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COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND LABOR
AUGUSTUS F. HAWKINS, California, Chairman WILLIAM D. FORD, Michigan
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania JOSEPH M. GAYDOS, Pennsylvania
E. THOMAS COLEMAN, Missouri WILLIAM (BILL) CLAY, Missouri
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin GEORGE MILLER, California
MARGE ROUKEMA, New Jersey AUSTIN J. MURPHY, Pennsylvania
STEVE GUNDERSON, Wisconsin DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
STEVE BARTLETT, Texas PAT WILLIAMS, Montana
THOMAS J. TAUKE, Iowa MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California HARRIS W. FAWELL, Illinois MAJOR R. OWENS, New York
PAUL B. HENRY, Michigan CHARLES A. HAYES, Illinois
FRED GRANDY, Iowa CARL C. PERKINS, Kentucky
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
PETER SMITH, Vermont
TOMMY F. ROBINSON, Arkansas
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SELECT EDUCATION
MAJOR R. OWENS, New York, Chairman MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
STEVE BARTLETT, Texas DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina JAMES JONTZ, Indiana
PETER SMITH, Vermont AUGUSTUS F. HAWKINS, California
Comfort, Judith, Division Manager, External Affairs, Southwestern Bell
Telephone Company, statement of..
School District, statement of .......
politan Transit Authority of Harris County, statement of
Energy Company, statement of......
Wolf, Howard, Partner, Fulbright & Jaworski, statement of..
FIELD HEARING ON AMERICANS WITH
MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 1989
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Houston, TX. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:00 a.m., in the Gymnasium, Metropolitan Multiservice Center, Houston, Texas, Hon. Major Owens (Chairman) presiding.
Members present: Representatives Owens, Bartlett, and Payne.
The hearing of the Subcommittee on Select Education of the Education and Labor Committee is now in session.
I yield to Mr. Bartlett for an opening statement.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the courtesy of letting me open, and I want to welcome everyone here. I do have an opening statement and some observations about both the legislation and the likely prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities in this legislative session before Congress. That prohibition is long overdue, and I want to begin with a statement that I do support the passage of legislation that prohibits discrimination against person with disabilities.
It should have been done some time ago. It can be done during this session of the Congress, and can be done in some very specific legislation. And it is long overdue that we extend civil right protections to persons with disabilities.
There have been known enforceable actions in a couple of sessions of Congress, and I would like to list them. There have been laws examined that have been congressional in nature and have not been a result of anyone in particular advocating legislation. That, frankly, has not been a part of the problem.
But there has been problems in Congress and there have been problems in Washington, and that is why I think it is especially significant that we are having a field hearing. We ought to have more of them, and particularly we are having a field hearing in Houston to learn some details of the need for that legislation and the specifics of that legislation and what should be in the legislation.
There has been legislation introduced in this session of Congress in the House of Representatives, as well as in 1988. Some of the
specifics of that legislation in the House version that has been introduced. I have read the information and looked at the impact, I have had some real problems with it. But I have to tell you that as of today that legislation has come a long way.
I believe that the goal of the legislation should be to prohibit discrimination, should be to provide remedies for people and should not be to invite lawsuits or class actions or other kinds of damages, but simply to allow people to be independent to get jobs, to go to a restaurant, to go to movies, to have transportation, and to have housing.
There are a lot of people who are responsible for us being here today and for being able to say that in fact there will be civil rights legislation for persons with disabilities this session.
They include my colleague who has come to Texas for this the first field hearing on the ADA, and the first hearing since the Senate passed its legislation in the subcommittee shortly before we adjourned, Major Owens of New York. He has been a real champion in this legislation, a real hero, and will be so as we proceed.
Likewise, I have to say that one of the other heros, as yet somewhat unsung, has been the President of the United States, a fellow Texan and a Houstonian. President Bush committed to this legislation during the campaign, and more significantly, the day before he was sworn in as President of the United States, in January of this year. He has instructed his White House staff to directly nego tiate the terms of the legislation to the point that it is now negotiated to a point that he had endorsed, and the legislation has moved through the subcommittee of the Senate.
I particularly want, just on a personal note, I know so many people here and I have worked with so many here, but I do want to single out the individual who has been instrumental in organizing this hearing and making certain that this committee of Congress hears from the diversity of the disability groups and the diversity of the employment, the accommodations and transportation and the telecommunication industries here today, and that is Lex Frieden.
Lex is the premier organizer for this event, and for disability actions over the course of the last several years in this country. I would like on a personal level acknowledge that in many ways Lex was the originator and author of legislation which I had introduced a few years ago and which did get passed to streamline and authorize Section 1619 of the Social Security Act. Lex, through the National Council on the Handicapped, helped to draft the original legislation for that, and subsequently has helped to draft and provide the impetus to the legislation that I also believe will pass this session, and that is to extend 1619 privileges to SSDI recipients, and that also will pass this session of Congress, largely thanks to many of you as well as to Lex Frieden to this particular subcommittee.
The witnesses that are going to testify here today have been very much of a part of a process. And thus, their testimony is quite significant. What they have to say, Mr. Chairman, is important for two reasons.
First, the witness list are witnesses who speak from experience, from real world experience in dealing with these issues. And second, these witnesses will speak on the issue of potential impact of the ADA on local governments and communities and employers.
The debate over the ADA has, until this month, given little attention to this issue except for public transit. Beginning with this hearing, now that the legislation is in a form that will likely move through Congress, we will focus on the substance and the specifics of precisely what the legislation says, what it should say, because we are going to write it in the law. And so we will focus on substance thoughtfully and specifically so that the intent of the ADA will be converted into reality.
And one more acknowledgement, Mr. Chairman, some are represented here, but I would also like to acknowledge that the original ADA civil rights protection legislation was drafted some years ago by the National Council on Disabilities. Mrs. Sandra Parrino, who has testified before our subcommittee in Washington, as well as Kent Wadren, who is here, were quite instrumental in drafting that legislation several years ago and obtaining the original authorship by Mr. Coehlo from California, and Senator Weicker of Connecticut.
Mr. Chairman, during the course of the hearing, I will be asking a number of questions of the witnesses-how they believe the legislation should work, in an ideal world what should be the remedies, what should be the provisions and what should be the level of specificity.
I do want to say to the witnesses that if I ask a question of which you are not knowledgeable, just say so, and we are accustomed to that in Congress. We members of Congress are knowledgeable on a whole lot of things. That is why we ask so many questions.
But I do want to emphasize that the legislation that I think we will end up considering will be similar to the legislation that was passed by the Senate subcommittee, a legislation that was negotiated in large part between the White House and Congress over the course of the last several months.
And one last, I would suggest, at least in my mind, that there should be three basic principles for whatever legislation that we end up with.
In addition, the first principle is that we should pass it in this session of Congress. It is long overdue and it is a good way to begin the 1990s; the three principles.
The first principle should be, it should be a principle of promoting independent living. This is not legislation, nor should it be, designed to increase public benefits. Independent living such as increasing the opportunities for private employment, for transportation, the right of people to be able to enjoy life, the right to buy a meal in a restaurant, to use the bus, the train or plane, and to use the various facilities that are available to the rest of the world.
Second, the legislation should track existing laws that already work. We have a whole body of disability legislation on the book and civil rights legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act works well with regard to employment. It is a well established body of law, and as much as possible we should track those remedies in that law because everyone knows what it means and what it does.