Federal Legislation – PORAC Comes to Washington

Darryl Nirenberg
Eva Rigamonti
Lesley Brock
Legislative Assistant
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

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.

Funding for DOJ Grant Programs: During their meetings, PORAC Board members advocated for full funding of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne-JAG) and other funding initiatives. They also urged for the passage of a number of bills aimed at supporting law enforcement and enhancing community safety.

Survivor Benefits: PORAC members advocated for H.R. 1210, the Heroes Lesley Zerebny and Gil Vega First Responders Survivors Support Act of 2019, to increase the death, disability and education benefit amounts under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program. The PSOB Program provides benefits to eligible public safety officers whose injuries (or deaths) were sustained in the line of duty and this bill would modify certain timing and procedural aspects of the program to ensure that beneficiaries (police officers and their survivors) receive the full amounts to which they are entitled. The bill is sponsored by California Representative Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) and cosponsored by six other members of the state delegation.

Measures Reducing Violence Against Police Officers: To address the recent spate of deadly shootings against first responders, PORAC members urged Congress to consider draft legislation that would establish a federal task force to assess the causes, effects and impacts of rising violence against police. During the meetings, members and their staff provided input on ways to strengthen the draft legislation and ideas for how to get the measure passed on a bipartisan basis. PORAC drafted the legislation and is working closely with members of the California delegation to introduce the bill during this Congress.

Social Security Benefits Reform: PORAC spoke to members about the importance of amending the Social Security Act to ensure that police officers are not deprived of full benefits. Currently, two provisions in the Social Security Act penalize workers who split their careers between jobs that contribute to Social Security and jobs that do not (usually public service jobs, like state and local law enforcement) by reducing the Social Security benefits they can collect in retirement. PORAC has been working closely with members of Congress to pass legislation, the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141), that would fix this issue and ensure that PORAC’s members and other law enforcement officers receive full Social Security benefits.