December 18, 2015

Cardin Highlights Numerous Successes on Civil Rights, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Priorities in the Omnibus Spending Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today highlighted success on priority issues related to civil rights, the criminal justice system and homeland security in the Omnibus legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016. While expressing strong reservations about certain aspects of the emerging legislation, Senator Cardin called the government funding bill “overwhelmingly positive for the nation, especially on civil rights, law enforcement and homeland security.”

The Omnibus bill’s Senate report language includes language consistent with Senator Cardin’s BALTIMORE Act; the End Racial Profiling Act; and the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act. It directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to swiftly devise and submit plans to improve training levels in use of force, identifying racial and ethnic bias, and conflict resolution for state and local law enforcement officers. It urges DOJ to partner with national law enforcement organizations to promote consistent standards for high-quality training and assessment, and directs the agency to better collect state and local law enforcement data on use of force. The bill also provides $22 million in competitive grants for body-worn cameras for police officers.

“A cross-cutting majority of Americans want to see racial and discriminatory profiling outlawed, and the Omnibus legislation moves us away from the practice,” said Senator Cardin. “The reason for ending discriminatory profiling should be clear: Profiling is against the values that we as Americans stand for and fight to defend. It's counterproductive. We’ve also seen that it can be deadly. And body-worn cameras for police officers will help restore trust with the community.”

The Omnibus bill provides $3.4 billion for Federal Bureau of Investigation counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations; more than $50 million for U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute terrorism cases; $114 million to the FBI for background checks for gun purchasers; and $840 million for gun law enforcement by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Senator Cardin also emphasized the importance of the $390 million included in the Omnibus for a fully consolidated FBI headquarters. “The $390 million Senator Mikulski was able to have included in the Omnibus appropriations bill is a vital down payment on a fully consolidated facility that will save the American taxpayers money,” said Senator Cardin. “It will allow the FBI to work more safely and efficiently to protect the American people.”

The government funding legislation provides $73 million to states to improve criminal and mental health records so interstate background checks are more effective. The legislation additionally provides $7 million to anti-heroin task forces, along with funding for grants to state and local governments for residential drug treatment prescription drug monitoring ($13 million) and drug courts ($42 million). The measure funds the important activities of the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, and supports the critical efforts of several Maryland counties to disrupt drug trafficking and money laundering operations in the region.

Importantly, the Omnibus provides $480 million for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women for support training for police officers and prosecutors, state domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, rape prevention programs, lethality assessment and homicide reduction initiatives, domestic violence hotlines, and women’s shelters and transitional housing support services. The legislation also provides $45 million for a competitive community grant program to reduce the backlog of rape kits.

“This bill helps us keep our promise to the victims of domestic violence that we will better protect them,” said Senator Cardin. “Victims of domestic violence need immediate support using all tools available to remove them from a dangerous situation, put them on a healing path and assist them in rebuilding their lives free from fear and violence. I’m proud we have strong federal-state partnerships like those funded in the Omnibus legislation to support effective, community-based programs in Maryland.”

To address the growing threat from radicalized individuals and terrorist attacks, the bill includes $50 million in new funding for the Secretary of Homeland Security to distribute as needed to state and local governments, universities, and non-profit organizations as needed.  It provides over $3 million for the new Office of Community Partnerships, to focus on countering violent extremism. 

The bill also provides more than $11 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is charged with securing our borders and regulating and facilitating international trade and immigration. It allocates $21 million for the FEMA Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md., to help train state and local first responders to recover from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. It provides $40 million to maintain all the current DHS Centers of Excellence within University Programs, including those at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. It also allocates $347 million for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which includes the National Capital Region.

“As we confront the threat of ISIL abroad and homegrown extremism, this bill will help keep Marylanders safe, including protecting critical facilities such as the Port of Baltimore and BWI Airport. I am proud of the work done every day to keep our communities safe by our state and local law enforcement officers, as well as our first responders and university researchers,” said Senator Cardin.