WASHINGTON _ The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and Democratic-controlled U.S. House haven’t been able to pass a bill to change policing practices in response to nationwide protests after George Floyd’s death, but a more limited piece of legislation sponsored by Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was approved by Congress on Monday and heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for him to sign into law.

The House of Representatives passed the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, a bill written by Wilson that orders the establishment of a commission as part of the Department of Justice that would study societal forces that have disproportionately affected Black men in America. The commission will study issues like mortality and homicide rates, arrest and incarceration rates, poverty, violence, fatherhood, mentorship, drug abuse, disparate income and wealth levels, school performance at various grade levels and health.

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In this Monday, June 1, 2020 file photo, protesters gather at a memorial for George Floyd where he died outside Cup Foods on East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. AP Photo/John Minchillo

“I am elated that this legislation, which I have been fighting for several years to pass, is now poised to become national law,” Wilson said in a statement. “The commission will review police brutality, gun violence, fatherhood, recruiting and training black male teachers, and even sneakers, which play an important role in the lives of Black boys. Welfare reform and the 1994 crime bill, which includes the controversial three strikes provision and harsh sentencing guidelines, also will be revisited. The commission’s underlying goal is to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and to better understand and eventually eliminate the educational and social chasms that have made it extraordinarily difficult for Black males to become upwardly mobile.”

The bill passed as the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis’ casket made its way to the U.S. Capitol for a memorial service. Lewis, who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington and was a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., died on July 17.

The commission, which would include lawmakers and experts, would help Congress come up with policy solutions. The bill is modeled after a Florida commission that was created in 2006 by Rubio and Wilson when they served in the Florida Legislature together.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we take action to address the racial inequities that continue to plague our nation,” Rubio said in a statement. “America is more successful when its citizens have equal access to economic opportunity and prosperity, and this is particularly relevant for young Black men. As we confront the challenges of the 21st century, we will need to rely on the talents and contributions of every American. I applaud the House for passing the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, and I urge the president to sign it into law without delay.”

The U.S. Senate passed the legislation unanimously on June 25. The House passed the bill 368-1, with 62 members not voting. Wilson introduced the legislation in March of 2019, but the bill was fast-tracked in Congress after protests erupted across the country after Floyd’s death.


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