By Dennis McGrann, POAM Lobbyist, Washington, D.C.
Lawmakers are rushing to pass legislation during the few remaining weeks of session before the 110th Congress adjourns in September. Major questions surround the likelihood of Congress passing their 12 annual appropriations bills to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2009. The bills need to be passed by September 30th, 2008 when the current funding laws expire. If they are not completed in time, a Continuing Resolution (CR) must be passed. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (WI-7th CD) has stated recently that he will fund the government through a CR if election year politics continue to mar the appropriations process. As of June 26th, he has halted all committee hearings on funding bills in the House. It is unclear whether he will continue this hold after the 4th of July Recess which begins July 1st. Democratic leadership has indicated in the past that they will not attempt to pass any of the final bills until after the November Presidential Election. The latest development essentially guarantees that no bills will be passed during the 110th Congress.
In other news, on Wednesday, May 16, POAM again hosted “Michigan Police Night,” one of the highlights of the “National Law Enforcement Memorial Week.” Congressman Mike Rogers (8th-CD) sponsored this year’s event, held in the U.S. Capitol, in recognition of the service and sacrifices of Michigan’s law enforcement professionals. Special commemoration was given to the Michigan police officers added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial earlier in the week: Constable Elisha B. Moore Algonac, Michigan, P.D. 1/18/1905 and Officer Robert Anthony Kozminski Grand Rapids, Michigan, P.D. 7/8/2007 were honored.
The Metro Detroit Police and Fire Pipes and Drums started the evening by escorting the Colors into the room and playing several selections. Several members of the Michigan delegation took time out of their busy schedules to attend, including Congressman Bart Stupak (1st-CD), Congressman Vernon Ehlers (3rd-CD), Congressman Dale Kildee (5th-CD), Congressman Joe Knollenberg (9th-CD), and Congresswoman Candice Miller (10th -CD) Key justice and law enforcement staff members from many of the other Michigan offices also attended the event. Members were presented with an award from POAM for their service to the state of Michigan.
Key pieces of law enforcement related legislation have been considered in Congress lately, although not all have passed. The Public Safety Employer- Employee Cooperation Act of 2007, H.R. 980, sponsored by Dale E. Kildee (5th- CD) and cosponsored by 12 additional members of the delegation, passed the House July 17th, 2008 and was considered beginning on May 7, 2009 in the Senate. The bill, which would strengthen union rights for public safety officers, began working through the Senate process with dozens of amendments being offered. Once President Bush issued a veto threat, the work being done to pass H.R. 980 came to a halt and it was withdrawn from the calendar. The visibility of this issue is high, however, and we can expect it to be addressed again during the 111th Congress.
On June 25, 2009 the House of Representatives reauthorized the Byrne grants program, H.R. 3546, The Byrne grants have been an amazing success nationwide, funding programs that led to the seizure of 54,000 weapons, the destruction of 5.5 million grams of methamphetamine, and the elimination of nearly 9,000 methamphetamine labs per year. This legislation authorizes $1.1 billion through the year 2012, and while the President has historically pushed to eliminate Byrne all together or combine the program with others, the House passed the bill by a huge margin. Congressman Bart Stupak is a cosponsor of this legislation.
The Senate version of the Emergency War Supplemental (H.R. 2642) included $490 million for Byrne grant funding, but the provision was stripped from the House-passed version of the bill and ultimately not included in the final version sent to President Bush for signature. There are already talks of a second war supplemental bill and Byrne funding is a provision which lawmakers have indicated may be included in that bill.
On June 11th, 2008, the House Judiciary committee passed the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act, which allocates $1.3 billion through 2014 for assisting with crimes where DNA evidence could be valuable. The bill also provides $50 million a year from 2009-2013 to help state and local law enforcement departments purchase or upgrade forensic equipment. In addition to these grant opportunities, the bill establishes a national DNA databank, requires all states to collect DNA samples from felons as they enter the system, and provides a increase for all grants to states if they take DNA samples from anyone arrested for murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, and any sex crime. John Conyers (Jr. 14th-CD), Dale E. Kildee (5th-CD), and Thaddeus G. McCotter (11th-CD) are all cosponsors of the bill.
As the 110th Congress wraps up its legislative calendar, POAM will continue to work aggressively to monitor pertinent legislation, remain in constant contact with key members of Congress including members of the Michigan delegation, and track changes and progress in grant programs and federal funding to ensure that the needs of Michigan’s law enforcement community are continually heard and addressed. Please contact the POAM Washington office at (202) 544-9840 if you have any questions or would like assistance.