Amodei’s Explanation?

February 15, 2018: Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) cast his “yes” vote for HR 620, the Americans with Disabilities Education and Reform Act.

Here’s Section 3 of that bill:

(Sec. 3) The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person’s notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary.

And this summation from Newsweek describes the bill’s possible consequences:

“The bill would effectively gut the ADA, detractors argue. Without a fear of being sued, businesses might be inclined to ignore ADA compliance rules. Critics of the bill also believe people with disabilities should not bear the responsibility of making sure businesses are compliant with the law.

“Instead of expecting businesses to own the responsibility of complying with civil rights laws, it shifts the burden to the individual who is being denied access,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in a letter to congressional representatives on Thursday.

The ACLU called the bill unacceptable. “This scheme removes the business’s incentive to proactively ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities,” it said. “Instead, businesses will simply wait until someone’s right to access is violated and notification is received before making the change they were already obligated to make.” (emphasis added)

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), argued businesses were subjected to “drive by” lawsuits concerning implementation of ADA requirements, and therefore “reform” was necessary.   However, shifting the burden of proof from the entity charged with denying appropriate access to the person making the complaint is a rather blunt instrument for assisting the disabled, and a boon to those who make accessibility difficult if not impossible.  And Representative Mark Amodei voted “yes.”  He’s fine with turning the ADA on its head.

He might want to explain this vote to the 108,054 (2015 AFB) people in Nevada who are significantly visually impaired?  There are other people to whom Representative Amodei might wish to explain his vote —  The Institute on Disability (University of New Hampshire) estimates that between 1.0% and 2.1% of Nevadans under 5 years of age were disabled, 5.7%-6.1% of those aged 5 to 17; 10.7% – 12.5% aged 18 to 64; and 33% to 35.1% over age 65. (pdf)  But Amodei’s protecting businesses from a gazillion frivolous lawsuits, right?…. Maybe not so much.

About those ‘frivolous” lawsuits, let’s hear from an advocate for the disabled:

“To be fair, I vehemently oppose frivolous ADA lawsuits for monetary gain. I cherish this law and hate hearing that some misuse it. However, frivolous lawsuits are not as prevalent as some believe. An analysis of ADA lawsuits in 2016 identified just 12 individuals and one organization that have filed more than 100 lawsuits each. And these lawsuits are not an ADA issue; they are a state and court problem. Indeed, ethics rules bar attorneys from bringing frivolous lawsuits. Rather than go after people with disabilities, attention should be focused on stopping these few bad attorneys.”

We can reasonably conclude that House Republicans have decided to “protect” businesses at the risk of targeting the disabled instead of unscrupulous attorneys.  Some explication is required.  At least it would be polite for Representative Amodei to offer one.

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