Issue: Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations
Federal grant funds for the Department of Justice agencies that are important to state court operations are included in these bills.
State courts advocate full funding for those programs created to assist state courts to respond to federal initiatives and implement federal mandates on state courts. Court leaders have also supported adding language that would permit their participation in the planning and funding of other federal programs that affect their workloads.
The Departments of Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriation bills contain programs of interest to state courts. These bills also define eligibility for state and local government entities to apply for these funds. Eligible recipients of funds at the state and local level are usually defined as “states and units of local government,” which sometimes has been interpreted to exclude direct funding for the judicial branch.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of H.R. 2578 on 6/11/15. Funding amounts are generally better than the House. For example, Juvenile Justice funding would mostly be restored, Legal Services would get $385M (vs. $300M in House) and $10M would be allocated for Mental Health Courts.
The retirement of Speaker Boehner made it easy for the approval of the Bipartisan Budget Act that increased the spending caps and suspends the sequester for at least 2 years. On 12/18/15, Congress approved an omnibus spending agreement. The news is good for law/justice programs. Programs like VAWA got an increase ($480M) vs. FY 2015 ($430M). The Byrne JAG program got $347M (vs $333M in 2015), Drug Courts got $42M (vs 41M in 2015). On 12/18/15, President Obama signed the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2029) making it PL 114-113.
The FY 2017 budget cycle is underway. Both the House and Senate Appropriations committees have approved their respective CJS spending bills. Thanks to the generous budget deal, spending for law/justice programs is up. For example: Drug courts get $42M, same amount it received last year, Byrne JAG gets $476M, an increase over FY16, Violence Against Women gets $528M, an increase from last year. The compressed schedule could mean that there may be a CR, which means programs get the same funding they received in FY16.
A year-end CR extended FY 2016 spending levels until April 2017 allowing the 115th Congress to impose its will on the FY 2017 appropriations, as well as for FY 2018.
President Trump signed HR 244 (PL-115-31) the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which finished the FY17 funding cycle. Overall most programs fared well. Examples: Drug Courts got $43M, and VAWA got $41.5M. These amounts are increases over FY16.
President Trump unveiled his FY18 budget on 5/22/17. Most programs suffer slight cuts or remain steady. The House and Senate Appropriations Committee have weighed in on funding amounts. Generally, they are proposing small increases for FY18 vs. the Trump amounts.
As of this writing, the Senate was voting to end a 3-day government shutdown. Both the House and Senate CJS bills have been written and they are generally higher than what President Trump proposed. There is also the prospect of sequestration, which could shave 5-10% off the final 2018 amounts. Sequestration could be avoided if a deal raising the budget caps is negotiated.