Washington Watch: Legislative Update

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Washington Watch: Legislative Update

2017-05-25T07:49:09+00:00 May 27th, 2017|From the Grand Lodge, Legislation|Comments Off on Washington Watch: Legislative Update

Washington Watch: Legislative Update
For the Week of 15 May 2017

I.     Legislative News and Activity  

II.      This Week in Congress

III.     Update on Top Legislative Priorities

IV.      FOP NEWS:  House Passes Thin Blue Line Act!

V.       FOP NEWS:  PSOB Reform Passes Congress!!!

VI.     FOP NEWS: National President Canterbury Testifies before the House

VII.    FOP NEWS:  Senate Clears PSOB and LE Mental Health Bills

VIII.  FOP NEWS:  President Trump Joins FOP in Salute to Fallen Heroes

IX.     Follow the FOP on Twitter!


I.                   LEGISLATIVE NEWS AND ACTIVITY

National President Chuck Canterbury was in Washington, D.C. and engaged in the following meetings and activities:

·         Presided over the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, at which President Donald J. Trump delivered the keynote address.  Vice President Michael R. Pence also spoke at the Service, which was attended by U.S. Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta and Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

·         Testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations at a hearing entitled: “Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century.”  You can read his full testimony here:https://fop.net/CmsDocument/Doc/HJC%20Testimony%20Revised.pdf

·         Participated in a press conference with U.S. Attorney General Sessions, Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, Acting Director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) Thomas  D. Homan and Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The National Blue Alert materials can be found here:  https://cops.usdoj.gov/bluealert

 

Jim  Pasco, Senior Advisor to the National President, met or spoke with the following:

·         Spoke with Steven H. Cook, Associate Deputy Attorney General regarding the collection of data of assaults on law enforcement officers; and

·         Attended, along with the entire National Legislative staff the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.

 

Senior Legislative Liaison Tim Richardson and Legislative Liaison Scott Marks met with:

·         Staff in the office of Representative Martha D. Roby to discuss H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act.”

 

Legislative Liaison Marks attended:

·         a briefing for Congressional staff by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

 

 

II.     THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS
The House and Senate were in both in session.

 

Action in the House

The House considered and passed the following bills this week:

·         H.R. 115, the “Thin Blue Line Act,” on a 271-143 vote;

·         H.R. 510, the “Rapid DNA Act,” by voice vote under a suspension of the rules;

·         H.R. 1039, the “Probation Officers’ Protection Act,” on a 229-177 vote;

·         H.R. 1428, the “American Law Enforcement Heroes Act,” by voice vote under a suspension of the rules;

·         H.R. 1616, the “Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act,” by voice vote under a suspension of the rules; and

·         H.R. 1892, the “Honoring Hometown Heroes Act,” on a 411-1 vote.

 

The FOP strongly supported these pieces of legislation and played a key role in getting them to the floor and winning the two roll call votes.  All the bills above were transmitted to the Senate, but the House chose to take up and pass the Senate bills S. 419 and S. 583 (see below).  In addition, S. 139 (see below) is being held at the House desk and may be voted on, which would send the bill to the President for his signature. 

 

Action in House Committees

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations held at hearing entitled: “Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century.”  National President Chuck Canterbury appeared and gave testimony.

 

 

Action in the Senate

The Senate considered and approved the following legislation by unanimous consent:

·         S. 139, the “Rapid DNA Act,”;

·         S. 419, the “Public Safety Officers’ Benefit Improvement Act,”;

·         S. 583, the “American Law Enforcement Heroes Act,” and

·         S. 867, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act.”

 

The FOP strongly supported all of these bills and played a key role in crafting S. 867.  All four bills were transmitted to the House and, as noted above, S. 419 and S. 583 were also passed in the House and now go to the President to be signed into law.

 

The Senate also confirmed the nomination of Rachel L. Brand to be Associate Attorney General of the United States on a 52-46 vote.  The FOP supported her nomination.

 

 

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 https://www.congress.gov/

A.  Support H.R. 1205/S. 915, the “Social Security Fairness Act”
We added 4 cosponsors to H.R. 1205, bringing our current total to 124.

 

We have 6 cosponsors on S. 915.

B.  Support the H.R. 964/S. 424, the “Law Enforcement Officers’ Equity Act”
We added 3 cosponsors to H.R. 964, bringing our current total to 11.

There is 1 cosponsor on S. 424.

 

 IV.  FOP NEWS:  House Passes Thin Blue Line Act!

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcomed news that the House considered and passed H.R. 115, the “Thin Blue Line Act,” by a vote of 271-143. The FOP supported this bill since its introduction, as well as in the previous Congress.

“This is National Police Week and we are very grateful to the House and its leadership for taking up this legislation that will add more protections for law enforcements officers all over the country,” stated Canterbury.

The legislation amends existing law to make the killing of a State or local law enforcement officer an aggravating factor for individuals charged under Federal law.

“Law enforcement officers have always faced threats while on duty but within the last few years, officers have become a target for violence solely because of the uniform that they wear,” Canterbury continued. In 2016, we saw 33% of the officers killed by firearms in the line of duty because of targeted ambush attacks. A recent FBI report stated that 28% of attacks on law enforcement in 2016 were motivated by a hatred for police or by an extreme social or political agenda.

The FOP also extends its thanks to Representative Vernon G. Buchanan (R-FL) who introduced this legislation. “We are sincerely grateful for all those Members who voted in support of law enforcement and the FOP’s efforts to keep our men and women behind the badge safe,” said Canterbury. We thank you for your support of law enforcement and efforts to keep law enforcement officers safe in the line of duty.

 

 

V.  FOP NEWS:  PSOB Reform Passes Congress!!!

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcomed news that S. 419, the “Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvements Act,” passed the House yesterday by a voice vote under a suspension of the rules just one day after the Senate approved the same bill 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) and Kirsten M. Gillibrand (D-NY), addresses existing problems at the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Office with respect to transparency and accountability.  The changes to the existing statute will also help reduce the current backlog of claims and make it easier for families, who are grieving after the loss of their loved one, to file claims.

“Just two days ago, the FOP honored 234 officers who lost their lives in service to their country,” Canterbury said.  “The PSOB program was established to help and support the families these brave heroes left behind and I am grateful to Senators Grassley and Gillibrand, as well as the House Judiciary Committee and House leadership for working with us to get this bill to the President during National Police Week.  We are deeply grateful.”

 

 

VI.  FOP NEWS: National President Canterbury Testifies before the House

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, testified today before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations at a hearing entitled: “Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century.”

“I want to thank this Subcommittee for its recent work on bipartisan bills during this week, which is National Police Week,” Canterbury said.  “The law enforcement profession faces more challenges today and we’re in need of more support if we’re to succeed at keeping our streets and communities safe.”

National President Canterbury, who was the sole voice of the rank-and-file officers at the hearing, talked about the recent uptick in violence directed at law enforcement officers, citing a recent FBI study showing that 28% of fatal attacks on law enforcement were motivated by a hatred for police or by an extreme social or political agenda.

“The FOP has argued for some years that hateful vitriol, amplified by social media, is leading to violence directed at law enforcement officers and this report bears that out,” Canterbury said.

National President Canterbury also spoke about the importance of Federal programs that support law enforcement, including the hiring program administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Servies (COPS), the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne-JAG) programs, and surplus equipment programs administered by a number of different Federal components, not just the 1033 program at the U.S. Department of Defense.

National President Canterbury also addressed the need to improve mental health and wellness programs for law enforcement officers at the local level and touted  a bill the FOP helped craft, H.R. 2228, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act.”

“We have done a great deal to better protect our officers from physical harm and now we need to do better about keeping them mentally healthy,” Canterbury said.  “The Senate companion bill, S. 867, sponsored by Senator Donnelly, passed the Senate yesterday and I hope the House will consider it soon.”

The bill would direct the Attorney General to work with the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs to collect information about the mental health and wellness programs they administer.  This information, once gathered, would allow local and State law enforcement agencies to develop best practices and model guidelines to help provide similar services to their officers.

You can read his full testimony here: https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Canterbury-Testimony.pdf

 

 

VII.  FOP NEWS:  Senate Clears PSOB and LE Mental Health Bills

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcome news that the Senate considered and passed four FOP-supported bills by unanimous consent on Tuesday afternoon.

“This is National Police Week and we are very grateful to the Senate and its leadership for taking up legislation to improve policing and officer safety at a time when we honor their commitment and sacrifice,” Canterbury said.

The Senate passed S. 419, the “PSOB Improvements Act,” which addresses issues of transparency and accountability of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program.  It will also improve and expedite the handling of claims filed by our survivor families.

“The FOP played a key role in drafting this legislation, which passed the Senate late last summer but did not clear the House before the end of the Congress,” Canterbury said.  “We think it will make a tremendous difference to the families who lose their loved one in the line of duty.”

Under a unanimous consent agreement, the Senate also passed S. 867, the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act.”  The legislation directs the U.S. Attorney General to identify existing mental health and wellness programs, especially those administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, and then develop model policies which could be adopted by State, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.

“The very nature of our profession puts an incredible amount of stress and strain on our mental well-being,” Canterbury said.  “Our departments have physical training and guidelines to keep our officers physically fit, but in the vast majority of departments there is no mental wellness training or services available.  We believe Senator Donnelly and Senator Young’s bill is the first step at changing that and using the tools we already have to help law enforcement officers.”

The Senate also passed S. 139, the “Rapid DNA Act,” which will expedite the processing and use of DNA in investigations, as well as S. 583, the “American Law Enforcement Heroes Act,” which would prioritize the hiring of veterans and reservists through the hiring program administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

 

 

VIII.  FOP NEWS:  President Trump Joins FOP in Salute to Fallen Heroes

Today, the Fraternal Order of Police and the law enforcement community will assemble on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol to honor the 234 law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty, including 70 officers who ran toward the smoke and the chaos on 9/11 and have succumbed to illnesses they contracted there.  The National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service is the capstone event of National Police Week.

“It is a day filled with sorrow and mourning as we remember those men and women who laid down their lives for the communities they protected,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

National President Canterbury will host the event which will feature the keynote address by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. A musical tribute will be performed by country music artist Kellie Pickler.

“National Police Week is a special time for our nation as we all pause, reflect and remember the enormous sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers and their families,” Canterbury said. “And today, at this National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, we come together with, the President and Vice President of the United States, to honor the memories and mourn with the families of the fallen.”

During National Police Week, thousands of law enforcement officers in every region of the nation and corner of the country gather at memorial services to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.  More than 20,000 officers, as well as the surviving family members and friends of slain officers, have traveled to the nation’s capital to attend the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which remains the nation’s largest and most prominent memorial service held on behalf of fallen law enforcement officers.

“In our grief, we find solitude. In our healing, we find gratitude. We carry on and renew our dedication and service to the communities we protect and serve,” said President Canterbury

In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15th as National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.  Since the signing of this proclamation, this date has been the official day of recognition for law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the performance of their duty.  This is the 36th year that the Fraternal Order of Police and its Auxiliary have held the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.  Additionally, this year will be the largest turn out to recognize our law enforcement and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

 

IX.          Follow the FOP on Twitter!
Sign up today for the latest news from Capitol Hill:  https://twitter.com/GLFOP

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John Blackmon

A retired law enforcement officer who now serves as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3.
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