The website and registration for NCSL’s 2019 Capitol Forum, to be held in Phoenix Dec. 9-12, are now live. For more information and to register, visit the NCSL Capitol Forum website. Access to the criminal justice agenda is available here. Programming highlights for the Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee are below.
Hear from federal and state experts on how disaster spending is shared between levels of government, and how mitigation measures can save everyone money at a time when disaster costs are increasing.
The 2019-2020 term of the U.S. Supreme Court promises to be an exciting one. Immigration, abortion, transgender civil rights and gun control are just some of the hot issues the court will consider this session. Hear State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Counsel Lisa Soronen break these cases down and offer a glimpse of other interesting cases before the court.
Speaker: Lisa Soronen, State & Local Legal Center, Washington, D.C.
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. Hear state legislators, including Senator Joyce Elliott (D-Ark.), share their perspectives and discuss how their states and school districts have chosen to respond.
Earlier this month, NCSL submitted comments on the White House’s 2019 National Drug Control Strategy. The strategy aims to provide a plan for substantially addressing and reducing the impact of the growing threat of opioids, cocaine and synthetic drugs. It recommends solutions to drug production domestically and internationally and supports domestic law enforcement in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations, preventing drug use, and treating and supporting long-term recovery for those with substance use disorders. The strategy highlights nine goals to be achieved by 2022. These cover drug-induced mortality, educating the public about the dangers of drug use, expanding access to evidence-based treatment, decreasing the over-prescribing of opioid medications, and reducing the availability of illicit drugs in the United States through reduced production, increased seizure trends, and increased prices and reduced purity. NCSL submitted feedback based on the policies of the Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety Committee.
President Donald Trump signed two executive orders intended to reduce the legal weight of federal agency guidance. While this federal guidance—in the form of letters, memorandums, and bulletins—is not legally binding, it often ends up carrying the weight of enforcement, much like federal regulations. While some characterize guidance documents as a necessity in clarifying complex compliance requirements for industries and others, critics consider them an unjustified replacement for formal rulemaking. Trump has taken the latter stance, calling the statements “back door” for regulators to change laws and expand their scope and reach. One order requires agencies to post all guidance documents on a searchable website, and anything not posted is considered rescinded. The other order is aimed at preventing opaque or unlawful interpretations of regulations.
A new executive order will give the U.S. Attorney General (AG) broad discretion on the size, membership, and method of selection for a new Presidential Criminal Justice Commission. The AG may invite elected state, local and tribal officials to participate in the commission. The commission is charged with studying “issues related to law enforcement and the administration of justice and make recommendations to the Attorney General, who shall submit a report and recommendations to the President on actions that can be taken to prevent, reduce, and control crime, increase respect for the law, and assist victims.” Specific areas of study include challenges to law enforcement regarding substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness and other social factors that influence crime, recruitment and hiring of law enforcement personnel, and “refusals by State and local prosecutors to enforce laws or prosecute categories of crimes.” The commission has one year to submit a report of its findings to the AG.
NCSL filed an amicus brief through the SLLC in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether groundwater is subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The SLLC filed an amicus curie brief arguing that it shouldn’t be. Maui County injects treated wastewater from wells into the groundwater. Some of the treated wastewater reaches the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaii Wildlife Fund sued the county, arguing it was required to obtain an NPDES permit for these discharges. Per the CWA, a party must obtain an NPDES permit if it discharges a pollutant from a point source to a navigable water. Wells are point sources and the Pacific Ocean is a navigable water. But the treated wastewater, in this case, doesn’t go directly from the well to the ocean. It is conveyed through groundwater. The 9th Circuit assumed without deciding groundwater isn’t a point source or navigable waters. The case page can be found here.
Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill, co-sponsored by 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans, would provide a path to legalization for agricultural laborers and would expand the H-2A foreign guest-worker program. Specifically, it would also establish a mandatory E-Verify system nationwide for farm employers; simplify the H-2A application process; cap wages for farmworkers; and increase funding for USDA programs that support housing for laborers. The bill is supported by several agriculture organizations, including the National Farmers Union, California Farm Bureau, Western Growers Association, United Farm Workers, Farm Credit and National Milk Producers Federation. Senator Mo Denis (D-Nev.), co-chair of NCSL’s Task Force on Immigration and the States, met with members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to discuss moving forward on this legislation.