Washington Watch: Legislative Update

 

… For the Week of 11 April 2011 …
 

I.       Legislative News and Activity
II.     This Week in Congress
III.    Update on FOP Top Legislative Priorities
IV.    Social Security Fairness Act Introduced in the House
V.     National FOP President Calls on American Federation of Teachers to Reject Resolution Supporting Philadelphia Cop-Killer
VI.    FOP teams up with National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
VII.   FOP NEWS: National Legislative Office is now on Facebook!

I.   LEGISLATIVE NEWS AND ACTIVITY
National President Chuck Canterbury and Executive Director James Pasco met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., on the collective bargaining crisis, recent cuts to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and other discretionary grant funding programs for State and local law enforcement.

National President Canterbury and Executive Director Pasco met with Senator Sherrod C. Brown (D-OH) to discuss the collective bargaining crisis in Ohio and development of a national strategy.

Executive Director Pasco met with James H. Burch II, Acting Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on mandatory vest wearing policies.

Executive Director Pasco met with Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Bruce Cohen, Majority Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary and y to discuss the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act, recent cuts to COPS and other discretionary grant funding programs for State and local law enforcement.

Senior Legislative Liaison Tim Richardson, Legislative Liaison Breanna Bock-Nielsen, and representatives from other law enforcement organizations met with John Abegg and Russell Coleman in the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to talk about law enforcement funding priorities for FY2012.

Senior Legislative Liaison Richardson and Legislative Liaison Bock-Nielsen represented the FOP at a stakeholder meeting of law enforcement organizations to discuss FY2012 funding issues and other pending legislative matters important to the law enforcement community.

Legislative Liaison Bock-Nielsen represented the FOP at a meeting of labor organizations to discuss the attacks on State and local pensions.

Legislative Liaison Bock-Nielsen attended a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform entitled, �State and Municipal Debt: Tough Choices Ahead.� The hearing included testimony from Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT), as well as several other witnesses.

II.  THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS
Both the House and Senate were in session this week, but went into recess on Friday, 15 April.  Both chambers will stand in recess for two weeks in observance of Easter and Passover.  Both the House and the Senate will reconvene on Monday, 2 May.

Action in the House  
The House considered and passed H.R.1473/PL 112-8, the �Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011,� by 260 -167 vote.  The legislation funds the operations of the Federal government through the end of FY2011. 

The House adopted, 235-193, a fiscal 2012 budget blueprint that calls for $1.019 trillion in non-emergency discretionary spending, $102 billion less than requested by President Obama. The plan (H Con Res 34) proposes cutting $6.2 trillion over 10 years, and reducing cumulative deficits by $4.4 trillion compared with Obama�s budget proposal; restructuring Medicaid and Medicare; and overhauling the tax system. The House defeated four substitute plans, including a Democratic alternative, 166-259, that would freeze non-security discretionary spending for five years. An alternative by the conservative Republican Study Committee that aimed to balance the budget within a decade was rejected 119-136.

Action in House Committees
The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the detainee transfer policy and recidivism of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

The House Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing entitled, “Taking Measure of Countermeasures.”

Action in the Senate
The Senate considered and passed H.R. 1473/PL112-8, the �Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011,� by 81-19 vote.  The bill was transmitted to the President, who signed it into law.  The legislation funds the operations of the Federal government through the end of FY2011. 

Action Senate Committees
The Senate Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Department of Defense (DoD) plans and programs relating to counterterrorism, counternarcotics and building partnership capacity. The hearing included testimony from Garry Reid, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and combating terrorism; James A. Schear, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for partnership strategy and stability operations; and William F. Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for counternarcotics and global threats.

III. UPDATE ON FOP TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
For the complete list of cosponsors for all of our top legislative priorities, or to find out if your Representative and Senators are cosponsors of specific bills, check out http://thomas.loc.gov .
 
A.  Social Security Issues

(1)  Support the H.R. 1332 “Social Security Fairness Act”
 We currently have a total of forty-nine (48) cosponsors on H.R. 1332.  Please note that this total differs slightly from THOMAS, as we are not including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who has limited voting rights on the floor.

In addition, National Legislative Office staff are actively working with staff in the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on S. 113, the “Public Servant Retirement Protection Act.”  This legislation would not impact the Government Pension Offset (GPO), but would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and replace it with a more equitable, individualized calculation of Social Security benefits based on an individual�s entire work history. 

The FOP has always been supportive of this legislation and will continue to work with Senator Hutchison and Representative Kevin P. Brady (R-TX) who has previously champion the bill in the House.  Currently, there are no cosponsors on the bill.

(2)  Opposing any legislation that would require the participation of public employees in Social Security
The FOP will continue to lobby against this scheme and oppose any legislation which would mandate participation in Social Security.

B.  Support the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act”
This legislation, which would which would guarantee the right of public safety employees to bargain collectively with their employers over hours, wages and conditions of employment, has not yet been introduced.  The National Legislative Office staff has already contacted key Members of Congress regarding this legislation and we are working on an introduction strategy.

C.  Support the “Law Enforcement Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act”
This legislation, which would provide a minimum level of procedural protections for law enforcement officers accused of administrative wrongdoing because of the gravity of potential harm to officers created by this lack of uniform safeguards, has not yet been introduced.  National Legislative Office staff is engaged with staff in both the House and the Senate to get these bills introduced.

D.  Support the H.R. 327, the “Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act”
We currently have a total of ten (10) cosponsors on H.R. 327.

The Senate companion bill has not yet been reintroduced.

E.  Support the H.R. 324, legislation giving Federal law enforcement officers employed by the U.S. Department of Defense statutory arrest authority
We currently have a total of six (6) cosponsors on H.R. 324.

A Senate companion bill has not yet been introduced.

IV. Social Security Fairness Act Introduced in the House
Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcomed the introduction of H.R. 1332, the “Social Security Fairness Act.” in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For more than ten years now, the FOP has been pushing for this repeal,” Canterbury said. “Congress knows this issue well because it’s held six hearings on this issue in last few years. The repeal of the WEP and GPO should be part of the discussion as Congress grapples with fiscal reform.”

The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Howard L. Berman (D-CA). The bill, which already has forty-eight (48) cosponsors, would repeal both the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) in current Social Security law.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) affects workers who spent some time in jobs not covered by Social Security and also worked other jobs where they paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify for retirement benefits. The provision has a disproportionate effect on law enforcement officers, who retire earlier than most other public employees and are more likely to begin a second career after they leave law enforcement. Officers in this position are penalized and may have their Social Security benefit reduced by up to sixty (60%) percent.

“The WEP substantially reduces a benefit that workers had included and counted on when planning their retirement, and it substantially penalizes lower paid public employees with short careers or, like many retired law enforcement officers, those whose careers are evenly split inside and outside the Social Security system,” Canterbury explained. “This is a loss of benefits to which they are entitled, not an adjustment for a ‘windfall.'”

Like the WEP, the Government Pension Offset was adopted to shore up the finances of the Social Security trust fund. This “offset” law reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension.

“Nine out of ten times,” Canterbury said, “this so-called ‘offset’ completely eliminates the spousal benefit even though the covered spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years, thereby earning the right to these benefits.”

“The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate a windfall for workers; instead they have proved to be a windfall for the Federal government at the expense of public employees. That’s not right and it’s not fair,” he said. “Congress should repeal these inequitable provisions and pass the ‘Social Security Fairness Act.'”

 V.  National FOP President Calls on American Federation of Teachers to Reject Resolution Supporting Philadelphia Cop-Killer
At their conference a few weeks ago, the California chapter of the AFT adopted Resolution 19, “reaffirming” their support for cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal who murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel J. Faulkner, a member of Philadelphia Lodge #5. The California AFT also intends to introduce a similar resolution for consideration at the AFT’s national conference.

National President Canterbury released a letter today calling on the Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, to repudiate Resolution 19. You can read that letter here: http://www.fop.net/legislative/CFTRes19.PDF

VI.  FOP teams up with National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Fraternal Order of Police has joined forces with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) on their safety prevention resource, Take 25 campaign. Each lodge, State and local, should have received a packet about this campaign and how you and your lodge can help. The Take 25 campaign was created in honor of National Missing Children�s Day annually recognized on May 25th. The Take 25 campaign provides free resources and child safety information leading up to the month of May to local communities. Please feel free to contact Jessica Caswell in the NFOP Legislative office at (202) 547-8189 if you did not receive information or have any questions.

VII. FOP NEWS: National Legislative Office is now on Facebook!
Because our grassroots are so important to our efforts on Capitol Hill, we have created a National Legislative Office Facebook page to keep our members informed.

Take a moment now to join our Facebook page to stay current with the latest information from Washington, D.C.  Please feel free to join in any of our discussions and don’t forget to invite all your FOP brothers and sisters to join!

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