By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
he president recently signed fiscal year (FY) 2008 emergency supplemental appropriations legislation (hereafter called the “supplemental”). Unfortunately, the final version of the legislation did not include additional funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program that had been included in earlier versions of the legislation.
Specifically, the supplemental approved by the Senate in May included $490 million in Byrne-JAG funding. (These funds would restore the Byrne-JAG program to its FY 2007 funding level.)
There was strong support in both houses of Congress for including Byrne-JAG funds in a supplemental, including 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.
However, the House of Representatives passed version did not include Byrne-JAG funds, and congressional leadership ultimately made the decision to keep Byrne-JAG funds out of the final bill.
Despite this setback, it remains possible that additional Byrne-JAG funds will be included in a second supplemental that Congress will likely address in September. Therefore, the IACP is urging all members to contact their representatives and encourage them to include $490 million in Byrne-JAG funds in this bill.
Because members of Congress will be in their districts during the month of August for summer recess, it is imperative that IACP members reach out to their elected officials and stress the importance of including Byrne-JAG funds in a second supplemental spending bill. It is best to call the district offices of and meet personally with elected officials.
To aid members in this effort, the IACP has set up a Legislative Action Center (LAC): http://capwiz.com/theiacp/home/. The LAC includes contact information for congressional district offices as well as a sample letter that will aid in conversations with elected officials and their staff. The LAC also can be used to send a letter to an elected official’s Washington, D.C., office.
For any questions on possible Byrne-JAG funding for FY 2008, readers can contact Meredith Mays via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FISA Amendments Legislation Becomes Law
Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008 on July 9; the president signed the bill later that day. The bill is designed to increase the surveillance capabilities and authority of the federal government and also provides relief from litigation to telecommunications companies that responded to the government’s request for assistance following September 11, 2001.
The IACP supported efforts to provide telecommunications companies with this litigation protection. In November 2007, IACP president Ronald C. Ruecker sent a letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), outlining the IACP’s concern that failure to provide litigation protection could impede the vital cooperative relationship between government and the private sector. As President Ruecker stated, “It is my belief that failure to adopt this provision could jeopardize the cooperation of vital allies in our ongoing fight against crime and terrorism. . . . Police chiefs understand the vital role that private businesses often play in emergency situations and criminal investigations, and we are concerned that if these companies are faced with the threat of litigation for responding in these circumstances, it will have a chilling effect on their voluntary cooperation with law enforcement authorities in the future.”
President Ruecker continued, stressing that “at this critical time in history, when federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies are striving to protect the public from terrorists, sophisticated international gangs, online predators, and other violent criminals, it is extremely important that we be able to rely on the private sector for much-needed assistance.”
Congressional Badge of Bravery Legislation Passes Senate
In late June, the Senate passed the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Act, which would honor federal law enforcement officers as well as state and local law enforcement officers who perform exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty. The bill, sponsored by Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), makes the award available to any federal, state, tribal, or local law enforcement officer.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. ■