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California Capitol Hill Bulletin

                Volume 9, Bulletin 9 -- April 11, 2002    [or see pdf version]


CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE

Delegation Circulating SCAAP Letter

Rep. Capps Circulating Two California Letters on Coastal Issues

Senate Judiciary Reauthorizes COPS Program

INS Restructuring Receives Strong Support in House

Rep. Gary Miller's Brownfields Bill Approved

Bush Revives Medical Research Discussion

Farm Bill: California and Florida Members Defend Specialty Crop and Livestock Interests

Senate Rejects Feinstein Plan to Restore Energy Trading Oversight; Expands FERC Authority

California Senators Object to Mandated Ethanol in Energy Bill

RAND Hosts California Terrorism Briefing for Capitol Hill Staff

Welfare Briefing on Friday, April 19


To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic faxed bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill which directly impacts our state. Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods. The e-mail edition is made possible in part by in kind donations from Sun Microsystems and IBM Corp.


Delegation Circulating SCAAP Letter

Reps. David Dreier (San Dimas) and Sam Farr (Carmel) are circulating a bipartisan delegation letter for signatures by other members of the California congressional delegation on funding for the SCAAP program. SCAAP, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, partially reimburses states and local governments for the costs of incarcerating illegal criminal aliens. In the past, all 52 members of the California delegation have signed letters supporting full funding for the program.

The current SCAAP letter is being sent to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Subcommittee, Frank Wolf (VA) and Jose Serrano (NY), respectively. It urges the Subcommittee to fund the SCAAP program at $750 million for FY2003. The letter calls for a strong federal, state, and local partnership following September 11, and argues that inadequate SCAAP funding would drain financial resources from "other important state and local crime control and prevention programs, as well as the increasing financial obligations brought on by war and terrorism.

In 2001, California received approximately $226 million of the $565 million appropriated.

Members wishing to sign the letter should contact either Amanda Adkins in Rep. Dreier's office (x52305) or Pam Barry in Rep. Farr's office (x52861).

 

Rep. Capps Circulating Two California Letters on Coastal Issues

Two letters are circulating for signature among California Congressional delegation members this week regarding coastal issues. One letter opposes outer continental shelf oil development, while the other seeks continued funding for a coastal assistance program for areas near such development.

A letter to House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Frank Wolf and Ranking Democrat Jose Serrano asks for $150 million in FY 2003 funds for the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), which assists coastal communities impacted by the development of offshore energy resources. The letter states that funds may be used for protecting and restoring coastal habitats, coastal community revitalization, improving safety and port infrastructure, and addressing polluted runoff.

The other letter, to House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Joe Skeen and Ranking Democrat Norm Dicks, expresses support for the existing moratorium on new mineral leasing in the OCS, which has been "included in every annual Interior Appropriations bill since 1982." The letter asks for similar language in the FY 2003 bill. The letter states, "This legislative moratorium represents 20 years of bipartisan agreement on the importance of protecting the environmentally and economically valuable coastal areas of the United States."

Offices of Members who wish to sign on to either letter should contact Jonathan Levenshus with Rep. Capps at x5-3601 or at jonathan.levenshus@mail.house.gov .

 

Senate Judiciary Reauthorizes COPS Program

On Thursday, April 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out S. 924 to reauthorize the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which expired in 2000. The initial program was enacted during the Clinton Administration and was aimed at hiring 100,000 more police officers. The new bill authorizes $1.5 billion annually for six years.

Under the bill, the Attorney General would be allowed to use COPS grants funding to increase prosecutor presence, enhance law enforcement access to new technologies, pay overtime to existing police officers for community policing efforts, and reimburse law enforcement personnel for college or graduate school education costs.

S. 924 would also allow additional grant projects for ethics training and for crime control and prevention programs involving school officials and religiously-affiliated organizations. The bill also reserves some funds for local governments with a population of less than 50,000, and limits the amount that can be spent on retaining police offices to no more than 50 percent of grant renewal funds.

 

INS Restructuring Receives Strong Support in House

On April 10, 2002, the House Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 32-2, passed legislation that would split the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) into two new agencies: one in charge of enforcement activities and the other responsible for immigration and citizenship services. Each bureau would be organs of a new Agency for Immigration Affairs overseen by an associate attorney general; the third highest ranked Justice Department Official.

The bill was approved after the Committee heard testimony from INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar at an oversight hearing on April 9. At that hearing, the Committee scrutinized the poor performance of the INS in processing applications and tracking undocumented migrants within the country.

Comprehensive reformation of the ailing $6.2 billion INS has been of congressional concern for over twenty years but failed approval in the past. Support for reorganization expressed by House leadership members lends greater possibility of legislative action this year. Public disclosures of a high profile visa extension error last month added even further notoriety to the INS' poor reputation.

The Bush Administration released their own plans to reform the INS earlier this year and although the president has no position on the bill, there is still an administrative approach to Immigration reform alive.

According to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Sessenbrenner (Wis), the new structural overhaul proposal in HR 3231 would improve the agency's functions by focusing each new branch exclusively on separate missions. The bill, "creates clear chains of command, separates the agency into its two equally important, but more manageable, missions, and requires more accountability," said Chair Sensenbrenner.

Democratic votes for the INS overhaul bill, HR 3231, were earned after House negotiators agreed to concessions submitted in committee via a substitute amendment.

 

Rep. Gary Miller's Brownfields Bill Approved

The House Financial Services Committee marked up H.R. 2941 on Thursday, April 11, and favorably reported it out by voice vote. The bill reauthorizes and simplifies a brownfields remediation program and will provide federal grants to help clean up and redevelop brownfields. The Brownfields Redevelopment and Enhancement Act of 2001 is authored by Rep. Gary R. Miller (Diamond Bar) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY).

During the markup the Committee approved by voice vote an amendment to provide business incentives for brownfields cleanup in areas with high unemployment and poverty rates.

H.R. 2941 authorizes the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants to eligible public entities to assist in the environmental cleanup and economic development of brownfield sites. It also provides that community development block grant (CDBG) loan guarantee limits will not include amounts for certain brownfield projects, and includes brownfield redevelopment as an eligible CDBG activity. HUD is also directed to: (1) implement the community empowerment fund pilot program, including brownfield redevelopment activities; and (2) conduct a study of Federal brownfield redevelopment activities.

The Brownfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) was established in 1998 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to supply grants for local revitalization and cleanup of urban and rural waste sites. Currently many cities and communities are locked out of the BEDI program due to a condition that requires applicants to stake Section 108 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money as collateral for federal aid. HR 2941 would remove this provision.

The bill creates a pilot program authorizing cities to use federal loans as collateral when seeking private investments to fund civic improvement projects. It is believed that HR 2941's loan pool program would help communities and cities make their brownfield-related development projects more attractive and less risky to private interests.

With the full committee passing the bill with no substantive changes, the bill appears likely to be debated on the House floor by the end of April.

 

Bush Revives Medical Research Discussion

A Senate bill sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback (KS) and Mary Landrieu (LA), that could affect California's expansive biotechnology industry received President Bush's endorsement at a White House sponsored event for cloning opposition on April 10, 2002. SB 1899 would pass a complete ban on human embryo testing.

Medical research groups have come out in opposition to the measure; favoring instead a bipartisan alternative sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kennedy (MA), Arlen Specter (PA) and Tom Harkin (IA) that would exclude Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfers (SCNT), also known as therapeutic cloning or stem-cell research, from prohibition.

Opponents of the stem cell exception view any kind of medical tampering with human embryos as destructive and unethical. Proponents, such as the Biotechnology Organization (BIO) a nationwide consortium of 1,000 medical research organizations, argue that therapeutic cloning should remain legal since it is vital to developing cures and treatments for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Arterio Lateral Sclerosis and other serious ailments.

Senate floor debate on the Brownback bill is expected before the Memorial Day recess although no committee action has been taken on the bill since its introduction to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 28, 2002.

 

Farm Bill: California and Florida Members Defend Specialty Crop and Livestock Interests

Echoing the concerns of 52 national and state agricultural organizations from California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, New Jersey and Texas, a bipartisan cross-section of close to 30 members of the California Congressional Delegation endorsed a letter on April 10, 2002 to the Chairs and ranking members of the Farm bill Conference Committee. The California members joined with members of the Florida Congressional delegation in urging top conferees to preserve funding for market promotion programs in the Farm bill's Trade section. These programs benefit specialty crop and livestock producers. Reps. George Randanovich (Mariposa) and Sam Farr (Carmel) led the effort on behalf of Californians.

The cuts would reduce funding for trade promotion, rural development and agricultural research grant programs including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAS) by 40 percent as a consequence of preestablished budget parameters for individual farm bill titles. Since specialty crop and livestock producers, many of which are located in California, do not benefit from direct government subsidies, the funds provided by these programs are considered that much more indispensable, according to the letter.

Farm bill Conferees are expected to consider the request at their next hearing.

 

Senate Rejects Feinstein Plan to Restore Energy Trading Oversight; Expands FERC Authority

On Wednesday, April 10, the Senate voted 50-48 against a motion to invoke cloture, or end debate, on a filibuster against on Feinstein's amendment to the energy bill (S 517) on the Senate floor. A motion to invoke cloture needs to win 60 votes in order to pass.

The amendment, filibustered by Sen. Phil Gramm (TX), would have restored the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's authority over derivative transactions of energy commodities. It also would have required online trading forums to maintain capital at a level proportional with risk to carry out their operations.

Feinstein said the lack of regulatory oversight on energy trading contributed to energy problems in California and on the West Coast, and to the Enron Corp. bankruptcy. Feinstein advocated increased regulation and greater transparency, and the amendment would have altered an exemption provision in the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which she alleged allowed Enron to manipulate electric and natural gas markets.

The Senate also voted to retain the electricity restructuring title of the bill, defeating 32-67 an amendment to significantly rewrite the title which was authored by Sen. Larry Craig (ID) and was supported by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. The retained title also transfers authority over mergers from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Sen. Boxer felt that FERC should not get additional authority, commenting, "California's experience with FERC has been nothing less than dismal."

 

California Senators Object to Mandated Ethanol in Energy Bill

During a hearing on Thursday, April 11, Senator Barbara Boxer indicated that she will offer two amendments to modify the mandated ethanol provisions in the energy bill. The first amendment would "hold ethanol producers responsible for any future damage to the environment or any threat to public health. The current bill lets ethanol producers off the hook if there are future health and safety problems from ethanol." The second would encourage the use of ethanol produced from agricultural biomass - such as rice straw and sugarcane residue - as an alternative to corn-based ethanol.

In a statement on the Senate floor, meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein also objected to the renewable fuel provisions in the bill, characterizing them as a "wealth transfer of billions of dollars from every state in the nation to a handful of ethanol producers." Senator Feinstein also cited a Hart Downstream Energy Services study indicating that gas prices in all 50 states will increase as a result of the provisions, with California's gas prices going up 9.6 cents per gallon. Nevertheless, when she attempted to offer an amendment to another energy-related bill on Thursday, April 11, the Senate voted 61 to 36 to table it. Senator Feinstein said she will continue her efforts to amend the ethanol mandate.

 

RAND Hosts California Terrorism Briefing for Capitol Hill Staff

On April 10, 2002, the RAND Corporation conducted a hearing for California Delegation members and their staff on the California impacts of terrorism and homeland security issues. The briefing highlighted some of the findings of a recent RAND publication entitled The Implications of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks for California. Researchers presented the results of individual policy papers on the state insurance industry's level of preparedness, the response capacity against the spread of dangerous and biological materials, and the collective psychological impacts of a potential California terrorist threat.

Among the primary suggestions from the panel presentation included approval of terrorism exclusions in insurance policy coverage by California's insurance agency; use of rigorous congressional oversight to verify implementation of biochemical control regulations; the taking into account of California's linguistic and cultural challenges before devising leadership strategies and coordinated communication in response to an attack.

This briefing presented results and policy suggestions from the second RAND research effort with a specific security focus since September 11, 2001. In October, 2001 RAND was asked by now Speaker Emeritus Robert Hertzberg to assess the California impact of the terrorist attacks as related to: the travel and tourist industry; the US airline industry; insurance industry limitations; weapons of mass destruction attacks and statewide preparedness; access and control of dangerous biological materials; and collective psychological effects.

For more information, visit http://www.rand.org .

 

Welfare Briefing on Friday, April 19

On Friday, April 19, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) and the California Institute will host a luncheon briefing to examine the state's unique vantage point regarding federal welfare policies and caseload trends as the Congressional delegation begins considers TANF reauthorization. The briefing will explore why California has seen a smaller decline in its welfare caseload relative to the rest of the nation. Margaret O'Brien-Strain, PPIC economist and welfare expert, will discuss two factors that distinguish California's policymaking challenges and priorities: the demographic characteristics of California's caseload, and its relatively generous program of benefits and sanctions.

The lunch briefing will be held Friday, April 19, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Copies of PPIC publications that have examined these and related issues will be available. The Public Policy Institute of California is an independent, nonpartisan research institute based in San Francisco. (Please note that this lunch briefing is separate from and in addition to an April 12 briefing, which will also focus on welfare issues.) To RSVP for the April 19 lunch (acceptances only please), send e-mail to ransdell@calinst.org or call 202-546-3700.

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