Focus on Congress

Congresswoman Val Demings (D-Orlando) will today vote for the FIRST STEP Act—a criminal justice reform bill which will make our justice system fairer and more effective.

Said Rep. Demings, “Anyone who breaks the law should be held accountable for their actions, but we must also prepare these Americans to re-enter society and not offend again. The FIRST STEP Act prioritizes dignity, respect, equality, and evidence-based strategies which will reduce the rate at which criminals re-offend. This bill will help individuals to serve their sentences while giving them the relationships and tools necessary to leave their punishment behind bars and return to their lives without returning to crime.

“It is said that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ and I strongly believe that this will be the first step towards a more equitable and effective justice system.”

Rep. Val Demings

The FIRST STEP Act will retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which fixed the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, long known to have a racially-biased effect. It will also ease mandatory minimum sentences and expand the “safety valve” which gives judges more latitude and eliminate the stacking of gun and drug charges by prosecutors seeking longer sentences. The act will also assist inmates in their return to society by expanding “good time credits” which apply to well-behaved prisoners. Additionally, the bill will ban certain practices, including the shackling of pregnant women, and will put greater emphasis on de-escalation techniques and medical treatment of drug addicts. These reforms would apply to prisoners in federal prison.

Rep. Demings previously served as a 27-year law enforcement officer and Orlando’s first female Chief of Police.

Alzheimer’s Bill to Become Law 

Demings will also cast her vote for The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, which she co-sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives, and which will become law with President Trump’s signature.

Said Rep. Demings, “My family, like so many others, has been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s afflicts millions of Americans and is a leading cause of death. Even worse, it is a profoundly cruel disease which begins to rob us of our loved ones even before they pass. It has been deeply important to me that our government, with all our resources, do more to fund the search for a cure to Alzheimer’s, and I am gladdened that bipartisan Members of Congress have joined together to say that an end to Alzheimer’s is a national goal.

“I am deeply grateful to the incredible advocates and activists whose tireless work helped to make this win happen. We will continue to fight for additional research and resources until we finally reach an end to Alzheimer’s.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and cases increased by 123% from 2000 to 2015. 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Early and accurate diagnosis could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs, and effective treatment would save and extend millions of lives.

The Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act is landmark legislation that will create a national public health infrastructure to promote early detection, increase intervention to reduce risks, and prevent avoidable hospitalizations for Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders. As researchers gain a greater understanding of the disease and work towards a way to prevent, cure, or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, the federal government must work with state, local, and tribal health authorities to increase the quality of life for those living with the disease and support caregivers.

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