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During each session of Congress, SSWAA monitors and works actively for or in opposition to multiple pieces of legislation.  Some of the bills SSWAA is following in the 115th Congress (1st Session, Jan. – Dec. 2017) are listed below. 

"Message Bills":  Hundreds of bills are introduced in every session of Congress, many of which never receive action.  In some instances, it is simply that Congress does not have enough legislative time to get to all of them.  In other cases, the legislation may be what are known as "message bills," providing a vehicle for the sponsor to raise an issue and engage in dialogue with other members while knowing the bill has no chance of passage.  Sometimes message bills can lead to real action after more members become engaged in the issue, but that might take several years. 

How to get information on congressional legislation:  You may be interested in finding bills introduced on a particular subject (e.g., mental health, education, juvenile justice) and to track the progress of legislation.  The official website for federal legislative information is run by the Library of Congress at www.congress.gov.  You can also access information there about members of Congress, congressional committees, and hearing schedules and video links, and find documents such as the U.S. Constitution and other historical information.  You may want to bookmark this important website!

 

SSWAA is watching the following bills:

Funding for ESSA, Title IV-A block grant – Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations:  SSWAA has been advocating strongly for a minimum of $700 million in the FY 2018 appropriations bill for the new Title IV block grant. FY 2018 funds would be for school year 2018-19.  Part of the grant to school districts must be used for "safe and healthy students" activities, and one option is school-based mental health services.  The current funding level for this new formula grant program is only $400 million (school year 2017-18), which is not nearly enough to provide adequate funding to every school district.  The law authorizes Congress to spend up to $1.65 billion on this important program, which, in addition to "safe and healthy students" activities, is designated for "well-rounded education" and education technology. 

 

Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act:  The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of a JJDPA reauthorization bill.  The next steps will be to convene a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills, send the final negotiated bill to each chamber for a vote, and then send the bill to the president.

 Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S. 860).

  • Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Key co-sponsor: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
  • Summary of key provisions: (a) Extends authorization for the Office of JJDP (OJJDP) and a formula grant program supporting state juvenile justice activities; (b) requires state Coordinating Councils to include individuals with mental health expertise; (c) requires OJJDP to identify evidence-based programs and practices and offer more training to states; (d) encourages state grantees to improve treatment of juvenile offenders in a variety of ways; (e) calls for more transparency, including identifying and reducing racial and ethnic disparities among youth in the justice system.

Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 1809)

  • Sponsor:  Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN).  Key co-sponsor: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).
  • Summary:  The House bill is very similar to the Senate bill, including that the State Advisory Group include members with expertise in mental health, special education, and adolescent development.  A main difference in the two bills pertains to "deinstitutionalization of status offenders." The original JJDPA required states to cease incarceration of young people for status offenses and, instead, use other means such as counseling to address the behaviors. An exception was added in 1984 allowing states to incarcerate youngsters for status offense when the behaviors were in violation of a Valid Court Order.  The House bill would phase out the exception; however, the Senate removed a similar provision from its bill.  This will be addressed in the conference committee.

 

Mental Health in Schools Act (H.R. 2913; S. 1370):

  •  Sponsor: House: Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) & John Katko (R-NY); Senate: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
  • Summary:  Creates $200 million in grant funding for 100 schools across the country to partner with local nonprofits to provide on-site, culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services. 

 

School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (SSWISS Act)This bill will reintroduced early in September, and SSWAA will provide additional information at that time.

  •  Sponsor: Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
  • Summary:  Provides grants to high-need school districts to retain or hire school social workers.

 

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