By Dennis McGrann, POAM Lobbyist, Washington, D.C.

The 1st Session of the 110th Congress adjourned for the year on December 20th after finalizing and passing a Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through September 30th, 2008. The omnibus bill (H.R. 2764), which incorporates the Fiscal 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) spending bill (H.R. 3093), was then sent to President Bush who, on December 26th, 2007, signed it into law. The bill includes many special project earmarks, but also cut several domestic spending programs significantly. Although reduced from the House and Senate levels, the Omnibus includes $1.2 billion more for State and Local Law Enforcement than President Bush initially requested.

The CJS portion of the omnibus provides $53.7 billion in budget authority for fiscal 2008, which exceeds fiscal 2007 appropriations by 2 percent and President Bush’s request by almost as much. It is 3 percent less than the Housepassed bill and 6 percent less than the Senate version. The bill includes $51.8 billion in discretionary spending, about 1 percent more than requested. It also includes $286 million in emergency funds, identified as going to border and cyber security. Among the key investments included in the bill are State and Local Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention Grants, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), FBI Salaries and Expenses, and significant allotments for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

In addition to funding the COPS program, the omnibus bill also finances the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs (Byrne-JAG) which gives formula grants to states and local law enforcement agencies for law enforcement, crime prevention, prosecution, drug treatment, corrections, and technology improvements. The bill contains $170 million for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants and $187 million for the Byrne Discretionary Grants. While the Justice Assistance Grants are significantly less than both chambers proposed, the discretionary grants portion represents an increase of $39 million. Additionally, when compared with President Bush’s request, both numbers combined correspond to an increase of $7 million. As compared to the current funding, the discretionary grants equate to an increase of $71 million.

On February 6th, 2008, President Bush released his budget for 2009. His proposal included no funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program nor for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Overall, his budget request for the Justice Department is $23.7 billion, a 3 percent decrease from fiscal year 2008. His proposed discretionary spending for the department is $20.3 billion which is 12.3 percent less than fiscal 2008.

While Democrats will likely include some funding for the programs in their fiscal 2009 appropriations bills, they probably will not be able to devote as much as they might like due to the president’s position. President Bush did offer some law enforcement grant funding through other programs, including $178 million for a “violent crime reduction partnership initiative” with state and local law enforcement. The administration states it is trying to gather more accurate information and target grants to those who need them most.

A piece of legislation that is critical to the law enforcement community is gaining momentum in the House of Representatives. The “Public Safety Officer Family Health Benefits Act,” (H.R. 2391) was introduced by Congressman Bart Stupak (MI-1st) in May, 2007. Congressman Joe Knollenberg (MI-9th) recently became a cosponsor of this important legislation as well. This bill would make family members of public safety officers killed in the line of duty eligible for coverage under the Federal employees health benefits program, and the POAM is actively seeking additional cosponsors as well as working towards having a companion bill introduced into the Senate. We will update you on efforts to move this bill through the legislative process.

Make sure to save the date for the annual National Police Week which is rapidly approaching. National Police Week is held May 11-17, 2008 in Washington, D.C. and will featuring many important events including a Michigan Police Night Reception to be held on Wednesday, May 14th in Room HC-5 of the United States Capitol Building. For more information on the event of National Police Week, please contact Dennis McGrann or Emily Gehrman in the Washington, D.C. office of POAM.
Phone: (202) 544-9840
Fax: (202) 544-9850