Issue Date: August 6, 2007
By a vote of 89-4, the Senate passed a fiscal 2008 homeland security spending bill on July 26 that includes language that would give states the authority to enact stricter chemical plant security laws than existing federal standards. The chemical security provision was authored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose state has the strictest chemical security law in the U.S.
The Senate appropriated nearly $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. This is over $5 billion more than the Bush Administration's proposed DHS funding level of $34.2 billion for fiscal 2008.
The bill also precludes DHS from using funds during fiscal 2008 to reorganize again without congressional approval. DHS has reorganized nine times since its creation in 2002, leading to high staff turnover and low morale.
"For far too long, the Bush Administration has funded DHS with spare change rather than real dollars," says Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Homeland Security. The Senate spending bill will, in Byrd's estimation, "fill significant gaps in our national security."
On June 15, the House passed a homeland security spending bill that would give DHS $36.3 billion and also includes a provision that explicitly would allow states to adopt more stringent regulations than federal standards. The two bills now go to a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out differences.
Christopher L. Jahn, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors, called the House and Senate action on chemical plant security "unnecessary and premature." He urged the conferees to strike the chemical security provisions from the appropriations bill.
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