Status of Federal Legislation December 22, 2010

Each Congress lasts for two years. The 111th Congress ends when adjourns in late December 2010 (expected sometime this week). The 112th Congress began on January 3, 2011. All bills pending when Congress adjourned expired and will have to be reintroduced in order to receive consideration. Thousands of bills are introduced in Congress every year. Only a few hundred ever become law. A bill must pass both the House and the Senate before it can be sent to the President for his consideration. The following bills are a sample of the bills that FAMM supports and that will expire at the end of a year. For more information about these and other bills in the 111th and 112th Congress, please see FAMM’s website, www.famm.org 
 

*Please note: These bills are not laws. They did not pass.*
 

H.R. 6548, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act of 2010 Original House Sponsor: Representative Robert “Bobby” Scott *Please note: H.R. 6548 is not a law. It did not pass.* If passed, this bill would allow thousands of prisoners serving sentences under the old law to ask the courts to shorten their prison terms. The Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), a bill that eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine and set new trigger amounts of 28 grams and 280 grams for the five- and 10-year mandatory sentence, respectively. No Senate counterpart was introduced. S. 714/ H.R. 5143, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act Original Senate sponsor: Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) Original House sponsors: Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) This legislation would authorize a national criminal justice commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system by a bipartisan panel of stakeholders, policymakers and experts that would make thoughtful, evidence-based recommendations for reform. Of all pending legislation, this proposal advanced the furthest in the 111th Congress. The bill received strong bipartisan support and passed both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee. H.R. 3327, the Ramos-Compean Justice Act of 2009 Original House sponsors: Representatives Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) If passed, the Ramos and Compean Act Justice Act would not just benefit bill’s namesakes. The bill would empower courts to use their discretion and impose a sentence below a mandatory minimum in cases where the mandatory minimum sentence would be greater than necessary to achieve the goals of punishment. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. No companion was introduced in the Senate.

H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009 Original House sponsor: Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) The Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009 would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; curb federal prosecutions of low-level drug offenders; and allow courts to place offenders on probation or suspend their sentence. The bill was introduced in the House. No Senate counterpart was introduced. H.R. 2933, the Firearm Recidivist Sentencing Act of 2009 Original House sponsors: Representatives Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and John Conyers (DMich.) The Firearm Recidivist Sentencing Act would amend 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) to ensure that individuals who carry a firearm while committing a violent crime or drug trafficking offense face the 25-year mandatory minimum for repeat offenses only if they have been previously convicted and served a sentence for a 924(c) offense. The bill also amends Part 1 of Title 18 of the United States Code to require the government to file notice with the court when it intends to invoke the enhanced recidivism penalties in the gun statutes. The bill was introduced in the House. No Senate counterpart was introduced. H.R. 4328, the Literacy, Education, and Rehabilitation Act (LERA) Original House sponsor: Representatives Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) LERA would alter how good time credit is awarded and would expand the program to permit prisoners to earn credit for satisfactory participation in designated programs. First, LERA would rewrite the good time statute to make clear that a prisoner serving a sentence of more than one year may earn up to 54 days of good time credit per year. Second, LERA would authorize the director of the BOP to grant up to 60 additional credit days per year to an incarcerated individual who successfully participates in designated literacy, education, work training, treatment and other developmental programs. The bill was introduced in the House. No companion bill was introduced in the Senate. H.R. 61, the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2009 Original House sponsor: Representative Sheila Jackson Less (D-Texas) The Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2009 would direct the Bureau of Prisons to release individuals from prison who have served 50 percent or more of his or her term of imprisonment if that prisoner (1) is 45 years of age or older; (2) has never been convicted of a crime of violence; and (3) has not engaged in any violation, involving violent conduct, of institutional disciplinary regulations. The bill was introduced in the House. No companion bill was introduced in the Senate. H.R. 1475, Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2008 Original House sponsor: Representative Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) The Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2008 would essentially revive the good time system that existed before November 1, 1987. The bill would increase earned good time, restore industrial good time (providing for additional opportunities to reduce one’s sentence by engaging in work opportunities), allow forfeiture of all good time credit in the event of infractions in prison, and provide for potential restoration of forfeited good time credit. The bill was introduced in the House. No Senate counterpart was introduced. *Please note: These bills are not laws. They did not pass.*

H.R. 1529, the Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 Original House sponsor: Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 would permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses. A person would be eligible to apply for expungement only if they fulfill requirements detailed in the legislation. The bill was introduced in the House. No companion bill was introduced in the Senate. H.R. 5492, the Fresh Start Act of 2010 Original House sponsor: Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) The Fresh Start Act would enable an eligible individual convicted of a nonviolent offense to file a petition to expunge that offense from his or her criminal record. The bill would seal the record of the criminal offense and make it available only (a) Federal or State court or Federal, State or local law enforcement in the case of a criminal investigation or prosecution or in conducting a background check, or (b) a State or local agency charged with issuing licenses to possess firearms, in the case of an individual applying for such a license. In order to be eligible, a person must meet criteria detailed in the legislation. The bill was introduced in the House. No companion bill was introduced in the Senate. H.R. 6059, Federal First Offender Improvement Act of 2010 Original House sponsor: Representative Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) The Federal First Offender Improvement Act of 2010 expands the current but rarely-used Federal First Offender Act (18 U.S.C. § 3607) of 1987 by enabling judges to sentence a wider range of low-level nonviolent drug offenders to probation. Currently, judges are able to sentence defendants convicted of simple possession to probation and dismiss the case if the individual successfully completes the terms of probation. The bill also eliminates the previous requirement that an offender must have been less than 21-years-old at the time of the offense to apply for expungement of their record, expanding it to offenders of any age found guilty of an offense under section 401, 404, or 406 of the Controlled Substances Act. *Please note: These bills are not laws. They did not pass.*