G.O.P.'s 'Leaner, Meaner' Crime Bills Would Scrap School-Based Programs
Flexing their new political muscle in Congress, Republicans leaders have introduced bills that will form the basis of an effort to replace last year's crime act with something "leaner and meaner."
The G.O.P. bills in the House and the Senate would both cut nearly all of the prevention programs authorized last year--including some school-based initiatives--while bolstering prison and law-enforcement programs.
The proposals would cut the price tag of the 1994 legislation--which authorizes $30.2 billion for punishment and prevention programs--by one-third. The House bill would authorize $20 billion in spending; the Senate bill would allow $18 billion.
The House Republicans' proposed "taking back our streets act," HR 3, would slash the entire $7 billion in crime-prevention spending authorized in the current law. The law includes money to help local governments run health and education programs for the poor, mentoring projects, and youth-employment programs in high-crime areas.
The bill would also add a $10 billion law-enforcement block grant, which could be used to strengthen security around schools, increase school police forces, or purchase school-security supplies. However, local police departments could also choose to use the money to increase patrols, train new officers, or buy equipment.
Sparer Senate Bill
While the House bill contains some provisions that could help school districts fight crime, the Senate bill has none.
The proposed "violent crime and law-enforcement amendments act," S 3, would remove all the prevention programs enacted last year and substitute a law-enforcement-assistance program to help police departments expand and upgrade their crime-fighting abilities.
In addition, the Senate bill would expand the federal offenses for which juveniles could be tried as adults to include drug conspiracies, firearms transport, and gun trafficking.
"The crime clock is still ticking, and this is the tough anti-crime legislation the American people deserve," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said in introducing the Senate bill this month.
Democrats are calling the Republicans' proposed cuts in prevention funding "dangerous" and are gearing up for a long legislative battle.
"We want the prevention programs to stay as they are, and we are going to fight to do this," said one Democratic aide.
However, the Republican majority can also attack the prevention programs by declining to pay for them in the next appropriations cycle.
A hearing on the House bill is scheduled for this week.