Areas of Interest
While raising my family and attending law school, I also worked as a U.S. Capitol Police officer. I still feel a special bond with those who honor the badge by protecting and serving our communities, and I understand the stresses and demands that law enforcement officers face every day. Throughout my time in Congress, I have been working hard at the federal level to provide more resources for our law enforcement community to help them meet the greater demands of homeland security since September 11th, and to make Nevada a better and safer place to live.
Public safety is one of the most important jobs of our government. Securing adequate funding to fight crime in Nevada and to protect our nation from terrorist attacks is one of my top priorities.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a strong supporter of our first responders. I have traveled throughout Nevada, speaking with officials from Churchill County to Nye County about public safety. I am acutely aware that first responders sacrifice a great deal to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens and deserve adequate resources and funding for their efforts. Since 2000, I have assisted Nevada’s police, firefighters, and local emergency personnel in securing more than $100 million in additional federal funding.
Reducing crime in our state depends on initiatives like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program and the Edward Byrne Memorial Grants (Byrne JAG) program. These two programs are the main federal funding source for local law enforcement agencies and provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to establish anti-drug task forces, hire and train community policing professionals, acquire and deploy crime-fighting technologies, develop and test innovative policing strategies, and provide community organization with programmatic funding for crime prevention initiatives.
I was pleased to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), which provided $1 billion for the COPS program, and $2 billion for the Byrne JAG program. Additionally, over the last ten years, I have secured more than $100 million for Nevada law enforcement through Congressionally-directed spending, often referred to as “earmarks.” This funding has helped law enforcement purchase equipment, hire additional police officers, increase the capacity to analyze DNA and forensic evidence, and establish interoperability among first responders.
I was also proud to support the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, President Obama’s proposal that would have provided $5 billion for first responders to help states and local governments rehire police officers and firefighters that have been laid off since the recession began. Unfortunately, in October 2011, the Senate was prevented from considering this legislation. Although a majority of Senators voted to take up this bill, it did not receive the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.
The terrorist attacks on September 11th changed our world, and nobody understands that better than our nation’s brave first responders. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security has placed new responsibilities on Nevada law enforcement agencies.
Resources are spread thin, yet there are new demands on communication, manpower, and equipment. I am working with each Nevada agency to ensure their highest priority needs are met. Since September 11th, I have been working to provide increased homeland security funding for Las Vegas and Reno, and I will continue to work toward additional funding for our local law enforcement officials. For example, I worked to ensure that Las Vegas remained on the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding list, a federal grant program that provides funding to better secure high density urban areas around the country. In part, because I insisted the UASI funding formula included the transient and tourist populations, I secured over $53 million in UASI grant funding for Nevada. This money is vital to Nevada first responders in their fight to protect the people of Nevada and the millions of tourists who visit the state each year. In addition, while Las Vegas has recently fallen off the list of cities to receive UASI funds, I worked with the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to ensure that Las Vegas will be eligible for funding in future years.
For years, law enforcement throughout Southern Nevada lacked a central facility to gather and share intelligence. Because coordination among agencies is critical to solving crimes and coordinating disaster response, I fought for additional homeland security grants to build and operate the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center. Completed in 2007, the Center is headed by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and houses more than 80 employees and officials from the Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson police departments, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and other local, state, federal, and tribal entities. The Center maintains a 24/7 watch capability and acts as a centralized, comprehensive intelligence center, specifically designed to coordinate the exchange of criminal intelligence on a regional and statewide basis. It is also home to the All Hazards Regional Multi-Agency Operations and Response (ARMOR) Detail, which is the region’s response, detection, and identification unit for chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, and explosive threats. This state-of-the-art facility improves interagency cooperation, allowing public safety agencies to better protect Southern Nevada from terrorist attacks.
The National Nuclear Security Site in Nevada has played a leading role in protecting our nation against 21st Century threats, bolstering non proliferation tools, and helping combat terrorists. Through testing and training programs, thousands of our first responders have learned the skills necessary to be able to rapidly deploy across our nation should a terrorist attack occur. In order to prepare for these emergency situations, I have secured funding for the National Domestic Preparedness Center’s (NDPC) disaster preparedness center at the National Nuclear Security Site in Nevada. This critically important center helps facilitate a unified effort and higher level of preparedness between government, business, and the emergency response community. I will continue to fight for this program to help Nevada first responders prepare for terrorist attacks, natural disasters, industrial accidents, and other emergencies.
As a father and grandfather, I understand the importance of protecting children from predatory adults. This is an issue that is extremely important to me personally and I have long supported legislation to prevent child abuse and abductions, and punish the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
On July 27, 2006, the 25th anniversary of the tragic abduction and murder of six-year old Adam Walsh, President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, of which I was a proud co-sponsor. I worked closely with John Walsh, Adam’s father, to ensure that this important legislation passed the Senate, and I continue to support greater protections for our children. Among its many important provisions, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act established a national sex offender registry to make it easier for local law enforcement to track sex offenders and prevent repeat offenses. The law also authorizes much-needed grants to help local law enforcement agencies establish and integrate sex offender registry systems.
I also strongly supported the Child Abduction Prevention Act which was signed into law in 2003, and elevated the penalty for aggravated child abuse and child torture murders to first degree murder and increased penalties for the abuse and kidnapping of children. This legislation also created and provided funding for a federal AMBER Alert program and reauthorized the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In 2008, I cosponsored the PROTECT Our Children Act, which became law that same year. This bill helps law enforcement use new technology to track individuals who trade child pornography on the internet. It also created a task force within the Department of Justice and provides resources and training to local and federal law enforcement to help them bring predators to justice.
I believe that as child predators find new ways to exploit children, we must work to adapt our laws to keep pace with the changes in technology and ensure the health and safety of our nation’s greatest asset – our youth. I will continue to use my leadership position in the Senate to enact laws that provide greater protections for our children.
The Obama Administration has called for an end to the “war on drugs” and expressed its commitment to shifting from a punitive-based approach to a treatment and prevention-based approach to reduce drug abuse and addiction.
I support a comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s drug problems that employs a balance of deterrence, treatment, prevention, and punishment. I believe we must fund treatment and prevention efforts, encourage alternatives to prison for non-violent drug offenders, and aid law enforcement efforts in order to make a serious reduction in drug abuse and addiction.
While combating the supply of drugs is still an important piece in a comprehensive solution, we cannot ignore the dangers closer to home. Communities throughout Nevada continue to suffer from the production and sale of methamphetamine. This drug robs people of their health and ability to be productive members of society, and can cause increased criminal activity. In 2009, I worked to pass the Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act and an amendment called the “COPS Hot Spots” which provided more resources to fight production and use of methamphetamine. In the 111th Congress, I supported the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, which allocated almost $40 million to combat the production of methamphetamine, and another $8 million to the Office of National Drug Control Policy for meth prevention advertisements.
I have also supported the creation of task forces throughout our state to seek out and halt the manufacture of methamphetamine. In 2001, I secured funding to create the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program in Southern Nevada that is now being expanded statewide. I am committed to helping drug task forces throughout the state receive the funding they need and will continue supporting legislation that will help combat illicit drug use.
I am committed to supporting programs that help Nevada’s youth stay away from crime, drugs, and gangs. Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported funding programs that address the problems faced by at-risk youth including reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Department of Justice Reauthorization Act.
Gang violence is a serious problem that affects communities across the country. Shootings near Nevada schools have forcefully reminded us that we are not immune from this problem. I have consistently supported legislation to increase the penalties for gang-related crimes and provide funding for grants to help states and localities fight criminal street gangs. For example, in September 2007, the Senate passed the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act. This bill provides police and prosecutors with the tools they need to clamp down on criminal street gangs, and provides the Department of Justice with grants to study more efficient ways to combat youth crime.
I also supported the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1993 that made membership in a criminal street gang a federal crime and provided block grants to help states and localities fight criminal street gangs. In addition, I supported passage of the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act in 1999. This legislation made it illegal to solicit members of street gangs, directed the Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for gang-related crimes, and established high-density interstate gang activity areas (HDIGA), among other measures.
I have also worked to provide funding for several anti-gang programs such as the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, the Restitution Earned Accountability (REAL) program, and the Richard Steele Youth Boxing Club. These programs help discourage young people from joining gangs, and combat gang activity and violence in communities by providing much needed counseling and education for at risk youth.
I worked hard to pass the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which exempts qualified current and former law enforcement officers from state laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed handguns across state lines. This law ensures that officers who undergo the rigorous training to carry concealed weapons will have their experience recognized in every state. This law helps make our communities safer by allowing law enforcement officers to effectively fight crime and helps protects officers from criminals.
With our economic, military, energy, and transportation infrastructure increasingly becoming “wired,” our nation faces no greater threat in the 21st Century than a major cyber attack. Las Vegas sits on top of one of the largest intersections of fiber-optic networks in the world. Hackers, organized crime networks, and terrorists have increasingly begun to target networks like these to steal personal identities, obtain sensitive trade secrets, and target critical infrastructure like the electricity grid, and even rob banks. While the United States has been the world’s leading innovator in developing information technology, we must become more capable in identifying, stopping, and prosecuting these cyber criminals.
That is why I have led a broad Senate effort to pass comprehensive legislation to enhance our nation’s cyber security and give our government the tools it needs to prevent, deter, and respond to cyber attacks. In 2011, I joined the chairmen of seven key committees in introducing the Cyber Security and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2011, which lays out a roadmap to improving our nation’s defenses in cyberspace. Recently, in August and November 2012, I brought similar legislation, the Cyber Security Act of 2012, for a vote in the Senate. Unfortunately, on both occasions, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle decided to place narrow corporate interests above our nation’s security by rejecting this important legislation. will continue to work my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass key cyber security legislation in the 113th Congress.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported federal legislation and programs designed to prevent domestic violence and help its victims, including the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, grants to combat violence against women, and the Victims of Crime Act. I also cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the landmark law that significantly expanded the federal government’s commitment to eliminating violence against women. Among other provisions, VAWA provides federal funding to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and advocates for prosecuting crimes, addressing victims’ needs, educating the public, and otherwise preventing sexual and relationship violence. I worked hard to reauthorize VAWA, and I was glad that the Senate’s bipartisan bill, which I cosponsored, passed the House and was signed into law by President Obama.