Norton Files Amendments to Block Permanent Capitol Fencing, Permit Electric Scooters at Capitol, and Block BOP Fees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced four amendments she filed today to fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills. The House Rules Committee is expected to consider the amendments next week.
Norton’s first amendment would prohibit Legislative Branch agencies from using their funds to install permanent, above-ground fencing at the Capitol complex. Norton has led the effort to prevent permanent fencing from being installed at the Capitol complex following the January 6th attack. Norton instead supports smarter security options and better intelligence solutions, such as below-ground, retractable fencing. Norton called permanent fencing unsightly and intimidating to visitors and District of Columbia residents and pointed out the limited security value of a barrier between the public and our nation’s seat of government.
“Permanent fencing would send an un-American message to the nation and the world by transforming our democracy from one that is accessible and of the people to one that is exclusive and fearful of its own citizens,” Norton said. “It would tell the world that the most powerful nation must rely on crude barriers for safety instead of state-of-the-art approaches. We can and must maintain our commitment to security without sacrificing public access by using the least restrictive means necessary to address security.”
Earlier this Congress, Norton introduced the No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act, which would prohibit the use of federal funds to install permanent fencing at the Capitol complex. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the companion bill. Norton also hosted an expert roundtable on fencing at the Capitol complex.
Norton’s second amendment would prohibit the United States Capitol Police from using its funds to enforce the prohibition on the use of scooters at the Capitol complex. Despite the increasing use of electric scooters as a new mode of transportation that reduces congestion and air pollution, and their widespread use by District residents, tourists, and congressional staff, electric scooters are banned at the Capitol complex.
“Electric scooters are an affordable, environmentally friendly, and efficient mode of transportation,” Norton said. “The positive benefits and promise of electric scooters warrant treating them like motorized bicycles, mopeds, and the other low-speed vehicles that are already permitted at the Capitol complex.”
In 2019, Norton sent a letter urging the Capitol Police to amend their policies to permit electric scooters at the Capitol complex, while adopting narrowly tailored regulations to protect public safety.
Norton’s third amendment would prohibit the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from using its funds to collect subsistence fees for returning citizens in halfway houses. D.C. Code inmates are housed by BOP. Congress imposed subsistence fees on returning citizens in halfway houses and on home confinement supposedly to promote fiscal responsibility by requiring returning citizens to pay a portion of their housing costs. The fee is currently 25% of a returning citizen’s income. Norton’s amendment has passed the House each of the last two years.
“Halfway house subsistence fees are counterproductive, do not lead to decreased recidivism or help returning citizens actually return to society,” Norton said. “Returning citizens who are fortunate enough to find work frequently work minimum wage jobs, and should not have up to 25% of their paycheck taken for these unnecessary fees, which should go instead toward necessary costs, such as rent, child support, or fines and fees associated with their conviction, such as restation.”
The Department of Justice has recognized how “counterproductive” subsistence fees are, both for returning citizens and for BOP. In a November 2016 memo, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates noted that BOP’s “process for collecting these subsistence fees is costly and administratively burdensome for both [halfway houses] and [BOP],” and called for DOJ to “develop a plan to limit the use of counterproductive ‘subsistence’ fees imposed on indigent residents.” BOP already waives the fees for individuals on home confinement. In light of the pandemic, BOP has also waived the fees for individuals in halfway houses.
Norton’s fourth amendment would prohibit BOP from using its funds to collect health care co-pays from inmates. BOP currently requires inmates to pay $2 for health care visits. When inmates are often paid only 12-40 cents per hour on their work assignments, $2 is significant. “We should not be discouraging inmates from visits to their doctors for preventive care or if they have a medical condition,” Norton said. “This can cause delay for necessary treatment that could be treated more efficiently and cheaper if done earlier.”