Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sen. Al Franken is up to good again

Almost a month ago, Sen. Al Franken introduced an amendment to a bill that would prevent the federal government from entering into contracts with companies who make their contractors/employees sign agreements saying they can't sue if they're raped (among other things).

Now Franken has introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, to do something about the backlog of rape kits in this country.

The legislation -- called the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act -- sounds like a great bill, much-needed, and long overdue. According to the Minnesota Independent, the bill would:
  • Encourage states to examine untested rape kits for DNA evidence
  • Provide for more health workers trained to administer rape-kit exams, particularly for Native American women.
  • Make it so women couldn’t be made to pay for all or part of their rape kit exams (remember this Texas story?).
Each of those components are crucial on their own, let alone all together. I can't see how this legislation doesn't get passed (but I don't doubt our government's ability to disappoint me). It's exciting to see legislation that could have a meaningful impact on not just catching suspects in rape cases, but also actually helping women who have been raped. (I consider having someone who knows what they're doing when they're administering a rape kit "helpful," as well as not having to pay for the kit.)

For more information on this bill and the impact it could have, check out the Ms. Magazine article and the press release from the Human Rights Watch, which has a lot of applicable statistics in it (number of untested rape kits in L.A.? 12,500. In Detroit? 10,000) as well as more information on how decreasing the rape kit backlog would work.

You can also read the full text of the bill and track it here.

After the defense contractor legislation and this, I can't help but wonder just how powerful an ally Franken might become to women in this country, and to all citizens. Just the other day he spoke about employment discrimination and how people who are gay or transgender can be legally fired from their jobs for those reasons alone. (He even introduced legislation to require that household products list all ingredients -- how is that not being done yet??) One thing is certain: Try as they might, Republicans can't reduce Franken to a comedy act anymore.


Lauren said...

Surprised to read that Sen. Hatch is on board with this, but very pleased. Yay Sen. Franken!

Rosie said...

I was surprised too, but it gives me hope that he and Grassley are co-sponsoring. (Hope in the sense that it will make it into actual legislation.)


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