Criminal Justice Bill

S. 756 the legislative vehicle for the “First Step Act” and criminal justice reform, was presented to the president on Dec. 20, and signed the following day. The law aims to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, reduce recidivism, and build opportunities for those formerly incarcerated by advancing innovative programs and solutions delivered in partnership with community-based organizations among others.  

Other provisions in the law: 

  • Prohibit solitary confinement in juvenile facilities. 
  • Reauthorize grant programs, partnership with community-based organizations to help former prisoners rejoin their communities after they’re released. 
  • Authorize $75 million annually from fiscal 2019 through 2023 for programs to reduce recidivism. 
  • Require inmates to be imprisoned within 500 miles of their primary residence assuming facilities are available. 

Juvenile Justice Bill Finally Reauthorized 

In December, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (H.R. 6964) was finally signed into law, reauthorizing outdated legislation that hasn’t been made current since 2007. This five-year reauthorization was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate, passed with broad support in the House, and made its way to the President’s desk for signature. The goal of JJDPA is to protect the rights and safety of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The bill strengthens key protections, requires use of evidence-based and trauma-informed approaches to juvenile justice, and adds some new accountability measures. Under the reauthorization, states are required to implement policies and system improvement strategies to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities. It also requires removal of juveniles from adult facilities, with limited exceptions. Additional provisions will require state plans that include alternatives to detentions, use of community-based services, and family engagement.  

Government Shutdown 

During the shutdown, appropriations for some federal agencies and other programs lapsed, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Violence Against Women Act, Immigration programs (including E-Verify and EB-5 regional investor visas), and EPA authority to collect pesticide registration fees.  

Thursday, Jan. 3, within its first hours of service, the House approved a bill that would provide funding for the currently unfunded balance of government departments, programs, and services through Sept. 30. Additionally, by separate measure, it approved a Department of Homeland Security extension at its current funding through Feb. 8. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated neither will likely become law. It is anticipated the bills will stall and the debate over funding for the border wall will continue to be the wedge that keeps a funding bill from moving through Congress and reopening the government.  

The President and lawmakers plan to meet for the second time this week at the White House. This meeting, scheduled for today at 11:30 a.m., is an effort to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown that began two-weeks ago. 

Committee Leadership and Senate Committee Assignments 

Prior to the end of 2018, Committee Leaders for the 116th Congress were announced. Source: BGov/Bloomberg Government 

Yesterday, Jan. 3, after the new congress was sworn in, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released the Republican Committee Assignments. The assignments are subject to approval by the Republican Conference and the full Senate. Source: BGov/Bloomberg Government 

If you see your Senator or Representative in a leadership or committee role, please be sure to send them a note of thanks. Find your elected contact information here.  

Recently Proposed or Watched Legislation 

The Alliance watches specific bills at member request and new bills we find to be sector relevant. All bills previously tracked and not passed into law during 2018 died with the end of the 115th Congress. As we head into the 116th Congress, if you have a position or interest in any specific bills please email the Alliance Public Policy Office or call the Alliance Policy Hotline at 414-359-6626 and leave a message with your name and organization.

Member News

If you are a member in a state that is receiving a new governor in 2019 and either you or someone you know is serving on that transition team, let us know by emailing the Alliance Public Policy Office.