Friday, February 8, 2008

Chambliss Urges Congress to Restore Critical Law Enforcement Funding

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today urged Congress to restore funding for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which helps pay for drug task forces, courts and treatment programs, police salaries, innovative technologies and gang prevention strategies. The program, which members of Georgia’s law enforcement and judicial communities have said is critical to their efforts, was severely cut last year in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Additionally, the president’s budget request, which is expected to be sent to Capitol Hill by the end of this week, is not expected to include robust funding for the program.

“I have heard first-hand from Georgians that this funding is critical to their efforts in keeping our citizens in both rural and urban communities safe,” said Chambliss, who has led the bipartisan effort to restore the funding since arriving in the Senate. “If we’re serious about protecting our communities, keeping drugs off our streets, and preventing future crime, then we have to give our local law enforcement personnel the resources they need to carry out their duties. I met with many of our district attorneys this week during their visit to Washington and they underscored the need for this funding. Further, I was proud to be joined by Monroe County Sheriff John Carey Bittick today in urging support for this funding. He has been a tireless voice on behalf of those who need this funding to sustain their task forces and carry out numerous other responsibilities.”

Sheriff John Cary Bittick of Monroe County, current Chairman of National Sheriffs’ Association Congressional Affairs Committee and the past President of the National Sheriffs’ Association, said: “The National Sheriffs’ Association, as well as the International Association of the Chiefs of Police and all other major law enforcement associations are going to be greatly appreciative of Senator Chambliss’ efforts on our behalf. The Byrne grants are important to all law enforcement because it is how we fund our regional narcotics taskforces, as well as, our major efforts to fight drugs particularly methamphetamine.”

Background on Chambliss Action:

In 2006, Chambliss and Senator Mark Dayton, D-Ohio, offered an amendment to restore $900 million in funding to the Byrne/JAG program as part of the Senate-passed budget. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the Senate. Upon Dayton’s retirement from the Senate, Chambliss partnered with Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca., to introduce the legislation. Last year, Chambliss and Feinstein pushed to authorize more than $1 billion in much-needed support to state and local law enforcement task forces and other agencies each year through Fiscal Year 2012. The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Chambliss offered an amendment to the 2007 Senate Budget Resolution to provide $900 million in formula funding for the Byrne/JAG Program. The amendment was accepted by Unanimous Consent. With the Budget Committee’s decision to also provide $191 million in Byrne discretionary funds, the amendment provided room in the budget for the Byrne/JAG program to be funded at or near its full $1.095 billion authorized level.

On June 18, 2007, Chambliss and Feinstein sent a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Byrne/JAG program. 32 Senators signed onto the letter.

For more than 20 years, grants from the Byrne/JAG program and its predecessor programs have funded state and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs. The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne/JAG Program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties. The program was named after New York Police officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.

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