Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., announced Thursday that money has been increased for community law enforcement programs in appropriations bills that passed out of committee in the House of Representatives Wednesday, including $550 million for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. Funding for that program, which is the primary source of funding for Montana’s seven drug task forces, had been cut by 67 percent for 2008. “As a father of three, I understand the importance of doing everything possible to keep our communities safe,” Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a press release “Unfortunately, many of the programs Montana’s law enforcement agencies rely on took severe funding hits last year. But, I worked with my colleagues and made it clear these cuts were unacceptable, and we were able to provide a boost in funding to those programs this week.” The bill also includes $627 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services program, a $40 million increase. The COPS programs provides grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to help in hiring additional police officers. The Montana Board of Crime Control is waiting for budget proposals from the drug task forces to see what operations they will be able to continue with. JAG funding for the task forces was cut 78 percent, from $1.52 million in 2007 to less than $367,000 this year. Total JAG funding for state agencies this year went from $2.1 million to $700,000, Rehberg’s release said. Montana’s U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced last week that $580 million in JAG funding was included in an appropriations bill that passed out of committee, and that they would continue To work to find additional funding for the drug task forces this fiscal year. Rehberg said he is also working to find additional funding for this year in a supplemental appropriation and will continue to look for other options as well. The House has also reauthorized JAG funding, at up to $1.095 billion annually through 2012.