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.
This month’s column includes updates on the status of federal funding of justice grant programs and opioid legislation, and discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding that (1) police must obtain a warrant before accessing cellphone records and (2) teachers, police officers and other public employees cannot be forced to pay dues or fees to support their unions. Also, this month’s issue features a guest column (see page 34) from Representative Raul Ruiz (D-36) discussing H.R. 5060, bipartisan legislation he has introduced to update the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) Program to provide additional support to the families of fallen or disabled officers. PORAC carried the issue during the May fly-in and has been an active supporter of the bill.
Law enforcement initiatives have once again become the talk of Washington. Both the House and Senate have passed (or are actively reviewing) legislation to address prison reform and law enforcement grant funding. The Supreme Court has also jumped into the fray, restricting police authority to conduct warrantless searches of rental cars and vehicles in driveways.
Beginning with a proclamation by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, National Police Week has blossomed into a nearly monthlong commemoration during which tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world meet in Washington, D.C., to honor those officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. PORAC members participated in a number of National Police Week events, including a candlelight vigil held Sunday evening, May 13, on the National Mall.
Congress was busy in April, addressing a number of law enforcement issues of concern to PORAC. On March 23, Congress passed and the president signed into law an omnibus federal spending bill that substantially increases FY 2018 funding for state and local law enforcement grant programs and includes provisions boosting federal support for school security initiatives and related law enforcement activities.
On March 6 and 7, PORAC President Brian Marvel and Vice President Brent Meyer met with key federal officials in Washington, D.C., to advocate for the preservation and expansion of law enforcement funding initiatives. They emphasized the critical role played by Department of Justice (DOJ) grant programs and other federal assistance in ensuring state and local law enforcement agencies in California and across the nation have the resources needed to protect their communities.