n June 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, which funds several key state and local law enforcement assistance programs. The House approved its version (H.R. 2862) on June 16.
The bill would provide $625 million for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program (the recently created combination of the Byrne Grant program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program). This is a slight decrease from fiscal year 2005, in which the program received $634 million. It is also a significant increase over the House version of the bill, which would provide just $370 million. President Bush had proposed eliminating this program altogether.
The bill also includes $515 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. This is a slight decrease from the fiscal year 2005 level of $606 million and from the House level of $554 million but a significant increase from the president's budget, which proposed just $118 for the program. The COPS funding includes only $2 million for the COPS hiring program.
The bill includes $20 million for tribal law enforcement; $60 million to combat methamphetamine production and distribution, to target drug hot spots, and to remove and dispose of hazardous materials at clandestine methamphetamine labs; $137 million for the law enforcement technologies and interoperable communications program; $27 million for bulletproof vests; $20 million for criminal records upgrades; $141 million for DNA programs; $5 million for programs aimed at preventing violence in public schools; and $3 million for the law enforcement costs related to establishing offender reentry programs.
The bill also includes $200 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which assists state and local governments with the costs of jailing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes not related to their immigration status. The president's proposed budget eliminated this program.
Proposed funding for grants under the Violence Against Women programs decreases slightly from $387 million to $363 million. The bill would also provide $350 million for juvenile delinquency prevention and accountability programs, down from $379 million in fiscal year 2005.
In addition, the bill would provide $6 million to continue the development of the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan.
In addition, the bill provides increased funding for many federal law enforcement agencies. This includes $5.3 billion for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a 3 percent increase over fiscal year 2005. However, this is 7 percent less than the House version, and 9 percent less than requested by the president.
The bill would also include $1.65 billion for the Drug Enforcement Administration; $776 million for the U.S. Marshals Service; and $924 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The bill would not move the High Density Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Justice Department, as recommended by the president.
The bill now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.
Transportation Reauthorization Bill Stalled
Two and a half years after the last reauthorization expired, a massive surface transportation reauthorization bill (HR 3) remains stalled in a House-Senate conference committee, as the two bodies appear unable to agree to a final funding level, among other issues.
The House version of the bill would authorize $284 billion for highways, bridges, road improvements, transit, and safety programs through 2009. This is the funding level that the White House and House Republican leaders have set as the maximum acceptable level of funding. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill above that limit. However, Senators voted overwhelmingly to add $11 billion to the bill, bringing the total to $295 billion.
Negotiators are said to be considering a compromise that would provide $286.5 billion, slightly over the level proposed by the House.
The fate of several Senate-backed highway safety provisions is still unclear. This includes a program that would offer states grants as incentives to pass primary seat belt laws that authorize police to pull over drivers not wearing seat belts.
The last full six-year reauthorization of transportation programs expired in September 2003. Since then, Congress has passed a series of short-term extensions.
Last week, running out of time before the current extension expired on June 30, both the House and Senate passed an extension of highway and transit programs through July 19, in order to give Congress more time to negotiate the conference report.
Judiciary Subcommittee Approves Courthouse Violence Bill
On June 30, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security approved a bill (H.R. 1751) aimed at preventing courthouse violence. The bill would increase penalties for assaulting, kidnapping, or murdering judges or their family members, or jurors, witnesses, victims, or informants. It would also prohibit the possession of a dangerous weapon in federal courthouses.
In addition, the bill would make it a federal crime to kill state public safety officials whose offices receive federal funds, including prosecutors and courthouse personnel. It would also protect federal judges and attorneys from the filing of false and fictitious liens, and create a new federal crime to prohibit the public distribution of certain federal officials' personal information over the Internet.
The bill would also authorize $20 million per year for fiscal year 2006 through 2010 for a new federal grant program to fund witness protection programs by states, local governments, and tribes. It now moves to the full Judiciary Committee for consideration. ■