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Langevin Opposes Bill to Fundamentally Undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act
WASINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, voted today against H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill that undermines the civil rights of Americans with disabilities by creating significant hurdles for victims of discrimination to seek justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). H.R. 620 passed the House by a vote of 225 to 192:
“I am gravely disappointed that the House acted today not to advance civil rights, but to take them away,” said Congressman Langevin. “For the past 27 years, the ADA has significantly improved the quality of life for me and millions of people with disabilities by protecting us from discrimination. This bill reverses decades of progress by undercutting our ability to assert our rights under the law through the use of a ‘notice and cure’ provision. But justice delayed is justice denied. Businesses should not be encouraged to ignore the law until someone complains, which is exactly what this legislation does. I’m deeply concerned that this bill will bring our country back to the days when discrimination was commonplace, and I am saddened that Congress sent a message to people with disabilities that we are not equal, or worthy of the same civil rights protections as others.”
During debate, Congressman Langevin offered a bipartisan amendment to strip the most egregious provision from the bill. The amendment, which was cosponsored by the Republican Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS), would have eliminated H.R. 620’s “notice and cure” requirement. As drafted, a person claiming discrimination due to an architectural barrier must provide 60 days’ notice of an alleged violation and then wait an additional 120 days for “substantial progress” to be made in removing the barrier before further legal action may be pursued. Currently, no civil rights statute has a similar requirement that an aggrieved party must offer notice before receiving injunctive relief from a court. The ADA does not permit suits for compensatory or punitive damages. Langevin’s amendment was rejected by a vote of 226 to 188.
H.R. 620 was opposed by over 200 civil rights, disability rights, and other organizations.