HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer — today announced her support for the Justice in Policing Act, which would address issues of systemic racism within law enforcement and increase accountability in U.S. police departments.
The Justice in Policing Act would help reenvision the critical role played by police officers and make changes to practices that have disproportionately harmed Black communities in the United States — including banning chokeholds, curbing racial profiling, reforming the use of force standards for police, reducing implicit bias, and limiting the continued militarization of local police departments. The Justice in Policing Act is led in the U.S. House by U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen thousands of our neighbors step forward peacefully in their demands for equal justice following the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. With similar marches happening in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country, Congress and the White House cannot ignore the widespread call to protect all Americans equally under the law,” said Spanberger. “I’ve listened to a range of diverse views on this topic across our community, including from local law enforcement about how they feel we can rebuild a strong sense of community-driven policing. There is clear room for progress on these issues, and I’d like to thank the Congressional Black Caucus — especially Congresswoman Karen Bass — for bringing forward this legislation.”
“I support this bill, and I hope many of our Republican colleagues will also look to join this effort,” Spanberger continued. “Making our communities safer for all Americans, combatting longstanding prejudices, and ending discrimination should be issues where we can find common ground. Our words and our marches must be accompanied by action — and that includes meaningful progress on issues ranging from maternal mortality disparities to inequities in access to healthcare, education, internet, and transportation.”
Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act includes provisions to:
- Ban chokeholds and carotid holds,
- Prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling,
- Create a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers from moving to another jurisdiction without accountability,
- Mandate state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age,
- Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities improve public safety,
- Limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement,
- Require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras, and require federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras,
- Create law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations, as well as law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices, and
- Reform qualified immunity, so that Americans are not entirely barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to close equity gaps in criminal justice, healthcare, economic opportunity, environmental justice, housing, internet, education, and food access. Additionally, she has raised awareness about COVID-19’s disproportionate impacts on minority communities in Central Virginia — including during a telephone town hall last week with U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), Virginia Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Dr. Janice Underwood, and VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Winn. Spanberger, Dr. Winn, and Dr. Underwood also penned an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch outlining the need to address structural racism and racial inequality in the United States. Click here to read their piece.
And in April 2020, Spanberger cosponsored H.Res.918, which recognizes the harmful health disparities faced by minority communities during the coronavirus pandemic and urges immediate action to address the ongoing crisis.
Spanberger is also a Member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. In February 2019, she helped introduce a resolution recognizing the ongoing maternal mortality crisis in the United States. The resolution also stresses the importance of reducing mortality and morbidity among all women. In Virginia specifically, Black mothers are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. In March 2020, Spanberger joined her fellow caucus members to introduce a historic “Momnibus” legislative package to address the United States’ urgent maternal health crisis.
In 2019, Spanberger’s office undertook a project to pursue the cosponsorship of priority bills highlighted by the CBC in their “We Have A Lot to Lose; Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century” document. This agenda was drafted in the 115th Congress to dive deep into the study of inequities and injustices present in the United States. In its review of healthcare, education, economic, workforce, rural, criminal justice, and environmental inequities, the CBC identified proposed policy solutions or remedies to address many of the challenges facing Black Americans and to strengthen our country overall.
“Americans across the country — and the Seventh District — continue to march and rally against racism, for justice, and in support of reforms to a society where unarmed Black men and women continue to die at the hands of law enforcement and citizens who believe themselves impervious to responsibility,” said Spanberger. “Racism and structural biases create the foundation for this injustice. As our communities call out for change, I reaffirm my commitment to not only pursuing policies that address or remedy societal inequities, but also reviewing proposed policy with an equity lens to advance just policies and avoid those which may have a negative, disparate impact on Central Virginia’s diverse communities. While some of these legislative priorities have already passed the House, they still require Senate passage and the President’s signature to become law — and I urge the House, Senate, and administration to redouble our commitment to achieving equal opportunity and equal justice for all.”
Spanberger has cosponsored or helped pass many CBC-backed priorities — including several outlined in the original “We Have a Lot to Lose” roadmap — during her first term in the U.S. House, such as the:
JUSTICE & POLICING
- Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this legislation, which would establish a new criminal civil rights violation for lynching.
- Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bill, which establishes a new criminal civil rights violation for lynching.
- Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bill, which would establish the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys within the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Office of the Staff Director to make a systematic study of the conditions affecting black men and boys for the purpose of advising future policy initiatives.
- Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Led by U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA-05), this Spanberger-cosponsored bill would prohibits discrimination against children, youth, families, and individuals on the basis of religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and marital status in the administration and provision of child welfare services receiving federal funds. The bill would also improve safety, well-being, and permanency for LGBTQ children and youth in child welfare.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOUSING, JOBS, & FAIRNESS
- Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA). In December 2019, Spanberger helped pass this legislation, which would defend Americans against attacks on their fundamental right to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Spanberger originally cosponsored the VRAA in March 2019.
- Fair Chance Act. Introduced by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07), this legislation became law in December 2019 as part of the Spanberger-supported National Defense Authorization Act. The law prohibits federal agencies and federal contractors from requesting that applicants for employment disclose criminal history record information before receiving a conditional offer (an offer of employment conditioned upon the results of a criminal history inquiry).
- Pay Equity for All Act. This legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to make it an unlawful practice for an employer to: screen prospective employees based on their previous wages or salary histories; seek the previous wages or salary history of any prospective employee from any current or former employer of such employee; or discharge or in any other manner retaliate against any current or prospective employee because the employee opposed any act or practice made unlawful by the Act, or made or is about to make a complaint relating to any such act or practice, or testified or is about to testify, assist, or participate in any manner in an investigation or proceeding relating to any such act or practice. This legislation was cosponsored and passed in the U.S. House by Spanberger as part of the Paycheck Fairness Act in March 2019.
- ACTION for National Service Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this legislation, which would help young Americans pay for college in return for participation in national service. The bill would also put the federal government on track to supporting one million service positions annually, creating a more engaged citizenry, and addressing national priorities in education, infrastructure, healthcare, disaster relief, and poverty.
- SCORE for Small Business Act. Last year, Spanberger voted to pass this legislation, which would reauthorize the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) program and require the U.S. Small Business Administration to award a grant to the SCORE Association (or any successor group) to manage the SCORE program; modify program requirements with respect to the role of participating volunteers, program plans and goals, and reporting; and outline privacy requirements pertaining to the disclosure of information of businesses assisted under such program.
- Ensuring Diverse Leadership Act. Last year, Spanberger voted to pass this legislation, would seek to remedy the gender, racial, and ethnic disparities within the leadership of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the Federal Reserve System by requiring at least one gender diverse candidate and one racial or ethnically diverse candidate to be interviewed during the search for a new President of a Federal Reserve Bank. Modeled after the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule,” this bill utilizes proven diversity hiring techniques from the private sector and applies it to an institution in desperate need of an injection of diverse leadership.
- Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored legislation would increase Americans’ rights to seek justice and accountability through the court system by eliminating forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases — and would allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs. Spanberger voted to pass the FAIR Act in September 2019.
- EQUALITY Act. Last year, Spanberger helped introduce and pass this landmark legislation that would reaffirm and expand protections for LGBTQ people in Central Virginia and across the country.
- Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this legislation, which would establish the Commission on Ensuring Health Equity During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and require reporting on demographic data related to COVID-19 cases.
- Get the Lead Out of Schools Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored legislation would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a lead contamination testing program for all schools and creates a grant program to help school districts conduct lead testing and assist with remediation efforts. There is currently no federal law requiring the testing of drinking water in schools.
- Preventing Lead Poisoning Act of 2019. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bipartisan bill, which would ensure that children enrolled in both Medicaid and CHIP are tested for lead poisoning at the proper ages to increase the likelihood of preventing the long-term effects of lead exposure.
- National Nurse Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bipartisan bill, which would designate a Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and encourage health professionals to work directly with community programs to improve health outcomes.
- Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bipartisan bill, which would improve the quality, health outcomes, and value of maternity care under the Medicaid and CHIP programs by developing maternity care quality measures and supporting maternity care quality collaboratives.
- Scarlett’s Sunshine on Sudden Unexpected Death Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored legislation would amend the Public Health Service Act to help better understand and enhance awareness about unexpected sudden death in early life.
- Donald Payne Sr. Colorectal Cancer Detection Act. The bill would extend Medicare coverage to include Food and Drug Administration-approved blood-based colorectal cancer screening tests.
- Ellie’s Law. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this bipartisan bill, which would require further comprehensive research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke on unruptured intracranial aneurysms.
- Homeless Veterans Legal Services Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored bill would allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into partnerships with public and private entities to provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness.
EDUCATION & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
- 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act. Spanberger is a cosponsor of this legislation, which would empower local school districts to engage girls, young women, and minority students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, African-American and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented across the U.S. STEM workforce.
- STEM Opportunities Act. Last year, Spanberger supported this legislation, which passed in the U.S. House. The bill would require more comprehensive demographic data collection on the recipients of federal research awards and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities. Additionally, the STEM Opportunities Act would require consistent federal guidance to grant reviewers and program officers on best practices to minimize the effects of implicit bias in the review of federal research grants.
- Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA). In January 2020, Spanberger voted to pass this bipartisan bill, which would strengthen protections against workplace discrimination — including for Central Virginians with age discrimination complaints. Specifically, the Spanberger-cosponsored bill would amend current laws to make sure all victims of discrimination — including older workers — can have their claims fairly adjudicated.
- Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored bill would make sure that Transportation Security Administration screening workforce employees – or Transportation Security Officers – are afforded the same worker rights and protections afforded to other Federal workers. Spanberger voted to pass this legislation in the U.S. House in March 2020.
- Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act. This Spanberger-cosponsored legislation awards Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden and to posthumously award Congressional Gold Medals to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The bill commends these women for their contributions to NASA’s success and highlights their broader impact on society; paving the way for women, especially women of color, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. President Trump signed this bill into law in November 2019.
- Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019. This Spanberger-cosponsored bill would require the Department of the Treasury to ensure that each $20 federal reserve note printed after December 31, 2020, bears the likeness of Harriet Tubman.