COPS program gets $1.8 billion in House bill

WASHINGTON — The House voted last week to authorize more spending for the popular COPS program, which awards federal grants to local and state law enforcers.

Lawmakers voted 342-78 to renew the Community Oriented Policing Services program at $1.8 billion annually through 2014.

Previously, the program was approved for $1.05 billion a year.

A 1994 initiative of the Clinton administration, the Justice Department program sends grants to state and local governments to hire police and prosecutors.

More than 110,000 officers have been added through COPS grants, according to Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.

Weiner has called the program “an unqualified success.”

A new wrinkle ensures that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get priority in hiring, he said.

The bill was challenged by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

It increases spending by 72 percent at a time when crime rates have been dropping, he said.

Studies by the Government Accountability Office and the Justice Department found that local agencies in some cases were using their federal grants to cover budget shortfalls rather than hiring new police, King said.

“This is not a good return on investment,” he said.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted for the bill.

WATER RESEARCH EFFORT LAUNCHED

The House voted 413-10 for a bill to coordinate national research on water and its continued availability.

It directs the president to designate a committee with representatives from more than 20 federal agencies that deal with water quality or water management.

The committee would be told to compile a national water census and better computer models to predict droughts.

“Severe water shortages create substantial economic impacts, and we need a new federal commitment to ensure that the United States can meet the water challenges of the future,” said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.

Berkley, Titus and Heller voted for the bill.

Before passage, the House defeated amendments from lawmakers who questioned whether the new effort would duplicate federal programs already under way.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., proposed that the Government Accountability Office determine any overlap before the interagency committee is formed.

Gordon said there were safeguards against duplication in the bill, and any further study “would only slow down the process.”

Roskam’s amendment was killed, 194-236.

Heller voted for it, while Berkley and Titus voted against it.

Contact Stephens Media Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephens media.com or 202-783-1760.

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