July POAM Washington Update Report

Budget and appropriations negotiations have been ongoing in Washington, with the deadline of September 30th beginning to loom soon after the approaching August recess. The House has already passed most of its annual spending bills, while House and Senate leadership have yet to reach an agreement for a budget deal that can pass a divided Congress and gain the support of the White House.

House Passes Appropriations Bill with Boost to Justice Programs

The House passed a spending bill funding the Department of Justice last month as part of a larger package aimed at accelerating the annual appropriations process. The “minibus” bill passed the House by a vote of 227-194 on June 25th and was composed of five of the twelve appropriations bills that fund the federal government: commerce, science and justice; agriculture; interior and environment; military construction and veterans affairs; and transportation, housing, and urban development. The Senate has yet to release any of its appropriations bills.

The House Commerce-Science-Justice bill funds the DOJ at $32 billion for the fiscal year 2020, a $1.1 billion increase over the previous year. $3.4 billion of that goes to state and local law enforcement activities. These include $582.5 million for the Violence Against Women Act programs; $323 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs; and $80 million for grants to states to upgrade criminal and mental health records for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Congressman Moolenaar Introduces Legislation on Service Weapon Purchasing

On May 15th, Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI-04) introduced a bill that would allow retiring law officers to purchase their service firearms. H.R. 2765, the Law Enforcement Officer Safety and Security Act of 2019, would allow law enforcement agencies to offer for sale at the fair market value a single, functional firearm to a law enforcement officer employed by and in good standing with their agency. The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee; no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. Per a press release from Congressman Moolenaar’s office, the bill is a response to “current regulations prohibit federal law enforcement officers from purchasing the service firearm they have trained with and maintained for years.” 

House and Senate Members Introduce Bill to Block 3D-Printed Guns

Members of the House and Senate introduced a bill last month to outlaw the publication of digital information that could be used for the 3D-printing of firearms or firearm components. The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019 was introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL-22) in the House and by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) in the Senate. The House version of the bill currently has 40 cosponsors, while the Senate version has 26. The issue of digital instructions for 3D-printed guns has been subject to intense legal and political scrutiny in the last few years, a fact unlikely to change in Washington any time soon.

President Trump Nominates New Head of DOJ Office of Justice Programs

Last month, President Trump nominated a new head of the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice (DOJ), the first non-acting head of the Office of his administration. Katherine Sullivan, a former Colorado judge, has most recently been serving as the Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. The Office of Justice Programs distributes a number of grants to state and local law enforcement agencies. Sullivan will be replaced at the Office on Violence Against Women by Laura Rogers, currently the director of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) at DOJ.

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Recommended Read: September 2018 POAM Washington Report 

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