By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n March 4, IACP members participated in the Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C. Held in conjunction with the midyear meetings of both the Division of State and Provincial Police and the Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police, the event allowed IACP members the opportunity to meet with their elected officials on issues of importance to the law enforcement community.
In meetings with congressional representatives, IACP members called for an end to budget cuts for state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and for the restoration of full funding to various programs. IACP members also discussed immigration; illegal firearms sales; the FISA Amendments Act; and retroactive new, lower sentencing guidelines on individuals convicted of crack cocaine offenses.
As part of the Day on the Hill, the IACP released its budget analysis, The Impact of the Proposed FY 2009 Budget on State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement. The document can be found currently in the “What’s New” section of the IACP Web site: www.theiacp.org.
Congress Begins Work on Fiscal Year 2009 Budget
As noted in previous columns, the administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget proposal to Congress in February. Unfortunately, as in years past, the budget proposal included sweeping cuts to law enforcement assistance programs. In total, the administration’s proposed budget slashes just over $1.1 billion from existing law enforcement assistance and other anticrime programs. This is a 45 percent cut when compared to FY 2008 estimated funding levels.
Specifically, the proposed budget reduced funding of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program (by $587 million); the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program (by $170 million); and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) (by $442 million) in the FY 2009 budget. In addition, the proposed budget eliminated
$1.58 billion from 28 other programs that support state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies. When compared to FY 2002 funding levels, the administration’s FY 2009 budget proposal represents a reduction of over $3.4 billion, or
Both the House and Senate Budget Committees have begun work on their proposed budget for FY 2009. On March 6, an amendment sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that calls for bringing Byrne-JAG funds up to the FY 2007 funding level of $524 million passed the Senate Budget Committee.
The Budget Committees’ proposed budget for FY 2009 represents the next step in the federal budget process. This nonbinding document serves as a statement of Congress’s priorities in the budget process. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin their efforts to craft the annual appropriation bills that fund the federal government.
The IACP urges all members to contact their elected officials and ask to restore critical funding to state, tribal, and local law enforcement programs.
Byrne-JAG Supplemental Support Gains Momentum
Even as Congress begins work for FY 2009 funding, it also continues to work on increasing current (FY 2008) levels for state, tribal, and local law enforcement assistance programs. As previously reported, the FY 2008 omnibus slashed funding of the Byrne-JAG program to $170 million, a 68 percent decrease from FY 2007 funding. In response, the IACP has been working with congressional allies to include Byrne-JAG funding in an emergency supplemental bill.
To date, over half of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate have officially pledged their support for restoring Byrne-JAG funding in an emergency supplemental bill by signing a “dear colleague” letter. The letter calls for an additional $490 million to be made available to aid the law enforcement community this year.
In addition, Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has introduced H.R. 5180, which calls for an additional $490 million in funding in a supplemental appropriations bill. Currently H.R. 5180 has around 100 bipartisan cosponsors.
IACP Supports Closing the Terrorism Gap
The IACP recently sent a letter to Congress in support for H.R. 2074/S. 1237, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007. Under current law, individuals wishing to purchase a firearm must undergo a background check, having their names run through the National Instant Background Check System. Certain individuals—such as those convicted of a felony or those listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Violent Gang List—cannot legally purchase firearms. H.R. 2074/S. 1237 would properly prohibit those who are on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.
The legislation also gives the U.S. attorney general the discretion to deny a firearm license to any individual suspected of involvement in terrorist activity, while at the same time providing guidelines for individuals wanting to challenge a decision by the attorney general.
The IACP has long advocated for laws that prevent individuals who pose a danger to society or themselves from purchasing firearms and proudly supports H.R. 2074/S. 1237.
For more information on this legislation, please contact the IACP’s legislative staff.
IACP Comments on Retroactive Sentencing Guidelines
IACP president Ronald C. Ruecker recently sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey to express concern over the recent decision by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to retroactively apply new, lower sentencing guidelines on individuals convicted of crack cocaine offenses.
The USSC estimates that this decision could lead to the resentencing of more than 20,000 crack cocaine offenders. Many of these offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system, and their early release, without the benefit of careful review and participation in appropriate reentry programs, will likely lead to high rates of recidivism and an increase in violence in many communities throughout the United States.
Additionally, the decision by the USSC could result in the immediate release of more than 1,600 convicted felons. In the letter, President Ruecker wrote, “The IACP hopes that Congress and the Administration can act quickly to ensure that no convicted felons are released without the proper review of the circumstances of their arrests and an evaluation of the threat they may or may not pose to society upon release.” ■