Serrano Accomplishments in FY2020 CJS Appropriations
January 30, 2020
Happy New Year!
In 2019, I was proud to become the first Latino to lead the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, and to get a chance to lead on issues that are deeply important to our district, from criminal justice reform, to the Census, to climate change. We were able to bring new focus to issues ignored by this Administration, and to achieve great victories for the values we share and the programs that help the Bronx, our city and the nation.
As we start a new year of work, I want to share with you some of my accomplishments on your behalf.
Census– As Chairman and author of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, I successfully fought to eliminate the citizenship question from the 2020 Census, and ensured an increase of $3.7 billion in funding to allow the Census Bureau to conduct a fair and accurate 2020 Census.
Gun Violence- In the same bill, I included strong increases for programs to reduce gun violence in the Bronx and around the nation, including $1.4 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), $125 million for grants under the STOP School Violence Act, and $78 million for grants to make the firearms background check system more accurate.
Economic Development– Despite Donald Trump’s efforts to eliminate these programs, the CJS bill also provides significant increases to agencies that promote economic development in underserved areas and communities. I successfully increased funding for the Economic Development Administration by $29 million above last year- all of which will help develop projects and promote hiring in distressed communities. I also increased funding for the Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA) by $2 million to support minority businesses around the country.
Climate Change- I successfully rejected the Trump Administration’s efforts to gut our research efforts to help us understand and respond to climate change. The CJS bill increased funding for NOAA climate research and for NASA’s Earth Science research by 10.5 million dollars above last year.
Legal Services Corporation – The bill provides $440 million to increase access to civil legal aid throughout the country. This amount is $25 million above last year, and the highest level of funding ever for the program. The President had proposed eliminating this program, which helps provides civil legal assistance to help low-income Americans protect their constitutional and legal rights and provides access to justice for all Americans- not just those who can pay a lawyer. This funding helps low income Americans fight unfair evictions, protect their families against domestic abusers, and prevent consumer fraud from occurring.
Hate Crimes- I included language in the CJS bill requiring a report on the impact of telecommunications, including the internet and social media, on hate crimes. Despite the worrying rise of hate speech and hate crimes, no government agency has examined the impact of technology on those trends since 1993. This report will provide us with a path forward on addressing these dangerous issues.
Puerto Rico- I included language to allow Puerto Rico to be treated equally in numerous economic statistics programs- it is a legacy of ongoing colonialism that the island still cannot access the same level of statistical data as the 50 states. After previously inserting funding to allow Puerto Rico to hold a federally sponsored plebiscite to change its status, this past year I also inserted language that requires the Department of Justice to determine how such a plebiscite should be run and what options should appear on the ballot.
Criminal Justice Reform- I was able to fully fund the implementation of the First Step Act, which reduces discriminatory and harsh drug sentences for minor federal drug violations, reduces mandatory minimums, and provides greater access to rehabilitative programs that can reduce inmate sentences.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – The EEOC prevents and resolves workplace discrimination. The bill we passed into law provides $389.5 million, $10 million above the FY2019 enacted level and $33.7 million above the President’s budget request.
It is an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the Bronx once again in Congress, and I look forward to making further progress on the issues that matter to Bronxites in the year ahead.
Jose E. Serrano