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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 19, 2016 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT

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mr. sessions: i will concur hat i in fact did offer in the bill a self-executed portion. i would not try to take advantage of the gentleman, it had nothing to do with the draft. i will agree that i did take a this body, ve because a number of people who did vote for it in committee, , did ecame a voice vote wish to change their opinion. but it had nothing to do with the draft, sir. mr. hoyer: it seems what the gentleman's saying, reclaiming my time, that people vote not to discriminate and then sometime a little later on they have a new epiphany that perhaps discrimination is ok. perhaps that's what the gentleman was saying. mr. sessions: i would ask an
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indulgence. it had nothing to do with discrimination. it had to do with a new policy. and it is true that i did rule and put a self-executing rule in that did answer the question desire of the committee to handle this issue, and i did it accordingly. i thank the gentleman. mr. hoyer: i thank the gentleman. mr. speaker, it appears that no one is going to be able to tell me what the schedule is for the week to come. i will tell you that's unfortunate. i hope there is a schedule for the week to come. because there's a lot to be done. we haven't done -- we haven't finalized zika. we passed a bill here which we think was inadequate. we haven't dealt with flint. we need to pass puerto rico restructuring. i think they've made some progress on that. i congratulate the speaker. and the leader for facilitating that progress. we don't have a voting rights bill scheduled. we need to do that. there are a number of other
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serious pieces of legislation this house needs to consider. we're going to go out next week and we will have no colloquy next week, mr. speaker. there will be no opportunity to discuss the schedule for obviously the break, we will have no schedule, but for june or the weeks thereafter, to do some of the serious business that cronlts us and to help some of the people -- crobblets -- cronlts us and to help some of the people in this -- confronts us and to help some of the people in this country that needs help. it's clear that nobody on the other >> again, house members went on to approve the bill 295-129. the house returns monday at noon eastern for brief morning hour speeches. legislative business gets under way at 2:00 p.m. eastern. see the house live here on c-span. earlier today house speaker paul ryan held his weekly briefing with reporters where he talked about an agreement with house democrats on how to address the debt crisis in puerto rico.
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he's followed by minority leader nancy pelosi who also talked about the debt agreement. the house's approval of funds for combating the zika virus and the situation with the downed egypt air flight 804. speaker ryan: this has been a good week of progress on many fronts. on tuesday we jump-started a house-senate conference committee to finalize bipartisan legislation in the fight against america's opioid epidemic. on wednesday, we sent a bipartisan jobs bill to the president's desk. this will help small manufacturers get tax relief they need so they can do more of hiring people, of building things. that's a bill i worked on for
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years on ways and means. the house passed a plan to protect our people from the spread of zika. we will now work with the senate to get much-needed resources in place. also, committee leaders introduced a bipartisan bill to address puerto rico's fiscal crisis and to prevent a taxpayer bailout. this bill was introduced last night. now we're going to make sure the public has a chance to review this through regular order. this is an urgent matter, so ce the bill is put into law, we'll he get them up and running and working. the house passed a strong national defense bill that gives our troops a pay raise. they certainly deserve it and i think we all respect that. this bill also goes a long ways towards addressing the readiness crisis in our military which is also so important. and today, the house is passing a plan to hold the veterans administration accountable for every dollar it spends. that means no bonuses to top
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bureaucrats and more reforms, more reforms to get our veterans the care that they need when they need it. we look forward to building on all of this progress that we achieved this week. lastly regarding flight 804. i've been getting updates throughout the day. we don't know what happened. we will hold judgment until we have all of the facts but i think the thoughts of the whole house are with the families of those who were onboard. any questions? reporter: on puerto rico, are you confident the bill will have a majority support so you can bring it to the floor? spoirk ryan: i do feel good about it. i want to thank rob bishop, sean duffy, raul labrador and others who made tremendous contributions to this we got this bill exactly where we wanted it. we wanted to make sure the restructuring worked and in a way that prevented taxpayer bailout or that it would affect
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the bonds markets. and we wanted to make sure that board is strong, that the board is the board that we want to have, the people on it necessary to get this working. we want to make sure we keep this away from the taxpayer. we have clearly accomplished that. and we also want to make sure that it's done in such a way it gives the tools, the need to fix this problem, to bring order to the chaos in puerto rico. our fellow citizens in puerto rico are in a tough spot. we think this bill helps them get out of this tough spot while protecting the u.s. taxpayer. porter: mr. speaker -- >> i was going to say ladies first but -- your colleague, cathy mcmorris rodgers, came out and said he voted for mr. trump. you are on an island. you are the only one that hasn't endorsed him. speaker ryan: i have more to say about this on another point, our teams are meeting.
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we're making progress but that's all i got to say at this point. reporter: mr. speaker, you said you would speak out when you believe that conservatism is being disfigured. when your presumed nominee said he would speak directly to kim jong un, u what -- speaker ryan regot a lot to work -- a lot of work to do. whether it's zika or puerto rico or appropriations so that's all i got to say. reporter: should congress or law markse on the appropriations committee try to disfund the president's directive on public school rest rooms and transgendered issue? speaker ryan: i think it ought to be left to the states. reporter: the vote on the confederate flag, that's a big change from last year. your temperature, what happened when the 84 republicans voted for it, last year it would have ?lown up all appropriations
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what changed? speaker ryan: if we're going to have open rules on appropriations which is what we have which is regular order people will have to take tough votes. people are acknowledging it. this is the conversation we had all along with our members is tough votes happen in open rules. people has to get used to the fact. that's the way regular order works. reporter: have they realized it's different? speaker ryan: the last thing we need to do is derail our own appropriationsrocess. reporter: trump would be -- donald trump will be the first person to have the presidency first elected office since eisenhower which raises the question what qualifications are. you met him. a, do you think he's qualified? speaker ryan: i won't litigate it. reporter: is he qualified? speaker ryan: yes. eporter: maloney's on the --
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people started switching their votes and failed. was that vote switching at leadership directive? speaker ryan: i don't know. i think this is federalism. the states should do this. the federal government shouldn't take its nose in this bill best. reporter: i ask if the house plans to move forward on the senate-passed 9/11 victims lawsuit and what's your personal views are on it? the speaker: i made my view clear. this is the answer i give to everybody and every member about anyone having a question, regular order. i believe the jurisdiction is judiciary committee. that's the way it's going through regular order. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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pelosi -- ms. pelosi: good morning, everyone. sadly we awaken this morning to the very sad news of egypt airplane going down. of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the families. both the egyptian, french and some from other countries, some children. they said even infants. so tragic. so sad. and back here we have faced some challenges since last week. we passed the may 15 date which is when we were expecting a
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budget from the republican side. no matter how bad the budget was, the road to ruin still wasn't bad enough to get a majority vote on the republican side. i said over and over, show us your values, show us your budget. that's where we see the values. and here we had a series of actions these last -- in the short period of time that shows a complete difference in values. it's been almost 90 days since the president sent -- submitted his emergency supplemental request for zika. house republicans have dwadled, delayed while mosquito season nears. voting four times to block the $1.9 billion emergency zika supplemental that the president asked for. the republicans in recent -- five weeks of recess but no time to act on this crisis with the urgency it deserves.
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dr. tom frieden, the director of c.d.c. said, never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in devastating fetal malformation. children must never -- these children born, not only are they physically deformed, they may never talk walk, they may never talk or sea or hear. it will cost $10 million to take care of a child -- the lifetime of a child so affected. the house republican bill is reckless and radically unequal to the seriousness of the threat. just think of it this way. they gave less than 1/3 of what the president asked for. they didn't make it an emergency so they took the funds from other investments like ebola, which had their purpose and should be left intact. but the really shocking part of
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this, and you wonder -- i know they really don't value science, but this one even goes beyond that. less than 1/5 was requested for the c.d.c. public health activities. this is the point of the speer in the public health -- addressing a public health emergency. 750 -- around $750 million was what was asked for for the c.d.c. for prevention, for control, money to go into communities to fight this. million.t $120 it's appalling. it's stunning. the mayors, governors, local -- the first line of defense is where people live. they really need this assistance. it may sound -- of course, it sounds like a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay for
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the public health of our country, for the well-being of -- amilies at a time when first time -- mosquito -- that virus can be sexually transmitted and it can cause malformation in our children. as summer approaches, the intensity of the need increases. this is appalling. at the same time yesterday, we had a markup on nutrition. you wouldn't believe what i would tell you about what the debate was there. i commend bobby scott and house democrats for being very calm and reserve as they made the case about a country as great as america should be feeding their children and to hear the republican response to that and the fact it was a party line vote about whether we feed our children, give them the proper nutrition is, again, show me your values, show me your
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budget. yesterday, we had on the floor the defense bill. very pleased that our members have agreed to support -- to sustain a presidential veto of such a bill. a bill that ash carter, secretary of defense, has said as deeply troubling and flawed, gambling war fighters at a time war, baffles friends and emboldens foes. just amazing. and then the leadership of the committee on the republican side goes to the floor and says, if you don't vote for the defense bill you're not supporting our troops. now, not true. and i remind all of you, in case you have forgotten or weren't here that in 2010 when we were successful in the majority of placing the repeal of don't-ask, don't-tell in the defense authorization bill, the same bill that was on the floor yesterday, guess how many republicans voted for the
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defense authorization bill that year? with the repeal of don't-ask, don't-tell in it? single digit. nine. nine. some have no memory of their own actions. nine. so we don't need any lectures from them about how we support our troops. the president's proposal, the secretary of defense, they have made clear the difference between really protecting our troops or the gimmickry -- the budget gimmickry they have come up with. also, in this bill in the dead of night amendment added in markup, a provision to overturn president obama's historic executive order banning anti-lgbt discrimination by federal contractors. last night on an m.t.r. house republicans voted unanimously supported overturning the
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president's executive order supporting and they in turn are supporting discrimination in the workplace. as we showed last night, democrats will uphold the president's veto of this reckless and discriminatory legislation. i know some of you are interested in puerto rico. we have a bipartisan agreement now, a bill has been dropped. of course it would not be the bill we would have written but it does contain a restructuring that can work. it calls for the -- it calls for the board, the oversight board to treat everyone equally and fairly. and by that i mean pensioners and the rest. it is not a bailout contrary to the misleading -- god knows who paying for them -- ads on tv. it's not a bailout. the white house, the speaker's office and our office and others who participated in
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coming to an agreement -- as i say, not the bill i would have written. that goes without saying. but a bill we can support. others will make their -- are reviewing the legislation. some of our members who have been very interested in puerto rico. the ranking member of the -- interior committee, mr. grijalva, has been very thoughtful through this process, and we hope to -- what we'd like to do is to act expeditiously and providing the president with names to appoint to the board. that's the next step. hopefully we can move it quickly through committee markup, pass the legislation puerto rico so urgently needs. do you have any questions? yes, marm. -- ma'am. reporter: donald trump released a potential supreme court justices. it? do you think of ms. pelosi: to tell you the truth, zika, opioids, puerto
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rico, the bill that's on the floor now, nutrition, i haven't been paying attention to his list. i'm so sorry. i haven't had time for that. yes, sir. reporter: donald trump said this morning that the egypt aircraft, quote, looks like a terrorist attack. do you believe that it was a terrorist attack, and is there any evidence that you've seen or are aware of that would support that claim? ms. pelosi: no. i don't think any of us know. right now we're in prayer mode for the families who lost their loved ones, the tragedy of it all and hearing some of the experts who do know about some of these things on tv saying we have to get more information to determine whether this is a medical -- excuse me -- a echanical malfunction or what. one went on this morning saying, when you are faced with
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a situation like that, the lowest priority is talking about what's going on. you're addressing the issues. we just don't know. i certainly hope not, but as others have said, anything is possible and we have to get more information. so just acting upon no information, no, i'm not going to go to that place. yes, sir. reporter: the sanders campaign, the d.n.c., the democratic party, just heard from our folks here meeting with donald trump's representatives, it looks like the republicans are trying to coalesce around their candidate. [inaudible] sanders side, does that contribute to the later distance on the democratic side and how do you figure that? ms. pelosi: no. welcome to the democratic party. as you probably know i have been state party chair. chair of the california
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democratic party. largest party in the country. very proud to say that. and the exhureb rance of our members is always something wonderful to behold. at some point to channel the difference between what you're talking about here is just how -- a family disagreement but the distance in terms of issues and values and priorities between hillary clinton -- secretary clinton and senator sanders is like this compared to the chasm of difference between the democrats and the republicans and some of the issues i talked about. how we feed our children, how we address our public health issues, how we fund our opioids initiative where we had bipartisan support, how we deal with flint and what that means to children in our country, our values are very different. and they are reflected in our budget and that's what the debate will be about. i think it's, again, i've seen
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the exuberance of democrats. i condemn any violence that happens at meetings for sure. one thing i cowant to reject -- two. i saw one show -- one of the early morning shows had hearkening back to 1968 convention. i was at the 1968 convention. family. h my baltimore the delesandro. my brother and father. humphrey supporter. there was nothing -- to even really think ridiculous. nothing in common. vietnam that fueled the unhappiness, the matter was handled in a way that was not appropriate but this is an a colossal at was coming together of people -- not coming together -- clashing
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of people who had a completely different view about the war and how we go forward. reporter: what's fueling this in the democratic party? you call it exhureb rance. there was violence. ms. pelosi: here's how i see it. hearkening back to my experience as a chairman and for 20 years served on the d.n.c. my own view of some of this is that when you have a lot of new people who are attracted during a campaign -- and that's the beauty of the campaign. ever widening circle of people who pay attention in the presidential year. many of them are not familiar what to expect, and we all have a responsibility to try to make sure people know what to expect and what to expect is that there are rules that exist , for example, in nevada. my understanding is that the chairs of the credentials committee were one a bernie
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person, one a hillary person but whatever was transmitted in the meeting did not say the some of the calculations of delegations was favorable enough to bernie. but there is a responsibility that we all have to make sure that people know, especially when they're coming in with such exuberance of issues they care about, their jobs, their economic security and the rest, that now it has to be within a structure. to nd -- so, again, nothing be surprising about people being disappointed about an outcome of a decision that the party makes. no excuse for any violence whatsoever. secondly, you probably know for at least 30 years since this all began i have been very much opposed to superdelegates. i think it just makes people think, wait a minute. we're going through an electoral process and then you're telling me there are 500
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people in washington, d.c. who are going to weigh in at the end. i really think -- i have said you're in and you're out. so this is nothing new we should be revisiting, the number of votes that superdelegates have. maybe give them half. maybe give them a pass through the hall and a seat on the floor but not to undermine to make it look like there's something else that will weigh in after everyone goes through the electoral process. is that more than you want to know on the subject? reporter: madam leader, can you tell us about the vote that's coming to the floor on the confederate flag at veterans' sem tears? ms. pelosi: yes. as i was watching the proceedings last night until 1:00 in the morning, that's after the golden state warriors -- just rage, right? you are just looking very noncommital there. reporter: 1-1. ms. pelosi: a win is a win.
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even if you win by 30 points, a win is a win. ok. back to seriousness of it. i did watch the proceedings last night. i saw that our colleague offered an amendment that said -- say there shouldn't be a confederate flag on a veteran's cemetery or so and it will come up for a vote today. reporter: did you feel you had to force the vote though? ms. pelosi: this is an initiative by my colleague. quite frankly, i thought most of those matters were dealt with on the interior committee. if anybody had any interest on doing so they would do it on interior. apparently there's another category and it falls under the veterans' affairs committee. so this is an initiative from the members. anytime you have hundreds of amendments on a defense bill and in this bill all coming together, you have a lot of individual initiatives. i certainly support what congressman huffman and his co-sponsors
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gallego, putting forward. reporter: on senator sanders, do you think he continues to be a positive force in the party? ms. pelosi: yes. reporter: and the campaign? ms. pelosi: absolutely. reporter: and do you think it will be hard for him to bring them back in the fold and does he have the responsibility to start doing that now or soon to get them behind hillary? ms. pelosi: well, i think he will stay in the race. candidates do. senator clinton did. senator clinton in 2008. when we hosted the convention in san francisco in 1984, you would have thought it was a barry hart convention even though walter mondale was the nominee because so many people came as hart delegates and brought their enthusiasm, wanted to have their impact on the platform and how the rules on how the party went forward. so i believe that, again, rejecting any violence on the
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part of whomever was at that meeting, i believe that bernie sanders is a positive force in the democratic party. he has awakened in some people an interest in the political provess that wasn't there. he's encouraged young people to channel their interest in public service and community leadership into a political place because this is where decisions are made that will affect their future, their lives. and i think that's all positive. yeah. i'm going to have to go because they called the next vote. reporter: the zika bill does not have -- the senate does not offset. do you hope it will be possible in whatever compromise comes out of both chambers and is that what the fight is about? i think republicans agree that zika is a problem? ms. pelosi: i don't support the senate's initiative because it's not enough. as i said to you last week -- some of you last week, it's
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half a loaf. no, it's half a shoe. you cannot get to where you need to be with half a shoe. not half a loaf. in terms of what is needed for the public health emergency and the prevention, the vector controls, etc., we need more resources. in terms of the research in the i.h. is better than the c.d.c. it still needs research. there are two problems. one, it's not enough. two, in the house, it's come out of other priorities. at the same time, competing for funds for opioids -- we had 18 bills on opioids. not one made sense but we got to fund the opioid. we have to fund zika. we have to do something about flint and we have a budget agreement that was a compromise. so there is not a lot of room for $3 billion more for opioids and zika. that has to be emergency spending.
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so the -- two things. it's not enough and it should be emergency spending. emergency supplemental just as any other public health emergency would be. and i'm hopeful that as the public learns more about this, you have to get in front of an epidemic of this nature. and this is freakish. just to let you know, just so you know, suppose you go someplace, brazil. let's use brazil. and you get bitten by the mosquito that carries the zika virus, well, it is sexually transmitted. we don't know for how long that capability exists in a person that's bitten. you come home. another mosquito bites you. garden variety mosquito. that mosquito now is a zika carrier. the proliferation of this is really something very different
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than we've seen in the past. that is sexually transmitted is new and different and that it uses malformation in a developing fetus is stunning. so this is very big. why would you not get in front of it? why would you not make the investment that is going to be the humanitarian thing to do, honor our responsibilities in terms of public health and, by the way, save money in the outcome -- in the long run because you won't be spending $10 million for a lifetime to care for a child who probably won't be able to walk, talk, hear or see, be malformed and the tragedy of all of that, of course, is the biggest price to pay? so, again, it's about the budget. what is it that they're saying you got to go within the budget of health and human services which is a land meet land budget? all in it is good. it's very hard to find money to
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offset much less big money to offset. so we're just calling -- this is -- this is as important as it gets to the well-being of the american people. again, sounds like a lot of money when you hear it but it's a small price to pay for the health and well-being of the american people. thank you all very much. >> the u.s. house is gone for the week. members will be back on monday. but before leaving today, they passed spending for military construction and the veterans affairs department. that measure now goes on to the senate for consideration. the house will be back for legislative work at 2:00 p.m. eastern monday, and congress continues work on the dozen bills that make up federal spending for 2017. this evening we'll be live here
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on c-span as donald trump holds a fundraiser in new jersey with governor chris christy. that begins at -- chris christie. that begins at 7:00 eastern. this sunday night on "q&a" vanity fair columnist and slate magazine founder talks about his new book "old age: a beginner's guide on living with parkinson's disease" >> parkinson's is a brain disease so that was a nonsensical question. but what i really meant, obviously, was thinking, is it going to affect my thinking? thinking is how i learn a living so that became pretty important. and i asked this neurologist, what's going to happen? and he says -- he was trying to tell me it wasn't such a big deal. e said, you may lose your edge
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-- as if that was nothing. i thought, gee, my edge is how i earn a living. it's why i have my friends. maybe why i have my wife. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's "q&a." >> book tv has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend, and here are some of the programs to watch for. this saturday morning at 10:00, we're live for the gaithersburg book festival. authors include the author of hy the right went wrong: conservatism." and the authors of "the most blessed with the patriarchs" and "the modern day figures who have reshaped and affirmed the founding fathers of america." james on "pay any price: greed, power and endless war."
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kristen green and her book "something must be done about prince edward county: a family, a virginia town, a civil rights battle." jo ann with her book "love her, love her not: the hillary paradox." oe norris on his book "mary mc grory." and "the fair labor lawyer," the remarkable life of bessey sunday night at 9:00 on "afterwards" -- >> for me the worst thing i've ever done was committed an act of murder in 1991. i shot and tragically caused a man's death and is by far one of the worst things you can do. and, you know, i made that unfortunate decision at the age of 19 and devastated a family, you know, took somebody's husband, a son, brother, a father from a family and, you know, one of the things that stays with me until this day.
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it's largely, you know, the reason that i do some of the work that i do in the inner city because i never want another child to grow up with that type of burden because it's one of those burdens that never goes away. writer of ghor "writing my wrongs." go to for the complete weekend schedule. >> a hearing was held on capitol hill today to examine provisions in the americans with disabilities act. specifically those that apply to public accommodations such as retail stores, rental establishments or other facilities used by the general public. a house panel heard from a retail shop manager and hotel owner about lawsuits filed against them. along with the representative of an independent living organization who opposes the legislation. his is about 90 minutes.
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mr. franks: subcommittee on constitution and civil justice will come toured and without objection, the chair's authorized to declare recess the committee at anytime and welcome to you, gentlemen. sorry for being a little late. we've called this hearing today to examine h.r. 3765, the a.d.a. education and reform act of 2015, and h.r. 241, the access act of 2015. which are two commonsense proposals that require plaintiffs to provide defendants with written notice and an opportunity to correct an alleged a.d.a. violation voluntarily before they may file a lawsuit and force a business owner to incur legal costs. these bills, which only apply to cases involving public accommodations, would both improve public access for disabled individuals and eliminate thousands of predatory lawsuits and damage
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-- that damage the reputation of the a.d.a. and its overall purpose. when the a.d.a. was signed into law by president george h.w. bush in 1990, it was to provide the disabled equal access to public facilities. in large part, the a.d.a. has worked. it has been hailed as the most sweeping, nondiscrimination legislation since the civil ights act of 1964. unfortunately, enterprising plaintiffs and their lawyers have abused the law by filing a flurry of a.d.a. lawsuits aimed at churning out billable hours and extracting money from small businesses rather than improving access for the disabled as the a.d.a. intended. these predatory lawsuits are possible -- are possible for two chief reasons. first, 100% compliance with the a.d.a. is very difficult to achieve. even though good faith efforts such as bringing or hiring an
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a.d.a. compliant expert, a business can still find themselves subject to a lawsuit for almost any minor or unintentional infraction. according to one a.d.a. compliant specialist, quote, i rarely, if ever, see circumstances or instances where there isn't an access violation somewhere. i can find something wrong anywhere, unquote. this makes compliance a challenge even for those with the very best of intentions. second, unlike title 2 of the civil rights act, the a.d.a. does not currently require any notice before a lawsuit can be filed. this has led to thousands of lawsuits being filed for issues of relatively minor noncompliance, such as a sign being the wrong color or having the wrong wording. abuse of the a.d.a. has been noted by federal judges in numerous cases throughout the country who have referred the proliferation of a.d.a. lawsuits as a, quote, cottage industry.
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these judges have recognized that the explosion of private a.d.a. litigation is primarily attorney's e a.d.a. fee provision. one federal court explained that, quote, the ability to profit from a.d.a. litigation has led some law firms to send disabled individuals to as many businesses as possible in order to have them aggressively seek out all violations of the a.d.a., end quote. then, rather than notifying the business of violation and attempting to remedy them, lawsuits are filed. as settlement prior to filing a lawsuit does not entitled plaintiff's counsel to attorney's fee under the a.d.a., there is an incentive. as one federal judge observed, the result is that the means for enforcing the a.d.a. attorney's fees have become more important and desirable than the end, which is accessibility for disabled individuals. but the a.d.a. was enacted to protect disabled individuals,
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not to support a litigation mill for entrepreneurial plaintiff's attorneys hunting for a.d.a. violation just to file lawsuits. these bills examined today would help eliminate predatory a.d.a. lawsuits, increase compliance by the a.d.a. by giving businesses an opportunity to fix a.d.a. violations instead of dragging them into litigation and improve the reputation of the a.d.a. in the eyes of the public and ultimately improve access for disabled individuals. lawsuits would be reserved for those instances in which offenders are truly unwilling to make appropriate changes. this would also allow legit mate claims to move through the -- legitimate claims to move through the system faster. and it will benefit our economy. many small businesses have been forced to close because of accessibility lawsuits and others have unnecessarily spent thousands of dollars litigating claims. small businesses are critical
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to america's economic recovery and should not be burdened by unnecessary litigation. it's an honor to have congressman ted poe who introduced 3765, and congressman ken calvert, who introduced h.r. 241. both here to testify about their respective bills. and i look forward to your testimony and the testimony of our own witnesses. and with that i would recognize the ranking member of the subcommittee, mr. cohen from tennessee for his opening statement. mr. cohen: thank you, mr. chair. colleagues, it's good to have y'all here. this is not the first time there has been a hearing on this type of issue. since 2000, there have been i think three times that bills have been filed and hearings on prenotification concerning a.d.a. i have met previously with the folks in the shopping center world, hotel world and the disability community and tried to get a more better grasp on
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the issue and come up with some type of reasonable solution. it's difficult to do if folks don't really want to change from their kind of positions they got. some of them are based in 1990, and they'll tell me this is what we did in 1990 and it's kind of like, it's fine. i wasn't there in 1990. my job is not to ratify whatever happened in 1990, but when we look at these cases, private parties are indispensible for having enforcement of any civil rights law. this is a civil rights law and we have to have private attorney generals and they have been so effective in so many areas in seeing our laws are effectively enforced. civil rights, in particular, and the a.d.a. because of that, there was the agreement in 1990, said there wouldn't be damages in these cases under the a.d.a. but they would -- there was a compromise that was done. i understand that there's some folks that think there are attorneys out there throwing out wide nets and they don't
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really have a specific target and i think that's wrong. definitely think that's wrong, but i've suggested to them and coming up with some type of solution and part of that is in the bill i think is that you have to have specificity in your complaint and you could tighten that up to see they have not just a boiler plate complaint but a specified -- specific complaint, although i don't know why rule 11 hasn't worked against those types of complaints in the past but so be it. maybe that would help. if you get in the situation to where -- obviously the title of this hearing is examining legislation to promote the effective -- i know it's effective -- enforcement of the a.d.a.'s public accommodations provisions. so it's -- we have to presume in there we want to enforce the a.d.a.'s public accommodations provisions, although most of what we got here is not so much
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enforcement but limiting enforcement and limiting the way we -- so that's kind of the juxtaposition of my mind or contradiction in the title and what i see as the focus of the legislation. you can't -- i've never seen a criminal penalty that would be created to anybody who asserts a civil right. and this would be a case. could you have a civil penalty -- criminal penalty, excuse me, if you don't give your notice provision first. that seems rather harsh. i think some folks agreed that was harsh and further than it should go. but there can be abuses. i think there might be abuses, and if there are abuses i want to clean them up. i did that with this committee and looking at trolls. i know they're not your pals, mr. poe, but they may be but -- in marshall, texas, and that's not necessarily a great world there. so i suggest if you amend -- suit notifications that you
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ought to have something that also rewards the good guys to clean up the miss after the 120 days. everybody says, oh, the good guys will come forth and give notice and that's what you want to get. mirrors or signs or rails or whatever taken care of. nd if the good guys do it, great. but if you don't, you have bad actors or if they loly gag or they don't do substantial, whatever, then i think you got to have a stick. to change this you have to have a stick to see the bad guys get punished somehow. i don't know how you do it. you have to give some people this notice and provision and time to kind of maybe be dilatory but punish them for not being good guys. one of my thoughts was to give some kind of damages, liquidated damages, some amount that's equal to or multiple -- whatever it requires to fix the area or maybe there would be some other kind of damages we could come up with to punish
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the owners that aren't the good guys. you got to have consequences for those people. otherwise they're just getting the benefit and they're not going the folks that i know mr. poe and mr. calvert are interested in helping through this action. and the folks with the a.d.a. community, i mean, they want like i want the a.d.a. enforced, and this is not about attorneys. this is about a.d.a. provisions. but the attorneys do bring the cases. with the notice provision, they don't have -- not getting attorneys' fees, it brings a problem, attention to the business community and they clean it up and the other side gets nothing for it, there's unlikely there's going to be a continued interest in those people -- the attorneys to follow through and help in giving the notice provisions, advising the clients and trying to cure problems with the a.d.a. that's just the way the system works. people have got to have some skin in the game, and you're taking the skin in the game out. and so that's going to hurt, i think, enforcement here unless
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we come up with something on the back end that makes it a ittle bit sweeter. i'm lawyer -- i'm a lawyer and i have a disability. i helped pass the a.d.a. state statute in tennessee, and i'm interested to seeing this enforced appropriately and properly but i'm not interested in seeing these businesses get a wide net thrown and people looking out for attorneys' fees in the disabilities community. i think it's a disservice to the bar association, members of the bar and people with disabilities. so i hope we have a fruitful discussion. i know we will and hope we can come up with a solution. i think there's some good ideas here but i don't think the solution is here and i think we need to look at some kind of a stick to make sure the bad guys get slapped so the good guys can just deal with the notice. with that i yield back the balance of my time. and that's just the way it is. mr. franks: i thank the gentleman, and i would now
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yield to the ranking member of the full committee, mr. conyers from michigan. mr. conyers: thank you, chairman franks. top of the morning to you and our distinguished witnesses and the guests that have joined us this morning. the three bills that are hearings today's would institute a notice and cure requirement under title 3 of the americans with disabilities act of 1990. specifically, these measures would prohibit a lawsuit from being commenced unless the plaintiff first gave the business owner specific notice of an alleged violation an opportunity to fix or make substantial progress toward
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emedying such violation. let me begin by stating what i said previously when similar proposals were considered by our committee in the year 2000 nd again in the year 2012. quote, i am adamantly opposed to any effort to weaken the ability of individuals to enforce their rights under title 3's public accommodations provisions. and here's why. first, the notice and cure requirement will generate numerous litigation chaps for the unweary and ultimately dissuede many individuals from pursuing their legitimate claims. for example, two of these bills
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uld require a complainant to provide specific notice of the alleged violation before he or she may file suit. but they failed to define what institutes specific notice -- constitutes specific notice, nor do they define what is substantial progress toward compliance. as a result, courts will have to struggle to determine what these inherently vague terms mean, thereby creating an open invitation for well-financed business interests to engage in endless litigation, possibly, that would drain the typically limited resources of a plaintiff. in addition, these measures would undermine a key enforcement mechanism of the americans with disabilities act and other civil rights laws.
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the credible threat of a lawsuit is a powerful inducement to businesses to proactively take care to comply with the act's requirements. yet, a presuit notification requirement would create a disincentive to engage in voluntary compliance as many businesses would simply wait until receiving a demand letter before complying with the law, and this requirement also would discourage attorneys from representing individuals with claims under title 3 because attorney fees may only be recovered if litigation ensues. thus, an individual with a title 3 claim would not be entitled to recover such fees
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if the extent of the attorney's representation was limited to rafting the demand letter. presuit notification would make it even more difficult for disabled persons with valid title 3 claims to obtain legal representation to enforce compliance with the act. finally, title 3, by its terms, is already designed to make compliance relatively easy for businesses. so i am pleased to join the hearing, and i yield back any time remaining. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. franks: and i thank the gentleman. and without objection, other members' opening statements will be made part of the record.
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before i introduce the witnesses, i'd like to submit two statements to the record. the first is letter from the national association of theater owners in support of h.r. 3765. the second is a coalition letter also in support of h.r. 3765. without objection, these statements will be entered into the record. so let me now introduce our witnesses. we have two very distinguished panelists today, and that i will begin by introducing the first panel of witnesses. our first witness is representative ted poe. mr. poe represents texas' second district and is a member of the jew -- judiciary and foreign affairs committee. glad to see you, sir. our second witness is representative ken calvert. mr. calvert represents california's 42nd district and is a member of the house appropriations committee. glad you're here. i'd like to now recognize our first witness, congressman ted poe, and if you'll turn that microphone on, i know -- yes,
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sir. mr. poe: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for allowing me to be here. i want to thank the ranking member and also i'd like to thank congressman calvert for his work on this issue for a good number of years. as the chairman has pointed out , has pointed out in the past, i'm a former judge, prosecutor and lawyer. been in the legal profession for almost 40 years. and this is a situation where this particular hearing that we're having deals with i think abuse of a good law. i believe strongly in the a.d.a., and it needs to be always enforced. and the goal of the legislation is to make sure that when there is a violation anywhere across the fruited plain that the violation gets fixed so there is accommodation for the citizen to get into that business. but the legislation hopes to
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prevent what is occurring, that there are lawsuits being filed, not to get accommodation for the citizen, but to get money so that people settle and the alleged violation may or may not ever be addressed. and what happens is that lawyers are making a lot of money off of these what i think are frivolous lawsuits to the detriment of the person who is actually being prohibited from going in to some businesses because the goal is not being reached to allow accommodation. what is happening is lawyers are filing lawsuits, businesses settle rather than go to court and the lawyer gets we don't know how much of that money. so in the last 10 years, these frivolous lawsuits have been filed under the public accommodations section of the a.d.a. some of these lawsuits are, in my opinion, shake joins for businesses and they're using
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he a.d.a. as a basis to obtain quick settlements rather than go to court. for example, some of these law firms -- and there are specific law firms in different parts of the country that do this. they will file notice or give a letter stating there is not a proper pool lift in a particular motel or hotel. and many of these -- some of these hotels don't even have a pool or these motels but the businesses settle rather than go to court because of the cost of litigation and that is the motivation of these lawsuits. and we're talking about settlements of around $5,000 apiece. often the same individuals or organizations who are making many of these claims go from business to business. and it's a business model that's been working, especially in the last two years where 10,000 of these lawsuits have been filed. in florida, a plaintiff named
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howard cohen, no relationship to the ranking member, has filed 529 of these lawsuits. california, martin vogel has filed 124. in pennsylvania, christopher milo has filed 120 of these lawsuits. howard cohen, he sued a hotel in key west for alleged violation of their pool despite the fact he was never a registered guest at the hotel. sounds somewhat suspicious. the a.d.a. expert who actually wrote part of the a.d.a. bill, bill norkis, helped the hotel fight in this particular case and he state that had cohen was essentially operating, quote, a criminal enterprise that boils down to extortion. that does not get people into these motels. it does not accommodate these individuals. it allows for, as he said,
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shakedowns for money to be collected from these, as i think they are, a.d.a. trolls. some of the notices or letters are so nebulous that the person receiving the notice doesn't even know what the violation was. e have a realty company in houston that manages shopping malls and one particular shopping mall there's 40 parking places that are painted blue and a.d.a. complaint but they're still sued because the violation doesn't -- the letter doesn't allege what the specific violation is. so this bill will require basically three things. that they be put on notice so they can fix the problem before there's a lawsuit. if that's the goal, to fix the problem, put the business on notice. if the business doesn't respond to this notice and within 60 days, lawsuit commence.
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if the business then doesn't fix the problem within 120 days -- and i think that could be worked on how many days -- file the lawsuit. that does not prohibit the citizen from filing and getting their day in court, but if we want to fix the problem, let's fix the problem. it also allows it also allows for arbitration. under the quired law, the voluntary and it also requires that the justice department come up with some very -- working with the industry, and the people in the a.d.a. community, different models on how they can educate all businesses throughout the country on what the a.d.a. says and how they can comply with the law as it is written. that is what this legislation is. to put them on notice. fix the problem. get the a.d.a. compliance. it's not to allow for these frivolous lawsuits to be -- the
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money going to, i think, the attorneys rather than fixing the problem. i yield back my time and that's the way it is. mr. franks: i thank the gentleman. mr. calvert: i thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the access act. as you know, the a.d.a.'s been mentioned is undoubtedly one of the most pieces of civil rights legislation that we've passed in this country. we can all agree that providing all americans with access to public accommodations is an invaluable legislative objective. the purpose of a.d.a. is to ensure access to disabled, to the public accommodations, provide appropriate remedial action for those who have suffered harm as a result of noncompliance. although there are times when litigation by harmed individuals is necessary, there's an increasing number of
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lawsuits brought under the a.d.a. that are based upon a desire to achieve financial settlements. rather than achieve the appropriate modifications for access. these lawsuits filed by serial litigants place exorbitant legal fees on small business, oftentimes business owners are even unaware of the specific nature of the allegations brought against them. in early 2011, frivelout a.d.a. lawsuits against small businesses reached an all-time high throughout california. as a result, my good friend and colleague, former congressman dan lungren, championed the issue and introduced the original access act in the 112th congress. i was pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to take over the legislation for re-introduction, beginning in the 113th congress. in january, 2015, i are reintroduced the legislation, h.r. 241, the access act. h.r. 241 is a cost-free, commonsense piece of legislation which would alleviate the financial burden small billses are facing.
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while still fulfilling the purpose of a.d.a. any person would provide the er with a perate written notice of violation specific enough to allow such owner/operator to identify the barrier to their access. within 60 days the owner/operator would be required by the degreed person with the description. the owner/operator would have 120 days to make the improvement. the failure to meet any of these conditions would allow the lawsuit to go forward. without question, we must ensure that individuals with disabilities are afforded the same access and opportunities those without disabilities. as a former small business owner and restaurant owner, i personally have had to deal with these serial litigants. i can say for certain that frivolous lawsuits do not accomplish any goal. allowing small business owners to fix a.d.a. violations within 120 days rather than waiting for lengthy legal battles to play out is a more thoughtful,
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timely and reasonable approach. whiled a.d.a.'s a national law, as i mentioned earlier, california's become ground zero for a.d.a. violation lawsuits. in fact, california's home to more federal disability lawsuits than the next four states combined. a 2014 report determined that since 2005, more than 10,000 federal a.d.a. lawsuits have been filed in five states. with the highest disabled populations, 7,188 of which were filed in california. as of 2014, according to u.s. census bureau, 31 attorneys made up 56% of those federal disability lawsuits in california. those figures are the real life toll it takes on small business owners, why i introduced the legislation, to allow a fix-it period. however, it is clear that it's not just a major problem in california. the introduction of similar legislation by the gentleman from texas, mr. poe, allows
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just that. his legislation authorizes the training, education component for effective community and certified access specialists, which i certainly would welcome and embrace as an amendment to my legislation. this is also a bipartisan issue supported by states. i was pleased to see that california, sb-269, the text of which i'd like to submit for the record, as well as a related article, passed unanimously in the state assembly and senate and was signed into law by governorer jerry brown. on may 10, 2016, just a week ago. the legislation authored by my friend, a democrat, state senator richard roth, is similar to the access act in that it allows businesses to take immediate steps to become accessible by providing them with 120 days in receipt of a certified access specialist report. to resolve any identified violations without being subject to litigation costs or statuary penalties. i worry that with california acting to curb these lawsuits,
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some of these serial litigants will try their trade in other states. maybe they'll move next door to arizona. without question, the access act would ensure that the a.d.a. is used for its true purpose of guaranteed accessibility to public accommodations for all americans, while eliminating abusive, costly and unnecessary lawsuits for small business owners. once again, i appreciate your time today and stand ready to assist in any way possible to ensure that this legislation moves forward. thank you. mr. franks: i thank the gentleman. i'd like to thank both representative poe and representative calvert for their time and expertise. grateful for your testimony. i would now like to invite the members of our second panel of witnesses to come forward.
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mr. franks: want to welcome all of you. our first witness on this panel is lee ky. ms. ky operates and manages a doughnut shop owned by her mother. her family's business has been the subject of abusive a.d.a. lawsuits. mili ond witness is shah. ms. shah is an attorney and a hotel owner in atlanta, georgia. our third witness is kelly buckland. mr. buckland is the executive director of the national council on independent living. and our fourth and final witness is david weiss. mr. weiss is executive vice president and general council -- general counsel of d.d.r. corps. a company that owns and manages retail properties. each of the witnesses' written statements will be entered in the record in its entirety and i would ask that each of you witness -- each witness summarize his or her testimony in five minutes or less.
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to help you stay within that time, there's a timing light in front of you. the light switch from green to yellow indicates that you have one minute to conclude your testimony. when the light turns red it indicates that the witness' five minutes have expired. before i recognize the witness, it is tradition of subcommittee that they be sworn. so if you would please stand to be sworn. for those of you who can't stand, just -- do you solemnly swear that the testimony that you're about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. mr. franks: let the record reflect that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. i would now recognize our first tness, ms. ky, and turn that microphone on and pull it close to you. ms. ky: can you hear me? mr. franks: yes. ms. ky: my name is lee ky. i live in california. i'm here to express my concern regarding the americans with disability act and how it's being used toward our businesses. i understand that all businesses must be accessible
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for all customers. i have been disabled all my life and i am grateful for the president george bush who recognized the needs of more accessibility for the disabled community when he signed a.d.a. into the law in 1990. the public buildings should have accessible entrance doors for both wheelchairs and stroller users. public facilities that have an eating area and rest rooms should be accessible with tables wide enough and high enough for a wheelchair to fit. the eating area should not be designated just for the disabled people. and eating areas should not have a sign that says, for wheelchairs only. accessible buildings allow people with disabilities to become more independent and self-sufficient. as for me, i appreciate businesses that have accessibility. but personally it does not matter, if the bar is at 37 inches or 32 inches, on either side, as long as it's providing and is there and when i need
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it. all business owners have to recognize the needs for all customers. for example, many businesses provide carpet or rubber mats at entrance outside or inside. customers -- to prevent customers from slipping. many business owners are not aware of the changes or new regulation related to a.d.a. not all businesses are up to date -- up to code with the a.d.a. regulation. because of the lack of information from our city, state, also federal, of informing the public regarding the changes. my mother has two doughnut shops and has been sued at both locations for a.d.a. violations. it is not fair for a business owner to receive a lawsuit package from law firms that is out of our city and county limits. prior to filing a lawsuit,
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notification should be sent to the business. if inside the building has obstacles or steps for the entrance and the facility is too narrow. now that business facility is not up to code with the a.d.a., therefore, the particular place of business should be corrected immediately. my mom's doughnut shop was built in 2000. architectural bureau yers. i -- barriers. i would know, i'm there. all businesses should have 30 days to correct minor violations. and 120 days for constructional period. in my experience, the carpet or the mats have never become entangled in my wheelchairs. if the a.d.a. regulation remains the same and requires businesses to remove all carpets or mats for the inconvenience of disabled
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people, then the a.d.a. will be creating a hazard for the able bodied person. we, the disabled community, should not be able to feel den graded from the rest of society. this will create bitterness between the customer and the business. i dobt need a sign to inform me that i am disabled and where i should sit. the a.d.a. should concentrate on accessible curbs and ramps that do not wrap around the building and the back door access points. generally, when i enter through the back door, i feel like businesses are embarrassed or ashamed to associate with me. because of my physical limitations. this is understandable to a point. because there are few disabled individuals, including lawyers, that make it their personal mission in life to collect money from businesses. that they have never been to. it seems this handful of lawyers think they are only helping the disabled community
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-- that they are helping the disabled community. moreover, they are separating the disabled community and the abled community. the lawyers are causing the able-bodied community to dislike americans with disability act. this makes the rest of small business owners who are are trying to earn an honest living look bad. throughout my life, people are generally very helpful. when i am out and about in the community, people offer their kindness to assist me. whether i accept or decline is up to me. i also have a voice if i need assistance. i can ask for help. i do not want business owners to cringe when they see me enter their establishment. personal experience, i was at downtown state capitol and had to use the rest room. i spotted a bar and a restaurant and i asked if i could use the rest rooms. they asked me if i'm going to buy a drink. my ex responded, no, she does not drink, but she's going to
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go to the rest room. no, they did not give me permission to use the rest room. since the a.d.a. lawyers are going to sue small business, they are posting signs on their windows, no public rest room. i would like to see the a.d.a. regulation of federal laws to be fair and not be taken advantage of or misused by people that know the laws such as lawyers and certified access specialist persons. i believe our elections officials should inform the public of all new laws and changes. if this is -- many businesses will be forced to shut down and there will be many empty buildings in our community because they do not have the money to pay off the lawyers. to me, this is wrongdoing and this is using the -- misusing the a.d.a. erry brown signed sb-269 which
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limits statutory damages for certain minor or technical violations of the a.d.a. in my opinion, a lawsuit is still a lawsuit. it doesn't matter if the amount is reduced. thank you. mr. franks: i thank you, ms. ky. i now recognize our second witness, ms. shah. shah would you turn that microphone on? ms. shah: it is on. chairman franks -- mr. franks: you may have to . ing that closer to you ms. shah: can you hear me? there we go. chairman franks, ranking member cohen and distinguish members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. it is an honor to appear before you to share my story. my name is mili shah and i'm a second generation hotel ear and attorney from georgia. my parents migrated fromia in the 1980's and bought their -- from india in the 19 0s and
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bought their first hotel. spent the first eight years of my life on the third floor of days inn. a place i called home. 30 years later my family owns several hotels that employ nearly 400 people. i personally own two hotels in atlanta, georgia, that amount to nearly 150 guest rooms and deploy 20 dedicated employees. i am also here representing the asian american hotel owners association. we own over 40% of all hotels in the united states and employ over 600,000 american workers, accounting to $10 billion in payroll annually. recently small businesses have come under attack by unscrupulous attorneys and professional plaintiffs seeking to make a quick buck. to advance their corrupt goals, these bad actors manipulate one of the most important civil rights laws in our country. the americans with disabilities act. i was recently sued for allegations and violations of the a.d.a. at my hole -- at my hotel in atlanta. i was surprised to think that a guest at my hotel was denied service. i contacted the general manager
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to learn that the plaintiff had never stayed at our hotel, nor was there evidence he or his attorney had visited the property. the claims were extremely vegas and general. among -- vague and general. he stated a failure to provide accessible entry into our hotel's pool. my swimming pool at my hotel has been closed since the day i purchased it. it is empty and covered with a tarp. was i being sued for failing to provide entry into a part of my hotel that has always been closed to the public think? researched the plaintiff and attorney and found out they have sued nearly 100 businesses and each suit is almost identical. in fact, the same plaintiff and the same attorney has sued my father with the same complaint at one of his hotels. this is clear that this plaintiff has no desire to stay at the properties and that the attorneys are using him as a proxy. i now have two options. i can either fight the suit, subject my business, employs, families to months of intrusion and litigation, and pay thousands of dollars in defense
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fees, or i can settle with the plaintiff and pay his attorney thousands of dollars in which the attorney will likely be the only one with the financial gain. cannot afford to pay out settlement after settlement and defend against meritless suits. hoteliers are targeted because so many of us are minorities. settling would imply that i'm going of violating a civil rights law. it would send a signal to my customers that my hotel is substandard and i do not care for my guests. an adverse decision could impact my ability to attract new customers and to finance additional properties and grow my business. it is a no-win solution. we need to find a solution that discourages attorneys from abusing the a.d.a. for dishonest purposes. h.r. 3765, the a.d.a. education and reform act, is a vehicle that balances the important protections conferred by the a.d.a. with affording small business owners the opportunity to address any issues that may exist. the bill requires a detailed description of a potential
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problem, a requirement to provide notice, and a cure period in order for the owner to recognize and address the areas of concern. it will also provide a collaborative solution that promotes improved accessibility. mr. chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. i appreciate your listening to how an unscrupulous attorney has targeted me and several effort to extort money under the guise of promoting accessibility under the a.d.a. we are hoteliers, we are in the business of hospitality. the crux of our industry is to provide a welcoming, comfortable and enjoyable environment for all of our guests. i ask you to consider my story when evaluating h.r. 3765. please help protect small business owners like myself who simply want to run our business free from the fear that the next envelope we open might be a lawsuit that closes the doors to our hotels. thank you. mr. franks: thank you, ms. shah. i would now recognize our third witness, mr. buckland.
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and mr. buckland, is that microphone close to you and on, sir? mr. buck: can you hear me? mr. franks: yes, sir. mr. buck: mr. chairman and ranking member conyers and members of the subcommittee, my name is kelly buckland. i'm the executive director of the national council on independent living. we are the oldest cross disability national organization run by and for people with disabilities. cil.o by ni -- n ncil advances the independent living and the rights of people with disabilities and we envision a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully. centers for independent living address discrimination and
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barriers that exist in society through direct advocacy. these barriers are sometimes architectural, but more often reflect attitudes and principles that have been reinforced for generations. they have deterred people with disabilities from working, leaving many in poverty and unjustly detained in institutions. as my long life experience has proven, with increased opportunities, individuals with disabilities can claim their civil rights and participate in their communities in the same way that people without disabilities do. i broke my neck in a diving accident on july 26, 1970. i have used a wheelchair ever since. coincidentally, the americans with disabilities act was signed into law on july 26, 1990. by president george h.w. bush. exactly 20 years to the day after i got my disability. therefore i had 20 years of experience living with a disability prior to the americans with disabilities act
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and now i have 26 years of experience living with a disability post-a.d.a. fortunately the a.d.a. has literally changed the face of the globe. although i'm honored to be here , i am here to testify in opposition to these so-called a.d.a. notification bills. as congressman sensenbrenner, conyers and nadler know, the original a.d.a. and the 2008 amendments which were passed and signed into law, passed because people with disabilities, bipartisan lawmakers and businesses worked together. the various efforts to make it harder to bring a title 3 lawsuit have never followed the same process. and never enjoyed support from people with disabilities or the organizations that support them or the organizations that represent them. people with disabilities don't want more lawsuits. we want more accessibility. adding a notification requirement won't make the multiple lawsuit phenomena go
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away. it simply sends the message to business owners that they don't have to worry about complying with the a.d.a. until they get a letter. in most parts of this country, it is very difficult to find a lawyer who is interested in bringing an a.d.a. complaint against a place of public accommodation, because they can't collect damages. when the a.d.a. was enacted as a compromise between the disability and the business community, the disability community gave up the ability to obtain damages under title three of the a.d.a. by allowing injunktive relief in attorney's fees. unfortunately there are still businesses and companies who have yet to comply with this important civil rights law, even after 26 years. the problem here, that these bills are trying to address, have little to do, if anything, with the a.d.a. title three does not provide for damages. settlements are court orders -- or court orders only can involve attorneys' fees. and in the states that some of
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the witnesses are from, those states' statutes, like california, which has been mentioned, allow the people to get damages. that's why california changed its law. damages aren't allowed in the a.d.a. there's no need to change the americans with disabilities act. there's lots of information out there, there's lots of technical assistance people can get on how to comply with the law. there's even a phone line you can call to get information and there's a website. there's lots of free technical assistance to businesses who actually want to comply with the law. the a.d.a. does not require businesses to do anything that would be considered an undue burden. which means that it's not readily achieveble -- i mean, is readily achieveable and it can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense. i just want to say, some of the stuff that's been -- i'm going to not go through the rest of my written testimony, but some
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of the stuff that's been talked about around building stuff and people who need compliance, the state that i hail from, idaho, we changed the building code in the state so that when people do get a building permit their building's going to be built according to the americans with disabilities act. and the act really requires or gives people ranges that they have to put stuff into. like, for instance, ms. ky can fit under this table. i can't. that's why the act allows for ranges instead of exact numbers that have to be met. so, with that, mr. chairman, i know my time is running out. but just in closing, i would like to recognize the wife of mr. justin dart who is known as the father of the a.d.a. in the building. with that, mr. chairman, thank you very much. mr. franks: thank you, mr. buckland. welcome. i would now recognize our fourth and final witness, mr. weiss. is that microphone on and
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close? mr. weiss: yes, can you hear me? mr. franks: yes, sir. mr. weiss: good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member cohen, mr. conyers and members of the subcommittee. my name is david weiss. i'm executive vice president and general counsel of d.d.r. corps. i've been in practice for almost 30 years and general counsel since 2003. d.d.r. is a new york stock exchange traded real estate investment trust. we own over 350 properties around the country and puerto rico and have over 113 million square feet. our tenants are some of the most recognizable national, regional and local retailers. i'm here to testify today on behalf of the international council shopping centers, the global trade association for the shopping center industry, with over 75,000 members and over 100 countries, they represent a wide variety of owners, managers and other professionals related to real estate. first and foremost, let me say that the icsc vigorously
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supports the letter and the intent of the a.d.a. we recognize and applaud the positive impact that the a.d.a. has had on our society. we also support h.r. 3765, introduced by congressman poe, and co-sponsored by congressman peterson, as ways to strengthen accessibility. the primary goal of the a.d.a. frankly, i think the legislation that we're talking about today is misunderstood. there's actually quite a bit of agreement related to the legislation. as mr. buckland noted, people with disabilities don't want more lawsuits, they want more accessibility. frankly, we couldn't agree more. we all share the goal of more accessibility. we want full compliance, we want it faster, with less cost, and we want more resources, not less, devoted to improving accessibility. as an industry, our interests are aligned with the goals of the a.d.a. first of all and foremost, it's the right thing to do.
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many of us have had the experience the challenges faced by family and friends who are disabled. second, it's in our economic best interest to do so. there's a fundamental misunderstanding and misconception that businesses don't support or want to comply with the a.d.a. let me be very clear. more people visiting our shopping centers and properties is a good thing. we work with our ten abilities exhaustively to find ways to encourage more, not less, people to come to our properties. and we spend millions of dollars each year to accomplish this. let me be clear again on an area where i think there's also agreement. and that relates to the bad apples. for those persons who flaunt the a.d.a., they deserve the full weight of enforcement. if they choose to ignore compliance and a lawsuit and the threat of attorneys' fees is the only way to force compliance, then so be it. but on the other hand, if a simple notice is the fastest and cheapest way to solve many
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unintended and often minor areas of noncompliance, why would we not encourage that? unfortunately not everyone land. with mr. buck lawsuits by a small group of lawyers have skyrocketed. 63% increase from 2013 to 2014, over 4,700 lawsuits filed in 2015. unfortunately there are some whose interests are not aligned with the a.d.a. these attorneys take a different approach. they file first, ask questions later. they sue, settle and move on. their interest is not in actually improving accessibility, but rather only in earning attorneys' fees. many never visit the property, can't tell you what violations may be there, and never bother to confirm whether any alleged violations have been solved. so why do we support this legislation? because it gives the good apples a 60-day window to respond to claims without an immediate lawsuit.
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it gives 120 days for the opportunity to cure any potential violations. i think we can all agree that this is the fastest, most efficient and most cost effective way to achieve compliance. and secondly, let's not forget that it also enhances education and training and encourages the use of alternative dispute resolutions to actually speed up enforcement. and then let's also be clear about what this legislation does not do. it does not stop the right to sue for noncompliance. it does not limit the ability to recover attorneys' fees. it does not change the department of justice enforcement rights. it does not change state laws. what it will do is encourage compliance and stop the unfortunate abusive tactics of a few. with that, i thank you for this opportunity to testify today and i look forward to answering any questions that you might ave.
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mr. franks: thank you. i'll begin by recognizing myself for five minutes. ms. ky, if it's all right, i'll begin with you. mr. poe's bill requires a plaintiff to give a business owner notice of an alleged a.d.a. violation and the opportunity to fix that violation before a lawsuit may be filed. as a business owner, as someone disabled, do you believe it's fair to the disabled to require notice and an opportunity to fix the violation before a lawsuit can be filed? ms. ky: it's fair to insert the issue to be itemized. the reason i believe it is fair, because there's so many new updated laws and have been that written to. for my mom's shop, there were .even items unnecessarily
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an incorrect symbol for the rest room, door mat. that's simple. i was not aware of the new regulation. us to make nt changes, let us know. that's what happened. if the community, if the citizen knows, this will not happen. i would like to say something. i don't think your building here is accessible. i went to the women's rest room, it's not accessible. and you guys create and make the laws and your building's not accessible. so how do you expect a normal citizen to follow your rules if you're not doing it yourself? mr. franks: thank you, ms. ky. ms. shah, critics of legislativive efforts to allow for a cure period prior to commencing a lawsuit under
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title 3 of the a.d.a. have argued that the property owners have a legal obligation to ensure their property is accessible to the disabled. these critics argue that a notice and cure legislation would create a further incentive for property owners not to comply with a.d.a. until they're sued. how would you respond to that criticism? ms. shah: thank you, mr. chairman. i would respond to the critics by saying that the fact that they're having an issue with the grace period to begin with shows and implies that they're not here to promote accessibility. all of us here in this room support the a.d.a., support americans with disabilities. we promote it, we think it's great for america. in fact, we want to fix any issues because ultimately that attracts customers to our business and we want to grow our business. so we're automatically incentivized. so a notice and cure provision would help us fix any areas of concern and promote the accessibility versus just the attorneys filing lawsuits immediately to get attorneys' fees. mr. franks: thank you, ms.
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shah. mr. weiss, has there been an increase in a.d.a. litigation under title three and if so, could you provide the committee with some background on that increase? mr. weiss: yes. i'd be happy to. the number of cases has grown dramatically over the last few years. that's the driving need for this legislation. this is both a growing and expanding problem and actually just continues to grow. as i mentioned in my opening remarks, there's been a 65% increase from 2013 to 2014. and the numbers just continue to grow and grow. n particular there are certain states where these cases are growing the fastest. california, florida, new york, texas, arizona. those combined have the largest number of suits filed, over 80% of them files nationwide.
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california has approximately 40% of the lawsuits. but only frankly about 12% of the disabled population there. so this is an ongoing and ontinuing problem. mr. franks: thank you, sir. i will now recognize the ranking member, mr. cohen, for five minutes. dave cowens thank you, sir -- mr. cohen: thank you, sir. is the fact that california's got their state on, i i think i heard it includes damages, could that not be the reason there's so many of those cases in california? weiss weiss no, i don't -- mr. weiss: no, i don't think so. obviously the a.d.a.'s been in effect for 25 years. it's had a dramatic impact across the country. so much so that it is just a part of the way of doing business. in our industry, it becomes second nature.
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we're constantly updating our properties and ensuring compliance with them. the issues that we're having here are very specific. and this legislation -- mr. cohen: let me ask you this. why do you think california is particularly litigious? that's the question. mr. weiss: i can't tell you exactly why om states over others. but i can tell you that it's growing nationwide. mr. cohen: specifically you mentioned texas, arizona, california and florida. there's got to be some -- aren't those the states you mentioned? mr. weiss: that's where there are the most cases. mr. cohen: there's got to be a reason why those four are more than the other 36. do you have a thought? do you, mr. buckland? mr. buck: i do. those are the states that allow damages. mr. cohen: all four of those states allow damages? mr. buck: -- mr. buckland: yeah.
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there's 10 total. mr. cohen: that seems like what they've got in common. that's not a national problem, seems like that -- the not -- ms. shah, you grasp that, do you not? you grasp the fact that those four states are four of 10 and that that might be the unifying or unique factor that causes the burgeoning lawsuits there and not something with the a.d.a. in general? ms. shah: sure. it's prevalent across the united states. the properties -- my properties in georgia and the same attorney and the same plaintiff have filed the same lawsuit 100 times. mr. cohen: in georgia. is it a georgia lawyer? ms. shah: yes. mr. cohen: you heard what i was saying in my opening remarks about the possibility of having some type of damages for the folks that don't comply if there was a notice provision, would you agree that there needs to be some type of a stick to punish with some sanctions the folks that don't comply within the 120-day
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period? ms. shah: yes. the whole idea is you would be able to file the law. mr. cohen: there's already available. shouldn't there be something extra? ms. shah: such as what? mr. cohen: such as sanctions, damages, liquidated damages, some amount of -- ms. shah: yeah. i mean, exactly. you can uphold that and impose sanctions. but remember, at the same time, we're also trying to run our business. we're doing the best we can. mr. cohen: but you're a good guy. i'm talking about the bad guys. ms. shah: of course, the bad guys do need sanctions. mr. cohen: mr. weiss, do you agree that would be something that would make your propose albert? mr. weiss: let me start on this damages issue, which you've raised before. first of all, we're not talking about making changes, fundamental underlying changes to the a.d.a. we're talking about legislation which is narrow and focused to a particular abuse for an existing enforcement mechanism. secondly, i'm not sure that damages actually will reduce the problem. in fact, it may well encourage them. more damages means more
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lawsuits, more lawsuits means more attorneys' fees, it means more time and resources. mr. cohen: damages are only for the people that didn't comply with this program. your program does have a lot of beneficial purposes. yours or ted's or whoever's it is. for the folks that don't comply, why not -- the damages aren't going to be a problem for the good guys. it's only going to be for the bad guys. and bad guys always have to be punished. mr. weiss: i think your underlying assumption that this is only a damages issue. take florida, for instance. mr. cohen: no, i'm not saying that. it's probably a damages issue because of where the litigation has exploded. what i'm talking about damages is a way to have another lesker out there to make people -- lever out there to make people comply. all you have is the notice. what you make is a harder to bring lawsuit and disincentivizes lawyers from being involved in the process
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which will involve -- result in less notice of problems. you don't want to have overkill and help the good guys but not he bad guys. mr. weiss: with all due respect, mr. cohen, i don't think this inhibits the enforcement of the a.d.a. i think it actually helps enforcement. here's why. we could have -- mr. cohen: mr. buckland, do you think it inhibits people from coming forward? mr. buckland: absolutely. there's no other civil rights statute that requires notice to be able to fix the problem before you can bring suit. no other civil rights. but they're wanting to put it in this one. it absolutely -- i'll give you a couple of examples. i was in virginia beach, there's a time share down there . if we sat through, like i'm sure a lot of you have experienced this, if you sit through a presentation, they give you some reward, so the reward was to be able to go on
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this whale watching tour. we sat through the presentation, me and my wife and my son sat through the presentation, they gave us our whale watching tickets, and by the way, none of the time shares -- i couldn't have purchased any of the time shares because they're all inaccessible. not a single time share didn't have a step in front of it. they're all inaccessible, so then we go to the whale watching tour and they tell me they don't take people in wheelchairs on their tours. so i talked to the guy that took the tickets and said, you aware of the americans with disabilities act, he said, yes. that doesn't apply to us. i said, where's the manager? can i speak to the manager? i'm the manager. i said, so you still don't think the a.d.a. applies to you? he said, no. so, when i got back home, i talked to the department of -- ice and we went into
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where you work it out between you. we did that. they, with very little expense, have a ramp to the boat. now they take people with disabilities on their whale seeing. another one that happened recently is there's a business association here in washington that i went to, could not get in the front entrance was not accessible, couldn't independently enter the building either. i told them all of that. i gave them resources to get information on what the fixes were. i checked back with them about 2 1/2 mants later to see if they'd made any progress on making their building accessible, i got no response. so i waited for about another two weeks. sent them another email asking if they'd made any progress. no responls. i did that three times with no response. then i made a phone call. they weren't in. so i left a message. no response to my phone call.
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frankly, that is most of the responses you get. when you notify people that there's a problem, you don't get any return response. that's what happened to me over and over. mr. cohen: thank you, sir. i appreciate it. my time's out. thank you. mr. franks: i now recognize the gentleman from iowa, mr. king. mr. king: thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the witnesses for your testimony here today. i'm just think being how the americans with disabilities act in a way changed my life. i want to put this narrative into the record. i happen to have been the only public building in the community that was wheelchair accessible right after the passage of the a.d.a. and so they came and asked me, would you be the host of the republican caucus in your community, and i said, sure, i'm happy to open up my doors and help people out. and then i became the chairman of that caucus and now here i am in congress. i'll just slip that in. i don't know how many different
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implications there are. i'm sure it's affected your lives more than it's affected mine but it's ironic that if that meet hg never taken place, who knows what i'd be doing today. so i wanted to ask, i wanted to ask especially mr. buckland and i'd ask if you could be brief in your analysis of this, but you lived through 20 years prior to the a.d.a. in a wheelchair and 26 years afterwards. you probably didn't see the immediate results of that because we had a lot of new construction that took place and refurbishing that took place. i don't have any doubts that changed a lot of accessibility and you've seen it incrementally from your eyes. the question back then in 1990 was, do we require compliance with the a.d.a. only on new construction or also for existing buildings and facilities, and i recall going in and doing curb cuts and making wheelchair accessible and i'm wonder, why accident
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which -- didn't which they of that when we built a sidewalk in the first place. it was a huge oversight on part of our society not to see how simple and how cheap that part of the a.d.a. could have been. what would it be like today, do you think, if the a.d.a. had been written in such a way that new construction complied but old construction was voluntary? what kind of progress do you think we would have made in the last 26 years? mr. buckland: very little. if you walk around this town, most of this is old construction. so if we hadn't applied the a.d.a. to existing structures, nothing here would be -- or, not nothing, but a lot of the buildings here wouldn't be required to comply. mr. king: and these beings , some of the oldest
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buildings here, in my neighborhood it would be different, for different reasons. we have a lot of new sidewalks and a lot of new curb cuts would have been done. but i just want to ask your pesper -- perspective, you gave it to me and i appreciate it. ms. shah, you mened that there are essentially a copy and paste, 100 lawsuits from a single lawyer. those lawyers in many cases, either you or ms. ky, that said that lawyers had not been in the facility. so i'll ask each of you, first to ms. shah, what does that list of plaintiffs look like? when you've got a lawyer with 100 suits that are copied and pasted, what's the list of the plaintiffs look like on each of those suits? ms. shah: in my case it's just one plaintiff. he's using -- the attorney's using that one plaintiff to fish out other properties in the area and slap the same lawsuit on them. mr. king: have you looked at the plaintiffs in those other lawsuits that were filed by the same attorney? could it be the same plaintiff in some of those cases or even all of them? ms. shah: yes. in this case it is the same.
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my father received the same lawsuit, same number of pages, same attorney, same plaintiff, at his property. mr. king: there are 98 others out there. what's the likelihood that that same plaintiff has also been utilized by the same attorney in a number of other cases in addition to you and your father? ms. shah: there is a likelihood that there's the same plaintiff, same attorney. there's also other plaintiffs and other attorneys. it's an ongoing case. you can have one plaintiff suing 100 properties, using the same attorney. and that same attorney may want to settle 100 properties, you average $5,000, that's a lot of money. mr. king: i'm just trying to get to concept of how this works in the attorneys' office. you have an attorney that's hotel chasing. and he decides, i have a plaintiff here. we're going to file potentially 100 lawsuits and you be the plaintiff, i'll be the attorney and we'll collect this money at the expense of the businesses. that never had a chance of a notice to cure, never an opportunity to even know that
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they were potentially out of compliance with the a.d.a. i look at that and these plaintiffs then, what's the likelihood that the plaintiff had never been in the building before the suit was filed? ms. shah: i think each case varyies. in my case, i looked back one year to check the reservations, first name and last name ever matched, and there was no record of that person ever staying at our hotel. mr. king: ms. ky, would you concur with testimony of ms. shah in your experience? ms. shah: -- ms. ky: yes. on that particular day, this individual sued three locations in our city. same person. and he does not live in the city. and that particular day i was not at the shop. i came back from doing my err ranledses and i got a -- err ds and i got a pack and -- errandd and i got a package. i asked everybody, no one knew who he was. i asked a medical facility that
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does -- provide cheel chairs, just to make sure if he registered with them or bought anything from them. they don't know who he is. recently they did -- kind of investigated on this individual. he's able-bodied. he goes to places and uses wheelchairs to get what he does. he puts the wheelchair back in the truck. mr. king: isn't that fraud? ms. ky: that is fraud. we need to stop this. we need to stop this fraud. we need to stop this ridiculous ewe use -- using a.d.a. to get what they want. mr. buckland said that this facility, he contacted three times, no response, please, go sue them. that's the price. whatever needs to be done. yes. but give us a chance. myself, ms. shah, we don't have
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any barriers in our facility, no barriers. just because we don't have the information that you folks change, the lawyers have no right. it's not a barrier. it was a barrier, please, come after us. mr. king: thank you very much. i thank the witnesses and yield back. mr. franks: i now recognize the ranking member, mr. conyers, for five minutes. mr. conyers: thank you, chairman franks. i thank the witnesses. could i begin by asking unanimous consent to enter into the record 14 letters from organizations that have a variety of objections to the measure that we're examining today, the consortium for citizens with disabilities, , alyzed veterans of america the national -- the leadership
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conference on civil and human plenty of others. uld i ask unanimous consent, they take strong exception to this measure and i ask that these letters be included in the record. mr. franks: without objection. mr. conyers: thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to just ask mr. buckland, we're all friends here, if mr. weiss' testimony raised any objections in terms of your experience as someone that's disabled? mr. buckland: mr. chairman, mr. conyers, i mean, the whole issue around the written notice and that you have to wait a certain time for it to cure, all that stuff, like i said in my testimony, i think that will
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incentivize businesses to not do anything until they do get a letter. i take exception to that. i also think that, like, just naming the number of lawsuits doesn't mean that's a bad thing. if those businesses were out of compliance, then why is that a problem, that they got sued for being out -- for breaking the law? i don't quite understand that. so there was no mention about whether or not they were valid complaints. they're just numbers. i'm not sure that that -- this results in being a bad thing. mr. conyers: would it be helpful if the committee knew what the results of all those lawsuits were? mr. buckland: yes, i think it would. and then i also think that the department of justice could provide this committee with some information about how many complaints they've received, what the complaints were about, how the complaints were resolved, that sort of stuff.
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mr. conyers: mr. chairman, i'm hoping that we might be able to follow through on both my suggestion and mr. buckland's in terms of getting a little bit more detail on some of these cases. ow, mr. buckland, we have four witnesses here this morning, you're the only one that is opposed to this measure. so i wanted to ask you, what does the presuit notification mean for the private nforcement of the a.d.a. and what would happen if enforcement is left only to the attorney general, if private lawyers stopped bringing cases? mr. buckland: i think you stated the obvious, mr. conyers.
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what will happen if our ability to file suit is impeded, then we have less enforcement. like i mentioned before, the businesses will just wait until they get a letter. our experience really has been, as i mentioned, it's difficult to find attorneys that will take cases, except for those states that allow damages. i think this is really more of a state legislation issue than it is with the american disabilities act. mr. conyers: i do too. proponents now of presuit notification argue that it's reasonable to give businesses the opportunity to cure a violation before a lawsuit commences. but how might such a notification scheme affect oluntary compliance?
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mr. buckland: you'd have that waiting period, the notification would disincentivize attorneys. but, i'm going to ask the opposite question. why do they need to be notified? the americans with disabilities act is out there. there's lots of information about how you can comply. i mentioned that before. there's 10 a.d.a. centers, one in each region of the country. and they have expertise on the americans with disabilities act, what it requires to comply. they'll even come out to your business and talk to you about what you need to do. so they should be proactive. and they should be -- they know the law's there, they should get the technical assistance, they should come into compliance. mr. conyers: i think that's a very good response. and you've answered all my questions very appropriately. mr. chairman, i yield back the balance of my time. mr. franks: i thank the gentleman. i now recognize the gentleman from florida, mr. deutch, for five minutes. mr. deutch: thank you, mr.
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chairman. thank you for holding this hearing. the americans with disabilities act fundamentally changed our society for the better. it both literally and figuratively opened the doors of public life that had been closed for too long. i believe that any efforts that we undertake to address abuses under the current law have to protect the progress that's been made and we have to continue to ensure that our society is open to everyone. the goal that we all share is widespread compliance, full compliance with the a.d.a. retrofitting older construction, showing that all new construction is built incluesively from the start has always been the guiding principle. i appreciate that the original compromise that created the a.d.a. was designed to balance our national interest in accessibility with the desire to make private businesses allies in this endeavor rather than our adversaries. i don't want to upset the original balance that makes it -- in any way that would make it harder to work together toward our common goal of
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compliance. but i believe that we have to exercise strict oversight to ensure that we're achieving continued progress to accessibility. that's what the a.d.a. is meant to provide. if abuses of the process work against those goals, then i think it requires us to stop and pay attention. if florida, which we talked about earlier, in my own state, more than one in five a.d.a. claims filed last year originated in the southern district of florida. businesses have to retain the right to do the right thing. there has to be an incentive for them to do the right thing. the threat of a lawsuit is powerful and it works. but for honest, good faith acters who are making easily correctable small fixes, things that would take a few minutes to remedy, we have to have a process that allows them to make these fixes. to adjust a grab bar. to rehang a coat hook. and to be able to do it quickly without a lawsuit. i don't take the idea of good
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faith lightly. it should be difficult, a difficult standard to meet. it should show that businesses are in partnership with the american people in creating a society that is accessible and is welcoming to everyone. the public life is for everyone and we want a society where small businesses can thrive doing business with everyone. mr. weiss, i've been told that some of the worst of the repeat plaintiffs don't even bother to follow up to see if the infractions have been corrected. which tells me that complaints often are about extracting money than about making a facility more accessible. the code enforcement officer in delray beach in my own part of south florida was quoted as saying, they don't care if you fix it or not, the businesses pay between $5,000 and 12ds,000 and it goes away, people are taking complete advantage, it's a money maker, it has nothing to do with compliance. in your experience, what's been the follow through of
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plaintiffs postsettlement? mr. weiss: i'm sorry to say it's virtually none. that's part of the problem. we spend millions of dollars ensuring our properties are code compliant and compliant with the a.d.a. and we have millions of dollars invested and we have attorneys esenablely that come to us with their hand out, with vague claims of noncompliance they don't have specifics and they never bother to follow up as long as you have paid to settle a suit. as a fol oweup, i guess i would mention in your district, mr. deutch, this has become -- this issue, ust the icsc there are press reports, there was one this week of a serial plaintiff filing a thousand lawsuits. in response to mr.


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