“Congressman Pete Stark was a master legislator who used his gavel to give a
voice to the voiceless, and he will be deeply missed by Congress, Californians and
all Americans.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Congressman Fortney H. “Pete” Stark, Jr. served in Congress from 1973 to 2013 representing
parts of the San Francisco East Bay. The following are some of his major legislative
accomplishments and initiatives.
Affordable Care Act: Stark was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act—landmark legislation
that extended quality affordable coverage to more than 30 million Americans. Insurers are no
longer able to deny coverage based on an individual’s health status, and young adults are now
able to obtain coverage on their parents’ health insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act also
offers preventive health benefits at no charge and provides financial assistance to people below
400% of the federal poverty line.
Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Care: Stark was the author of the Emergency Medical
Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) enacted as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1986. EMTALA guarantees the right of any patient who enters a hospital
emergency room to be examined and treated without regard to their ability to pay. Stark wrote
this in reaction to reports of hospitals denying care to people without insurance coverage in
emergency situations. This law is widely credited with ensuring access to emergency care for
millions of uninsured Americans with no ability to pay.
COBRA: Written by Stark as part of an Omnibus bill in 1985, COBRA provides continuous health
benefits for workers and families between jobs. Since its enactment, it has helped millions of
Americans maintain health insurance coverage.
Fighting Medicare Fraud, Waste, and Abuse: Stark authored numerous laws that narrowed the
ability of unscrupulous healthcare providers to reap undue profits from the Medicare program.
The self-referral prohibition laws—commonly called the Stark Laws—were enacted in 1989 and
expanded in 1993. These laws reduce overutilization of Medicare and Medicaid covered
services by prohibiting physicians from referring patients to facilities in which they (or an
immediate family member) have a financial interest.
Health-IT: In 2008, Stark introduced the HEALTH-E Information Technology Act to provide
financial and other incentives to promote the adoption of health information technology,
including e-sharing of medical records. This legislation was substantially adopted in the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009. It has been credited with
modernizing and expanding the use of health-IT nationwide.
Leading the Fight for Health Improvements: Working with Senator Edward Kennedy, Stark
introduced the first comprehensive children’s and Medicare prescription drug coverage bills,
which drove the debates to enact the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Part D of
Medicare. He also worked with Senator Kennedy to advance mental health parity.
Restoring the San Francisco Bay: Working with Senator Feinstein, Stark secured over $6 million
to continue the largest wetlands restoration project on the West Coast. Their work led to the
restoration of former salt ponds into productive marshes which are now open for recreation.
Earlier in his Congressional career, Stark was instrumental in preventing construction of a
racetrack and amusement park along the San Francisco Bay shoreline.
The Future of the Planet: Before climate change was a common concern, Stark recognized the
need for major environmental reforms. In 1993, he was the first Member of Congress to
introduce a bill to reduce carbon emissions through a tax on carbon. If enacted, this legislation
would have significantly slowed warming of the planet. The carbon tax is now considered the
simplest and most effective means of reducing carbon emissions to levels needed to avoid
catastrophic climate change.
Finding Innovative Ways to Protect the Environment: In the 1980’s Stark authored legislation
to place an excise tax on clorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a gas that was used for refrigeration in
virtually everything including car, home, and commercial building air conditioners, and
refrigerators. CFCs were rapidly destroying the ozone layer while also being a significant
contributor to global warming. In the first year that the law was enacted, use of these chemicals
declined by 37% and less harmful alternatives were created. By establishing clear leadership on
this issue, in 1987 the US played an instrumental role in developing the Montreal Protocol, a
treaty signed by 197 nations to work on protecting the essential ozone layer and reducing
global warming. The Montreal Protocol recently led to a follow-on agreement, the Kigali
(Rwanda) Protocol to phase out additional atmosphere-destroying and global warming
Easing Congestion in the East Bay: Stark successfully included legislation to preserve the I-580
median for construction of BART to Dublin. Working with other Bay Area Members, Stark
worked through the appropriations process to prioritize BART extensions to Dublin and
Tax Reform: In his role as Chair of the Select Revenue Subcommittee of the Committee on
Ways and Means, Stark was a key player in achieving the last major overhaul of the tax code.
This historic reform was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Reagan. He
also championed successful efforts to reform the life insurance marketplace, was a leader in
refining tax accounting rules, and revised tax rules for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS).
Computers in Schools: In the early 1980’s, Stark met Steve Jobs on a flight from California to
Washington, D.C. He learned Apple and other computer manufacturers were interested in
donating computers to schools. Working with Republican Rep. Bill Archer, Stark gained passage
of legislation in 1984 to permit manufacturers to apply the charitable deduction for donations
of computers to schools. This enabled hundreds of thousands of classrooms to enter the digital
Structured Settlements: Stark coauthored legislation with Republican Rep. Phil Crane to protect
the integrity of structured settlements (payments paid over a set period of time as a result of a
personal injury). Prior to the 2002 passage of the law, firms called “factoring companies” often
purchased the right to the payments in return for a deeply discounted lump sum payment. The
law imposed a tax penalty which limited the continued purchase of structured settlements from
NUMMI: When the Fremont NUMMI auto plant closed in 2010, Stark worked with the Obama
administration to secure benefits for 4,000 workers, including unemployment insurance,
education and training funds, and health care tax credits, through the Trade Adjustment
Assistance Program. He also succeeded in gaining benefits for employees of 17 NUMMI
LGBTQ: In 2009, Stark wrote and introduced the first federal legislation to end discrimination
against LGBTQ individuals and couples in adoption and foster care placements. The bill also
ensured that LBGTQ youth in the child welfare system receive appropriate and supportive care.
Dyslexia: Stark was a powerful voice in Congress for people with dyslexia. In 2012, with
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, he co-founded the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus to advanced
necessary protections and accommodations.
Supporting Children & Families
Paid Family and Medical Leave: In 2005, Stark introduced legislation to provide 12 weeks of
paid family and medical leave so families would no longer be forced to choose between poverty
and caring for a loved one or a new child. In his last year in office, Stark worked with Rep. Rosa
DeLauro to introduce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. This legislation now has 217
cosponsors in the House and is part of the Democratic Party platform.
Foster Care: In 2006, Stark worked with then-Majority Leader Tom Delay to pass the Safe and
Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act. The law permits child welfare agencies to
place children across state lines, thereby shortening the time children spend in institutional
care. Later in his career, Stark authored legislation in the Child and Family Services
Improvement Act to protect children in the foster care system from identity theft.
Poverty: Stark was an ardent opponent of so-called welfare reform in the mid-1990’s, which
ultimately turned an entitlement to support for low-income families into a block grant that
serves far fewer families. Stark later worked to make reducing child poverty an express purpose
of the federal cash assistance program.
Controlling Traffic of Semiautomatic Rifles: After the Stockton, CA elementary school massacre
in 1989, Stark was a key leader of a five-year effort in the House to regulate and control the
importation of semi-automatic weapons. His efforts were reflected in the 1994 anti-crime bill
and resulted in a ten-year ban on weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign Policy & Peace
Standing Up for Peace: Stark was elected to Congress in 1972 on an anti-Vietnam War platform
and worked proudly and consistently for a more peaceful American foreign policy during his
four decades in Congress. Notably, he steadfastly opposed the Iraq War and advocated against
bloated defense budgets.