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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, and Congressman Danny Davis (D-Ill.) yesterday introduced the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 with the support of House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and others. 

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act builds on the success of the original Second Chance Act of 2008 and continues to authorize funding for both public and private entities to evaluate and improve academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails and juvenile facilities. 

Congress passed the Second Chance Act with strong bipartisan support and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2008. This legislation provides non-profit faith and community-based organizations with mentoring grants to develop support programs such as drug treatment, housing, job training, medical care, and education. Re-entry services have been improved, which resulted in a reduction in recidivism and helped ensure a successful return to society for prisoners who have completed their sentence. More than 100,000 men, women, and youth returning home from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities have benefited from Second Chance grants providing career training, mentoring, family-based substance abuse treatment, and other evidence-based reentry programs.  

This investment has also paid public safety dividends. A report from the National Reentry Resource Center highlights how numerous states have experienced drastic reductions in statewide recidivism rates as a result of robust reentry services made possible in part through Second Chance.   

The outcomes are impressive, but state and local governments as well as non-profit organizations are in dire need of resources in order to ensure that the millions of individuals returning from prison, jail, and juvenile facilities each year continue to receive coordinated evidence-based reentry services.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Second Chance Reauthorization Act is an important component of my ongoing efforts to reform and improve our federal criminal justice system, save taxpayer money, and strengthen American families. While prisons are important deterrents in our fight against crime, they remain one part of the solution to a complex problem. Rehabilitation efforts, such as the ones in the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, will help prisoners who have paid their debt to society get back on the right path and become successful, contributing members of their communities.”

Congressman Davis: “Giving individuals a real second chance has turned lives around in neighborhoods across the country, offering a real alternative to a pervasive and damaging cyclical life of crime. We see the ripple effects everywhere where people are building stable, productive lives and neighborhoods through these federally funded programs. We must not lose this momentum.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The Judiciary Committee recently launched a Criminal Justice Initiative to evaluate proposals to reform our nation's criminal justice system. Prisoner reentry is a key piece of any reform effort. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, which supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Additional information about the Second Chance Reauthorization Act:
 Bill Text
• Section-by-Section
• One Page Summary
 

Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the 2015 results of the annual Fifth District survey.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Each year, I send out a survey to residents of the Fifth District to get direct feedback on the issues that are important to my constituents. As an elected official, my priorities in Congress are determined by the needs of those I represent, and it’s my great honor and duty to take their opinions into account when I vote in the House of Representatives. I appreciate the time and effort Fifth District residents took to complete this year’s survey, as well as their thoughts on critical national issues.” 

Key Findings:

• 75.1% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction
• Only 20% rate the economy as “good,” while 76% rate it fair or poor
• 47% say Congress should reduce and simplify federal regulations to encourage job opportunities

The questions, answer options, and results in full are below:

1) Do you believe the country is headed in the right direction?
A. Yes- 15.29%
B. No- 75.10%
C. Other- 9.61%

2) Rate the condition of the economy.
A. Excellent- 1.75%
B. Good- 20.19%
C. Fair- 45.44%
D. Poor- 31.26%
E. Other- 1.36%  

3) What is the greatest economic challenge facing your family? (Choose one)
A. Healthcare costs- 43.22%
B. Education costs- 4.52%
C. Rising prices of consumer goods- 27.11%
D. Debt- 8.25%
E. Lack of employment/underemployment- 7.66%
F. Other- 9.23%
4) The U.S. spends $7 billion a year on federal prisons. Do you favor reducing prison time for people convicted of non-violent crimes and using some of the savings to create a stronger probation system that includes programs for preventing and treating substance abuse?
A. Yes- 51.26%
B. No- 32.88%
C. Undecided- 15.86%

5) Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants, or should preference be given to those who are attempting to immigrate legally?
A. Support amnesty- 10.14%
B. Support giving preference to legal immigrants- 82.31%
C. Undecided- 7.55%

6) Do you believe the Obama Administration has been transparent and held itself accountable?
A. Yes- 14.42%
B. No- 78.95%
C. Undecided- 6.63%

7) What is your biggest concern/ complaint with the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare?
A. Rising costs/ higher premiums- 54.09%
B. Losing health coverage- 6.03%
C. Losing physicians- 9.73%
D. Its effect on small businesses- 11.87%
E. I have no concerns/ complaints- 18.29%

8) Do you support federal subsidies for Obamacare?
A. Yes- 22.40%
B. No- 64.24%
C. Undecided- 13.36%

9) What do you consider the biggest threat to our national security?
A. ISIS and other terrorist organizations- 53.83%
B. Iran’s nuclear ambitions- 19.06%
C. Increased Chinese aggression- 12.18%
D. Vladimir Putin and Russia’s growing nationalism- 5.70%
E. Other- 9.23%

10) Should the government have the authority to collect all Americans’ phone records in bulk?
A. Yes- 14.31%
B. No- 76.08%
C. Undecided- 9.61%

11) What is the best way for Congress to encourage job opportunities? 
A. Lower tax burden for business owners- 25.05%
B. Reduce and simplify federal regulations- 47.73%
C. Raise spending on job training and workforce promotion programs- 16.37%
D. Other- 10.85%

12) Do you believe the U.S. should tax its carbon emissions to address climate change concerns, even if developing countries, like China and India, are not under the same restrictions?
A. Yes- 27.34%
B. No- 63.87%
C. Undecided- 8.79%
 
Yesterday, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3228, legislation that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the volume of cellulosic biofuel to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply to what is commercially available until a comprehensive study from the National Academy of Sciences is completed. 

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of cellulosic biofuel to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, but manufacturers have never produced enough fuel to meet the required standard.  The EPA has lowered the mandate, but not to the actual level of production.  Refiners have therefore paid millions of dollars in fines for failing to purchase an EPA-mandated product that doesn’t actually exist in the quantities the EPA demands.  

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The EPA sets unachievable standards for our nation’s refiners and the cost of the EPA’s fines are passed on to consumers at the pump.  This legislation will ensure any mandates moving forward are fair, attainable, and evidence-based.”
 


                                                                          
 
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, along with more than 130 House Members, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging an immediate and thorough investigation by the Department of Justice into the practices of Planned Parenthood regarding the sale of fetal body parts.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The atrocious practice of selling fetal tissue acquired by performing an abortion is a travesty that heinously disregards the sanctity of human life. It raises moral, ethical, and legal questions that simply must be addressed with the utmost urgency. That is why I’m joining many of my colleagues in Congress in imploring Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice to conduct a serious and immediate investigation into these despicable practices.”
 
 
 


 

House Speaker John Boehner’s statement last Thursday calling for criminal justice reform was a welcome cap to a week of bipartisan and inter-branch voices calling for reform of our federal prison system. The Speaker is the latest in a long list of conservatives championing an approach to sentencing and corrections policymaking that is not just “tough on crime” but Right on Crime.

In just one week, the Speaker announced that he supports criminal justice reform moving forward in the House of Representatives, The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a two-day hearing on federal criminal justice reform, and Barack Obama became the first President in modern history to tour a federal prison.

The President gave passing credit to the states for leading the charge on criminal justice reform, but this credit should not go understated. Over the last decade, states like Texas, Utah, Georgia, and my home state of Ohio have been leaders in criminal justice reform, embracing policies that focus prison beds on serious and violent offenders. The results of these initiatives are staggering: lower costs for taxpayers alongside declining rates of incarceration, recidivism, arrest, and crime rates have continued to fall to decade lows.

As we saw in many states, political leaders from the left and right joined together to enact reform that reduced crime, lowered costs, and kept families intact. The President has consistently spoken about the left and the right coming together to stop the gridlock in Washington but has surprisingly not been outspoken on such a major political topic that crosses political lines until the 7th year of his presidency.

Although dragging behind, the federal government could soon be getting much needed criminal justice reform. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia have proposed the “SAFE Justice Act,” a bipartisan and broad-based criminal justice reform bill that will address a litany of issues that have support from both sides of the aisle. In addition to Speaker Boehner’s support for the bill, it currently has the support of more than 30 cosponsors. The SAFE Justice Act focuses incarceration on violent and high-level criminals, while expanding diversionary programs, such as drug courts for lower-level offenders. By placing an emphasis on alternatives to incarceration for lower-level offenders, the federal criminal justice system can save millions in taxpayer dollars, while reducing recidivism and making our neighborhoods safer.

This week, I had the honor of attending a bipartisan summit on Fair Justice in Washington, D.C. The summit focused on discussing solutions to the federal criminal justice system. Many prominent leaders from both parties were in attendance, including Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Bob Goodlatte. Speaking on behalf of the “SAFE Justice Act” were the authors, Representative Sensenbrenner and Representative Scott, who received support from both the Republican and Democrat attendees for their reform efforts.

Normally, a “don’t hold your breath” mentality should be taken with any major comprehensive reform the federal government attempts to tackles. However, no issue has had the broad-based support and the robust research base to back it up such as the “SAFE Justice Act.” Act. It is time to seize this bipartisan momentum and get criminal justice reform to the President’s desk in the near future.

View this article online here.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law protects people with disabilities from discrimination, including many kids with learning and attention issues.

No matter where your child goes, from school to work, the ADA will protect her. It’s just as important as the laws for IEPs and 504 plans.

In honor of the anniversary, we interviewed Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). He supported the ADA when it was first signed into law on July 26, 1990. Then, in 2008, he sponsored and helped pass the ADA Amendments Act to strengthen the law.

Here, he shares his thoughts on the importance of the ADA.

You’ve been a champion of the ADA for years. Why is the 25th anniversary of this law so important?

The 25th anniversary of the ADA is a huge milestone in the ongoing fight for the rights of the disabled. Before 1990, disabled Americans were subject to false stereotypes and second-class citizenship.

Congress passed the ADA to break down the physical and societal barriers that kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American Dream.

Like all the most impactful legislation, the ADA’s legal protection has helped spark important cultural changes. Twenty-five years later, we can appreciate how much better things are.

Fewer citizens are judged by their physical and mental impairments. More and more are evaluated according to their character and qualifications.

What are you most proud about when it comes to the ADA?

From creating standards for wheelchair accessibility in places open to the public to requiring 911 phone lines to be equipped to respond to hearing-impaired callers, the ADA has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. But, like all major civil rights bills, passing the ADA required time, hard work and a broad range of support.

I’m most proud about how the ADA has brought together people from across the country with different backgrounds and diverse political beliefs. Our nation is stronger when all of its citizens are given the opportunity to succeed.

The ADA remains a powerful reminder of the good work we can do in government when we put aside our differences to achieve a common goal.

Your wife was hurt in a car crash when she was 22 and uses a wheelchair. What has the ADA meant to your family?

My wife Cheryl has been a tireless advocate for the disabled and served as a board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities. I know the daily pain she lives with, but she has never let those challenges slow her down.

Twenty-five years ago, she asked me to do what I could to help pass the ADA. I should have known then that the bill’s passage wouldn’t be the end of her advocacy. She has pushed me every day since to continue to fight for the disabled.

Even today, I’m working to pass the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act to make it easier for patients with disabilities to get medical equipment.

Championing the fight for the rights of the disabled in Congress is one of my proudest accomplishments. My wife and my family have been given countless opportunities that may not have been possible without the ADA.

Despite the ADA, many parents still struggle to get the right help at school for their kids. What would you say to them?

Our students are our most precious resource. As technologies and teaching methods change, new challenges arise for disabled students, leaving some ADA standards outdated and insufficient.

I would encourage parents to voice their concerns and share their stories with state, local and federal representatives. As elected officials, we rely on input from our constituents to help identify problems so we can find meaningful, commonsense solutions.

Some disabilities are easy to spot, but some, like learning and attention issues, are “invisible.” Do you think we need a different approach for them?

When Congress passed the ADA and President George H. W. Bush signed it into law, it was done with the intent that the law would be broadly interpreted. But a series of Supreme Court rulings chipped away at the law’s expansive protections for the disabled.

I introduced the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, and later sponsored the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which George W. Bush signed into law.

These bills instruct courts to focus on the discrimination a person has experienced rather than requiring that person to prove the extent of his or her disability. That can be especially difficult with learning and attention issues.

I will continue to promote a broad interpretation of the ADA to protect all those with disabilities—visible and invisible—from discrimination.

Some states have passed laws that require teacher training and acknowledgement of dyslexia. What do you think about laws that focus on a particular issue or disability?

The ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 identify and provide protections for disabled Americans on the federal level. That is necessary for ensuring all citizens have equal opportunity to pursue their American Dream.

In our system of dual federalism, states are given the power to draft additional and more targeted laws to meet the needs of their constituents. Often, states will learn from legislative successes in other states and follow suit.

There’s been so much progress since the ADA was passed. But what do you think is our biggest challenge right now?

The progress we’ve made in the past 25 years is remarkable, and I’m proud to have been part of these efforts. But we need to keep working to ensure that Americans have access to the latest life-changing technologies.

That’s why I’m currently promoting the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act. The best technology in the world is useless if the people who need it can’t afford it.

As our nation evolves, the fight for civil rights continues and challenges us to take a close look at how our laws promote or prevent our citizens from achieving their full potential. Twenty-five years from now, it is my hope that disabled Americans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and seen as equal under the law.

View this article online here.
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding her response to his May 12 request for the EPA’s position on numerous inquiries, including E15 labels, misfueling, and Clean Air Act enforcement:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

Thank you for appearing before the House Science Committee on July 9 and the EPA’s reply to my letter on July 2. I appreciate your willingness to listen to my concerns and address them.

Acting Assistant Administrator McCabe’s response to my letter regarding Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) and the Clean Air Act (CAA) left some questions unanswered and raised new ones.

I would like you to address the following questions.

• Is it legal to relabel E-15 as flex fuel?
• Is it legal to sell E-15 as flex fuel?
• If it is illegal to sell or label E-15 as flex fuel, how and when will the EPA inform retailers that it is illegal?
• How will the EPA enforce the E-15 Misfueling Mitigation Rule, RVP violations and related CAA provisions?

I would also like more information regarding the “industry-funded surveys conducted by an independent party to monitor compliance with EPA E-15 labeling requirements.”

• Have industry-funded surveys found retailers relabeling E-15 as flex fuel?
• How long has EPA used industry-funded surveys to monitor compliance the E-15 Misfueling Mitigation Rule and pump labeling requirements?
o Please provide all survey results to me with your reply to this letter.
• Which independent party, or parties, monitored compliance with the EPA E-15 labeling requirements for each year the EPA used the industry-funded surveys?

I request that you respond to this letter and document request by August 19, 2015. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.
Member of Congress
 
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced legislation to prohibit the sale of fetal tissue acquired by performing an abortion in response to the shocking revelation that abortion clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, are profiting from harvesting the unborn and selling them to the highest bidder. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Due to a poorly drafted section of federal law, Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics throughout the country are legally able to sell fetal tissue to research institutions. This despicable practice is morally bankrupt, victimizes the defenseless, and increases profits for reprehensible organizations that have no regard for human life. This legislation is an important step forward in the ongoing efforts to protect innocent lives and fight on behalf of the unborn.
 
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner denounced the Iran deal in his speech to the Watertown Rotary. He joins a growing number of Congressional leaders in denouncing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which puts America, and her allies, at increased risk of attack by Iran, a known state sponsor of terrorism. Below is an excerpt from his remarks:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “By allowing key restraints on Iran’s nuclear program to expire and lifting military arms and ballistic missile restrictions, President Obama has placed a target on the backs of all Americans. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and giving them billions of dollars in sanctions relief will help them fund their proxy wars on America and our allies. It’s imperative we prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and terror financing capabilities, and I, along with many of my colleagues in Congress, are committed to reversing this egregious deal brokered by the Obama Administration”   
 
 

PRESIDENT OBAMA went somewhere Thursday that, according to the White House, no other sitting president ever has: a federal prison. His point was that no advanced society should be comfortable with the way this country punishes crime. The nation locks up too many people for too long, and it too often treats them poorly behind bars. In part because of Mr. Obama — but also because of a strong left-right alliance that includes the Koch brothers, the American Civil Liberties Union and others in between — change could come very soon. If, that is, Congress acts.

The case for reform starts with the eye-popping fact that the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners, in large part because of drug crime sentences. The country’s federal imprisonment rate is up more than five times from 1980, multiplying federal prison costs by nearly six times, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Up to a certain point, tougher prosecutors and stiffer sentences for these violent offenders contributed to the decline in violent crime over the last few decades,” Mr. Obama conceded this week. But, he added, “the science also indicates that you get a point of diminishing returns,” particularly when non-violent and low-level offenders get hit with harsh sentences.

Mass incarceration also seems plainly impractical because there are a variety of more appealing options that many states have been experimenting with. The state prison population dropped between 2003 and 2013, while the federal prison population increased. While many states are looking at innovative ways to treat people more fairly and save money, the Justice Department is seeing an ever-larger percentage of its budget go to prison spending.

Mr. Obama and a bipartisan gaggle of federal lawmakers want to apply the states’ insights to the federal system. The most significant bill on the table — the House’s Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act — would reserve drug trafficking life sentences and other major penalties for drug bosses rather than low-level dealers, give more sentencing flexibility to judges and focus federal resources away from drug possession enforcement. It would create specialized courts for drug crimes and the mentally ill. It would also put a much greater emphasis on prison programming — job training, mental-health care, substance-abuse treatment — and better post-release supervision.

The bill isn’t perfect. It wouldn’t give felons who have served their time the right to vote in federal elections, for example. Nor would it do enough to cut back on the rampant overuse of solitary confinement. “Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, sometimes for months or even years at a time?” Mr. Obama asked this week. States such as Colorado, Maine and Mississippi are drastically reducing their use of solitary. Mr. Obama has ordered a Justice Department review. But Congress doesn’t need to wait for the results; the horrifying scandal of America’s overuse of solitary confinement is already well-known.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) promised Thursday to give floor time to criminal justice reform. Lawmakers should take the opportunity to be as comprehensive as possible. A smarter justice system less focused on long prison terms and more focused on fitting punishments to crimes and preventing recidivism would be truer to the country’s commitment to individual liberty and almost certainly better for government finances and community cohesion.

View this article online here.