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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Madam Chair, I rise in support of this amendment, of which I am a cosponsor.

Over the last several years, we've watched the majority attempt to eliminate--and actually eliminate at least temporarily--the most successful crime-fighting program in the last 20 years, the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program.

Since this program's creation under President Clinton, it has literally put tens of thousands of police on the beat around the Nation, and it has promoted sensitive, effective policing across America.

The benefits are real. Crime rates in every category decreased as a result of this program. And when this program is gutted, communities feel the effects directly and immediately. The committee should have found the money to keep the COPS program strong, but evidently they gave it lower importance, which is why we are here with this amendment.

Last fall, the city of Trenton was forced to lay off nearly a third of its uniformed officers. It's been reported that our State's capital now has the same number of police on its rolls as it did in 1932. The city had hoped to soften the blow of the budget-driven layoffs through a COPS grant that would have allowed Trenton to hire back at least 18 officers; but unfortunately, because this Congress failed to fund the COPS program, Trenton got no money to hire the laid-off officers, and the people of Trenton are paying the price in a very real way.

Last year, something on the order of 150 people were shot within the city--more than twice, way more than twice the previous year. Street robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries up alarmingly. And people in the community tell me these trends are continuing to this day.

We need more money to rehire more police. We need it now before more Trentonians and other Americans lose their lives or suffer injury or property loss.

Now, I support NASA. I don't like the offset that we're using for this, but we can't allow the COPS program to wither. I wish the committee had funded this program--as it should be funded--with enough money to meet the legitimate needs of Trenton and other municipalities around America.

Every time I talk with law enforcement officials, I ask: How great is the need? How much can you actually do?

And every time they tell me the need vastly exceeds the resources; and with the resources, they could do a better job.

This past grant cycle, the COPS office received $2 billion in requests for assistance from around the country, but they only had about 200 million on hand. That's unacceptable. Crime doesn't take a holiday. We need to fully fund the COPS program in order to beat back violent crime around America to make cities more livable, to make America the place where we all want to live. My hope is that we'll be able to meet that goal during the appropriations conference process because the subcommittee didn't do it, which is why we're here now.

This amendment is a step in that direction. And I thank my colleagues--Representative Pascrell, Representative Grimm, Representative Reichert, who is not able to be here tonight--and the other sponsors for their strong leadership in this effort.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HOLT. I want to join my colleagues in speaking in favor of enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, particularly my colleague Steny Hoyer from Maryland, one of the authors of the ADA. And I rise to oppose any efforts to strip the Department of Justice's enforcement of these regulations.

My friend from Arizona is correct. It sounds as if we're in parallel universes talking about different things here, but let me tell you what we are talking about.

We are talking about equality of opportunity in America. Yes, we want to do all we can to give all possible access to swimming. It is important for all sorts of reasons.

We have, in this country, more and more people with disabilities, veterans returning from Afghanistan, people living to older ages. There are many people who can benefit greatly from access to swimming pools. And what we're talking about here is that principle of access, not just what it means for an individual with disabilities but what it means for the American ideal of equality of access.

The regulation and the law, itself, talk about a standard of readily achievable steps. ``Readily achievable,'' that's the key point here. Fixed lifts in a swimming pool, for example, are required only where installation is easy and inexpensive.

The readily achievable standard has been the governing legal principle for increasing access to facilities since the ADA's passage 22 years ago. These particular regulations have gone through extensive review to be consistent with that standard of ``readily achievable.''

For an existing pool, it means removing barriers that, to the extent that it is readily achievable, to do so. Let me continue on that point. A small, family-owned hotel, for example, does not have to take the same steps as a large commercial hotel. And some businesses complain that, Well, hardly anyone has ever used the access accommodations they have made. That's like saying, well, the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act needn't apply because an African American or a Muslim hardly ever comes to this restaurant.

We're talking about civil rights here--the American ideal of equal access for all.

I could go over and over again what this regulation actually says, but I will place in the Record what the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities has said. They write in opposition to any congressional effort to roll back, or prevent enforcement of, the Justice Department's regulations about swimming pool access for people with disabilities.

The Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities includes a myriad of organizations, such as the American Association for People With Disabilities, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Brain Injury Association of America, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, I tell my colleague. These are just some of the organizations that say this is an important principle of civil rights. And yes, also it will allow lots of individuals to have healthier lives and to be able to cope with their disabilities.

I would also include in the Record a letter from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, where they, too, urge Members of Congress to oppose any effort to prevent using the funds to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for greater access for people with disabilities to swimming pools.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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