Issue: H.R. 4919, Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2016. To amend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, to reauthorize the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease and Patient Alert Program, and to promote initiatives that will reduce the risk of injury and death relating to the wandering characteristics of some children with autism. Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, as Amended (2/3 Vote Required).
Result: Passed in House: 346 to 66, 21 not voting. GOP and Democrats scored.
From the Congressional Research Service Summary:
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[H.R. 4919] directs the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance to award grants to state and local law enforcement or public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities.
Freedom First Society: Unconstitutional! —The federal government has no authority to be involved with such state and local matters. Moreover, the federal government has no money to give away. Federal debt is out of control and growing (approaching $20 trillion when the House passed this measure).
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Full CRS Summary: This bill amends the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to revise and rename the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program as the Missing Americans Alert Program and to reauthorize it through FY2021.
It directs the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance to award grants to state and local law enforcement or public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities.
DOJ must establish and certain grant recipients must comply with standards and best practices related to the use of tracking technology to locate missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities.
The bill amends the Missing Children’s Assistance Act to specify that, with respect to training and technical assistance provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, cases involving missing and exploited children include cases involving children with developmental disabilities such as autism. [Emphasis added.]
Analysis: A year earlier, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner negotiated a backroom budget deal that gave President Obama and the big spenders everything they wanted. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 drew the unanimous support of House and Senate Democrats.
Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC), one of the few opponents allowed floor time to speak against the deal, provided needed perspective:
“Therefore, I would remind everyone of what Admiral Mike Mullen said, who is the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said that the greatest threat to our civilization was the national debt.”
The reason our national debt is out of control is not due to waste, which can be expected in an enormous, increasingly unmanageable bureaucracy. It is because Congress has cast off virtually all constitutional restraints on programs and spending, fueling that bureaucracy. (And because, for the past century, the federal government has been able to finance its extravagance through Federal Reserve supported monetary inflation).
The collectivist mindset that pervades Washington could be summarized in one sentence by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) arguing on behalf of this measure: “What is the role of the Federal Government? It is to solve problems.”
Unfortunately, the public is no longer reminded of the basic wisdom of our nation’s founders regarding the American experiment in liberty. They saw government as a necessary servant but they also understood the lesson of history that an insufficiently restrained government would easily become our master.
During the debate over H.R. 4919, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) pointed out another serious flaw. He argued very persuasively that the federal tracking system created by this measure could easily become an instrument of tyranny. Unfortunately, too few of his colleagues acted on his warning. We quote extensively here from Mr. Gohmert’s remarks as published in the Congressional Record for December 8 (emphasis added):
Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX):
“When we start a Federal program, things that will be only temporary — things that were going to be only temporary come to mind like the income tax, and it was going to be small and temporary. Well, it is still going on, and it has gotten bigger. I have read the bill, and I want to thank the people involved. I have ultimate respect for both Chairman Goodlatte and my friend Chris Smith. I just couldn’t have stronger feelings for people. And my friend across the aisle, it would surprise some people, but we get along quite well, and I appreciate the care she has for people.
“Though there have been provisions added — there have been changes made to try to deal with some of the concerns that people like me have had — it is still a problem. If you look at page 21, the last page of the bill, it has this language added: ‘Voluntary participation. Nothing in this Act may be construed to require that a parent or guardian use a tracking device to monitor the location of a child or adult under that parent or guardian’s supervision if the parent or guardian does not believe the use of such device is necessary.’
“Frankly, I looked at making a provision like that and asking that it be in the bill, and then I realized: Wait a minute. There are back doors. There are things the Attorney General could do that could satisfy the language we have for ‘voluntary.’ Okay. No, the parent or guardian won’t have to do that or monitor that, but we have the system in place. It is a Federal system.
“So now we have the capability to monitor and track people so, you know, gee, this person is a problem. The definition of who could have this procedure or implement used is, as we are told, people with Alzheimer’s, people with autism, people who may wander off or, and the words are, a developmental disability. Well, developmental disability, that is a severe or chronic disability of an individual 5 years or older that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of those. And so then we get over into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and we have seen the evolution of the DSM….
“Personality disorders like antisocial disorder were once called sociopath or psychopath, but there is an argument that they are a developmental disorder, and they are chronic for so many people.
“So then you begin to see, well, we don’t have a very tight definition of what a developmentally disabled person is, and we look to the bill, and of course in trying to make this bill broader so it would include autism and other developmental disabilities, we see, on page 2, in the section header, we want to make clear this isn’t just Alzheimer’s disease patients so we insert the word ‘Americans,’ which is a little broader than ‘Alzheimer’s disease patient.’
“Again, that is in the header, so it is not necessarily language, and people like me that have had to review language as a judge or a chief justice and write opinions on what words mean, how they apply to these circumstances, I see where this goes. We will have a Federal tracking program, but it is only for people with Alzheimer’s or autism that wander off. Well, yeah, or developmental disabilities, and that is pretty far reaching where we go with that. But it is just a mental health issue and it is a physical issue because we know — and I know this is what has driven my friend supporting this bill, we have had people wander off and be found dead. All of us have seen stories like that.
“The question is: Is it the job of the Federal Government to start a tracking program? And since it is mental disease, obviously the person who would be in charge of such a wonderful program that would help us track people with Alzheimer’s, autism, or other developmental disability, it would be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. But wait. The bill gives the authority to the Attorney General of the United States. We are talking Department of Justice.
“It does say a couple of places the AG will get with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and collaborate, but ultimately these decisions are the decisions of the Attorney General. The Attorney General will make the call. The bill specifically says that the Attorney General will also, basically, make all the rules and regulations with regard to this tracking system. And then it also says that the Attorney General will formulate the ‘best practices.’ So maybe to me or someone in this body, developmental disability would mean one thing, and we do have definition in Federal law, but there, too, it is quite broad.
“I so much appreciate the insertion of the word ‘noninvasive’ for the tracking device or system, and nonpermanent. Well, I know tattoos are nonpermanent if you go through what I understand is a pretty painful process. I had felony judge friends who would order people to have tattoos removed, so I guess you could say those were nonpermanent.
“But when you look at definitions of what noninvasive is — and I don’t find it in the bill. Perhaps it is somewhere in Federal law. But even then, you have the word ‘noninvasive’ subject to interpretation.
“Whose interpretation? The Attorney General, the Department of Justice’s head, to make the determination of what is noninvasive.
“A definition in medicine, this or some similar are often used, that noninvasive would be a process that does not violate the integrity of the mucocutaneous barriers. Well, if you insert a chip just above the subcutaneous barriers, would that be noninvasive? If you go a little bit under the subcutaneous barriers, would that be noninvasive? Well, there is only one way to find out, and that is once the Attorney General formulates the regulations and the best practices, then we find out what is actually noninvasive….
“There is a procedure, and this indicates the people who prepared this bill — and I am not being sarcastic. They were really trying to figure out a way to protect [against] an over-oppressive government. You have to have a procedure of appeal, and the Attorney General will help set that up. If you have a complaint, you think something is not being done properly, well, the Attorney General is going to help create the rules that allow you to complain or appeal on that.
“Oh, and by the way, I never wanted to be in a football, basketball, or baseball game — and I love all those sports and played them all — but I never wanted to be in the game where the referee is the one that wrote the rules for our league, because they didn’t yield and their opinion was better than the rules on the page, no matter what the page said. So the Attorney General can tell us what he really meant or she really meant.
“Voluntary, I appreciate that part, but we have a Federal tracking system and it says here in the bill it is to prevent violence or injury or even death to one’s self, to the person, or injury to someone else.
“Now, why would this be a concern today, other than the fact that we have seen reports come out of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Department of Homeland Security who think that people who deny manmade climate change are committing, basically, a law against nature. They are violating a law against nature.
“We see now where there are people who just put in your search engine religious beliefs, mental disorders, and you will have all kinds of investigations come up. There are people in this government, like those in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, that think that those who claim to be Christians and use code words like ‘religious liberty,’ that that is code for Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, not understanding that a true Christian is basing their beliefs and their trust in Jesus Christ, who is love incarnate.
“Nonetheless, we have government officials that think that religious beliefs are a problem, and that the even bigger problem is, if you are a veteran — that is what Homeland Security has said — and you believe in the strict interpretation of the words on the pages of the Constitution, that makes you a bigger threat.
“So when we are talking about terms that we have seen change over the years, we have seen the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual have massive change. Why? Sometimes it is because medicine, psychology, or psychiatry has made great discoveries and improvements, and sometimes it is because one group has a better lobbying group than others.
“Mr. Speaker, by the way, other good language here is that none of the money can be used for conferences that may cost more than $20,000, unless they do certain things. Another good provision is that none of the money may be used to create a Federal database, but the money will be used for State, local, nonprofit organizations.
“I can’t find anything that says that we in the Federal Government cannot fund State and local databases of individuals that have developmental disabilities such as they are too religious and, therefore, they are deemed to have a developmental disability, antisocial personalities. It is just too open and there are too many loopholes.
“I like the idea; and the more I thought about it, the more I read the language, the more I saw the open loopholes that could result in a Federal tracking system that George Orwell would have been embarrassed about.
“So, with brotherly and appeared [sic] appreciation for those pursuing this bill out of the best of intentions — just wanting to stop death and harm to one’s self because you have autism, Alzheimer’s — Mr. Speaker, I humbly submit this is a dangerous door for any government to open, a door that Orwell would have warned about.
“People told me, well, gee, there is ink that you can use in a tattoo that can be tracked. I don’t know. It is a door that we should not open at the Federal level to begin a program of tracking, no matter whether it is State or local officials that have the database and we get it and look at it or what.”