(Senate - November 18, 2020)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S7078-S7079]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. CARPER (for himself, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Tester, Mr. 
        Heinrich, and Ms. Warren):
  S. 4914. A bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to establish a 
grant program for transportation projects to improve Tribal health, 
well-being, and youth safety, and for other purposes; to the Committee 
on Indian Affairs.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I today I am introducing legislation that 
aims to reduce traffic-related pedestrian fatalities in Native American 
communities while also improving public health and quality of life.
  First, let's be clear. Everyone in this country deserves reliable 
options to travel safely from one place to another. Everyone deserves 
roads that connect us to each other and expand our horizons. But the 
sad truth is that not everyone in this country has safe, reliable roads 
that foster connections and expand horizons. That is especially true in 
Native American communities.
  The adverse statistics surrounding the safety and health of 
Indigenous peoples are staggering. Vehicle-related unintentional injury 
is the No. 1 cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives 
aged 1 through 44. It is also the third overall cause of death for all 
American Indians and Alaska Natives, of any age or gender.
  While unsafe roadways put lives at risk, inadequate or unreliable 
transportation options create obstacles for everyday life, making it 
more difficult to simply access healthy groceries, schools, quality 
health care, emergency services and economic opportunities. Immobility 
for individuals within Indian Country reinforces barriers to education, 
quality healthcare, and economic opportunity.
  Meanwhile, Native American communities face disproportionately higher 
prevalence of diabetes and other heart disease. In fact, American 
Indian and Alaska Natives are more than twice more likely than non-
Hispanic White Americans to die from diabetes. Cardiovascular disease 
is the primary cause of mortalities for Native Americans under the age 
of 65. While exercise can help to lower the risks associated with 
chronic heart disease, throughout Indian Country, there are few safe 
options for walking, running and bicycling.
  The sad truth is that decades of Federal underinvestment in 
transportation infrastructure has contributed to disproportionately 
higher rates of road traffic fatalities and poor public health outcomes 
in Indian Country. Unsafe, unreliable and inadequate transportation 
infrastructure is exacerbating a public safety crisis, worsening public 
health, and degrading quality of life.
  Investments in infrastructure that improve safety and expand 
opportunity for nonmotorized forms of transportation--such as 
sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian and bicycle signals--
can help to prevent more road traffic fatalities and also combat the 
prevalence of chronic health disparities that exist throughout Native 
American communities. To that end, the Promoting Access to Tribal 
Health, Wellbeing and Youth Safety Act would create a new grant program 
at the U.S. Department of Transportation to dedicate new resources for 
pedestrian-related infrastructure and improve pedestrian infrastructure 
throughout Indian Country. The legislation will also authorize $25 
million annually for these critical projects.
  By improving pedestrian infrastructure across Tribal communities, we 
can save lives while improving health outcomes and quality of life in 
Tribal communities.
  I would like to thank my colleagues, Senator Feinstein, Senator 
Tester, Senator Heinrich, and Senator Warren, for joining me to 
introduce this legislation. As we celebrate National Native American 
Heritage Month, I look forward to working with my colleagues on this 
issue. Together we can improve the safety and health of Indigenous 
peoples across the Nation.
      By Ms. HIRONO:
  S. 4915. A bill to establish the Servicemembers and Veterans 
Initiative within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of 
Justice, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the 
Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act. This legislation would 
formally establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative--or SVI--
within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, DOJ. 
While the SVI was created in 2015 as an initiative within the DOJ, this 
legislation is needed to give the initiative authorization to protect 
the legal interests of servicemembers, veterans, and their families. I 
thank Representative Escobar and Representative Taylor for introducing 
this important legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  Our Nation owes a tremendous debt to our servicemembers, veterans, 
and military families for the sacrifices they make to protect our 
freedoms. Deployment can seriously compromise a servicemember's ability 
to meet obligations back home and protect their legal interests. 
Servicemembers and

[[Page S7079]]

their families have been charged unlawful lease termination fees when 
they receive permanent change of station or deployment orders. While 
deployed overseas, some have been denied voting rights, while others 
have had their property unlawfully sold. Members of the Reserve forces 
and the National Guard have been unjustly discriminated against and 
denied employment because of their military service. Servicemembers, 
veterans, and their families continue to be targeted by financial scams 
and fraud schemes. They deserve better than this, and we must ensure 
that our government protects their civil rights during deployment, 
transition back home, and as they settle into their civilian lives.
  The DOJ recognized that, while there are laws on the books to protect 
servicemembers, veterans, and their families, more is needed to be done 
by the Federal Government to improve education about what those laws 
are and what rights they protect and to increase Federal enforcement 
actions to ensure those rights are protected. To that end, the DOJ 
announced the creation of the SVI to further its efforts to enforce 
statutes that protect the civil rights of servicemembers, veterans, and 
their families. The SVI works closely with the Department of Defense, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Judge Advocate General offices 
at military installations to educate servicemembers, veterans, and 
military families about their rights and how to report abuse. It also 
serves as a resource for anyone looking to obtain legal assistance and 
legal practitioners seeking information.
  Through the work of the SVI, the Department of Justice has brought a 
number of successful claims, including one against the city and county 
of Honolulu in February 2018 for illegally auctioning cars belonging to 
servicemembers. DOJ launched an investigation into the city's actions 
after receiving information from a military legal assistance officer 
and two Navy legal assistance attorneys that Honolulu had on at least 
three occasions failed to obtain court orders before auctioning cars 
belonging to servicemembers while those servicemembers were deployed 
aboard U.S. Navy ships. The city had violated the Servicemembers Civil 
Relief Act, SCRA, by denying these servicemembers their right to obtain 
a court's review of whether the auction of their vehicles should be 
delayed or adjusted to account for their military service. The 
settlement that DOJ reached with Honolulu mandated that the city ensure 
servicemembers receive notice that their car has been taken into 
custody and that the city obtain a court order or SCRA waiver prior to 
auctioning a car owned by an Active Duty servicemember.
  The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act recognizes the work 
this initiative has carried out on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, 
and military families in Hawaii and across the Nation by making it 
permanent within the DOJ. This bill also tasks the initiative with 
serving as legal and policy advisor to the Attorney General, and 
liaison between the DOJ and military departments. The SVI is further 
tasked with coordinating prosecution of fraud that targets 
servicemembers and their families and enforcing Federal laws to protect 
servicemembers and veterans.
  I call on my colleagues in the Senate to support the DOJ's efforts to 
defend the rights of those who protect our country by swiftly passing 
the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act during the 116th