Congress continues appropriations negotiations

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III vowed last month that the ABA will work diligently with Congress to seek restoration of lost and desperately needed funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) after President Obama signed into law a fiscal year 2012 appropriations package that cut the corporation’s funding by $56 million to $348 million.

The LSC appropriation is part of P.L. 112-55 (H.R. 2112), the fiscal year 2012 “minibus” funding package enacted Nov. 18 that encompasses three of the 12 regular appropriations bill – Agriculture; Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS);  and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.

The LSC appropriation is a compromise between the Senate’s proposed amount of $369 million and the House figure of $300 million.

“Funded provided through the Legal Services Corporation is the only way millions of Americans can bring their civil cases – child support and custody decisions, foreclosures, and veterans’ benefits disputes, for example – to court,” Robinson said. “Congress must weigh the need to shrink our nation’s burgeoning budget deficit against the fundamental needs of low–income citizens to our justice system,” he added.

The CJS portion of the new law provides funding for a number of other programs of interest to the ABA:

$63 million for offender reentry programs and research authorized under the Second Chance Act of 2007;

$1.16 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, including funding for DNA backlog grants and Byrne formula grants;

$263 million for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention;

$199 million for Community Oriented Policy Services (COPS) grants;

$201 million to combat crimes against children;

$413 million for domestic violence and sexual assault grants, including $41 million for the Legal Assistance for Victims program; and

$1.9 billion for homelessness assistance grants.

The law also includes an appropriation of $2.5 billion for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is the amount of user fees that the USPTO expects to collect. Other provisions provide a mechanism for USPTO use of fee collection in excess of the annual appropriations.

Congress is still grappling with fiscal year 2012 appropriations levels for the federal programs funded by the nine remaining appropriations bills. P.L. 112-55 included a provision to keep the government running through Dec. 16 as negotiations continue.

 

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