Congress, right alongside elementary schools and the NFL, returned in September. It picked up where it left off: squabbling over government funding, gun control and investigations. With 2020 closing in, and campaign season with it, many senators and representatives view these next few months as the last, best chance to pass meaningful legislation. As a result, Congress is scrambling to reach agreements and pass legislation to decrease drug prices, end surprise medical bills, reduce gun violence, establish a renewed trading relationship with our neighbors and fund government activities reflecting the priorities of the American people.
As members of Congress returned to their districts for the August congressional recess and presidential candidates flocked to the Iowa State Fair, the country was shaken by a series of attacks. Gun violence directed toward civilians and law enforcement alike swept the country in July and August, bringing tragedy to communities and families while upending a political world that had gone dormant during the recess.
Amid Fourth of July fireworks and explosive political battles, with all eyes focused on clashes between congressional insurgents, congressional leadership and the disrupter in the White House, Congress quietly took time to address mental health services for law enforcement officers. Most legislative action was packed into the week of July 8, although an important amendment offered by Representative Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) was included in the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) funding bill that passed on June 25. On July 11, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced the Turn the Tide Act, a wide-ranging opioid bill that also included funds for the psychological well-being of officers on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
As lawmakers prepare to return to their districts for the August recess and, in many states, local election season slated to begin soon afterward, June and July are critical months for the development of federal policy. With deadlines looming, both real and perceived, Congress must fund the federal government for fiscal year (FY) 2020, while also raising the limit on the amount of debt the federal government may incur, and considering pressing policy issues. As a result of this urgency, several PORAC-supported bills important to law enforcement are moving quickly through Congress, while federal funding that plays an indispensable role in keeping communities across the country safe is up for renewal.
May yielded several wins for public safety officers, with Congress pushing law enforcement priorities. The nation’s lawmakers considered several bills relating to law enforcement. While not every law enforcement–focused bill had been passed or signed into law at the time this issue went to print, all of these bills inched closer to becoming law. In addition, during National Police Week (May 12–18), members of PORAC visited the Hill and met with members of the California delegation to discuss PORAC’s priorities for this Congress.
PORAC came to Washington, D.C., the last week of March to discuss several issues important to law enforcement. Over two days, PORAC met with California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, 18 California members of Congress, staff members of more than 25 California representatives and staff of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees — the committees that have legislative authority over law enforcement-related matters. A brief description of each issue that PORAC discussed with Congress follows.
While America was captivated in March by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament, Washington was preparing for its busiest time of year — appropriations (funding) season. With the fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding bill signed,1 lawmakers have begun to focus on FY2020 legislation. Congress is in the preliminary stages of appropriations; members of the Appropriations Committee are beginning to hold hearings with relevant agencies to discuss funding priorities. On March 11, President Donald Trump published his 2020 budget proposal, the first step in the federal appropriations process.
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.