- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2019

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential race are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at some of them that may have flown under the radar.

Pete Buttigieg on Thursday released a plan he said would combat systemic racism in America by boosting funds for historically black colleges and universities, promoting minority entrepreneurship and overhauling the criminal justice system.

He named it the “Douglass Plan” after abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass, and said it would increase black Americans’ access to education and federal contracts.

“It’s very clear that as a consequence of systemic racism, black Americans have been excluded from the growth and the opportunity that our nation has provided,” said Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

A significant chunk of the plan is devoted to criminal justice reform.

Mr. Buttigieg would legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions, end incarceration for drug possession, cut sentences for other drug offenses, and apply those sentence reductions retroactively.

He would also seek to end mandatory minimum sentences and cut time for a “significant number” of crimes, and would try to commute sentences that stretch “beyond what justice warrants.”

Warren on immigration

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday proposed an overhaul of immigration laws she said would help the immediate border situation while also setting the country on a more lenient path toward immigration in the future.

She called for a task force to investigate alleged abuses of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, saying President Trump has advanced a “policy of cruelty.”

“Let there be no ambiguity on this: If you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren administration will hold you accountable,” she said.

She said she would expand access to asylum and create more chances for immigrants to enter legally, while still finding a way to put “American workers first.”

Ms. Warren also said she would reduce the use of detention for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and take the immigration courts out of the Justice Department, saying they need independence to be more fair.

And she said she would reinstate protection from deportation for “Dreamers,” and would try to get legislation passed that grants a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million immigrants who are in the in the country illegally.

“We cannot continue to ignore our immigration challenges, nor can we close our borders and isolate the United States from the outside world,” she said in a Medium post.

Harris on rape kit backlog

Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Thursday unveiled a $1 billion plan to close the nationwide backlog of untested rape kits, saying the federal government needs to “prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault, and rape.”

Ms. Harris’s campaign tied the proposal to the newly announced sex trafficking charges against financier Jeffrey Epstein, and said it builds on work she did as California attorney general.

“I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office,” Ms. Harris said. “We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.”

The group End the Backlog estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in police and crime storage facilities across the country, and that it costs $1,000 to $1,500 to test each.

Ms. Harris’s campaign estimated that the program would cost about $100 million per year, and that it would allow states to fully eliminate their backlogs within four years and keep backlogs from creeping back up in the future.

States would have to do annual counts of untested rape kits, quickly test all newly collected kits, track the kits and give victims the right to know about their status, and increase availability of the kits.

De Blasio on equal pay

Amid the fervor surrounding the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that as president he would unilaterally force team members to be paid the same as their male counterparts if Congress doesn’t act.

He said he would insist that Congress amend the Amateur Sports Act to require equal pay for men and women “in all of our national sports teams.”

“If they didn’t do it, I’d use an executive order to have the Treasury Department enforce on the U.S. Soccer Federation — [because] they’re tax-exempt, and they’re discriminating, in effect, against women in pay,” Mr. de Blasio said on CNN.

“That should be stopped through the Treasury Department’s power,” he said. “I would do that as president through executive order.”

The women’s team, which defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup final Sunday, sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March on gender discrimination grounds, saying members are paid less than members of the U.S. men’s team for doing substantially similar work.

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