- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2020

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.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts released a plan Wednesday that would push for new laws to criminalize spreading online disinformation intended to suppress voter turnout.

Among other measures, Ms. Warren said her administration would propose creating “civil and criminal penalties for knowingly disseminating false information about when and how to vote in U.S. elections.”

“In both the 2016 and 2018 elections, online disinformation sought to depress voter turnout by telling people they could vote via text, giving people the wrong date for Election Day and more,” Ms. Warren said on her campaign website. “I will push for new laws that impose tough civil and criminal penalties for knowingly disseminating this kind of information, which has the explicit purpose of undermining the basic right to vote.”

The intelligence community has previously assessed that Russian internet trolls attempted to interfere in the U.S. electoral process partly by spreading fake information on social media.

Ms. Warren also urged fellow White House hopefuls to take a stand against online disinformation as Election Day nears.

“I will not tolerate the use of false information or false accounts to attack my opponents, promote my campaign, or undermine our elections. And I urge my fellow candidates to do the same,” she tweeted.

Sanders on clean water

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont on Wednesday introduced legislation that directs the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on “forever chemicals” and try to get them out of the country’s drinking water.

The legislation would require the EPA to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known more commonly by the acronym PFAS, as hazardous and would provide federal grants to communities to try to filter them out of drinking water.

“As hundreds of communities across the country are dealing with toxic PFAS contamination in their drinking water, it is unconscionable that huge corporations like DuPont have, for decades, concealed evidence of how dangerous these compounds are to keep profiting at the expense of human health,” the Vermont senator said.

The chemicals, which can be found in many household items and consumer products as well as firefighting foam, have been linked to adverse health effects, including cancer. At least some traces of the chemicals have been found in the blood of the vast majority of U.S. residents.

Mr. Sanders’ bill would ban the use of the chemicals in food packaging and prohibit the incineration of waste PFAS firefighting foam.

The legislation follows action from some states to impose their own PFAS-related drinking water standards.

Bloomberg on LGBTQ rights

Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Tuesday rolled out a plan designed to ensure equal treatment of LGBTQ people under the law, including new efforts aimed at cutting violence directed at transgender people.

Mr. Bloomberg would prioritize FBI investigations of hate crimes and improve data collection on homicides against LGBTQ individuals.

He also would reverse President Trump’s push to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military and work to overcome “medical barriers” for people seeking health care and “medically necessary transition-related care.”

“We will close disparities in health care access and quality, stop violence against transgender people and advocate for equal rights across the world,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We cannot settle for anything less — and I won’t.”

Mr. Bloomberg also wants to reinstate benefits to veterans who left the U.S. military before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed and safeguard protections for LGBTQ people in the refugee and asylum systems, among other priorities.

Biden on pandemic response

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Monday outlined several steps he would take to protect the U.S. from a widespread pandemic, amid ever-increasing numbers of people worldwide being sickened by the new coronavirus.

Mr. Biden said he would ask Congress to bolster the public health emergency fund and give him more flexibility to declare a disaster if the threat of a widespread infectious disease requires it.

He also would renew funding for a national network of hospitals that can isolate and treat infectious diseases. The funding is due to expire in May.

He announced the policies in a column for USA Today in which he slammed President Trump as incapable of handling a pandemic.

“Trump’s demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge,” he said.

He said Mr. Trump pushed for budget cuts to federal health initiatives and he touted the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which included the deployment of thousands of U.S. military personnel to Africa to help coordinate the global effort.

• Andrew Blake contributed to this report.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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