During the last week of January, PORAC Vice President Damon Kurtz visited Capitol Hill for a busy day of meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Mr. Kurtz met with representatives from nearly a dozen congressional offices and met directly with five members of Congress. Vice President Kurtz’s visits served several purposes. It enabled him to introduce himself as PORAC’s new vice president.
On January 3, representatives-elect were sworn in for the 116th Congress. After the November 2018 midterm elections, Republicans retain control of the Senate, but Democrats are now the majority party in the House of Representatives. Both parties are eager to begin working on implementing their top legislative priorities. Instead, due to the partial government shutdown,1 members of Congress have been focused on negotiating a funding deal with President Trump.
Following the midterm elections on November 6, Congress returned to Washington, D.C., with a list of items to tackle, including passing bills to fund the government and avoid a government shutdown — with little over one month to complete the job. In addition to the scheduled week where members were back in their districts for the Thanksgiving holiday, Congress spent four unplanned days out of session to honor former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away November 30.
On November 6, 383 Congress members and 35 senators fought to win their respective reelection bids. To secure a majority in the House, a party must win 218 of 435 seats. In the Senate, because the vice president can break a tie vote, the party of the president has to win only 50 of 100 seats, while the other party must win 51 seats to obtain a majority. In the House, Democrats successfully upended Republican control, reaching 225 seats, with nine key races still undecided at the time this issue went to print. In the Senate, Republicans maintained their majority, increasing the number of seats they hold by “flipping” two former Democratic senators’ seats (Senators Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana).
As longtime opponents to AB 109, Proposition 47 and 57, it would be inconsistent to now support a federal version of these bills. PORAC relayed our concerns to those involved in the crafting of this legislation and the advocates have taken some steps to improve the bill. Yet, a number of serious felonies, including violent crimes, are still eligible for early release.
Nearly 20 years after Congress authorized the National Law Enforcement Museum, the first museum dedicated to all aspects of American law enforcement opened in Washington, D.C. PORAC, a major sponsor of the museum, was among the hundreds of people who attended the grand opening October 11. They included past and present law enforcement members from all over the country, community members, the public, dignitaries and celebrities.
Despite the House of Representatives being in recess since September 30, October was an interesting month on Capitol Hill. First, the Senate wrapped up a 3-monthslong fight to appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 6, the Senate narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh by a vote of 51 to 49. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin offered the sole “Yes” vote from his party, while Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski was the lone senator from hers to oppose Kavanaugh.
In June, Representative Devin Nunes (R-22nd-San Joaquin Valley) reintroduced the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act (PEPTA), H.R. 6290. As the legislation could negatively impact the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), PORAC President Brian Marvel sent a letter to Nunes in August to make him aware of the organization’s concerns.
In late June, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, effective July 31. Justice Kennedy was known as the swing vote in a number of decisions. Though often considered a conservative justice, he sided with the Court’s liberals on key social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and affirmative action. With respect to law enforcement, however, his legacy is mixed.