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Back to Archives | Back to October 2004 Contents 

Legislative Alert

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes C-J-S Funding Bill

By Jennifer Boyter,IACP Legislative Analyst



n September 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2005 Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary appropriations bill (S. 2809), which funds the majority of state and local law enforcement assistance programs.

Unlike the bill passed by the House (H.R. 4754), the Senate bill does not significantly cut funding for the three primary law enforcement assistance programs—the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG), the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program, and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

The bill provides $20.4 billion for the Department of Justice, roughly splitting the difference between the $20 billion White House request and the $20.8 billion recommended in the House version.

Senate appropriators did not agree with the president’s proposal to consolidate the Byrne grant program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) into a single program known as the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG).

The bill would provide $618 million for the Byrne grant program, down from $659 million in fiscal year 2004. It would also fund the LLEBG at $150 million, down from $225.

However, the Senate version would provide $134 million more than the House version, which recommended $634 million for both programs. President Bush requested just $508 million for both.

Significantly, the Senate bill would provide $756 million for COPS programs, the same as fiscal year 2004. The president requested just $97 million, and the House version recommends just $113 million, down from $756 million in fiscal year 2004 and $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2003. That represents an 85 percent decrease from last year, and a 90 percent decrease from fiscal year 2003.

In fiscal year 2004 the total funding for these three main grant programs was $1.64 billion. The appropriations bill passed by the committee would provide $1.524 billion, a decrease of 7 percent. The House would provide just $747 million, a cut of $893 million, or almost 55 percent.

It is unclear whether the C-J-S bill will come up for a vote on the Senate floor before Congress adjourns in October. It may become part of an omnibus appropriations bill, which Congress will most likely consider in a postelection lame duck session.

Appropriators are preparing two continuing resolutions to be used to keep the government running after the fiscal year ends on September 30. So far just one of the required 13 appropriations bills have been completed—the one that funds the Department of Defense.

The House has passed 12 of the 13 bills, but the Senate has completed work on only six.

The IACP remains concerned about the cuts to these crucial grant programs for the law enforcement community. We will continue to work to ensure that these programs are sufficiently funded.

House Pressures Senate to Pass DNA Bill, Threatens to Stall Victims’ Rights Bill

On September 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill (S. 1700) that would provide over $1 billion in funding and assistance for DNA analysis and training. However, Republican opponents of the bill threatened to block the bill on the Senate floor.

Just one day later, the House Judiciary Committee took action to pressure the Senate to pass the bill before adjourning for the year. The DNA measure was passed overwhelmingly by the House last year.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) had threatened to stall the Senate-passed victims’ rights bill (S. 2329) until the Senate considers the DNA bill. The committee tied the fates of the two bills together by approving a comprehensive bill (H.R. 5107) that includes both measures.

Like the Senate bill, H.R. 5107 would grant eight specific rights to crime victims, including the right to timely notice of public court proceedings and the right to be reasonably heard at those proceedings. The sponsor of the victims’ rights bill, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) is one of the prime opponents of the DNA legislation.

The majority of the DNA bill enjoys widespread support. It combines President Bush’s initiative to spend $1 billion to reduce the backlog of evidence awaiting DNA testing with proposals that will help state and local law enforcement expand the collection of DNA samples and evidence. Specifically, the bill would authorize $755 million over five years ($151 million per year) to eliminate the current backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other crime scene evidence awaiting DNA analysis in crime labs. The measure authorizes $500 million over the next five years for other new grant programs.

However, several Senators object to the portion of the bill known as the Innocence Protection Act, which aims to ensure that defendants in state capital punishment cases have access to adequate legal counsel and that death row inmates could use sophisticated new DNA testing to assert their innocence. It would also give selected federal inmates access to DNA testing that could lead to reversal of their convictions if they assert under penalty of perjury that they are not guilty.

The bill would make $100 million in federal grants contingent on states meeting certain conditions, including developing a system to give defendants adequate counsel such as ensuring that defendants in capital cases can access competent legal representatives. Critics of the bill are concerned that to qualify for the grants, states would be forced to put opponents of the death penalty in charge of their capital representation programs. The opponents of the bill also argue that it creates too low of a hurdle for convicts to win a retrial based on new evidence.

 

From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 10, October 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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