tv U.S. House of Representatives House Debate on ADA Lawsuits bill CSPAN February 15, 2018 4:32pm-5:42pm EST
>> the senate has been debating immigration legislation and voted against all of the immigration proposals offered on the floor dealing with border security, dreamers and sanctuary cities. watch our live coverage from the senate floor over on c-span 2. and earlier today on the other side of the capitol, the house of representatives approved a bill that would change the process for filing lawsuits under the americans with disabilities act. if a business is blocking access, it would require a written notice be submitted to a business before a lawsuit could be filed. the business would have 60 days to come up with a plan to address the issue and 120 days to fix the problem.
here's the debate from this morning. man. i yield myself such time as i may consume. the chair: the gentleman is recognized. mr. goodlatte: private title 3 of the americans with disabilities act is a critical tool for disabled to viduals to gain access title places like restaurants and shopping centers. . this has been the case for disabled business owners who testified before the house judiciary committee. lee key testified in 2016. she runs one of her family's doughnut shops and was sued for technical violates of the a.d.a. because a restroom sign was in the shape of a triangle instead of a square. a person who has never walked in her life, key testified said she's proud of this nation's effort to improve accessibility by enacting the a.d.a. but thinks businesses should be given an opportunity to remove barriers before getting sued.
donna and david battleland have also testified. they were co-owners of a store that sold accessibility devices in florida. despite two people using wheelchairs, despite the fact their entire clientele was composed of customers who had mobility limitations, they were sued because they had not painted lines and posted a sign for an a.d.a. -- for a handicap spot required by the a.d.a. indeed, according to their testimony, it was later found that they had been just one of many businesses targeted by an unscrupulous out-of-state attorney. according to mrs. battleland, it did not matter their parking lot and store were totally accessible. it was greed that was driving their suits. these examples are among many shared by businesses across the country. the a.d.a.'s private right of action, which was originally intended to be the primary
enforcement mechanism to achieve greater access, has instead encouraged the cottage industry of costly and wasteful litigation that neither benefits the business nor disabled individuals seeking more accessibility. a report aired on "60 minutes" on december 4, 2016, for example, featured several small business owners who were subject to what are known as drive-by lawsuits. in such lawsuits commonly filed by opportunistic trial lawyers, the plaintiff need only drive by the property, not actually visit it, to file a lawsuit alleging an a.d.a. violation. in other cases, plaintiffs can even use google earth to target alleged violations and in turn file lawsuits before even notifying a small business owner of the problem. in fact, -- the fact that these types of small businesses are ill-equipped to defend an a.d.a. lawsuit is the reason why they're sued.
indeed, opportunistic attorneys are more often willing to settle for just less than it would cost those mom and pop businesses to defend themselves in court. according to a 2017 op-ed published in "the hill" an average settlement of the amount is $7,500. given plaintiff's attorneys motives is to line their own pockets, there is little or no incentive to work with businesses to cure a violation before a lawsuit is filed. this results in wasted resources that could have been used to improve access. h.r. 620 is a commonsense solution because it gives businesses a fair chance to cure title 3 violations before they are forced into a lawsuit while still preserving the power of the threat of a lawsuit when businesses fail to make the required fixes in a timely manner. h.r. 620 will create more access for more americans more quickly because businesses would much rather fix an access
problem quickly than face an unpredictable and expensive lawsuit that could hurt their ability to expand access in other ways. i urge my colleagues to support this commonsense reform, and i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from new york. mr. dler: thank you, speaker. i yield myself such time as i may consume. the chair: the gentleman is recognized. mr. nadler: thank you, mr. speaker. before we discuss the bill before us today, i want to address the horrible school shooting in florida yesterday. we mourn the deaths of those shot and killed and we support those who were injured and the families of the victims. but we must also do more to prevent future shootings in our schools and on our streets. there have been 18 school shootings in this country so far this year, and it is only february. according to "washington post" analysis, over the last 19 years, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170
primary and secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus. that does not include violence outside of the classroom. we cannot allow this to continue. it is long past dufort the house to consider -- due for the house to consider legislation on this floor to help prevent gun violence. our calls for hearings on gun violence prevention legislation have been met with silence. congress did nothing after columbine 20 years ago and nothing after sandy hook five years ago. inaction is unacceptable, and moments of silence are completely inadequate. our citizens demand that we act without delay. mr. chairman, h.r. 620, the so-called a.d.a. education and reform act of 2017, would undermine the civil rights of americans with disabilities by significantly weakening the key enforcement tool of the a.d.a. act of 1990, which is the filing of private lawsuits by discrimination victims. congress passed the a.d.a. 28
years ago with the goals of fully integrated persons with disabilities into the mainstream of american life and counteracting discriminatory social attitudes towards the disabled. by making it harder for persons facing such discrimination to vindicate their rights in court, this bill ultimately undermines those goals. h.r. 620 would among other things institute a prenotice -- presuit, notice and cure regime under title 3 of the a.d.a. which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and public accommodations like hotels, restaurants, private schools, and public -- and health care providers. specifically, the bill would prohibit a disability discrimination victim from filing a lawsuit to enforce his or her rights under title 3 unless the victim first notifies the business of a title 3 violation. the victim must then wait to 180 days to allow the business to either comply with the law or make some undefined level of substantial progress, whatever
that means, toward complying with the law. no federal civil rights statute imposes such onerous requirements on discrimination victims before they can have the opportunity to enforce their rights in court. both individually and cumulatively, this bill's notice and cure provisions will have the effect of inappropriately shifting the burden of compliance with the federal civil rights statute from the alleged wrongdoer onto the discrimination victim and perversely incentivizing businesses not to comply voluntarily with the a.d.a. moreover, because h.r. 620 does not define the term substantial progress, the bill leaves it to a business owner's discretion as to whether he made such progress. this raises expensive and protracted litigation over the question whether the business has made sufficiently substantial progress should a lawsuit be filed. such a prospect, along with the need to wait 180 days before filing a lawsuit, may be enough
to deter discrimination victims with meritorious claims from even sending a notice of a violation, much less filing suit to enforce their rights. in addition, the bill's notice requirement is overly burdensome and ickssegive. rather than telling them of an access barrier, this has the plea of give a legal the case. it is to describe whether the victim made a request about removing an access barrier and explain whether an access barrier was temporary or permanent. such may be difficult or impossible for a discrimination victim to provide at the notice stage, particularly without legal counsel. finally, h.r. 620 does not even address the purported problem identified by its proponents who claim presuit notification is needed to stop lawyers from filing numerous similar lawsuits, alleging both federal
a.d.a. claims and state law claims against numerous businesses in order to enforce quick settlements. that's because states allow for damages under the state disability rights laws. but this ignores the fact that title 3 of the federal a.d.a. only permits recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, no recovery of money damages. in other words, it is state law, not the federal a.d.a., which provides the financial incentive for pursuing numerous lawsuits. additionally, the filing of multiple suits alleging violations of the a.d.a. or state disability laws says nothing about the underlying merits of those suits or the intents of the parties involved. to the extent lawyers engage in misconduct, courts already have the tools to address such misconduct including by imposing sanctions, refusing to award attorneys' fees or dismissing cases that have no legal or factual basis. a presuit notification requirement together with a lack of any requirement to actually comply with the law is
a virtual get out of jail free card for every public accommodation in america. h.r. 620 substantially diminishes the primary incentive for voluntary compliance for title 3 which is the credible risk of being sued and having to pay reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. h.r. 620's notice and cure requirements by starkly diminishing the risk of litigation would send a clear and devastating message to every public accommodation in america, that there is no need to comply voluntarily with the a.d.a. instead, the bill tells businesses that they should simply wait and see if they ever receive a notice of violation and forget about the rights and needs of people with disabilities until then. as a former homeland security secretary tom ridge wrote recently in "the hill" in opposing h.r. 620, quote, it is unacceptable to roll back the civil rights of people with disabilities. we should ensure access, not progress. we should expect businesses to know and comply with their obligations, not require neighbors and colleagues with
disabilities to shoulder the burden of informing and educating businesses about those obligations. we should not turn the simple of the business of everyday life into a complex and legal deal for people with disabilities, unquote. for the forgoing reasons, i oppose h.r. 620 and urge the house to reject this deeply flawed bill. i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, i yield myself 30 seconds to respond to the gentleman from new york. point of fact, united states code contains several examples in which a potential plaintiff must provide notice before filing a lawsuit. title 1 of the a.d.a., in fact, for example, requires a plaintiff to first file administrative complaint with the eeoc. unlike a complaint filed in federal court, it's a method for parties to try to resolve the case before litigation through a contil silliation process. as part of this process, the plaintiff is required to fill out a form that puts the recipient on notice of the alleged issues.
title 2 of the civil rights act has a similar process. at this time it's my pleasure to yield two minutes to the gentleman from california, mr. calvert. the chair: the gentleman from california is recognized for two minutes. mr. calvert: i thank the chairman. mr. speaker, the goal of the americans with disabilities act is to provide access for the disabled. that goal must be pursued and protected. it's important to distinguish, however, that the a.d.a. is not intended to feed drive-by lawsuits and put good people out of business. unfortunately, my state, california, has become ground zero for abusive a.d.a. lawsuits. i've heard many small businesses in my congressional district who have fallen victim to abusive a.d.a. lawsuits that are not aimed at improving access to the disabled. in fact, california accounts of a.d.a. 40%, 40% lawsuits nationwide. despite being home to just 12% of the country's disabled
population. protecting small businesses from abusive lawsuits and ensuring disabled americans have adequate access are not mutually exclusive goals. that's why i'm an original co-sponsor of h.r. 620 and believe its passage is critical to both the disabled and to our small business. by giving business owners adequate time to make appropriate changes to provide access, we're returning to the original spirit and intent of the a.d.a. i want to thank my friend from texas, representative poe, for his leadership on this issue. as well as the bipartisan group of co-sponsors for their support. i urge all my colleagues to vote for this bill and ensure that serial litigants are no longer rewarded for taking advantage of an important and meaningful law. thank you, mr. speaker. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield two minutes to the gentleman from georgia, mr. lewis. the chair: the gentleman from
georgia is recognized for two minutes. mr. lewis: mr. speaker, i want to thank my good friend, the ranking member, mr. nadler, for yielding. mr. speaker, i rise in strong opposition to this bill. many of my colleagues may not remember when the civil rights act became the law of the land in 1964, but i remember. i was there. as a matter of fact, i gave a little blood during the sit-ins, during the freedom rides. i remember the struggle, the fight, and the sacrifice of so any to protect the dignity and words of every human being. i was here serving in this very chamber when the americans with disabilities act became the law
of the land. 26 years later. . yet today it is unbelievable, it is unreal we're considering a bill that turns the clock backwards and strikes a devastating blow in the fight for civil rights. mr. speaker, i want it make it chris cal clear for the record, there is no place in our country to be placed on those whose rights have and will be violated time and time again. mr. speaker, this bill is wrong . it is mean-spirited. and it is a shame and a would bring it to the floor. i urge each and every one of my colleagues to oppose this bill. with that, mr. speaker, i would yield floor.
back my time. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. chairman, at this time it's my pleasure to yield five minutes to the gentleman from texas, mr. poe, a member of the judiciary committee, and the chief sponsor of this legislation. the chair: the gentleman from texas is recognized for fafe minutes. mr. poe: i thank the chairman. i want to thank the chairman for his long work on this issue and also i want to thank a couple of the co-sponsors. this is a bipartisan congressman peters and congresswoman speier and mr. ken calvert, also, who has worked on this for years. i appreciate the words of the gentleman who just spoke. a great leader in civil rights movement. but as you probably know, title 7 of the civil rights act does require notice as well as this legislation hopefully will do. let me be clear, this legislation makes the a.d.a. because it requires that businesses be told and be given a chance to fix the problem, if
there is a problem. under current law, that is not the case. and this will require the goal a.d.a. ill, the we have, is to for the mmodations disabled. and to make sure businesses comply with that accommodation. and when a lawsuit is filed, many times the business is never told what the problem is. for the y be a year disabled. and to make sure businesses comply with that accommodation. a federal court. under this legislation, businesses, once they are put on or longer before notice, they have 160 da to fix the problem or make substantial progress. so if the goal of the a.d.a. is to get problems fixed, the legislation we have here helps that. but what's taking place in our country, mr. speaker, is that because the legislation that we currently have under the law,
he -- some lawyers, as mentioned earlier, use the legislation and abuse the legislation under current a.d.a. to the disadvantage of profit bled to make a themselves. here's the way it works, mr. speaker. litigant, a plaintiff will send a letter send a letter or sometimes file a lawsuit against a small business. we're not talking about the big businesses. we're talking about small, mom and pop stores. and telling them they have an a.d.a. violation. the letter, the lawsuit, may not even state what the violation is. the letter says you pay or we will continue the lawsuit. these businesses don't have the money to hire a lawyer to them. nt so what do they do? they pay the $3,000, $5,000,
the extortion, so that those lawsuits are dismissed. and the problem that may be alleged in that lawsuit is never required to be fixed. for two reasons. one, the lawsuit doesn't require it. and second, these lawsuits may not state what the problem is. so if the goal of the a.d.a. is businesses comply, the serial plaintiffs filing multiple lawsuits businesses st require that the businesses, even if they get the money, have to comply with the alleged violation. and this is happening throughout the united states. let me mention just a few of these. in florida, a plaintiff named howard coleman, filed 529 of these lawsuits. california, a person named vogel filed 124. pennsylvania, a playoff named
mylo brought 21. and even in new york, the plaintiff brought 24 lawsuits. what are they doing? these plaintiffs may not even the in the state where violation is supposed to occur. these plaintiffs may not even be disabled themselves. but they will file the lawsuit against these businesses, the sometimes using google maps, to find a violation in the parking lot. send a letter from a law firm saying you comply with paying us this lawsuit, or paying us this shakedown, or we will continue the lawsuit. and many businesses file -- pay the extortion. it's become a profit industry. it doesn't help the disabled. contrary to what the other side has said, these lawsuits do not help the disabled. in fact, i think these lawsuits are being filed on behalf of
serial plaintiffs who want nothing else except to receive a bounty for this money that has occurred. before my time is completed, i want to mention some of the federal judges. one federal judge from new york has taken notice of these cases. he described these series -- 30 seconds? mr. gadlat: an additional minute. mr. poe: -- mr. goodlatte: an additional minute. mr. poe: federal judges have said there are issues with -- drive by ye lawsuits. a judge in the eastern district of new york in his decision said that these case, quote, are brought against small bars and grills and restaurants and occasionally a corner grocery store which are likely ill-equipped to defend these violations. it is to intimidate businesses to settle before the trial
takes place. so i have parents that are in their 90's. i am concerned about access for all disabled people. the thought that this bill makes it worse for the disabled is wrong. this bill makes businesses comply. puts them on notice. if they don't comply within a time period then file the lawsuit. go after them. but businesses should be able to have the notice of what the problem is so that they can fix it, which is the goal of the a.d.a., to make businesses comply. and that's just the way it is, mr. speaker. i yield back to you. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield three minutes to the distinguished gentleman from virginia, mr. scott. the chair: the gentleman from virginia is recognized for three minutes. mr. scott: thank you. i thank the gentleman for yielding. mr. speaker, h.r. 620, the so-called a.d.a. education and reform act of 2017, is an attack on civil rights,
americans with disabilities. the americans with disabilities act, or the a.d.a., is a civil rights law passed in 1990 to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and all aspects of society. i recognize that the a.d.a. falls within the committee jurisdiction of the judiciary committee and i'm here as the ranking member of the committee on education and the work force because if h.r. 20 were to become law, it would have a profound effect object students and workers with disabilities who are trying to learn, work, or generally access their community. mr. speaker, prior to the a.d.a. people with disabilities had no recourse if they faced discrimination in employment, housing, transportation, health services, or when accessing public schools much the a.d.a. is nearly 28 years old. and yet we still have continued gross noncompliance with the law. h.r. 620 specifically targets title 3 of the a.d.a. regarding access to public
accommodations. title 3 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations such as restaurants, shopping malls, motels by adding a notice and cure requirement, h.r. 620 shifts the compliance burden to the victims of discrimination. h.r. 620 effectively provides a discrimination against people with disabilities to continue until somebody hires a lawyer to file a legal complaint of discrimination, then the bill allows six more months to achieve some undefined substantial progress. so even when people know they are out of compliance with the a.d.a., they don't have to do anything under the bill until somebody files a formal legal complaint. mr. speaker, this bill does not help people with disabilities. this is an attack on civil rights. that's why the -- disability community and civil rights communities are unanimously opposed to h.r. 620. 236 organizations joined a letter led by the conshore
shuttle columbia of citizens with disabilities -- consoar shuttle columbia of citizens with disabilities. they urged congress to reject the bill. more than 200 organizations signed a letter led by the leadership conference on human d civil -- civil and human rights urging congress to reject the bill. the a.d.a. was enacted to eliminate barriers of discrimination against people with disabilities and so i strongly rights urging congress to reject the bill. the a.d.a. was urge each of my colleagues to stand with people with disabilities, protect civil rights by voting no on this bill. i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, at this time it's my pleasure to yield four minutes to the gentleman from california, mr. peters, the primary co-sponsor of the legislation. the chair: the gentleman from california is recognized for four minutes. mr. peters: one thing i want to agree with mr. nadler on is his comments about the tragedy in florida. i completely endorse those
comments with respect to that tragic event. i do rise today in support of h.r. 620, the a.d.a. education nd reform act. today, as you have heard, the a.d.a.'s being abused by a few bad actors who are serving their own personal interest, financial interest, not for the for the disabled. they file lawsuits and immediately settle them for a few thousand dollars without actually requiring that anything be fixed. nobody says this abuse is not happening. nobody says this advances the cause of access. a small restaurant owner in san diego, downtown, tells a typical story. sued by an attorney who filed 50 a.d.a. suits against restaurants in san diego county in one year. the barriers claimed, that suit didn't exist. the tables were at client height. the bathroom was ack's cybill. there was access between tables. the property owners attorney told them it could cost them up to $50,000 to prove in court so they settled with the plaintiff for $2,500. the serial litigant got the
quick payoff they wanted. there were no violations to be fixed and if there were, they would be required to be fixed. we hear stories of lawsuits settled without barriers being fixed. state governments have acted to curb this abuse. you know who has led the fight against the abuse of disability laws? california democrats. some state -- in state governments have 2016, go jerry brown signed s.b. 269 authored by a democratic state senator, it passed by a majority democratic legislature. it gifts businesses 120 days -- it gives businesses 120 days to correct the violations. it's a bipartisan solution that educates business owners on redirects payouts redirects pa
to settle claims away from lawyers and toward actually improving access. and it protects against these cookie cutter lawsuits filed by serial cutter lawsuits filed by serial plaintiffs. let me address some of the issues -- that have been raised today. we're trying to provide the same correction at the federal level. first, this bill doesn't turn anyone into -- turn into -- anyone into a second class citizen. under the clean water act a complaintant has to notify violators of a violation. they have 60 days to fix the problem before you can file a private right of action. in civil rights laws, as has been said, notice to cure is common. before you can file lawsuit for a hostile workplace, environment, for instance, you have to file a claim and give the employer the chance to fix it. the same is true quite ironically for disability. if you wanted to file notice on reasonable accommodation, you have to give the opportunity to fix it. today we're asking that business owners be given the same chance to fix problems we currently give employers. second, the bill does not hold harmless public accommodations under h.r. 620, public accommodations still are responsible for ensuring access under threat of litigation.
if a property owner fails timely and adequately to respond, they are subject to the same remedies that exist today. third a. notice and cure period does not shift compliance from businesses to victims. today if a public accommodation is out of compliance, a plaintiff, real plaintiff, who had a problem with it, would have to file a lawsuit to force compliance. under h.r. 620, a plaintiff would be able to file a notice that starts a timeline to fix the problems that exists. that doesn't shift the burden. finally, h.r. 620 does not weaken the rights of the disabled. on the contrary, it facilitates the removal of barriers to ensure better access for the disabled within a short period of time, discan couraging the quick payoffs that do nothing for access. with no one solution proposed by congress is ever perfect. i worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find amounts and changes to the law to make the timeline for fixes tighter and tighten the definitions of compliance. in fact, many of the defects
that are noticed by mr. nadler i believe will be addressed by amendments today. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. goodlatte: i'm pleased to yield an additional minute. the chair: the gentleman is recognized. mr. peters: specifically we'll have a provision for plain language notice which is an improvement. 120-day clarification instead of 180. and a better definition of what substantial progress means. . i think we can continue to improve the bill and i will work with my colleagues. i'm certain doing nothing is the worst response. i urge support of this bill. i thank you, mr. chairman. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield two minutes to the gentlelady from texas, ms. jackson lee. the chair: the gentlelady from texas is recognized for two minutes. ms. jackson lee: because we are talking about needs this morning -- and i thank the gentleman from new york. let me offer my deepest
sympathy having seen mr. deutch in florida for the tragic loss of our children. i rise today to be able to speak for those who cannot be on the floor today or many of those who cannot be on the floor today and that is the millions of disabled americans nd to be able to say, with all of the consternation and the uncomfortableness of some of the very important people in america -- small businesses, the energy of our economy -- i have to stand and speak for the value of civil rights and the civil rights of americans with disabilities who waited for enturies to not be looked upon in distaste and disgust. i remember proceeding the
passage of the americans with disabilities act. george h.w. bush was a texan and i see often his pride for passing that bill. 57 million americans with disabilities, that translates to one in five americans, 31 million americans with physical disabilities, and i've heard some of their comments as an older woman with disabilities, i feel invisible. or i'm not living, i'm just existing. in this bill, the notice and cure framework included in this bill would fundamentally change the structure of the a.d.a.'s public accommodation title and remove any reasons for business to comply proactively with the law. the same as the voting rights act of 1965 that we now suffer because we gutted section 4 and section 5 and we have voter suppression and people are not having their civil rights in terms of voting. you touch this in a way, you undermine the very existence of people living with disabilities. i am outraged, even though i am empathetic, but if it is a
problem of lawyers and state bars -- then state bars can regulate them, state courts can regulate them. you can punish and sanction lawyers who do not have the proper protocols. mr. chairman, this is wrong-headed. i ask my colleagues to stand for civil rights for americans with disabilities. this is not just an amendment. it's undermining the civil rights of those who are living with disabilities. the chair: the gentlewoman's time has expired. the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, may i inquire how much time remains? the chair: the gentleman from virginia has 13 minutes remaining. the gentleman from new york has 17 1/2 minutes remaining. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, i yield myself a minute to respond to the gentlewoman from texas. proponents say it will delay access even just a few months. under current law unscrupulous lawyers delay for months after violations are discovered simply to boost their claim for attorneys' fees based on work.
here's an affidavit from a former a.d.a. lawyer showing his firm fraudulently and routinely waited months to alert business owners of potential violations and file lawsuits so they could falsely claim many hours of work preparing the case when no such work was required. here's what the lawyer testified to. quote, the alleged time entries at issue in this case include authorizing discovery six months in advance of the case being filed. i told mr. lopez the real person in charge, this practice was useless. mr. lopez's response was increasing legal fees was what i was supposed to do. ms. jackson lee: if the gentleman will yield? mr. goodlatte: that means today there are months of unnecessary delays before the business owner is even notified of a violation so they can begin working on fixing the problem. that's an additional delay of months this bill will eliminate. the bottom line is in a.d.a. cases lawyers routinely delay filing lawsuits to boost their
fees. this bill will stop that practice and let that time and money be used to increase access, not pad the pockets of unethical lawyers. this bill will provide access months sooner than under current law. this is a pro-civil rights bill, and i urge my colleagues to support it. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. goodlatte: i will yield to gentlewoman. -- to the gentlewoman. ms. jackson lee: you are talking about lawyers, not the disabled. let the state bars, let the state courts regulate these lawyers. sanction them. just like we have sanctions in the federal court system, mr. chairman. mr. goodlatte: they oppose our bill to increase sanctions on unethical lawyers. mr. speaker, i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield two minutes to the gentleman from maryland, mr. raskin. the chair: the gentleman from maryland is recognized for two minutes. mr. raskin: mr. speaker, thank you very much.
one of our great republican president, abraham lincoln, who served in this body spoke of government of the people, by the people and for the people. we didn't start out that way but through civil rights movements and civil rights statutes we opened america up. and the americans with disabilities act has been a crucial piece of legislation to opening america up. our restaurants, our hotels, all of our business establishments to tens of millions of americans who otherwise couldn't participate fully and on an equal basis. now, this bill would create a totally novel requirement in the civil rights field that in order to sue for violations of public accommodations law under the a.d.a. the person must first notify the business of their alleged violations and then wait 180 days to allow the business to remedy the violation or make substantial progress towards compliance. no other federal civil rights law operates this way. they just don't work like that. the a.d.a.'s been in process for 27 years and there's no
reason that any business today should be out of compliance with a very clear directive under the a.d.a. the new notice and cure provisions will have the effect of shifting the burden of enforcement from the wrongdoer to the victim of discrimination. it would incentivize the businesses to not comply with a.d.a. unless it receives a notice of violation. now, our colleagues raise uestions of overzellous or abusive litigation -- over zealous or abusive litigation. they added damages under the a.d.a. understand under the a.d.a. federally there are no damages. you can just get your cost and your legal fees. some states added damages and then there are some lawyers who are out who are making trouble. we agree with that. use the state bars to sanction them. if there are sanctional behavior, disbar them. deal with that problem but
don't cut the heart of the americans with disabilities act which has been central to the ability of our people and all of our families to participate on equal basis in our economy and in our society. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, it's my pleasure to yield three minutes to the gentleman from georgia, mr. woodall. the chair: the gentleman from georgia is recognized for three minutes. woody paige thank you, mr. chairman. i -- mr. woodall: thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the gentleman for yielding. the gentleman from maryland said after decades the a.d.a. was well understood and the law was easy to comply with. in many cases that may be true but technology has been advancing so quickly, there are areas where the a.d.a. is not clear today and we're in need of guidance. mr. chairman, in the great state of georgia, scores of businesses have received demand letters for their websites, that their websites should be considered public accommodations and demand letters to say those websites do not comply with the a.d.a.
when these businesses do not know how to make their websites comply with the a.d.a. 50 credit unions alone, mr. speaker -- mr. chairman, folks who are in the business of serving our communities have received these demand letters unable to respond. i'd like, if he'd be willing to enter into a colloquy with the gentleman from texas, judge poe, and ask if you're aware, judge poe, of the issues created by this emergence of technology and the litigation, the predatory litigation that credit unions and community banks and other small mom and pop businesses are facing? mr. poe: does the gentleman yield? mr. woodall: i yield to the gentleman from texas. mr. poe: yes, the gentleman from georgia is absolutely correct. i am aware of this matter. also, i am aware that you, the chairman goodlatte, 60 members of this claim ber last year to urge the justice department to finalize -- chamber last year to urge the justice department
to finalize certainty. even though it's not clear there is a statutory obligation under the a.d.a. for the department of justice to act which is why h.r. 620 doesn't address that issue specifically. i'll yield back to the gentleman. mr. woodall: i thank the gentleman for his guidance. of course, there was no opportunity for the a.d.a. to anticipate the internet, to anticipate websites and so it's unclear whether or not congress intended for websites to fall inside the public ccommodations statute. judge, all of the small businesses, everyone with a website presence, mr. chairman, is unclear about whether or not they're violating the law. they don't even have a framework of guidance so they could comply with the laws. i know each and every one of these credit unions, small banks, small businesses wants to do. i'd ask the gentleman from texas if he'd commit to working
with me to encourage the justice department to move forward with some guidance in this area so that we could provide certainty, not just to credit unions, not just to community banks but to all of these small businesses looking to do their very best to comply with the a.d.a. mr. poe: will the gentleman yield? mr. woodall: i'd be happy to yield to my friend from texas. mr. poe: this legislation makes the a.d.a. better. the right of people to have access -- have 30 seconds? the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. goodlatte: pleased to yield to the gentleman from texas. mr. poe: this legislation makes it better for the disabled to have access under the notice and cure requirement and the judiciary committee will continue to work with the department of justice and stakeholders on this. in fact, jurisdictions said the a.d.a. goes to websites.
we believe that 620 will help. i yield back to the gentleman. mr. woodall: these are small businesses, mr. chairman, that want to do their best to comply with the a.d.a. i think the gentleman from texas. i thank the chairman of the committee. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield two minutes to the gentlelady from delaware, ms. blunt rochester. the chair: the gentlelady from delaware is recognized for two minutes. ms. blunt rochester: i thank the gentleman for yielding and for your leadership on this issue. mr. chairman, as former delaware secretary of labor, i rise to strongly oppose h.r. 620, the a.d.a. education and reform act of 2017. this bill on the floor today would roll back the clock on civil rights for people with disabilities. 27 years ago congress passed the transformative americans with disabilities act, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities and mandated that they have equal opportunity to participate in society.
before the a.d.a., a person with a disability could be barred from a meaningful career, education, and really to live a fulfilling life. mr. speaker, some claim that the a.d.a. exposes businesses to exosh tent cost or damage awards but it's not the norm. it's one of the myths that's perpetuated. according to the department of labor, 57% of accommodations cost nothing at all, while the rest typically cost only $500. so once you peel back the myths surrounding the a.d.a., we are left with one simple question -- why not comply? the monetary cost is simplecally minimal as opposed to providing qualified americans with a shot of living at the american dream or giving the person with a disability the means to go to the grocery store, pick up their children from childcare or go to work. this is why these standards are so essential.
they ensure real, fair, equal access for everyone. people with disabilities simply want to live an independent life free from discrimination and this bill rolls back that progress. i will be voting against this bill and urge my colleagues to do the same, and i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, i reserve. the chair: the gentleman reserves. the gentleman from new york. the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield two minutes to the gentlelady from illinois, ms. schakowsky. the chair: the gentlelady from illinois is recognized for two minutes. ms. schakowsky: i thank the gentleman for yielding. i rise in strong opposition to h.r. 620, which would violate the 28-year-old americans with disabilities act by allowing public places to bar access to people with disabilities. h.r. 620 will allow barriers for the disabled to stay in
place as long as substantial progress is made to remove them, whatever that means. the a.d.a. was a compromise, given the disability community access and helping businesses to comply by giving them tax credits and training. h.r. 620 undoes that compromise, making it virtually impossible to enforce the a.d.a.'s goal of fairness and inclusion, and that's why the aarp, the paralyzed veterans of america, the national council on independent living and the consortium of citizens with disabilities oppose this bill. it's why the national organization of nurses with disabilities, quote, believes that h.r. 620 represents a downward spiral of the americans with disabilities act and will impact people with disabilities' freedom of access across the united states and where i'm illinois,
from, whose president, marco bristol, my hero, helped enact the americans with disabilities act and she says -- and they say h.r. 620 would fundamentally harm our nation's progress toward an accessible and integrated society. . it telegraphs to individuals disabilities disabilities that inclusion is simply not important, unquote. let's show people with disabilities that they do matter. that they shouldn't be locked out of restaurants or sporting events or job opportunities. that they should be treated -- they should not be treated as second class citizens in the american civil justice system. show your commitment to the a.d.a. and to civil rights and vote no. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, at this time i just ask unanimous consent that the affidavit that i cited in my earlier remarks
be made part of the record. the chair: without objection. the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, i now yield five minutes to the distinguished gentleman from maryland, the minority whip, and one of the original authors of the a.d.a. in 1990, mr. hoyer. the chair: the gentleman is recognized for five minutes. mr. hoyer: i thank the gentleman for yielding. i rise in strong opposition to this legislation. in 1990 president george h.w. bush declared a long overdue independence day for people with disabilities as he signed the historic americans with disabilities act into law. as the house sponsor of the a.d.a., i shared the president's optimism and hope that every man, woman, and child with disability can now pass-through once closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom. i was proud to work across the aisle on the a.d.a. and on the a.d.a. amendments act of 2008.
the only time the a.d.a. has ever been amended. we brought together from outside groups from a broad range of affiliations to create a framework for policy that would vastly improve accessibility and be agreeable to all. unfortunately, people with disabilities still face stubborn barriers to full inclusion. in the last year, people with differing abilities have had to fight for access to health care and the services they need to live independently and with dignity. now, we have on the floor a bill that would undermine the central tenet of the a.d.a. victims of discrimination to seek redress for exclusion. of a violation before tims of
bringing a lawsuit is of a viol bringing a lawsuit is an improper shift of the burden of compliance on to victims. one not required of any other group by any other civil rights law. not a single civil rights law. -- rights law gives this kind of provision. as the paralyzedet veterans of america wrote in the letter of opposition and i quote, veterans with disabilities who honorably serve their contry, should not bear the burden of ensuring that businesses in their communities are meeting heir a.d.a. osama bin laden -- a.d.a. obligations. instead it is the responsibility of the business and associations to educate themselves about the law's requirement. this law was passed some 27 years ago. there is no excuse for not knowing the obligations. such s do not require
notice for women such notice for women, african-americans, latinos, religious minorities, or any other protected against description. i acknowledge that there are issues in -- against discrimination. i acknowledge that there are issues. there are no damages in the national a.d.a., a law which was a compromise. a problem with state law, however, should not be fixed -- should groups be fixed at the s level and not with a retreat in the federal law. lawyers who file suits may well be in violation of their ethical obligations. sadly, we're seeing that almost 28 years after its passage, and decades of notice as to what is required, tax credits so that you can make changes necessary to make your place accessible, there are still those who have barriers to full accommodation for americans with differing abilities contrary to law. in fact, when we adopted the law, we didn't have it go into effect for 24 months, two years, so that people could
educate themselves on their responsibilities. people with delivering abilities still have to fight day in and day out for the access and inclusion to which they should already be entitled under the law as businesses dismiss their obligations. we had a colleague, senator tammy duckworth, she was a helicopter pilot. her legs were shot off. she now serves dismiss their obligations. we had a in the united states senate. she's a disabled veteran an american hero. she wrote the following in the "washington post" about this bill, and i quote, this offensive legislation would segregate the disability community, making it the only protected class under civil rights law that must rely on education rather than strong enforcement to guarantee access to public spaces. i will be voting no on this legislation. in the name of upholding the
bedrock principles of civil rights law in this country, and the integrity of the a.d.a. us work together bipartisan basis, an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, 400 votes plus for this legislation. let us not retreat this day. let us not say to those with disabilities, you've got to wait 180 days. what if bipartisan basis, an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, we said if you are a african-american and try to go into a place of public accommodations and they wouldn't admit you and you said, well, i've got a complaint. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. hoyer: you have to wait 180 days to have that right redressed. that's not right. let's not treat -- the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from virginia. mr. hoyer: citizens. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from virginia.
mr. goodlatte: i yield myself such time as i may consume to respond to the gentleman from maryland. the technical requirements of title are constantly changing. we have seen numerous revisions to both regulations and guidance. not to mention the resulting case law that affects its interpretation. therefore, the regulatory requirements of the a.d.a. in 1991 are not the same as those today. there is no better example of these changes than the rise of the internet which came into its current existence after the a.d.a. was enacted. as people no longer need a physical storefront to have a business, the courts have struggled to apply the a.d.a.'s public accommodation requirements. there is, for example, a current circuit split as to whether companies operating exclusively online are subject to these requirements. advancements in technology, we will continue to see changes to the regulatory requirements. it is perfectly reasonable adva
technology, we will continue to see changes for small business owners, many of whom are disabled themselves, or of minorities, to have the opportunity to fix a problem before a predatory lawyer simply brings an action for the purpose of recovering, not fixing the problem but getting money that could have been better spent by that small business fixing the problem. i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. speaker, i now yield myself one minute. the chair: the gentleman is recognized. mr. nadler: mr. speaker, 28 years after the a.d.a.'s passage, too many businesses remain inaccessible to person with disabilities. the last thing congress should be doing is undermining the civil rights of a discreet and minority group by making it impossible to enforce their
rights in court. that is why more than 230 disability rights groups, civil rights groups, labor unions, and veterans organizations strongly oppose h.r. 620. including the leadership conference on civil human ghts, the aarp, naacp, afl-cio, the paralyzed veterans of america, united spinal association, national federation for the blind, and the national disability rights network. i urge the house to abide by these groups' concerns with h.r. 20 and reject this deeply problematic legislation. i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, i have no speakers remaining other than myself and am prepared to close. the chair: the gentleman from new york. mr. nadler: we're prepared to close. mr. speaker, to close i yield the balance of our time to close to the gentleman from rhode island, mr. langevin. the chair: the gentleman is ecognized for 5 1/2 minutes.
mr. langevin: i want to thank the gentleman from new york, the ranking member of the house judiciary committee, for yielding. mr. speaker, i rise in strong opposition to h.r. 620, the a.d.a. education and reform act. this misguided piece of legislation is being sold to my colleagues and the american public as a measure that will help people with disabilities, help businesses overcome -- come into compliance with the american disabilities act, and help reduce drive by lawsuits in states that have gone beyond the a.d.a. to allow for monetary awards. n actualityity -- in actuality, this doesn't accomplish any objectives. this ill considered bill will not only decimate the protection that is people with disabilities rely on t. would turn back the clock to more
segregated society. and it will unravel the core promise of the a.d.a. that a disabled visible or otherwise, can never be grounds to justify or tolerate discrimination. mr. speaker, i'm angry. i'm frustrated. i'm insulted, but more than anything i've disappointed. further, neither mr. peters nor mr. poe ever even approached to e -- ever even approached me to try to find common ground to fix the problem if it is about drive by lawsuits. has the congress really become so divorced from the human experience of the disability community that we're willing to sacrifice their rights because it's easier than targeting the root of the problem? people with disabilities, people like me, so easily disregarded? i'm here to say enough is enough. mr. speaker, whether someone is born with a disability, develops a disability, or
becomes disabled due to baccident -- to an accident or having served in our armed force, the fundamental truth is that it happened by chance. certainly not by choice. as the first quadraplegic elected to the united states congress, i overcame many obstacles to sit beside you as a member of this chamber. but i would never have had the opportunities that i cherish today without the tireless efforts of those that came before me to fight for the right for people with disabilities. mr. speaker, i was injured in 1980 and just 16 years of age. a full 10 years before the passage of the a.d.a. i certainly remember what life was like before the a.d.a. became law. i remember i couldn't go inside a public building that didn't have a ramp. couldn't travel without accessible transportation. and was excluded from gatherings in restaurants and
libraries, movie theaters, and sports venues that couldn't accommodate a wheelchair. i struggled to wash my hands at a sink, access a rest room. and enter a classroom. at my declined schooling first choice college because the challenge of getting around the campus would have been too difficult if not impossible. the a.d.a., mr. speaker, brought more than just the recognition that disability rights are civil rights. it brought hope and opportunity to millions of people. and it brought dignity. having er, after all, a disability should not limit opportunity and it is with opportunity that people with disabilities can lead more active, productive, and independent lives. the a.d.a. was passed nearly 28 years ago and instead of holding people accountable to correctly implement the law, especially when free resources and technical information are readily available, h.r. 620
weakens federal protections under the a.d.a., protections that prohibit discrimination on the basis of a disability. the a.d.a. does not allow people to sue for compensatory or punitive damage. only injuckive relief. yet some -- injunctive relief. yet some states have gone eyond the law to have monetary rewards. the idea that places of public of accommodation should receive a free pass for six months before correctly implementing a law that has been a part of our legal framework for nearly three decades, creates an obvious disincentive for a.d.a. compliance. . people with disabilities, mr. speaker, have obstacles despite passage of the a.d.a. this past year the disability community has had to fight to preserve access to health care, the long-term services and
supports that are a lifeline under medicaid, and the ability to maintain certain protections code. dits under the tax mr. speaker, they're tired and i'm tired of defending against efforts to weaken our rights. i urge my colleagues to see past the smoke and mirrors and irresponsible claims that h.r. 620 is anything but an appalling effort to strip away the civil rights of a protected class of americans. mr. speaker, every vote in support of h.r. 620 will be a message to people with disabilities that we are not worthy of inclusion, acceptance, or deserve the same civil rights protections as others. mr. speaker, as members of congress, americans with disabilities along upon us to defend their rights. let us not vote to eliminate them. let us make them proud and reject h.r. 620.
i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from virginia. mr. goodlatte: mr. speaker, may i inquire how much time is remaining? the chair: the gentleman has six minutes remaining. mr. goodlatte: i yield myself the balance of the time. mr. speaker, the house judiciary committee over decades has heard testimony from many disabled owners of businesses, several of whom have testified before the committee who themselves have been extorted by trial lawyers to pay thousands of dollars to lawyers that money could have been spent on making small adjustments to the premises to easily overlook technical violations. let me give you an example. take the testimony of donna who owned a store for the disabled and herself used a wheelchair. it was a store devoted entirely to selling accessibility devices and similar items. she was made to pay $2,000 in attorneys' fees for a simple fix that cost $100.
clearly, she was interested in accommodating the disabled, yet, she, too, was caught up in a legal shakedown. she said the following before the house judiciary committee -- we have co-owned a mobility equipment business in south florida for the last 20 years. our parking lot and our building are totally wheelchair accessible. we employ two people who use wheelchairs, and we ourselves use wheelchairs, and all of our customers have mobility limitation. we had not painted the lines and posted a sign on just one of the handicap spots required by the a.d.a. an attorney from new jersey, without notice, filed a suit against us. it cost us less than $100 to correct the infractions and $2,000 for attorneys' fees. the original intent of the a.d.a. was to provide access and opportunity to american life for all people with disabilities, not to give the legal profession an opportunity to make more money.
as abraham lincoln's name was mentioned previously, i wanted to quote him on the subject of unnecessary and wasteful litigation. in his notes on a law lecture he delivered, here's what abraham lincoln had to say -- discourage litigation, point out to them how the nominal winners often a real loser in fees, expenses and waste of time. as a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. there will still be business enough. and finally, to that same point, i have to say it's simply ethical practice for lawyers to give business a heads up of a potential violation before a lawsuit is filed. there are many other examples in federal law where that notice to the defendant to cure, including in civil rights actions, is afforded. it should be afforded here as
well. indeed, the vast majority of lawyers do what this bill requires as a matter of simple ethical lawyering. but many lawyers don't act professionally and they abuse the law to shakedown businesses, take money away from compliance and putting it into their own pockets. all this bill does is require those unscrupulous trial lawyers to do what ethical lawyers already do, give fair notice of a violation before thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees are racked up against a small business, diverted money away from accessibility where it belongs. mr. speaker, this is the right correction addressing this problem. it will enhance accessibility. it will encourage more work to be done, and it will not deprive anybody of the opportunity to notify people that they have a problem of accessibility at their business, if they don't fix it they will be the subject of that very lawsuit, but the
opportunity to fix it in a prompt fashion is, i think, critically important to making accessibility more available and helping small businesses in america to succeed, thrive, and create more jobs and even more jobs with people with those disabilities. with that [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2018] >> you can watch coverage of he senate live on c-span2. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history. former virginia governor douglas wilder at virginia commonwealth university. >> i have a one-word definition that i use for politics. can anyone guess what that is?
one word. would define politics. money. give me something that's a proposition before any tribunal that doesn't involve money. >> sunday at 10:00 a.m. eastern from the west point center for oral history. henry "hank" thomas, a combat medic during the vietnam war. >> my grandfather served in world war i. my father served in world war ii. always for a black man. whenever you served it was your military service you hope would confirm your bona fideys as a first class red-blooded american citizen in title too. >> at 4:00 p.m., on real america, with the cpac conference in washington, d.c., next week, we look back to 1988, when president reagan
spoke at a cpac dinner. >> the american people know what limited government, tax cuts, deregulation and the move toward privatization have meant. it's meant the largest peace-time expansion in our history. and i can guarantee you they won't want to throw that away for a return to budgets beholden to the liberal special interests. >> watch american history tv very weekend on c-span3. >> a live coverage of the savannah book festival starts saturday morning at 9:00 eastern and includes robert latta with his book "future war: preparing for the new global battlefield." author >> watch live coverage of the savannah book festival saturday morning beginning at 9:00 east