Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety News Roundup


Legislative Summit

  • Summit registration is open! The 2017 NCSL Legislative Summit will be Aug. 6-9 in Boston. The Summit page includes preliminary information on the schedule and agenda of issue sessions and deep dive programs. The agenda for the Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is forthcoming!

News Roundup

  • The president released his "skinny budget" in mid-March which asks for increases to the Department of Homeland Security for securing the border and sharp decreases in funding allocations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief. Small increases were requested for the FBI to target organized crime, the opioid epidemic and firearms background checks. The skinny budget also calls for cuts to state and local programs that are deemed "outdated and unnecessary." Most notable among the programs that were listed, is the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), a reimbursement program to states for the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens. Although this budget was very broad, highlights can be found here: 2018 Budget Blueprint, Administration Budget Proposal.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed the Adam Walsh Reauthorization act of 2017 (Adam Walsh Act) on March 22. Contained in the Adam Walsh Act is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which sets rigid and often preemptive standards on states in the area of sex offender registration. NCSL prepared a summary of SORNA - Background Summary on The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and sent a letter in opposition to the bill - NCSL Letter to U. S. House Judiciary Committee expressing concern to the consideration of H.R. 1188, the "Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017." To date, only 17 states have been able to comply with the requirements of SORNA and Congress has been unwilling to add more flexibility to the Act so that more states can comply. The penalty for non-compliance is a loss of 10 percent of a state's Byrne/JAG funding. The current reauthorization seeks to exempt compliant localities from this penalty provision. NCSL has advocated that states that comply with most, but not all, of the Act's requirements, should not be penalized in full, but rather should have a "graduated" penalty based on their level of compliance. NCSL will send out an action alert if this bill moves to the House floor with talking points for you to contact your congressional delegations.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a statement and a press release on "sanctuary cities" on March 27. He called upon states and localities seeking to receive federal Department of Justice grant money to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373, the provision that prohibits jurisdictions from actively withholding an individual's immigration status from ICE. Starting last year, the Bureau of Justice Assistance included a provision in the Byrne JAG, COPS, and SCAAP solicitations encouraging jurisdictions to be ready to confirm their compliance with Sec. 1373. Ten jurisdictions, two states and eight cities, had to take additional steps to actively prove compliance with Sec. 1373. Sessions' recent announcement appears to extend this requirement to all grants issued by the Office of Justice Programs. It also implies the possibility of clawing back funds from non-compliant jurisdictions sometime in the future. One of the issues with this pronouncement is that there is no clear definition of what constitutes a "sanctuary city" or a "sanctuary policy," as well as uncertainty as to specifically what Sec. 1373 requires. NCSL is working in coalition with other state and local national associations and will work with Congress to ensure state grant money is protected.
  • In a 5-3 decision in Moore v. Texas, the Supreme Court rejected the standard used by a Texas court to determine a death row inmate's intellectual disability. In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that executing the intellectually disabled violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and tasked states with implementation. The Texas court in this case relied on a 1992 definition of intellectual disability and "seven evidentiary factors" for assessing adaptive functioning set out in a previous Texas case Ex parte Briseno. In the new opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing for the majority, rejected the Texas court's conclusion that Moore's IQ score establishes that he is not intellectually disabled and their reliance on the Briseno factors, which the court described an "invention...untied to any acknowledged source." One of the factors included asking friends and family members their opinion on whether the defendant is "mentally retarded" —which the Court stated leads to stereotyping. The court also pointed out that no state legislature has approved the use of the Briseno factors "or anything similar."


Please contact your Committee staff or Susan Parnas-Frederick in D.C., with any questions or needs.