By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n May 22, the Senate passed its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2008 supplemental spending bill, which included $490 million in Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) funding. Because the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives did not include Byrne-JAG funds, the two bills must head to conference committee, where differences will be resolved.
As previously reported, the FY 2008 omnibus slashed funding to the Byrne-JAG program to $170 million, a 68 percent decrease from FY 2007. In response, the IACP has been working with congressional allies to include Byrne-JAG funding in an emergency supplemental bill.
Many events led to the inclusion of Byrne-JAG funds in the Senate version of the FY 2008 supplemental spending bill, including a letter from several state, tribal, and local organizations; a letter from more than half of the members of the House of Representatives; and two-thirds of senators all calling for the additional funds.
The IACP urges all members to contact their elected officials and ask to restore critical Byrne-JAG funding. To aid members in this effort, the IACP has set up a Legislative Action Center (LAC) online at http://capwiz.com/theiacp/home/.
As the FY 2008 supplemental spending bill progresses through Congress, the IACP will keep members informed of developments.
IACP Testifies on FY 2009 Byrne-JAG Funding
On May 20, IACP president Ronald C. Ruecker testified before the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on reauthorizing Byrne-JAG for FY 2009.
In his testimony, President Ruecker stressed the importance of the Byrne-JAG program and highlighted its effectiveness. He stated, “The value of the Byrne-JAG program was aptly demonstrated earlier this year when 41 state drug enforcement agencies participated in ‘Operation Byrne Blitz,’ a one-day enforcement effort which resulted in the arrests of 4,220 individuals and the seizure of vast quantities of illicit narcotics. This successful effort was made possible because Byrne-JAG funds provided state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies with the necessary resources.”
President Ruecker continued by expressing frustration with recent cuts to the program. In the FY 2008 omnibus alone, Byrne-JAG was funded at just $170 million, a decrease of 68 percent. Additionally, the administration’s FY 2009 budget proposal calls for the complete elimination of Byrne grant funding. “In the years since 2001, the very programs that allowed state, tribal, and local law enforcement to combat crime in our communities, such as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, have suffered significant budget reductions,” President Ruecker stated.
He concluded his testimony with a call to Congress to restore Byrne-JAG funding. “Simply stated, reductions to the Byrne-JAG program have the potential to weaken severely the capabilities of law enforcement agencies nationwide, reducing their ability to mount aggressive and effective crime prevention and crime reduction programs. This must not continue. If our efforts to reduce crime and promote homeland security are to have any chance of succeeding, it is absolutely vital for Congress and the administration to make the necessary resources available that will allow America’s first line of defense—law enforcement—to mount effective anticrime programs to protect our communities.”
Collective-Bargaining Bill Temporarily Sidelined
Recently, proponents of H.R. 980, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, again failed to pass the bill.
The legislation, which is strongly opposed by the IACP, was scheduled for a Senate vote in late May. Several senators who oppose H.R. 980 objected to having a full Senate vote without sending the bill through the committee vetting process. Because of those objections, the bill headed back to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for debate.
Briefly, H.R. 980 would effectively federalize state and local government labor-management relations and deprive state and local governments of the necessary flexibility to manage their public safety operations in a manner that they choose. By mandating a “one-size-fits-all” approach to labor-management relations, H.R. 980 ignores the fact that every jurisdiction has unique needs and therefore requires the freedom to manage its public safety workforce in the manner that it has determined to be the most effective.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on July 17, 2007, by a vote of 314–97 with 280 cosponsors. In the Senate, several attempts have been made to pass the bill, but to date, all have been unsuccessful.
Just before the bill came up for a vote in the Senate, the administration issued a veto threat on H.R. 980, stating that it believes that state, tribal, and local governments are best suited to make their own collective-bargaining decisions.
President Ruecker also issued a call to action to IACP members, urging them to contact their senators to express opposition to H.R. 980. Because H.R. 980 could be voted on at any time, the IACP urges members to continue to contact their senators on the issue.
Readers can contact their senators and tell them to vote down H.R. 980 by visiting the IACP’s LAC, which offers a sample letter about H.R. 980 that can be personalized and sent simply by entering the user’s contact information.
As mentioned earlier in regard to Byrne-JAG funding, members can use the LAC by visiting http://capwiz.com/theiacp/home/. ■