Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Honoring National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Winners

October 19, 2018

Dear Friend,

This week, I attended the Freedom Awards at the National Civil Rights Museum, wrote to five pharmaceutical companies about high drug prices and their tax windfall, expressed my concern about unprocessed voter applications, noted the local impact of DNA evidence in solving crimes, attended the swearing in of Juvenile Court Magistrate Alycia Carter Chism, visited students at Crosstown High School, talked to students at the Memphis Business Academy, read about my recent visit to constituents at the U.S. Naval Academy, planned next Friday’s “Congress On Your Corner,” invited veterans to my annualVeterans Day event,offered some U.S. Capitol Society calendars and provided a health tip involving earthquake preparedness. Keep reading to learn more about my week and follow me on Twitter and Facebook to see more updates as they happen. 

Honoring National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Winners 
Demanding Answers from Big PHARMA on Drug Prices 
Pressing Shelby County Elections Officials for Answers 
Noting the Local Impact of DNA Evidence in Solving Crime 
Attending Swearing In of Juvenile Court Magistrate Alycia Carter Chism 
Visiting Crosstown High School Students 
Talking with Students at Memphis Business Academy 
Reading about Visit to 9th Congressional District Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy 
Holding “Congress On Your Corner” next Friday 
Inviting Vets to MyAnnualVeterans Day Gathering 
Offering U.S. Capitol Historical Society Calendars 
Signing Up for “Congress On Your Corner” and this e-Newsletter 
Weekly Health Tip 
Quote of the Week 


Honoring National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Winners

On Wednesday, I attended the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award Student Forum and helped honor “Keeper of the Dream” student winners Sarah Rosenthal of Germantown Middle School, Timmy Becton Jr. of Douglass High School, Xinya (Cindy) Tan of White Station High School and Cameron Jones of Marion High School in Arkansas as well as the Bridge Builders cohort of Caitlin Robinson from the Hutchison School, Lakia Coakley from Middle College High School, Aaliyah James from Overton High School, Elena Matadefrom Bellevue Middle School and Aniya Mull from Soulsville Charter School. They are keeping the dream alive.

That night, I attended the NCRM’s Freedom Awards and saw former Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Memphis entrepreneur and philanthropist J.R. “Pitt” Hyde honored for their lives of public service. Biden told the crowd at The Orpheum Theater that we are living through “a battle for the soul of this nation.” The 27th awards ceremony was infused with the music of the late, great Memphis native Aretha Franklin, who passed awayin August, and whose grandchildren were in the audience. Fifty years after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of Senator Robert Kennedy, on whose staff Biden was working in 1968, it was an especially moving and memorable evening. 

Demanding Answers from Big PHARMA on Drug Prices

On Monday, I joined 15 colleagues in sending letters to the CEOs of five large pharmaceutical companies that benefit from corporate tax breaks and publicly funded research, demanding answers to the problem of soaring prescription drug prices. The five corporations to which we wrote – AmgenAbbVieEli LillyMerck and Pfizer – each benefitted from last year’s GOP tax bill with windfall tax cuts. We want to know why, despite receiving massive amounts of U.S. taxpayer support, the companies are charging prices that place life-saving medications out of the reach of many Americans. We also asked if they had discontinued any drugs in development and, for those companies scaling back employment in their research divisions, what business factors affected those decisions. We concluded the letters by asking how much their top executives are getting paid. I will continue to press this issue and get answers on these important public policy issues.

Pressing Shelby County Elections Officials for Answers

Today, when I went to vote I was disturbed to learn that the voting booth large screen format that I chose does not follow the law in terms of how the candidates’ names are placed on the ballot.  Tennessee law requires that the names of the major parties’ candidates be listed first and second and then independent (non-party affiliated) candidates listed after. When I chose the large screen format, I discovered that the second major party candidate’s name doesn’t even appear on the first page of the large format.  I have contacted the Shelby County Election Commission as well as Secretary of State Tre Hargett to express my concern.   It is the duty of election officials to ensure that ballots are in order as required by law before the first voter steps into the booth, and that federal voting rights are protected.  

Earlier in the week,  Iwas disappointedwhen it became clear that 24,000 pending voter registration applications in Shelby County still had not been processed even as Early Voting for the Midterms got under way. That, combined with the Shelby County Election Commission’s assertion last week that 55 percent of the voter applications it had received were invalid, raise critical questions. As a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, whose jurisdiction includes oversight compliance with theVoting Rights Act, I believe this matter is serious. We have an ugly history in this country of voter suppression, especially against prospective African American voters. We need to ensure that all who have the right to vote have that right upheld in this election. I havewritten to the commission and am continuing to press for answers. 

Noting the Local Impact of DNA Evidence in Solving Crime

This week, welearned about the recent use of DNA evidence to win a conviction against the perpetrator of an 18-year-old rape that occurred in southwest Memphis. That evidence was finally tested 12 years after the crime occurred. DNA analysis is a powerful tool to bring about justice, but that doesn’t happen when rape kit evidence sits on shelves untested. I have amended multiple House bills to increase funding to for rape kit analysis to address a shameful nationwide backlog. Since 2014, my amendments have increased funding for the Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) by 36 percent. Congress must continue to provide funding to ensure that all rape kits get tested and all perpetrators are brought to justice. I commend the prosecutors in Memphis for their persistence.

Attending Swearing In of Juvenile Court Magistrate Alycia Carter Chism


On Wednesday, I attended the swearing in of Alycia Carter Chism as a Magistrate for the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court. Alycia Carter was my first associate district director and counselin my Congressional office and I was proud to recommend her to Judge Dan Michael. The Magistrate said her black robe is not just black garment but a symbol of responsibility, and she pledged to handle every child who appears before her with care, dignity and respect. She will do us proud.

Visiting Crosstown High School Students


On Monday, I visited with the 9th grade students of Crosstown High School and came away impressed with their zeal for learning and their knowledgeable questions.These bright young people are our future, and I look forward to watchingtheir progress.

Talking with Students at Memphis Business Academy


Also Monday, I visited teacher Justin Cole’s class in the auditorium of the Memphis Business Academy and talked with students about the importance of their roles as U.S. citizens, the need for criminal justice reform, public investment in college education and immigration reform. The students asked smart questions. They are a dedicated group and should go far.

Reading about Visit with 9th Congressional District Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy 

My visit with 9th Congressional District midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, which I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, was the subject of a story last Saturday in The Daily Memphian. See it here

Holding “Congress On Your Corner” Next Friday

As your representative in Congress, part of my job is making sure your concerns and issues with federal agencies and federal benefits are dealt with fairly and expeditiously. My office will be on hand Friday to help you with Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and military service issues, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and services, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loans, federal grant applications, visa and passports, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues and more. When: Friday, October 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Where: The Parkway Village Branch Library, 4655 Knight Arnold Roadin Memphis.   

Inviting Vets to My Annual Veterans Day Event



Words cannot adequately express the gratitude a grateful nation owes its military veterans for their dedication to our country and the sacrifices they have made. My annual Veterans Day gatheringis a time to thank them and their families and enjoy some barbecue while we discuss veterans issues. My 10th Annual Veterans Day Meeting and BarbecueLuncheon will be held on Monday, November 12, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Kroc Center of Memphis – Hardin Hall, 800 East Parkway South. Vets please RSVP by Thursday, November 8 at (901) 544-4131. 

Offering U.S. Capitol Historical Society Calendars


My office will soon have a limited number of 2019 U.S. Capitol Historical Society calendars available. If you would like to receive a calendar, please complete this formon my website. Due to the rules of the House, I can mail calendars only to residents of Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District. Please feel free to share this email with other residents of the 9thCongressional District who may be interested in receiving one but who do not receive my e-Newsletter.

Signing Up for “Congress On Your Corner” and this e-Newsletter


I enjoy meeting regularly with constituents in the district and helping get answers for them to questions about dealing with federal agencies. If you are interested in attending one of my “Congress on Your Corner” events, you can sign up here to receive notification as soon as the next event is scheduled.

For those who haven’t participated in a telephone town hall, it’s easy to sign up for them by using this form.  

If you would like to receive this weekly e-Newsletter, or share it with others, you can do that with this form.

Weekly Health Tip


District staffer Patti Marsh participates in earthquake drill

Each week, I share a health tip in the hope of promoting a healthy lifestyle for residents of the 9th Congressional District. As always, it is best to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, exercise routine or lifestyle.

More than 3 million people across the Central U.S., including the staff in my Memphis office, participated in Thursday’s “Great Central U.S. Shakeout” earthquake disaster drill. Our region is particularly susceptible to serious earthquakes like the ones that shook the New Madrid Fault Line running from Marked Tree, Arkansas, to Cairo, Illinois, in 1811 and 1812, and created Reelfoot Lake when the Mississippi River ran backwards for a while. Those quakes rang church bells in Boston and collapsed chimneys for hundreds of miles in all directions. There are very useful resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Earthquake Safety Checklist” (tips: update emergency contacts and learn how to shut off gas lines and purify water) and from the web page of the drill this week to help you prepare for an earthquake and plan ahead to make sure your shelter will be resilient. It’s always time to prepare  for “the Big One.”

Quotes of the Week 

“America’s ability to lead the world depends not just on the example of our power, but on the power of our example.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden, “Reclaiming America’s Values,” The New York Times, September 14, 2017.

“Forces we thought we had buried, fights we thought we had won -- they're lashing back once again, testing our humanity, our decency, with the same old tactics that represent one of the oldest most insidious forces in America.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden after receiving this year’s National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Wednesday. 

Two Tigers teams meet in Memphis-Missouri game Saturday. Go Memphis! 

As always, 

I remain,

Most sincerely,

Steve Cohen
Member of Congress