Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Newsletter






NCSL 2019 Capitol Forum Recap

NCSL held its 2019 Capitol Forum in Phoenix on Dec. 9-12, 2019. Additional information on the criminal justice agenda, including accompanying resources, can be found on NCSL’s Capitol Forum website. Programming highlights for the Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety Committee are below.

Sharing the Cost of Disasters

Attendees heard from federal and state experts on how disaster spending is shared between federal, state and local governments, and how mitigation measures can save everyone money at a time when disaster costs are increasing. 
Joel Doolin, Office of Policy and Program Analysis, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Ryan Colker, International Code Council
Colin Foard, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Supreme Court Case Preview

The 2019-2020 term of the U.S. Supreme Court promises to be an exciting one. Attendees heard about immigration, abortion, transgender civil rights and gun control among many other hot issues the court will consider this year. State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Counsel Lisa Soronen analyzed these cases and offered a glimpse of other interesting cases before the court this year. 
Speaker: Lisa Soronen, State & Local Legal Center, Washington, D.C.

Arming School Personnel: The Pros and Cons

Arming school personnel—including teachers, leaders and school resource officers—has become a topic of serious debate as state and local policymakers work to find solutions to keep students safe at school during acts of violence. Attendees heard state legislators, including Arkansas Senator Joyce Elliott, share their perspectives and discuss how their states and school districts have chosen to respond.

NCSL Public-Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery holds Winter Convening in Austin, Texas

The steering committee held its second meeting Jan. 17-18 in Austin in conjunction with NCSL's Executive Committee Meeting. The agenda is available. The steering committee heard from experts in disaster mitigation and recovery such as the Texas General Land Office Disaster Recovery director, Iowa Homeland Security director and Homeland Security advisor, the First Responder Network Authority, International Code Council, the Western Fire Chiefs Association and others. The steering committee continued the work of its three working groups: 1) State-Federal Spending; 2) Infrastructure and Housing Resilience; and 3) Interstate Agreements. Attendees had the opportunity to visit ICON to see an example of how private-sector innovations–3D printed housing–are solving disaster challenges. Visit the partnership webpage for resources and presentations from the Winter Convening, 2019 Summer Convening, and more.


Congress Passes FY 2019 Continuing Resolution

In December, House and Senate appropriators completed negotiations to fund the federal government. The $1.37 trillion deal includes appropriations for all 12 FY 2020 agency spending bills, as well as $1.375 billion for the president’s border wall—the main issue of contention since the appropriations process began early spring 2019. The president is scheduled to release his 2021 budget request on Feb. 10. A summary of homeland security and justice FY 2020 appropriations are included below.

Homeland Security
  • The spending package provides $1.38 billion to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, equal to FY 2019 and $3.62 billion less than the president’s request.
  • Provides $2 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a $4 million increase from the president’s budget request.
  • Provides $1 billion to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which establishes standards for industry and government technology, a moderate increase from FY 2019.
  • Provides $783 million to the Rural Utilities Service, a $130 million increase from FY 2019.
  • Provides $40 million to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a $1 million increase from FY 2019.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funded at $22.3 billion, an increase of $5.7 billion from FY 2019.
  • The Transportation Security Agency is funded at $5 billion, an increase of $100 million from FY 2019.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement is funded at $8.1 billion, an increase of $500 million from FY 2019.
  • The spending package also includes $17.4 billion in additional disaster relief funds, spread across multiple programs.
  • Funds the Department of Justice at $32.6 billion, which is $1.7 billion above the enacted FY 2019 level.
  • The measure provides $3.28 billion in total budgetary resources for state and local law enforcement activities, including $3.16 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding and $435 million for the Crime Victim Fund transfers. This amount is $321 million more than FY 2019 and $886.3 million more than requested and includes the following:
    • $547 million for Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, an increase of 123 million over FY 2019 levels.
    • $502 million for the Office on Violence Against Women, an increase of 5 million over FY 2019 levels.
    • $343 million for Community Oriented Policing Services programs, an increase of 40 million over FY 2019 levels.
    • $125 million for STOP School Violence grants, an increase of 24 million over FY 2019 levels.
    • $85 million for Victims of Trafficking grants, level funding with FY 2019 levels.
SCOTUS Lifts Nationwide Injunction on the Public Charge Rule

On Jan. 27 the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction on the public charge rule allowing the new rule to go into effect. NCSL opposed this rule in comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security. For more information on public charge, see NCSL’s resource: Immigration and Public Charge: DHS Proposes New Definition.

Pell Grants for Incarcerated Populations

As of January 2020, four bills have been introduced in Congress aimed at expanding Pell Grants eligibility to incarcerated individuals. This federal funding will allow eligible education institutions to provide vocational and educational training to those currently incarcerated. More information on the benefits of education programs within prisons can be found here.

Department of Homeland Security Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation

This month, the DHS released its “Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation.” This strategy articulates the department's long-term approach for combating these crimes and is meant to serve as a framework to prioritize resources and monitor progress. The strategy supports the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, a cabinet-level entity that coordinates federal efforts to combat human trafficking. The strategy identifies five goals:

  • Prevention: Reduce the threat by providing information and resources to specific vulnerable populations, schools, and community groups.
  • Protection: Disrupt illicit activity by identifying and assisting victims toward stability and recovery.
  • Prosecution: Leverage DHS law enforcement and national security authorities to investigate, take enforcement action, and refer cases for prosecution.
  • Partnership: Build strong partnerships throughout the homeland security enterprise as force multipliers across the Nation.
  • Enabling DHS: Harmonize and organize DHS programs to allow for maximum efficiency and effectiveness in addressing these threats.
New State Fact Sheets from Vera Institute of Justice

The Vera Institute of Justice released its “Incarceration in Local Jails and State Prisons” state fact sheets. Each fact sheet is only four pages and shows where each state stands on a variety of jail and prison statistical measures. For several years, Vera researchers have been working to advance the availability of county- and state-level incarceration data through projects such as the Incarceration Trends data tool and the People in Prisons report series. The documents are designed to allow readers to easily see how their state compares to others. Data is broken down by race, gender, and geography to feature three aspects of incarceration that are at the core of Vera’s research and advocacy: racism as a central feature of mass incarceration, rapid growth in the number of women behind bars, and rising incarceration rates in smaller cities and rural counties.

Additional Resources

NCSL's First Appearance: Your roundup of front-end justice policy and news

From the NCSL Blog