Before I was elected to the Senate, I served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and 45 suburbs. I know firsthand the vital role that law enforcement and public safety officers provide in keeping our citizens safe and we must give them the resources and support they need to do their jobs. Our justice system must also be based on the principles of fairness and equality under the law and must continue to address issues in policing and criminal justice.
As tragically brought home by the tragic murders of officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge and paramedic Adam Finseth in Burnsville, Minnesota, our public safety officers have incredibly dangerous jobs and we must support our police and firefighters who protect us.
In recent years, we have placed ever greater responsibilities on our police officers, firefighters, and first responders, who have been expected to significantly expand their abilities to respond to crises—while public safety budgets have been stretched increasingly thin. We must ensure that local, state, and federal first responders have the resources they need to do their jobs and purchase vital equipment, train law enforcement personnel, and modernize their information technology systems. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe we owe it to our public safety officers to make sure they have the technologies, tools, and training they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
Ensuring that our law enforcement officials have the resources needed to do their work is a critical part of combating crime. That is why I have long led reauthorizations of the COPS Hiring Program and have prioritized both the funding of local police officers across the country as well as the U.S. Capitol Police. In addition, our country has faced a rise in domestic terrorism in recent years. As Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, I led a bipartisan effort to find out what happened with regard to security and security planning in the lead-up to and during the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and we made necessary public safety changes.
At the same time, we must administer justice fairly. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I worked with my Senate colleagues on police reform measures focused on holding officers who break the law accountable for misconduct, increasing transparency in police practices, and improving police conduct and training. I have also long supported reforms to help ensure that our justice system works for everyone. That includes sentencing reforms, such as an increased use of drug courts. Drug courts help keep non-violent offenders out of prison and are one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism while providing access to treatment.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Providing our state and local law enforcement with critical tools to protect our communities. We must enhance and expand the programs that support local public safety officers. As the chief prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county, I saw what a difference it makes when law enforcement officers can actually create a partnership with local communities in Minnesota. I will continue to fight for these programs as well as other key federal initiatives for law enforcement and public safety. I have also always prioritized strong funding for our U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
- Taking on violent crime and carjacking. Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers must work together to address violent crime, including carjacking. Carjacking doesn’t just rob people of their vehicles— it robs them of their sense of security in their own community. I will continue to work closely with our U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that whenever possible they take on carjacking and other violent crime cases that are within federal jurisdiction. This is now a major priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.
- Combating fentanyl. In 2022, over 109,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses. We must protect Americans by working to prevent illicit drugs, like fentanyl, from entering the United States. I am committed to making sure that federal prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and the U.S. Postal Service have the tools they need to take on fentanyl.
- Addressing criminal justice reform. We must continue to take on the issues in policing and criminal justice that have gone unaddressed for too long. I will continue to work with my colleagues on police reform measures focused on holding officers who break the law accountable for misconduct, increasing transparency in policing practices, and improving police conduct and training. We must also increase transparency about prosecutorial decisions, including by collecting statistics on charges, plea agreements, and sentencing recommendations, and we should expand federal support for investments in conviction integrity units to increase post-conviction sentencing reviews. Fixing our justice system also means enacting important reforms to our pretrial system, like programs that pair people charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses with a community organization that can help ensure that they appear in court. It also means equipping all law enforcement officers with body cameras and increasing federal funding to support public defenders.
- Greater use of drug treatment courts. By giving prosecutors and judges more discretion in sentencing and focusing on reducing recidivism, we can allow law enforcement to prioritize those who threaten the safety of our communities while helping to decrease the number of non-violent, low-level drug offenders in our prisons. I have long led bipartisan efforts to update and modernize drug and alcohol treatment courts.
- Responding to the rise of prescription and synthetic drug abuse. Prescription opioids account for multiple overdose deaths in Minnesota, and too often people addicted to prescription opioids turn to illicit drugs because of their addiction. We must provide consumers with safe and effective means of disposing of prescription drugs so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. In recent years we have seen an alarming rise in the production, sale, and use of synthetic narcotics. These drugs have taken many lives, and we need to give law enforcement and the public the tools they need to identify illicit narcotics, fight the problem, and provide treatment to those who are addicted.
- Enhancing cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement. We must continue to target crime through partnerships among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. I’ve seen the tragic impact of the prescription drug, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl epidemics across Minnesota and the rise of synthetic drug use in our cities, suburbs, and rural communities. To tackle this, we must continue to support partnerships between law enforcement agencies with an emphasis on the treatment of addiction, and hold those who are profiting off of people’s addictions accountable.
- Improving police and community relations. We need to focus on both public safety and building trust between law enforcement and our communities. I have long supported important policies including videotaped interrogations, reforms to the eyewitness process, body cameras, diversity in hiring, and meaningful work between law enforcement and our citizens.
- Promoting gun safety. We have seen far too many precious lives cut short, families torn apart, and communities plagued by the fear of gun violence. People across our state and country are rightly demanding action. As the former Hennepin County Attorney, I worked to enforce the gun laws already on the books and have long supported efforts to promote gun safety including improving coordination between federal law enforcement and their state and local partners. We should pass commonsense gun safety legislation regarding convicted stalkers, ban assault weapons, improve background checks, and close the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy firearms.
- Preventing domestic violence. During my eight years as Hennepin County Attorney, I saw firsthand how domestic abuse destroyed families. Victims should never feel forced to choose between personal safety and financial stability. I am committed to ensuring that women and children have the resources they need to protect themselves from violence, leave abusive situations, and hold their abusers accountable.
- Protecting children from predators—both on the streets and on the internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety. Federal support is essential to local law enforcement to make sure sex offenders and other predators can be identified before they prey on victims. We must also hold Big Tech accountable for the harm that occurs on their platforms.
- Combating sex trafficking. As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to have policies in place that help victims break free from abuse. We must give prosecutors the tools they need to tackle sex trafficking and help make sure victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need.
- Enhancing online privacy and preventing cybercrimes and hacking. As more and more Americans rely on the internet to shop, pay their bills, and connect with family and friends, online sites and advertisers have become ever more sophisticated at tracking and gathering information about our online behavior. This raises serious concerns that consumers’ privacy is not properly protected, and cybersecurity breaches have affected businesses and consumers across the country. Our laws and enforcement tools must be as sophisticated as those trying to do us harm online. I will continue to advocate for measures that ensure confidence in online privacy and the security of consumer information.
- Countering domestic terrorism and violent extremism and supporting the Capitol Police. I have long supported efforts to strengthen the federal government’s response to domestic terrorism by establishing offices at the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security dedicated to combating this threat and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement to investigate and stop acts of domestic terrorism. As Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, I led the bipartisan effort to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol which resulted in necessary public safety changes. We must also protect our citizens from violent extremists and terrorist groups intent on doing harm. International terrorist groups have proven that they will go to extraordinary lengths to recruit U.S. citizens who could come back and foster extremism at home. One way to effectively stop this type of recruitment is for law enforcement to work hand-in-hand with local communities and to empower local leaders with tools to help keep young people off the path of extremism.
- Making our roads and highways safer. Too many drivers are texting behind the wheel or driving under the influence. The consequences of bad driving are devastating and demand greater action—no text message is worth dying for. As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to keep our roads safe and will continue to work to enact laws that prevent distracted driving. This is particularly important for teen drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for American teens, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are nearly three times more likely to get in a crash than older drivers per mile driven. We must encourage safe practices and smart programs for training new drivers.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I’ve been fighting to strengthen our commitment to public safety:
- Providing state and local law enforcement with critical tools to protect our communities. As the former chief prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county, I know that building relationships between law enforcement officers and the people they serve is essential to keeping communities safe. I will continue to work to expand programs that support local public safety officers as they prepare for and react to crimes, local crises, and homeland security threats. I have successfully fought for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) programs, which have provided state and local law enforcement with needed support to hire, train, and equip public safety officers. The most recent funding bill included $324 million to hire career law enforcement officers. I have led legislation to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States hire and train law enforcement officers to participate in community policing, and I have also fought to maintain funding for the Byrne JAG program, which provides support to local law enforcement for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, anti-gang efforts, specialized prosecutors, and other crime-fighting initiatives. I will also continue to fight for these programs as well as other key federal initiatives for law enforcement and public safety. Last Congress, I worked with Senator John Cornyn to pass the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Reauthorization Act, which supports state and local law enforcement agencies by funding mental health courts, crisis intervention teams, and other programs that help law enforcement assist people experiencing mental illness. I will continue to fight for these programs as well as other key federal initiatives for law enforcement and public safety.
- Taking on violent crime and carjacking. Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers must work together to address violent crime, including carjacking. Carjacking doesn’t just rob people of their vehicles—it robs them of their sense of security in their own community—and it must be a priority for law enforcement. Keeping our communities safe requires close coordination between local, state, and federal partners. That’s why I have urged the administration to prioritize federal resources to support state and local law enforcement who are working to combat increases in violent carjacking. I have also supported efforts by Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney to crack down on violent crime, including carjacking.
Throughout the country, we have also seen an alarming increase in catalytic converter thefts. These converters can be easily taken from unattended cars but are difficult and expensive for car owners to replace. I have heard firsthand from Minnesotans who have had a catalytic converter stolen from their vehicle. Some have had to spend thousands of dollars on repairs and give up their car for weeks while it is repaired.
We must do more to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts. That’s why I led a bipartisan group of my colleagues to introduce the Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts (PART) Act, which will require each converter be marked with a traceable identification number connecting it to the vehicle from which it originated. The bill will also establish converter theft as a federal criminal offense. This legislation will improve the ability of federal and state law enforcement to investigate catalytic converter thefts and catch criminals, and provide stronger deterrence against these crimes.
- Combating fentanyl. I have long led efforts to take on dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine. Ending the fentanyl and methamphetamine crises means halting the flow of drugs before they ever reach our country. I worked to pass the bipartisan FEND Off Fentanyl Act in the Senate, which would officially declare international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency and provide new authorities to impose tough sanctions on transnational criminal organizations in China, Mexico, or any other fentanyl supply chain hub. I am also fighting to get cutting-edge technology to detect and intercept drugs at our borders and bolster federal law enforcement’s ability to investigate online fentanyl and methamphetamine trafficking. And I am leading legislation to crack down on online drug dealing and hold social media companies accountable by requiring them to report drug trafficking on their platforms to law enforcement. This will help law enforcement crack down on illegal drug sales and protect kids. Social media has been a gateway to drugs for too many kids, and we must meet this threat with the all-hands-on-deck response it requires. I also introduced a bill with Senator Rob Portman, the STOP Act, to help prevent dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped through our postal system from overseas. The bill was signed into law in 2018 as part of legislation to address the opioid epidemic, and I have worked with Senator Portman to urge the administration to ensure the law is fully enforced. In April 2023, I introduced the STOP 2.0 Act with Senator Shelly Moore Capito, which strengthens the original STOP Act by providing federal law enforcement agencies with additional tools to crack down on illegal drug shipments. I will continue to work across the aisle to give law enforcement the tools and resources they need to address this epidemic.
- Combating the opioid abuse epidemic and methamphetamine. I led three bipartisan bills that were signed into law as part of legislation to address the opioid epidemic in October 2018: the SALTS Act, which I led with Senator Lindsey Graham to make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of “analogue” drugs, which are synthetic substances that are substantially similar to illegal drugs; the STOP Act, which I introduced with Senator Rob Portman to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped through our postal system from overseas; and the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, which I introduced with Senator Marco Rubio to help crack down on health care facilities or providers that try to game the system to take advantage of vulnerable patients. In addition, along with three other senators, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which became law in July 2016. This bipartisan legislation encourages states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies in the fight against methamphetamine and opioid addiction, including expanding access to naloxone among law enforcement and other first responders.
In 2020, I introduced the CARA 2.0 Act with a bipartisan group of senators to build on the momentum of CARA by increasing funding and putting in place additional policy reforms to combat the opioid epidemic. One important provision in the CARA 2.0 Act is based on my bipartisan bill, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, to require states that receive certain federal funding to have prescription drug monitoring programs that use best practices to stop the kind of “doctor shopping” that facilitates addiction and to share their data with other states. We know that opioid addiction too often begins with the abuse of legal prescription painkillers, and with this bill, we can do something about that. In addition, we must continue working to help those suffering from addiction to access the treatment that they need. I helped to introduce the LifeBOAT Act with Senator Joe Manchin which simply places a one-cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill to create a permanent stream of funding for substance abuse treatment, and I’m continuing to fight for additional funds and resources for communities that have been impacted by addiction.
- Banning synthetic drugs. I introduced the Combating Designer Drugs Act to ban the substance known as 2C-E, a synthetic hallucinogen, and eight other similar substances. This legislation was a response to a tragic event in March 2011 where a Minnesota teenager died and ten others were hospitalized after overdosing on 2C-E. During that time, I also cosponsored two additional pieces of legislation to ban synthetic drugs. These bills banning dangerous synthetic drugs were signed into law in July 2012. Finally, I introduced the Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act, legislation to make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of new synthetic drugs that are “analogues,” or substantially similar to current illegal drugs. That bill became law in October 2018.
- Supporting treatment courts. During my time in the Senate, I have been the leading advocate to provide critical support to our nation’s treatment courts. Drug and alcohol treatment courts divert nonviolent drug offenders from prison and jail into treatment. The drug court model is one of the most successful, cost-effective tools for cutting recidivism rates and reducing crime in our communities. Three out of every four people who graduate from these programs are not arrested again—a 75 percent success rate, compared to just 30 percent in the traditional system. Drug courts also save taxpayer dollars by an average of $3,000 to $13,000 per person. Every $1 invested in drug courts saves more than $3 in criminal justice costs alone, as much as $27 on fewer emergency room visits, and lower health care, foster care, welfare, and property loss costs. By using drug courts for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, we can help people become productive members of society.
- Allowing for safe disposal of prescription drugs. I authored the bipartisan Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act—which was signed into law by President Obama in October 2010—to provide consumers with safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused controlled substances. This law allows individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver the most dangerous prescription drugs to law enforcement officials for safe disposal and also promotes the development and expansion of drug take-back programs.
- Promoting gun safety. We must continue to come together across party lines to pass common sense gun safety legislation that will prevent violence and save lives. As the former Hennepin County Attorney, I worked to enforce the gun laws already on the books and have long supported efforts to promote gun safety. That is why I worked with my colleagues to pass the first bipartisan federal bill into law to address gun violence in nearly 30 years. The bill included provisions based on a bill I have led for years to prevent abusive dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun. It also strengthens background checks for people under 21 years old, cracks down on illegal straw purchases, expands investments in mental health services, and provides support to states to implement red flag laws. But there is more we should do, and I will continue to work to pass legislation to improve background checks and to close the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy firearms. I also lead a bill to address the proliferation of deadly gun conversion devices that can turn semi-automatic handguns into fully automatic weapons and have cosponsored bills to ban military-style assault weapons and ban “bump-stock” devices that can increase a semiautomatic rifle’s rate of fire to 700 rounds per minute.
- Supporting victims of assault, abuse, and stalking. In November 2019, I introduced legislation with several of my Senate colleagues to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark law that has had a profound role in protecting women and supporting the victims of sexual and domestic violence. On March 10, 2022, I voted to include similar legislation as part of a funding package that passed the Senate by a vote of 68-31, which was signed into law. This important bill includes legislation I introduced with Senator Cornyn—the Abby Honold Act—which promotes the use of trauma-informed techniques by law enforcement when responding to sexual assault crimes. I also led the effort to pass the VAWA reauthorization in 2013, which included provisions from my bipartisan STALKERS Act to improve federal anti-stalking laws and protect victims by providing prosecutors with tools to combat the growing threat of cyberstalking. As county attorney, I also supported the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act, which was signed into law in 2006 and established a publicly available national database of sex offenders.
I have also worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals, such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors, to detect and prevent child abuse. Finally, in response to the rise in reports of domestic violence during the pandemic, I led the effort with Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Bob Casey to increase federal support for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Providing firefighters and first responders with the support they deserve. Our firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe and are often exposed to carcinogens that can have lethal long-term effects. Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, and currently the families of firefighters who lost their lives because of service-related cancers are not eligible to receive the same federal benefits that other service-related deaths are entitled to. It’s unacceptable that firefighters who succumb to cancer from service-related exposure don’t receive the same treatment as others who die in the line of duty. That’s why I introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Kevin Cramer to ensure that firefighters get the support they’ve earned. Our bipartisan legislation will honor the memory and sacrifice of St. Paul Fire Department Captain Michael Paidar and so many others who risk their lives in service of their communities.
- Providing police and first responders with the salaries and benefits they deserve. As demonstrated by the tragic deaths of officers Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge and paramedic Adam Finseth in Burnsville, Minnesota, the work of law enforcement and paramedics is very dangerous. I have long led federal legislation funding local police officers – the COPS Hiring program – which provides critical resources to police departments to hire, train, and retain officers. In addition, I am a strong supporter of the Byrne JAG program, which provides equipment, training, and technology to first responders.
- Reforming our justice system. I have worked on police reform measures focused on holding officers who break the law accountable for misconduct, ending the use of chokeholds, increasing transparency in police practices, and improving police conduct and training.
We have also made some progress in recent years to reform sentencing. In December 2018, the First Step Act was signed into law. I was a cosponsor of this important bill, which was signed into law by then-President Trump and made needed reforms to our sentencing laws and prisons, including allowing judges to impose sentences below the mandatory minimum for certain non-violent, low-level drug offenders; reducing some of the longest sentences now on the books; and expanding access to substance abuse treatment and programs to prepare people to reenter society through employment and training opportunities. I also believe that once someone has served their time, they must be allowed to participate fully in our democracy, and I have worked to restore the right to vote of formerly incarcerated Americans.
- Countering domestic terrorism and violent extremism and funding the Capitol Police. Addressing the threat of domestic terrorism and violent extremism must be a priority in Washington and across the country. I have long supported legislation to strengthen the federal government’s response to domestic terrorism by establishing offices at the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security dedicated to combating this threat and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement to investigate and stop acts of domestic terrorism. As Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, I led bipartisan hearings to get much-needed answers from witnesses from federal agencies and key officials tasked with protecting the Capitol on January 6th. We focused on the security, planning, and response failures related to the attack on the Capitol, and we have made significant security changes as a result of our hearing and report.
We have worked to improve security at the Capitol, including making sure that officers are equipped with proper protective equipment and improving officers’ access to intelligence briefings. In addition, we increased funding for the Capitol Police. I also led bipartisan legislation—the Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act—to ensure that the Capitol Police chief can immediately request assistance from the National Guard in an emergency. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was signed into law.
- Protecting victims of hate crimes. When I first got to the Senate, I worked hard to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. As a prosecutor, I was at the White House when President Bill Clinton introduced the bill, and nine years later, I got to cast one of the deciding votes to make the bill a reality. Since then, I've worked with Senator Murkowski to introduce the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act, which will help to ensure that federal prosecutors can effectively enforce the federal hate crimes law. I also joined Senator Hirono on a bill to require the Department of Justice to invest the resources needed to fully investigate hate crimes against Asian Americans, which was signed into law in May 2021. And after the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington was the target of a bombing in August 2017, and earlier that year bomb threats were made against the St. Paul Jewish Community Center and the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, I cosponsored legislation to strengthen protections for religious institutions that was signed into law in September 2018. I have also led calls to increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to protect houses of worship.
- Helping law enforcement find missing children. In the 112th Congress, I authored the bipartisan Access to Information about Missing Children Act with Senator John Cornyn of Texas to help federal, state, and local law enforcement locate missing children whose whereabouts could be discovered through basic information on federal tax returns. This legislation has been supported by Patty Wetterling, my friend and a child safety advocate, whose son, Jacob, was kidnapped and killed near his family’s home in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1989. I introduced bipartisan legislation, the Recovering Missing Children Act, with Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and former Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming to help law enforcement locate missing and exploited children. Our bill was signed into law in July 2016.
- Shielding children from inappropriate content. I am a cosponsor of the Strengthening Transparency and Obligations to Protection Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (STOP CSAM Act). The legislation cracks down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online, supports victims, and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.I also authored, along with Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act. This bill would establish federal criminal liability for people who knowingly distribute or threaten to distribute intimate images of people without their consent. It would also address gaps in current law dealing with images of children. These bills passed the Judiciary Committee in 2023. In addition, I cosponsor the Kids Online Safety Act which allows parents to better protect their childrens’ health and well-being by allowing them to opt-out of addictive algorithms. It also creates a duty of care for social media platforms. This bill passed the Commerce Committee in 2023. And I cosponsor the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Federal Trade Commission to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the internet by children and directing the U.S. Commerce Department to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. Additionally, I support new technologies that give parents greater control over what their kids see on television and what they can do on the internet. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against online predators.
- Combating sex trafficking. I was a lead sponsor of the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which was signed into law in May 2015. This bipartisan legislation protects victims of child sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking by increasing law enforcement resources, improving victim services, and enhancing penalties. I then led legislation with Senator John Cornyn that was signed into law in December 2018 to strengthen key programs supporting survivors of human trafficking and provide resources to law enforcement officials working on the front lines of the fight against trafficking. I also authored the comprehensive bipartisan Stop Exploitation through Trafficking Act (SETT), which was enacted into law as part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. My provision gives prosecutors the tools they need to tackle sex trafficking and helps make sure victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need. The bill is modeled after Minnesota’s “safe harbor” law, which helps ensure that minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but rather are treated as victims. In 2016, I introduced the Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act to require training for flight attendants to recognize and report suspected incidents of human trafficking. A provision based on my legislation was included in the FAA reauthorization bill that was passed into law in July 2016. Additionally, I introduced legislation that became law in December 2016 to ensure funding for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which provides 24-hour service, including forwarding tips to law enforcement and connecting victims of trafficking with resources and support. This Congress, the Judiciary Committee also passed two bipartisan bills that I lead to stop the exploitation of children online. The Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act fills in existing gaps in federal law related to images of minors so that prosecutors can hold all those who exploit children accountable. And our Project Safe Childhood Act makes important updates to an initiative at the Justice Department to combat child sexual exploitation. The Project Safe Childhood Act unanimously passed the Senate in October 2023.
- Enhancing online privacy and preventing cybercrimes and hacking. I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana to protect the privacy of consumers’ online data by ensuring that companies use plain language to explain to consumers how their data is being used, allowing consumers to opt out of certain data tracking and collection, and requiring companies to notify consumers of privacy violations within 72 hours of a breach. I have also introduced comprehensive federal online privacy legislation to establish privacy rights, outlaw harmful and deceptive practices, and improve data security safeguards with Senator Cantwell of Washington, Senator Schatz of Hawaii, and Senator Markey of Massachusetts. In addition, I have worked to provide the Department of Defense and our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to strengthen our cybersecurity and have called on investigations of breaches to ensure we have the information we need to protect consumers.
In February 2019, I introduced legislation with Senator Thune of South Dakota to establish a program to recruit experts in the private sector and to do limited tours of duty in the federal government for up to two years. Our bill will also help government computer experts spend time in the private sector to learn best practices, which can then be applied to help further secure government computer systems and critical infrastructure. The bill passed the Commerce Committee in November 2019. After receiving alarming reports that our federal government websites were rendered unsecure during the 2019 government shutdown, I called on the executive branch to make sure that our federal government websites and online infrastructure remain secure in the event of a future shutdown or appropriations lapse. As more sophisticated cybersecurity hacks target our government and businesses, I will continue to advocate for measures that ensure confidence in online privacy and the security of consumer information.
- Providing first responders with life-saving communications tools. I was an original cosponsor of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act to allow for state-of-the-art technology that will help first responders in both rural and urban communities at no cost to taxpayers. I helped pass legislation to implement a nationwide wireless network to allow our first responders to clearly communicate when disaster strikes and focus on doing what they do best—saving lives. As co-chair of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, I am working with members of both parties to reauthorize the federal 9-1-1 Coordination Office. In August 2023, I reintroduced the Next Generation 9-1-1 Act to create a federal grant program to help state and local governments deploy next-generation 9-1-1 systems across the country. This is an effort to manage the transition to the Next Generation 9-1-1 emergency response system based on high-speed digital wireless networks, and these upgrades will enable 9-1-1 dispatchers to work remotely at virtual call centers, as well as handle text messages, pictures, videos, and other information sent by smartphones, tablets, and other devices in an emergency, which is critically important during crises like the current pandemic. I also introduced the bipartisan Kari’s Law Act, which was signed into law in February 2018, to ensure that dialing 9-1-1 from multi-line telephone systems—like those used at many businesses, college campuses, and hotels—is as simple and efficient as possible.
- Fighting cell phone theft. Robberies often involve cell phone theft, with criminals targeting smartphones for their high resale value and for the valuable personal and financial information they contain. I introduced the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which would require the wireless industry to move forward with installing “kill switch” technology on all smartphones that will protect consumer data on the phone and allow consumers to render the device inoperable if the phone is stolen. After the initial push in 2014, wireless and device companies, including Apple, AT&T, Google, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon, committed to installing kill switch technology on new smartphones. I am working to make sure manufacturers and providers make good on this commitment and continue to take steps to ensure that all consumers have access to the most advanced technologies to protect their smartphones and personal information.
- Protecting driver’s privacy. I authored the Driver Privacy Act in 2014 and 2015 along with Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota to make clear that the owner of the vehicle is the rightful owner of the data collected by a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR). An EDR temporarily stores data from the vehicle’s safety systems following a crash. While EDRs provide important data that can be used to better protect passengers, we need to ensure consumers’ privacy is being protected. The Driver Privacy Act was included in the long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that was passed into law in December 2015.
- Improving teen driver safety. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in nearly three times as many fatal car crashes as other drivers. Becoming a safe driver requires experience and practice. To help reduce teen driving deaths, I introduced the Students Taking Action for Road Safety (STARS) Act to use peer-to-peer prevention strategies to educate teens about the dangers of everything from drunk driving and speeding to using seatbelts and texting while driving. This bill will help bring together law enforcement, educators, and local communities to give our teen drivers the tools they need to become responsible drivers and make our roads safer. I also joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce the STAND Up Act to encourage states to adopt graduated driver license programs that have proven effective at reducing the crash risk of new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in lower-risk settings, and teaching them to eliminate distractions that cause accidents. Provisions from both of these bills were included in the surface transportation reauthorization bill that was signed into law in July 2012. In June 2014 and May 2015, I introduced the Improving Driver Safety Act, which would help ensure that more states can access critical funding to improve distracted driving enforcement and public education. This legislation, as well as my provision to enable more states to qualify for federal funding for graduated driver's license programs, were included in the long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that was passed into law in December 2015.