House of Representatives Approves Feinstein-Chambliss Legislation Reauthorizing Byrne Justice Assistance Grants Program at $1.1 Billion Over Five Years
-Program provides aid to state-local law enforcement; bill heads to White House today-
Jul 15 2008
Washington, DC – The House of Representatives has passed legislation sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to reauthorize the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program at $1.1 billion over five years.
The legislation is intended to provide critical federal grant funding for America’s law-enforcement communities, and will sustain a major crime-fighting tool that has been in place for 20 years. The legislation, approved by the House Monday night, now goes to the White House for the President’s signature.
“The Byrne Grants program is an important tool in the fight against crime, and has provided key assistance to state and local law enforcement all across America for two decades now. So this is good news, and I strongly urge President Bush to sign this bill,” Senator Feinstein said.
Law-enforcement agencies rely on Byrne Grants -- to fight drugs and gangs, and to provide much-needed help to prosecutors and victims. It is a time-tested way to produce real results in the fight against crime.
This is especially important today, because violent crime rates remain at 15-year highs. So we must work to ensure that our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to receive these funds to protect our communities by keeping criminals, drugs, and illegal firearms off our streets.”
“Our sheriffs, prosecutors, drug court professionals, and many of the other public servants in the law enforcement community rely on these grants to fight gangs, crime and drugs in their jurisdictions, and they’re making their communities safer because of these grants,” said Senator Chambliss.
“This program has produced tangible results in Georgia and across the nation. Lives are being saved, more drugs are being confiscated, more bad guys who are manufacturing and distributing drugs are being locked up and put away because of this program. I’m pleased this critical legislation is now headed to the President’s desk. Our law enforcement community put themselves in harm’s way each day to make sure our communities are safe and they deserve nothing less than the fullest support. I commend Senator Feinstein for her leadership on this effort.”
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program is named after New York Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988. The program provides critical support to state and local drug task forces, community crime-prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs.
The action in the House of Representatives signals strong bipartisan support for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program, which has been under budget pressure from the Administration. The legislation originated in the Senate, where it was introduced last year by Senators Feinstein and Chambliss. Specifically, it calls for reauthorizing the program at $1.1 billion through FY 2012.
Last year the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill included $660 million for the Byrne Grant program for FY 2008. But after the President’s veto threat, this funding was slashed by 70 percent, to $170 million, in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
For California, this means California’s Byrne Grants will be cut to less than $11 million this year, down from $33 million.
The Byrne Grants have become a vital part of California law enforcement. In California last year, Byrne Grants funded drug and gang task forces that:
- Arrested 14,860 offenders, 8,900 of whom had drug and violent crime convictions;
- Seized 2,130 weapons and $18 million in currency; and
- Rescued 1,482 children from the scenes of narcotics crimes, including meth labs.
Byrne Grants also helped fund California’s Marijuana Suppression Program, which last year led to the arrest of 533 offenders – 353 of whom were convicted of marijuana-related charges – and seizure of nearly 400 weapons and more than $4.5 million in currency and assets.
The Byrne Grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne Grants program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties.