House Passes Three Rush-led Bills (Washington, DC) — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) applauded the House passage of three of his bills in the final weeks of his Congressional career. The House passed provisions based on Rush’s Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act (H.R. 2489), Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 670), and Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act (H.R. 3320). All three bills had previously passed the Senate, and now head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“I am deeply humbled that in my final weeks in Congress, so many of my bills head to the President to be signed into law,” said Rep. Rush. “This legislation includes many of my top priorities, including criminal justice reform, expanding educational and employment opportunities for underrepresented communities, and creating a national heritage area on Chicago’s South Side. Once enacted, this legislation will continue to enhance the lives of the underserved and help preserve the profound and robust African American contribution to our vibrant American history.”
Rep. Rush’s three bills that passed yesterday and today consist of:
- Provisions based on the Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act, which would require that rates for phone calls to or from incarcerated individuals be just and reasonable, prohibiting the long-standing practice of charging the families of incarcerated individuals unconscionable rates just so they can stay in touch with their families.
The bill passed the House by voice vote yesterday and passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Rush named the bill after Martha Wright-Reed, who became an activist on prison phone issues after her grandson was transferred to a facility over 2,000 miles away from her home. Wright-Reed was unable to travel to see her grandson, and was outraged when the fees for keeping in touch with her grandson over the phone added up to hundreds of dollars a month. Rep. Rush first introduced legislation on the issue in 2005, and, later, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the Senate companion bill.
- Provisions based on the Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act, which will create a National Heritage Area (NHA) in Chicago stretching from 18th Street down to 71st Street. Rush worked with Bronzeville’s local National Heritage Area Commission to craft the bill, and the bill names the Commission as the local coordinating authority for the NHA. The designation of the NHA would unlock up to $10 million in Federal funding for Bronzeville.
Local activists have worked on pursuing a heritage area for years, and in 2013, the local Commission partnered with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) on a study to prove the feasibility of the NHA. That study was updated in 2022.
The NHA will focus on the cultural legacy of Bronzeville and of the Great Migration’s legacy of Black American who moved to the South Side of Chicago in the early 1900’s.
Rep. Rush partnered with Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on the bill, which was included in the National Heritage Area Act (S. 1942), along with several other NHA’s. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and passed the House by a vote of 326–95 on Thursday.
- Provisions based on the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to make grants to educational institutions to offer scholarships, stipends, and other educational opportunities to underrepresented groups so they can enter physical, occupational, and other therapeutic professions.
A 2017 report by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) found that more than 77% of professionals in the physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology fields are Caucasian, while less than 5% of these professionals are Black and less than 7% are Hispanic. Respiratory therapists, who have provided lifesaving care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, are also overwhelmingly white — more than 70% of respiratory therapists identified as Caucasian, compared to 13% who identified as Black and 8% who identified as Hispanic, according to that same HRSA report.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine found that patients have better health outcomes when their doctor is of the same racial or ethnic background; however, given the dramatic underrepresentation of minorities in these positions, it is extremely difficult for patients of color to receive care from doctors of a similar racial or ethnic background.
Rep. Rush partnered with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on the bill. The bill was included as a part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Omnibus bill, which passed the House by a vote of 225– 201 today and the Senate by a vote of 68–29 on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the House also passed the bipartisan Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021 (S. 450), which Rush sponsored in the House and awards Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest-level of recognition bestowed by Congress to highlight achievements and contributions of national significance. Ms. Mobley-Till’s work to raise awareness of her son Emmett’s lynching sparked national outrage and served as a catalyst for the Civil-Right Movement. This bill had previously passed the Senate unanimously, and also heads to the President to be signed into law.
House Passes Three Rush-led Bills