Public Transit Security and Local Law Enforcement Support Act passes committee with amendments

The House Committee on Homeland Security met on Wednesday morning to discuss and propose changes to House Resolution 3857, the Public Transit Security and Local Law Enforcement Support Act, before passing it out of committee.

"This vital bill would allow local communities to use their annual homeland security grant funding to maintain transit security teams rather than establishing a new capability which may not be sustainable over time," committee chair representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) said.

The bill was introduced by Representative Robert Turner (R-N.Y.), and has thus far received bipartisan support. Representative Turner, referencing the Madrid and London train bombings, explained that the bill would help streamline the funding processes for specialized patrol teams, such as the NYPD's TORCH team.

"This is a crucial step in helping the NYPD protect our citizens and visitors from all over the world," Turner said. "I will continue to advocate for New York's security through programs such as TORCH, and I look forward to voting for this bill on the House floor."

Three amendments were made to the resolution before it was passed out of committee. While two of the amendments were passed unanimously, one of the amendments was hotly debated and passed by a 15-9 vote.

The contentious amendment was the addition of a short paragraph to the resolution, requiring a sustainment plan for maintaining whatever capability or capacity local communities would achieve with a homeland security grant. The amendment was introduced by Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who, noting his background as a businessman, argued that the amendment would encourage fiscal responsibility.

"Look at the amendment, it's a very simple thing," Cuellar said. "All you have to do is, as a grantee... just tell us what you intend to do when the federal grants expire."

Those opposed to the amendment viewed it as an unnecessary obstacle that would expand the already difficult and lengthy application process. Cuellar countered the opposition, noting that "it can be one paragraph...One paragraph that can save millions of dollars later on, because that local recipient is going to have to say 'I have a plan to work this program or project without federal dollars'."

The bill was passed onto the House floor with a unanimous favorable recommendation.