Washington Watch: Legislative Update
For the Week of 28 November 2016
I. Legislative News and Activity
II. This Week in Congress
III. Update on Top Legislative Priorities
IV. FOP NEWS : FOP Hails Chao Pick for Transportation
V. FOP NEWS: PSOB Reform Legislation Passes Senate
VI. Follow the FOP National Legislative Office on Twitter!
I. LEGISLATIVE NEWS AND ACTIVITY
National President Chuck Canterbury was in Washington, D.C. and was joined by Executive Director Jim Pasco in a meeting with the transition team for the incoming Trump Administration. The transition team uniformly expressed their gratitude for the FOP’s endorsement of Mr. Trump during the campaign. National President Canterbury brought several issues and areas of concern to the attention of the transition team, including the Executive Order limiting State and local law enforcement’s access to Federal equipment programs and the 1033 program administered by the U.S. Department of Defense. Other issues raised included sanctuary cities and investigations by the Civil Rights Division.
National President Canterbury and Executive Director Pasco received a call from Senator Jefferson B. Sessions III (R-AL), who will be nominated to serve as the next U.S. Attorney General. He expressed his gratitude for the FOP’s support and pledged to continue his long-standing cooperation with our organization.
Executive Director Pasco and Senior Legislative Liaison Tim Richardson met with TJ Kennedy, President of FirstNet, and FirstNet Board Member Richard W. Stanek, Sheriff of Hennepin County, Minnesota, to discuss the work and progress of FirstNet.
Executive Director Pasco met with Kevin O’Connor, Assistant to the General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), to discuss mutual concerns with the work and progress of the First Responder Network Authority (First Net).
Legislative Liaison Marisa Beam represented the FOP at a meeting of the Public Pension Network.
Legislative Liaison Mike Martin represented the FOP at a stakeholder meeting with Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Programs in the Office of Justice Programs, to discuss the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).
Legislative Liaison Martin represented the FOP at a stakeholder meeting thanking Senator Amy J. Klobuchar (D-MN) and her staff for their work to enact CARA into law.
II. THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS
The House and Senate returned to session this week.
Action in the House
The House considered and passed H.R. 34, now known as the “21st Century Cures Act,” on a 392-26 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate for further action.
The House is expected to consider and will likely pass S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” The FOP succeeded in stripping a provision from the bill which would have codified Executive Order 13688 restricting access to certain types of equipment from any Federal program providing assistance to State and local law enforcement agencies.
The House considered and passed S. 2577, the “Justice for All Reauthorization Act,” by voice vote under a suspension of the rules. The bill, which the FOP supported, went to the Senate, which passed the measure by unanimous consent.
Action in House Committees
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled: “Oversight of Drug Enforcement Administration’s Confidential Source Program.”
Action in the Senate
The Senate considered and passed S. 2577, the “Justice for All Reauthorization Act,” by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.
The Senate considered and passed S. 2944, the “Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvements Act,” by unanimous consent. The FOP was a strong supporter of this bill, which now goes to the Senate for further action. (See Item V. for more information.)
Action in Senate Committees
The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing entitled: “Initial Observations of the New Leadership at the U.S. Border Patrol.”
III. UPDATE ON TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
For the complete list of cosponsors for all of our top legislative priorities, or to find out if your Representative and Senators are cosponsors of specific bills, check out http://thomas.loc.gov .
A. Support H.R. 973/S. 1651, the “Social Security Fairness Act”
We have 156 cosponsors on H.R. 973.
We have 25 cosponsors on S. 1651.
B. Support H.R. 2254/S. 2946, the “Law Enforcement Officers’ Equity Act”
We have 27 cosponsors on H.R. 2254
We have 3 cosponsors on S. 2946.
IV. FOP Hails Chao Pick for Transportation
Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police warmly welcomed news that Elaine L. Chao has been tapped to be the next Secretary of Transportation. He offered the immediate and enthusiastic support of the FOP membership.
“Secretary Chao was a great friend and a terrific partner of the FOP during her tenure as Labor Secretary in the Administration of George W. Bush,” Canterbury said. “Together we accomplished a great deal over her eight years and she will bring the same commitment and dedication to Transportation.”
During her tenure, the Labor Department issued new regulations strengthening overtime protections for law enforcement and other public safety officers. When the new rules became final in August 2004, National President Canterbury described it as an “unprecedented victory” for the nation’s law enforcement officers.
“Our historic work with Secretary Chao on overtime protections also coincided with a pilot scholarship and job retraining program for the spouses of fallen officers that was named after our late National President Steve Young,” Canterbury said. “And in recognition of his leadership and dedication to the profession of law enforcement and our nation’s law enforcement officers, Secretary Chao inducted Steve into the Labor Department’s Hall of Honor shortly after his untimely death in 2003.”
Canterbury noted that Secretary Chao was a regular attendee of the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, held each May, and served as its keynote speaker in 2008 as well as the keynote speaker for the FOP’s National Biennial Conference in 2007.
“No other Labor Secretary, before or since, has accorded so much time and attention to law enforcement officers and their concerns as public employees,” Canterbury said. “Law enforcement officers keep our nation’s highways and motorists safe and we look forward to renewing our partnership with Secretary Chao as soon as she is confirmed. We feel certain she will make every effort to include law enforcement’s unique perspective as she undertakes her latest challenge.”
V. PSOB Reform Legislation Passes Senate
Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, was very pleased that the Senate passed S. 2944, the “Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvements Act,” last night by unanimous consent.
“The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program is very important to law enforcement and the wider public safety community,” Canterbury said. “It gives our members peace of mind because they know their families will be taken care of in the event they are killed or disabled in the line of duty.”
The legislation, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), addresses existing problems at the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Office with respect to transparency and accountability. The FOP was an early supporter of the bill and worked with Members of the Committee–Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member, and Senator John Cornyn III (R-TX) to craft amendments all of which were retained in the bill that passed the Senate.
“The backlog of PSOB claims is unacceptable,” Canterbury said. “The FOP believes that this legislation, as well as two recent regulatory changes which will go into effect before the end of the year, will help address this and other issues, which have been plaguing the program over the last few years.”
The legislation requires the PSOB Office to regularly report to Congress about the PSOB claims. Statutory changes in the bill will ensure that children of claimants will not “age out” of their eligibility because the claims were not processed in a timely fashion and that PSOB does not abandon claims which could not be determined because of a lack of information from a third party, like the employing agency. These changes will apply to all pending claims in addition to those filed in the future.
“The bill will now go to the House for further consideration,” Canterbury said. “Time is very short, but we’re cautiously optimistic that the House will act before adjournment.”
VI. Follow the FOP National Legislative Office on Twitter!
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