Promotes free and fair elections by strengthening the enforcement ability of the Federal Election Commission, promotes independent redistricting commissions to address gerrymandering, prohibits members of Congress from serving on corporate boards while they are in office, expands the conflict of interest and divestment requirements, and establishes the National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions with the sole purpose of working to protect this nation’s elections. 

A press release said, “When faced with barriers to voting due to the pandemic, election officials across the country, including in Western New York, rose to the challenge to help Americans vote safely by instituting absentee ballot options, mail-in voting, early voting, and social distance precautions. These reforms proved popular, with election turnout in 2020 reaching all-time highs. Despite that high turnout – a marker of success – GOP election officials now seem focused on restricting access to voting. H.R. 1 seeks to improve our democracy by promoting civic participation.”

Jacobs voted against H.R. 1, what his team called the “For the Politicians Act.”

"This week, Speaker Pelosi has continued her track record of partisan policies that benefit her party but hurt the American people,” Jacobs said. “H.R. 1 would direct public money toward politicians’ reelection campaigns, not COVID response, infrastructure, or schools. Given the many challenges our nation faces and the substantial debt we have already amassed this year alone, there are infinite better uses for this funding than Democrats' reelection efforts.

"This legislation is also a threat to secure and timely elections. H.R. 1 would federalize our elections to throw out voter I.D. laws, legalize ballot harvesting, irresponsibly expand mail-in voting, and make the Federal Election Commission a partisan entity. These changes will not improve our elections. Instead, they will cause massive delays, limit voter verification, and an unconstitutional attack on First Amendment political speech and state-run elections.

"Many Americans have concerns about the integrity of our elections, but this legislation does not ease those concerns in the slightest. Only legal, verifiable, and registered American voters should be allowed to vote. This legislation erodes safeguards in our election processes to the benefit of the Democrat party.”

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