Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice

Karen believes that the criminal justice system must provide just punishment for people who commit crimes and also ensure incarcerated people are rehabilitated so they have paths to employment and housing when they are released from imprisonment.

Karen strongly supported President Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s decisions to reform our federal prisons sentencing guidelines. Their work led to reducing the time that non-violent drug offenders spend in prison–saving the taxpayer’s money and uniting Americans with their families.

Congress needs to follow their lead. Karen has authored the “SUCCESS Act,” which would allow people with drug convictions who have served their time to apply for federal financial aid for higher education. She also played a significant role in the passage of the bipartisan “First Step Act” in 2018, which incentivizes participation in rehabilitation programs in prison.

Karen is also working to make sure our criminal justice system is fair. She has been working on legislation to modernize federal drug sentencing laws by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing Americans convicted of nonviolent offenses, and she is making sure that prisoners are treated humanely by prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.

In California, Karen was a strong proponent of Proposition 47. Overwhelmingly passed by California voters in 2014, this law reduces the number of non-violent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors–meaning that California will be spending less money on its prison system. In order to ensure that people released from prison succeed when they get home, Karen worked with state officials to get $5 million in the 2014 state budget for re-entry services to help people released from prisons find housing and jobs.

Economy & Wages

Economy & Wages

From her time in the state legislature to her work in Congress, Karen has fought against stagnant wages and rising unemployment. She supported California’s move to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and is now a proud sponsor of legislation to raise our nation’s minimum wage.

In 2013, Karen introduced the Local Hire Act, which would provide local transportation agencies like LA Metro with the necessary flexibility to hire local workers when they take on construction projects with federal support. The Los Angeles Times praised Karen for her efforts, noting “major transit projects can stimulate significant economic activity in a community. Being able to set aside a percentage of the work for local hires is both a goodwill gesture for the disruption that comes with years of construction and a way to address chronic unemployment in impoverished areas.”

In 2015, then-Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx included Karen’s legislation in a federal government pilot project in Los Angeles. The program has since expanded in Los Angeles and has provided hundreds of thousands of jobs to Angelenos.

Even though the economy is improving as a result of eight years of careful progress under the Obama administration, Karen is worried that rollback of consumer protections and selfish tax plans have resulted in working families not seeing the benefits that they’ve earned. Good jobs and better wages are key to ensuring financial stability that so many families deserve. The safety net is integral to that status. Karen believes Social Security and Medicare are promises that the federal government needs to keep to our nation’s seniors. She continues to fight to strengthen and protect these programs to ensure that Americans who have worked the majority of their lives can retire with dignity, and she has unequivocally opposed any attempt to slash funding for either of these successful programs.

Child Welfare

Child Welfare

Since her election to Congress in 2010, Karen has made improving the lives of all of America’s children her passion.

Karen understands that to make real change for some of America’s most vulnerable communities, you must be able to work effectively across the aisle, no matter how partisan the country has become. In 2010, Karen founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, a group dedicated to improving the lives of foster youth and reforming our child welfare system. Now, the caucus boasts more than 150 members of Congress, making it one of the largest bipartisan caucuses in Congress.

When it comes to protecting our nation’s most vulnerable children, Karen continues to lead the way. She’s been a champion for foster youth, fighting to make sure they’re protected, find safe and loving homes, and receive the support they deserve to succeed in school.

In 2015, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Karen’s bill H.R. 469, the “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015”, to help to connect child victims of trafficking to appropriate services and prevent further exploitation. In 2017, Congress passed another one of Karen’s bills to reauthorize $130 million in current funds appropriated to ensure an integrated, whole-of-government response to fight human trafficking for the next four years. The legislation also included important improvements to current law to help further address and prevent human trafficking.

Karen also played an integral role in the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018. The bill is one of the largest reforms to the child welfare system in decades. It aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing states to use federal foster care funds for prevention services for key risk factors such as mental health and substance use to keep at-risk children from entering the foster care system.



Karen believes that all Americans should have access to clean air, water, and open space they can enjoy with their friends and family.

Karen is concerned about the Trump administration rolling back Obama-era environmental protections. She is especially concerned about the impact of fracking in Los Angeles, and she introduced legislation that would have barred the use of federal funds at the Inglewood Oil Field as a response to concerns from area constituents about the environmental, health and seismic impacts of fracking there.

Karen has stood up against Republican attempts to defund the Environmental Protection Agency and dismantle the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, and she is working to increase America’s investment in clean energy that will generate clean energy jobs and improve the world around us. She has also opposed the Trump Administration’s plan to open up new oil drilling off the coast of California.

Karen is concerned about climate change and what rising temperatures and sea-levels will mean to Los Angeles and the nation. Los Angeles’ coastline and California’s climate are key to our city’s thriving economy, and rising temperatures will detrimentally impact our quality of life.

Karen is also working to help abate noise pollution, particularly from planes leaving LAX and flying over the 37th District. She believes that increasing airline efficiency must not and cannot require the sacrifice of health and well-being of those on the ground, which is why she became a member of the Congressional Caucus for Quiet Skies. In 2018, Karen successfully worked with concerned residents in Los Angeles and her colleagues to pass a law out of the House of Representatives that would seek to overhaul the inaccurate way that FAA accounts for noise impacts, recognize that noise during the night has even more health effects than noise during the day, and increase the priority that the FAA gives to effects on the ground when changing flight paths. Karen is encouraged by these advancements but continues to fight for the reduction of airplane noise.

Fighting the Trump Agenda

Fighting the Trump Agenda

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President, Karen has been fearless in calling out his racist, divisive, and damaging policies in addition to his abhorrent behavior.

In the first year of Trump’s presidency, she and other leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus pushed the administration to address inequality and provide more resources to underserved communities. They presented Trump with a 130-page policy document with solutions for advancing Black families in the 21st Century.

She has also defended Americans against the Trump Administration’s attempts to roll back Obama-era protections for consumers, workers, the environment, and more. During a Congressional hearing (can we reference official business?) with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, she publicly called for him to repeal an outdated memo to law enforcement officials that endangered Black activists.

Right after Trump took office, Karen launched the Sea Change Leadership PAC, which is working to help flip the House of Representatives in 2018 by supporting the resistance movement and progressive candidates for office, and by training and mobilizing volunteers to educate and engage voters. The group has hosted protests, town hall meetings, canvassing days and voter education and registration drives.


Health Care

As a former Physician Assistant, Karen saw firsthand how people in Los Angeles and across the country struggled to secure basic health care. High costs kept them from pursuing the care they needed and treatable conditions like hypertension and diabetes became much worse because they were not treated early, which is why Karen supports Medicare for All legislation in Congress.

It is because of her experience that Karen has been such a strident advocate for healthcare coverage for all Americans. In Congress, Karen fought to protect the Affordable Care Act because it has provided health insurance to over 46,000 of her constituents who did not have health coverage before the law, and has cut the number of uninsured Californians in her Congressional district in half. That is one of the reasons why she has voted more than 50 times against Republican attempts to repeal or undermine the law. She also introduced the Helping Americans Seek Treatment Act, which will improve support services to people suffering from drug addiction and their families.

In California, Karen is making it a top priority to make sure that Angelenos are taking advantage of health care programs available to them. She has worked to provide funds to Los Angeles’ community clinics to hire and train outreach and enrollment workers to help Angelenos sign up for the new health care programs, and she continues to host healthcare resource fairs to connect residents to healthcare providers.



The diversity and culture of Los Angeles is part of what makes this city one of the best places in the entire world to live.

Karen believes that as we work to reform our immigration laws, it’s absolutely critical that that diversity is celebrated, embraced and maintained. Unfortunately, our immigration system is outdated and broken, and it is time to fix it. Karen co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would provide a path to citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America today, and prevent the continued record deportations that have led to many minors being forced into our nation’s child welfare system instead of staying with their parents. Karen strongly supports protecting President Obama’s executive actions pertaining to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and is a lead supporter of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

In the state legislature, Karen supported efforts to ensure that undocumented immigrants could have access to a driver’s license, and as Speaker of the Assembly Karen worked to ensure that California Dreamers could attend college and pay in-state tuition.

Karen will continue to oppose Republican attempts to overturn President Obama’s executive actions and will continue to push Republicans in Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reform.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

One of the reasons why Los Angeles is a world-class city is because of the incredibly creative people who live and work here. Karen is proud to represent many of the businesses and employees who entertain the world.

Unfortunately, people illegally downloading music and movies not only hurts artists, it hurts our nation’s economy. Piracy takes an estimated $20 billion annually from the U.S. economy and costs tens of thousands of jobs.

Karen sits on the House Judiciary Committee, where she has direct say over laws that protect our entertainment industry. In order to protect our film industry, Karen supports efforts to have tougher enforcement of the Anti-Camcording Law. People who sneak into theaters to record films are not only passing on a poor quality copy of movies to customers, but they are taking money directly out of our economy. Karen recently led efforts to reauthorize the Music Modernization Act, which updates a licensing system that generated more paperwork than royalties for artists.

Karen also wants to ensure that the film industry continues to be strong in California and in the United States. While Speaker of the Assembly, Karen was a fierce advocate for the California Film Tax Credit and is now a strong supporter of the federal Film Tax Credit. These credits ensure that our community and our nation stay competitive in keeping movie production here — benefiting both local economies and our country.

Karen is also standing up for Los Angeles’ thriving music industry, supporting our musicians with laws that protect the years of investment that they have committed to their creativity. The music business not only fuels our nation’s dance floors, but it is also a $125 billion industry. To protect our music industry, Karen supports stiff penalties against those who illegally download music, and she is working to stop illegal cyberlockers.



In 2017, Karen voted against the GOP tax plan, which gave massive tax breaks to major corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while putting the average working family on a path to higher taxes. Now as the true effects of the tax plan come to light, Karen is committed to continuing to fight to make sure that middle-class families do in fact get the tax breaks that they so desperately need and that corporations are paying their fair share.



Karen believes that a high-quality, affordable education for every child is the foundation to building stronger communities, families, and economies. Karen consistently supports legislation to strengthen our K-12 public school system and support our teachers., Karen also believes that we must work together to make college more affordable, including making community colleges tuition-free. She has introduced legislation in almost every Congress she has served in to permanently cap the interest rate for federal student loans at 3.4 percent. The bill also rewards students for entering public service upon graduation, allows eligible graduates to convert private loans in to public ones and relieves some payment requirements. As someone who had to take out student loans herself, Karen understands the necessity of making a quality education accessible to people of all financial backgrounds.