A so-called “Britney bill” has been introduced in Congress, with bipartisan backers, designed to crack down on conservatorship abuse in the wake of heightened public attention to the issue due to Britney Spears’ headline-making court case. But the “Free Britney” movement is not welcoming it with universally open arms.
Florida Democrat Charlie Crist and South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace joined forces in the House of Representatives Tuesday to introduce the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, aka the FREE Act. The legislation, if passed, would allow individuals who have a judge-appointed private conservator to petition to have that person replaced by a state-employed public guardian.
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“We want to make sure that we bring transparency and accountability to the conservatorship process,” Mace told the New York Times. “The Britney Spears conservatorship, it’s a nightmare. If this can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.”
“Under the FREE Act, we would Free Britney along with the countless number of seniors and persons with disabilities being abused and exploited by the broken system,” Crist said in a statement.
The legislation would also guarantee that that people under guardianships are assigned independent case workers, and mandate the disclosure of finances by public guardians and case workers to guard against any conflicts of interest.
Nevertheless, some in the movement to reform conservatorships complain that the bill still doesn’t ultimately address how accountability would be guaranteed, whether individuals end up with a private or state-appointed guardian.
And many in the movement believe anything with the potential to create more conservators, not fewer, is a step in the wrong direction.
The Free Britney L.A. Twitter account (@freebritneyla) wrote: “While we are heartened by the bipartisan effort to reform conservatorships and guardianships at the federal level, we do NOT support the FREE Act as proposed. As written, the FREE Act will assign a public caseworker to each conservatee, require States to collect data on conservatorships, provide funding to do so, and affirm the right to replace a private guardian with a public guardian. We cannot support legislation that empowers professional guardians. We were hopeful and remain hopeful that Congressman Crist and Congresswoman Mace will work with the #FreeBritney movement and reform advocates to amend the bill. Until that happens, we oppose the FREE Act.”
Crist told the Times that they tried to not take on too much at once with the bill in order to attract broad, bipartisan support. “We’ve tried to be very smart and focused,” the congressman told the newspaper. “That gives us a much greater opportunity to have success.”
Conservative Rep. Matt Gatez of Florida has also aligned himself with the “Free Britney” movement, going so far as to show up at a rally in Los Angeles while her court case was going on last week. But thus far he has not weighed in on the FREE Act.
According to the Justice Department, about 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are under conservatorships or similarly restrictive arrangements.
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