Legislative Update

Legislative Update
Goodlatte applauds House passage of the STOP School Violence Act
March 14, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 407-10 the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill, introduced by Judiciary Committee Member Representative John Rutherford (R-Fla.), creates a grant program administered by the Department of Justice to train students, teachers, school personnel, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise, creates an anonymous reporting system, and implements school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings from occurring. This bill also incorporates key elements from legislation introduced by Representatives Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Luke Messer (R-Ind.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, praised today’s House approval of the STOP School Violence Act:

“Violence at schools makes students feel vulnerable in a place where they should feel safe. To curb violence at our nation’s schools, the STOP School Violence Act provides a multi-layered approach to identify threats and prevent violence from taking place on school grounds. It provides much-needed resources to train students, teachers, and law enforcement officers on how to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs and provides funding for technology to keep schools secure. The bill also provides for the creation of an anonymous reporting system to provide tips about potential attacks and persons who may be inclined to commit acts of violence on campus.

“The STOP School Violence Act is a good step toward making our schools safe again. We will continue to examine issues pertaining to school safety in order to create a safer environment for our nation’s children. I thank Representatives Rutherford, Chabot, Granger, Davis, Messer, Bost, Coffman, and Brooks for their collaborative work on this bill and call on the Senate to pass it swiftly so that we can better protect our nation’s kids.”

Below are key elements of the STOP School Violence Act.

Student Violence Prevention Training: The STOP School Violence Act provides funding for training to prevent student violence against oneself and  others, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students. Prevention training would be designed to give students and school personnel the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of school violence, and would include active shooter training.

Technology to Improve School Security: The bill provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security and prevent attacks. This includes the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, such as mobile apps, a hot-line, and a website. Funding may also be used for metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other technologies to keep schools safe.

School Threat Assessment and Crisis Intervention Teams: The legislation also contains funding for school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams so that school personnel can respond to threats before they materialize.

More Coordination with Law Enforcement: Finally, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts, and in particular, those officers who already staff schools.

VIDEO: Goodlatte spoke on the House floor in support of the STOP School Violence Act.

Legislative Update
Warner, Kaine push V-A to fix problems endangering Veterans at D.C. Medical Center
March 14, 2018

WASHINGTON – On March 14th, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) pushed the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to take immediate action regarding critical failures at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) highlighted in an Inspector General report released last week that showed patients were put at risk due to supply, equipment, and inventory issues. Last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to express serious concerns over initial findings found by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that detailed similar deficiencies at the facility. Following last week’s OIG report, Secretary Shulkin announced an overhaul of the senior leadership overseeing almost two dozen troubled hospitals across the country.

“While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings,” wrote the Senators.

In particular, the Senators raised concerns regarding leadership failures that endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility and called for more stringent oversight measures given the lack of direct response following last year’s interim report. In their letter, Sens. Warner and Kaine requested an update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DC-based medical facility and any measures the VA is planning to take to increase accountability. Finally, the Senators requested the agency to identify potential legislative actions that Congress can take to help fix problems at DCVAMC.

“The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care,” concluded the Senators.  

Full text of the letter follows. A PDF can be found here.

The Honorable David Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Shulkin,

We write to you to express our concern regarding the recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that outlines critical deficiencies at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC). While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings.

In April 2017, we asked you to take immediate action to improve management at the DCVAMC following the release of the OIG Interim Status Report that first brought to light many of these serious problems. The final report expands upon the OIG’s initial findings and details significant inadequacies in executing basic hospital functions, including an inability to maintain an appropriate inventory of medical supplies and sanitary storage facilities, which resulted in an increased risk of harm to veterans at the facility. Thankfully, the OIG found that the efforts of DCVAMC health care professionals prevented patients from suffering adverse medical outcomes as a result of the identified deficiencies. We applaud those health care professionals for their herculean efforts in the face of such adversity, but their outstanding dedication to veterans should not minimize the egregious management problems at the DCVAMC, including historically high vacancy rates in logistics and sterile processing positions dating back to 2014.

We found the most troubling aspect of the OIG’s Report to be the massive failures in leadership that occurred throughout multiple levels of the VA. Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 5, and Veterans Health Administration Central Office (VHACO) staff all filed and received reports from 2013 to 2017 that outlined many of the supply, equipment, and inventory issues that were later outlined in the final OIG Report. However, despite repeated recommendations for action, these DCVAMC leaders failed to take appropriate steps to address these issues. This failure in leadership endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility. The lack of leadership identified by the OIG highlights the need for more stringent oversight measures that would prevent these breakdowns from occurring at other VAMCs.

We are pleased that you already addressed some of the failings of the DCVAMC documented in the April 2017 OIG Interim Status Report, including personnel changes and the implementation of new supply and cleanliness processes. In addition, we applaud your initiative to implement measures that would help prevent similar failures in leadership at VAMCs across the nation, such as increasing accountability at the VA Central Office.

While progress has been made since the release of last year’s report, fundamental problems still exist at the Medical Center. We request that you provide a comprehensive update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DCVAMC and a full description of the VA-wide measures you are planning to enact that would increase accountability throughout the organization. Finally, we ask that you identify any legislative action that is required to carry out remedial measures.

The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care. We look forward to working with you to correct the persistent problems at the DCVAMC and prevent similar deficiencies from occurring elsewhere within the VA.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your prompt response.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte & Gowdy release key takeaways from FBI briefing on Parkland School shooting
March 8, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s request for a briefing, yesterday members of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee met with FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich on how the Bureau handled tips about the shooter who murdered 17 students, teachers, and school officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Below are several key takeaways from the briefing.

Opportunities were missed.

· In September 2017, the FBI received an Internet tip from a video blogger about a threatening comment posted to a YouTube video the blogger had posted. The comment stated, “I am going to be a professional school shooter,” and was posted under the username “nikolas cruz.”

· The Internet tip was routed to an FBI office in Mississippi, which, after interviewing the video blogger and conducting social media searches, closed the case in October 2017 because it lacked personal identifiable information on the user who posted the threatening comment. The agents tasked with the case could have requested assistance from YouTube to attempt to identify the user who left the comment, but determined that the United States Attorney’s Office in that region was unlikely to agree to such a request.

· In January 2018, a friend of the Cruz family called the FBI tip line to report Nikolas Cruz’s troubling behavior and disturbing social media posts. The caller noted that local authorities in Parkland had also been notified of Cruz’s threatening behavior. According to Deputy Director Bowdich, the caller provided sufficient information to the tip line for the FBI to launch a probe. He noted, however, that the call taker did not ask any standard investigative probing questions during the call.

· Following the tip, the call taker spoke with a supervisor but their conversation was not documented. At the time, the call taker was able to connect information about Nikolas Cruz to the September 2017 tip about the threatening YouTube comment. Despite these connected dots, the call taker and supervisor decided to not pursue the matter further and the case was closed. Further, the FBI did not contact local authorities in Parkland even though the caller stated that Parkland police had also been notified about Cruz’s disturbing behavior.

· Despite multiple opportunities, the FBI did not share information with state and local authorities. Better information sharing between federal and local law enforcement may have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

FBI admits failures and will take corrective actions.

· Deputy Director Bowdich admitted there were failures and that corrective actions will be taken. The FBI has launched separate reviews of the September 2017 and January 2018 tips regarding Nikolas Cruz.

· According to the Deputy Director, a preliminary report recommends stronger oversight of the tip line and better training for the tip line’s call takers and supervisors. The preliminary report also recommends better documentation for the interaction between call takers and supervisors.

· The House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will review the final report once it is issued to ensure all finalized recommendations are implemented. It will also review our laws to see if information sharing between federal, state, and local law enforcement can be improved to enhance public safety.

· During the briefing, members also expressed concerns about whether the FBI has the capability and authority to screen social media for certain phrases, such as “school shooting.” The FBI plans to provide information to the Committees on this matter.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte applauds DOJ’s lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws
March 7, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on March 7th issued the statement below on the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws:

“Attorney General Sessions has made the right decision to sue California for its sanctuary laws. Sanctuary laws are designed to hamper federal immigration enforcement and impede the longstanding cooperation that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has enjoyed with state and local law enforcement.  Not only are California’s laws unconstitutional since they violate the federal government’s explicit constitutional authority to write and enforce immigration laws, the laws also needlessly endanger public safety by allowing criminal aliens to roam free in our communities and make it more dangerous for law enforcement officers to apprehend criminal aliens.

“The Department of Justice’s lawsuit is a critical step toward combating dangerous sanctuary laws, and I have long been a proponent of the Department using its authority to sue sanctuary jurisdictions. We must also strengthen federal law to further prevent state and local governments from enacting such reckless policies. The Securing America’s Future Act, which I introduced with Representatives McCaul, Labrador, and McSally, contains new tools to discourage the adoption of sanctuary policies. I continue to work with Members of Congress to see this important bill come up for a vote in the House of Representatives.”

Legislative Update
Goodlatte launches 2018 Congressional Art Competition
March 7, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced March 7th that the 2018 Congressional Art Competition for high school students throughout the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia is now underway:

“Over the years, I have continuously been impressed by the remarkable talents of high school students in our district. Whether it’s a drawing, painting, or photography, the Congressional Art Competition offers a unique opportunity for students to have their artwork on display in the U.S. Capitol for one year. As my time in Congress nears its end, I look forward to a final year of impressive entries from young artists of the Sixth District. I encourage all interested students to submit their artwork, and ask others to help pass information about this opportunity along.”

Background: The Congressional Art Competition is open to all high school students who reside in the Sixth Congressional District. The winner of the Sixth District’s competition will be on display for one year in the U.S. Capitol. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

The format for the Sixth District’s Congressional Art Competition is as follows:

  • Students or instructors may take a high-quality digital photograph(s) of the artwork and send it via e-mail to Caroline Farr at Caroline.Farr@mail.house.gov.
  • Students or instructors may deliver their artwork in-person to one of Congressman Goodlatte’s Sixth District offices located in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Staunton, and Harrisonburg.
  • Students or instructors may also arrange for a member of Congressman Goodlatte’s district staff to pick up the artwork at a designated location.

To review the official rules and guidelines for the 2018 Congressional Art Competition and access the student release form, please visit Goodlatte.House.Gov. Submissions that do not adhere to the Competition guidelines will not be considered.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte & Gowdy call for Special Counsel to investigate crimes involving Bias & FISA Abuse at DOJ
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy today called for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate potential bias and potential conflicts of interest and decisions made or not made by the Department of Justice in 2016 and 2017.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Chairmen Goodlatte and Gowdy request the appointment of a Special Counsel to review evidence of bias by any employee or agent of the DOJ, FBI, or other agencies; the decisions to charge or not charge and whether those decisions were made consistent with the applicable facts, the applicable law, and traditional investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures; and whether the FISA process employed in the fall of 2016 and continuing into 2017 was lawful and pursuant to all relevant policies and procedures.

The text of the letter is below and the signed copy can be found here.

March 6, 2018

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein:

Matters have arisen – both recently and otherwise – which necessitate the appointment of a Special Counsel.  We do not make this observation and attendant request lightly.  We have tremendous respect for the women and men of federal law enforcement and federal prosecution.  In the vast majority of fact patterns, the Department of Justice, the career prosecutors and law enforcement professionals who serve there, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country are fully capable of investigating, evaluating, charging where appropriate, and prosecuting matters for which there is federal jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, there are instances in which an actual or potential conflict of interest exists or appears to exist, or there are matters in which the public good would be furthered, and an independent Special Counsel is warranted as the relevant Federal regulations provide.

We believe that, in the case of certain decisions made and not made by the Department of Justice and FBI in 2016 and 2017, both an actual conflict of interest exists and separately, but equally significantly, the public interest requires the appointment of a Special Counsel.

With respect to potential and actual conflicts of interest, decisions made and not made by both former and current Department of Justice and FBI officials have led to legitimate questions and concerns from the people whom we all serve.  There is evidence of bias, trending toward animus, among those charged with investigating serious cases. There is evidence political opposition research was used in court filings.  There is evidence this political opposition research was neither vetted before it was used nor fully revealed to the relevant tribunal.  Questions have arisen with the FISA process and these questions and concerns threaten to impugn both public and congressional confidence in significant counterintelligence program processes and those charged with overseeing and implementing these counterintelligence processes.

Because the decisions of both former and current Department of Justice and FBI officials are at issue, we do not believe the Department of Justice is capable of investigating and evaluating these fact patterns in a fashion likely to garner public confidence.  In addition, while we have confidence in the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, the DOJ IG does not have the authority to investigate other governmental entities or former employees of the Department, the Bureau, or other agencies.

Some have been reluctant to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel because such an appointment should be reserved for those unusual cases where existing investigative and prosecutorial entities cannot adequately discharge those duties.  We believe this is just such a case.

Accordingly, we request that you appoint a Special Counsel to review decisions made and not made by the Department of Justice and the FBI in 2016 and 2017, including but not limited to evidence of bias by any employee or agent of the DOJ, FBI, or other agencies involved in the investigation; the decisions to charge or not charge and whether those decisions were made consistent with the applicable facts, the applicable law, and traditional investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures; and whether the FISA process employed in the fall of 2016 was appropriate and devoid of extraneous influence.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important request.


Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee

Trey Gowdy
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Legislative Update
Senate considers Warner-backed regulatory relief package to grow economy and protect consumers
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – March 6th, the Senate voted 67-32 in favor of starting debate on S. 2155, theEconomic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to grow the economy and protect consumers that was negotiated in part by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). Today Sen. Warner called for swift passage of the legislation, which will provide targeted relief for community banks and credit unions so they can improve access to capital and increase economic prosperity in the Commonwealth.

The legislation addresses some of the unintended consequences of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to make it easier for smaller community banks and credit unions to lend to Virginia businesses and families, which is good for households and the economy.

“The Senate is on the verge of passing major bipartisan legislation aimed at providing relief for small community banks, credit unions, and the customers they serve. As someone who helped put together the Dodd-Frank legislation, I know there are areas where we can help improve access to capital for consumers, farmers, and small businesses so they can grow the economy and create jobs,” said Sen. Warner.

“Virginia’s community banks and credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, and they should not be held back by regulations intended for the big banks. I look forward to seeing the Senate pass this package of bipartisan measures that will provide relief for Main Street, strengthen consumer protections, and keep Wall Street accountable.”

Following the 2008 financial meltdown, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to crack down on the worst Wall Street abuses and institute strict regulations to prevent another crisis. Sen. Warner played an important role in negotiating and drafting major portions of this legislation, which created new safeguards to protect our financial system and hold Wall Street accountable.

However, as with any major reform, the law also had some unintended consequences. Virginia has lost over a quarter of its community banks and nearly a third of its credit unions since Dodd-Frank was passed. In some cases, the law resulted in unnecessary and burdensome regulations on credit unions and small community banks that made it harder for them to lend money to help local businesses grow and create jobs.

“As a credit union, we have to adhere to the same regulations as large banks do.  But we have to do it with a much smaller base – we only have 10,000 members and 20 employees – adhering to the same regulations that a behemoth like Bank of America has to adhere to,”said Lisa Lambrecht, President & CEO of Entrust Financial Credit Union in Henrico County. “I wish the federal government would understand that these one-size-fits-all regulations don’t work for credit unions. You have to remember; credit unions were formed to fill that gap that the larger established financial system was not serving.”

“In the rural areas, the larger institutions across the whole country have reduced their branches. The smaller banks have held their own, but we’re operating with 2000 less community banks a day than we were 12, 15 years ago. That’s over one fourth of community banks are gone — and I think a primary reason for that is regulatory fatigue,” said Lyn Hayth, President & CEO of the Bank of Botetourt.

 “Every dollar we spend on increased compliance really doesn’t go to our capital. And if we could put that extra dollar into our capital, we could lend it back out into the community on a tenfold basis. So, our hope is that regulation can be decreased, and that we are able to take that capital that we save and invest it back into our communities,” said Alice Frazier, President & CEO of Bank of Charles Town in Middleburg.

 “I think that community banks are the backbone of our country, and many of our rural markets. And not just our rural markets – but I think we serve a vital role to the growth of the economy,” said Mark Hanna, President of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Timberville.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155) ensures that small lenders can provide mortgage and other credit to hardworking Americans, helping them and their families grow and start businesses. The bill also institutes several important consumer protections:

• Allows consumers to get one free year of fraud alerts, which will help consumers who have been impacted by situations like the Wells Fargo scandal or whose identities or personal information has been stolen.

• Unlimited free credit freezes and unfreezes, which helps consumers impacted by data breaches like the Equifax hack that compromised the personal information of approximately 145 million Americans.

• Provides free credit monitoring for all active-duty servicemembers.

• Protects the credit ratings of veterans wrongly penalized by medical bill payment delays by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This measure would prohibit medical debt from services received through the Choice Program and other VA community care programs from being reported to credit reporting agencies for one year. In addition, it would establish a dispute process for veterans seeking to remove adverse actions already on their report.

• Prevents mortgage companies from immediately kicking tenants out of their rentals if the landlord is foreclosed upon.

• Encourages banks to report suspicious behavior if seniors could be getting financially scammed.

• Allows seriously delinquent private student loan borrowers a one-time offer to remove negative reporting from their credit reports after making a series of on-time payments.

The legislation was introduced in November after years of bipartisan negotiations among Sen. Warner, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Banking Committee members Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT). It is also co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Legislative Update
Senator Warner sponsors legislation to help curb gun violence
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – March 6th, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored a set of bipartisan bills to help curb gun violence, including the Fix NICS Act, legislation which would ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This bill penalizes federal agencies who fail to properly report relevant records and incentivizes states to improve their overall reporting. In addition, it directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and have always advocated for responsible gun ownership. My commitment to those principles remains, but it is also past time to put an end to these mass shootings,” said Sen. Warner.

“While these commonsense reforms are not themselves enough, they will strengthen our background checks system and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent individuals and terrorists. No single law will end all gun violence, but we must begin attempting to address this crisis.”

The Fix NICS Act:

  • Requires federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under current law—including measures to verify the accuracy of records.
  • Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.
  • Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans.
  • Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS.
  • Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.

Sen. Warner is also a cosponsor of the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation to help keep guns from terrorist by preventing people who are on the “No Fly List” or the “Selectee List” from purchasing firearms.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte statement on passage of bill to fight online sex trafficking
February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – The House of Representatives today passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), a product of the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation provides restitution for sex trafficking victims and enhances criminal penalties for websites that facilitate illegal prostitution or sex trafficking.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has issued the following statement:

Chairman Goodlatte: “Over the past year, the House Judiciary Committee has worked directly with prosecutors to understand how new legislation could help them enforce existing laws and hold bad actors accountable for sex trafficking online. We have also explored changes to the criminal code that would disincentivize websites from knowingly promoting or facilitating illegal prostitution. The summation of the Committee’s investigative work is FOSTA, a bill that gives restitution to victims and creates harsher penalties for bad actor websites that facilitate horrendous criminal acts. I believe the provisions in this legislation will make the internet safer and give victims the criminal and civil means to punish wrongdoers and move forward with their lives.”


What FOSTA does:

  • Holds Bad Actors Accountable: clarifies that section 230 of the CDA does NOT grant immunity to websites that facilitate sex trafficking.
  • Creates a New Federal Crime: websites that have the intent to promote or facilitate illegal prostitution can be prosecuted under the new 18 U.S.C 2421A created by the bill.
  • Increases Criminal Penalties:  prosecutors can seek higher penalties for websites who promote the illegal prostitution of 5 or more persons or act with reckless disregard for the fact that sex trafficking occurs on their website.
  • Enforces Existing Laws: allows state and local prosecutors to enforce sex trafficking statutes and the new 2421A.
  • Provides Restitution for Victims: gives victims of sex trafficking a pathway to sue bad actor websites for conduct violating the new criminal law, 2421A.

The House Judiciary Committee last year held a hearing to review the impact of the Communications Decency Act on sex trafficking online. In December 2017, the Committee approved FOSTA by voice vote.

Legislative Update
Senator Warner, Kaine introduce resolution to reinstate net neutrality
February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON – On Net Neutrality National Day of Action, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senate and House Democrats in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) partisan decision on net neutrality. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The House resolution currently has 150 co-sponsors.

The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing these net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

“From the start, the FCC’s process to determine whether to keep previously established rules that guarantee a free and open internet was marred by partisan fights and troubling irregularities in the public comment system,” said the Senators. “By repealing these open internet principles, we believe the agency greenlighted potential anti-competitive practices that could negatively impact consumers. We will continue urging our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand together to protect the integrity of our nation’s most crucial information network.”

Last week, the FCC’s rule repealing net neutrality was published in the Federal Register, leaving 60 legislative days to seek a vote on the Senate floor on the CRA resolutions. In order to force a vote on the Senate resolution, the Senators will submit a discharge petition, which requires a minimum of 30 Senators’ signatures. Once the discharge petition is filed, Senate Democrats will demand a vote on the resolution. A simple majority of 51 votes is needed to pass a CRA resolution in the Senate.

A copy of the CRA resolution can be found here.