South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott says he still hopes to revive police reform bill

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said time is running out to get his police reform bill, drafted in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, through Congress in an election year and warned it would be “bad news for communities of color to wait,” during a webinar sponsored by former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s foundation.

“I’ve called it the ‘Lazarus moment.’ There is a chance that (it) will rise from the dead in the next few days. If it doesn’t happen between now and next week, it probably does not happen before the election,” Scott, the Republican Party’s only Black senator, said during a virtual panel discussion on “Race and Civility in America.”

Asked about keeping partisanship out of discussions about race, Scott said he set aside his personal reaction to his bill being “demonized” by opponents. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, apologized to Scott last month after cautioning against passing “token” police reform in a floor speech.

Scott did not refer to Durbin by name Wednesday but said his bill had been labeled “token legislation. They said that with great clarity. I sat down with that person even after the comments because I’m more interested in the outcome for the communities that are suffering than I am with whether or not he hurts my feelings or not.”

The South Carolina senator spoke of growing up in poverty and believing no one from his neighborhood would amount to much until meeting the manager of a fast-food restaurant who became a mentor and changed his life. Still, as recently as this year, he said he’s been stopped by police while driving based on the color of his skin.

“It hurts. It hurts to have the spotlight on you for something that you didn’t do that you’re being accused of doing, When you know you’re right or that you are innocent, to be labeled as guilty is belittling, sometimes devaluing and even to the point that some have experienced — I have not — dehumanizing,” Scott said.

“It really does leave a stain on your soul.”

He referred to advice given to him shortly after he took office by the late civil rights icon and longtime congressman, John Lewis, that “no matter what happens to you in life, do not let it make you bitter … make it better. Don’t get bitter. Make it better for other people.”

Before leaving the panel, Scott praised the chairman of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, for his willingness to listen to what needs to be done to ensure diversity, saying it’s powerful to “have corporate America reach out and say, ‘Help me understand.’”

Anderson said the senator spoke to the bank’s board, which has taken steps to ensure “no one is left out” by working to advance two principles, that all Americans must have equal opportunities to prosper and that economic inclusion is essential to creating those opportunities.

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