Court Improvement Programs Reauthorization

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Issue: Court Improvement Programs Reauthorization

Impact:

These formula grants assist state courts to improve the court’s oversight of child welfare cases.   

Position:

State court leaders support full funding for the three CIP grant programs.  (CCJ/COSCA Resolution 11-A-8)

Summary:

As part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L.-109-171), Congress authorized two new child welfare-related CIP grants – a grant to assist state courts with training and education and a grant to assist state courts with data collection and automation.  The authorization was for $10 million per year for each new grant program.  The highest judicial officer in each state, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico can apply for the grants.  The funds are distributed based on the same formula as the original “basic” CIP grant.  

Status:

On 6/16/11, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing to address the reauthorization of funding for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF).  Federal law requires that some of PSSF’s funding be set-aside for state courts for the CIP grants.   Written testimony was submitted on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.  Briefings on the CIP grants were also provided to Senate staff.    

A House bill (HR 2790) was introduced on 8/2/11 to reauthorize the three CIP grant programs at $20 million.  State court leaders advocated for restoration of the additional $10 million.   A bi-partisan, bi-cameral agreement was reached to reauthorize the three CIP grants at $30 million through FY 2016.  The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (H.R. 2883/S. 1542) was introduced on 9/12/11.  On 9/30/11, President Obama signed the legislation making it Public Law 112-34.  The legislation reauthorized the three CIP grant programs through FY 2016 at the $30 million level.  A $1 million set aside was created within the funds for a competitive tribal court grant program.  As such, $29 million will be available for distribution to state courts annually.  (State courts will continue to receive 3.3% of any PSSF discretionary dollars that Congress appropriates.)     

The authorization for the PSSF grant program, including the CIP grants, expired on 9/30/16.  On 6/13/16, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (H.R. 5456), which includes the needed CIP reauthorizations.  The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 5456 (FFPSA) by voice vote on 6/15/16.  On 6/21/16, the House passed H.R. 5456 by unanimous consent.  The Senate companion bill, S. 3065 was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).  Letters of support were sent to members of both the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee by CCJ and COSCA.  Efforts were made to also obtain letters of support from individual states.

H.R. 5456 stalled in the Senate.  Three Senators had holds on the bill – Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Michael Enzi (R-WY).  The concerns related to the financial impact of the legislation and time needed to comply with the new requirements. 

The Senate adjourned on 9/28/16 for its election recess before passing H.R. 5456.  The intent was to consider the bill during the lame duck session, however, a portion of the bill’s offsets expired on October 1st.  As a result, H.R. 5456 or any new legislation would have needed to include other offsets to make up for this lost funding.  Before adjourning, Congress did approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government running through 12/9/16.  Even though the CR maintained federal funding at the FY 2016 level, funding for the data and training CIP grants could not be released until the programs are reauthorized.  The 114th Congress adjourned without passing the FFPSA and reauthorizing the three CIP grants.  Congress did pass a CR to keep the government running through 4/28/17. 

The 115th Congress convened on January 4th.  It is not clear yet whether the Senate Finance Committee will try to move FFPSA or focus on reauthorization of grants.  Senator Cornyn’s staff have indicated that he will introduce a standalone reauthorization bill for the CIP grants.  They are looking for an offset and trying to recruit co-sponsors for the bill. 

Representative Vern Buchannan (R-FL) re-introduced FFPSA (H.R. 253) on 1/4/17.  The text of H.R. 253 is the same as last year’s H.R. 5456.  While the bill has been re-introduced, there is no plan for House action on the bill in the near future.  Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) has replaced Representative Buchannan as the chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources.  Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) is the new Ranking Member for this subcommittee.