STATE JUSTICE INSTITUTE REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - March 10, 2004)
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith).
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation will reauthorize the State Justice Institute, which is a nonprofit corporation created in 1994 to provide grants and other funding to help State courts improve their systems.
According to the Institute's mission statement, "Since becoming operational in 1987, SJI has awarded over $120 million to support more than 1,000 projects benefiting the Nation's judicial system and the public it serves. The Institute is unique both in its mission and how it seeks to fulfill it."
The SJI provides funding for programs which help improve access to the courts. It trains and assists courts in child custody, domestic violence, juvenile crime, and sexual assault cases. The SJI also works to create the use of technology in the courtroom, as well as create reforms to reduce the amount of time and money associated with litigation.
By reauthorizing the State Justice Institute, we will provide them with $7 million each year for the next 4 years. This money helps Americans have access to a more effective and efficient court system. The State Justice Institute has been successful in its efforts. We should make sure they are able to continue their good work, and this bill will do just that. I urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 2714, the State Justice Institute Reauthorization Act-legislation to reauthorize appropriations for the State Justice Institute through FY 2008.
Founded by Congress more than a decade ago, the State Justice Institute (SJI) was established to support efforts to improve the quality of justice in State courts, facilitate better coordination between State and Federal courts, and foster innovative, efficient solutions to common problems faced by all courts. About one-third of all SJI grants are devoted to educating state judges on how to improve the operations of their courts. The remaining grants are devoted to technology projects such as efforts to improve recordkeeping.
The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Ronald M. George, has relayed to me the important work done by the State Justice Institute, and I know his views are shared by a great many of the nation's top judges. In a 2002 report, the Attorney General of the United States also noted that the Institute has been effective and has complied with its statutory mission. In addition, he observed that support for state court innovation and improvement is a federal interest.
As a Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch, I recognize the importance of working in Congress to ensure that we maintain a strong and vibrant court system in our country.
The last time that Congress reauthorized the State Justice Institute was in 1992. In the interim, the Appropriations Committee has continued to fund the important work of the Institute, and I have urged appropriators to support such funding to allow the Institute to continue its fine work. It is now time for Congress to act and to reauthorize this important program that will continue to improve the administration of justice in our courts.
Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2714, the State Justice Institute Reauthorization Act of 2003. I worked with my colleagues on the House Judiciary committee to mark this bill up in September of last year, and I offered my support at that time. This bill will authorize the operations of the State Justice Institute (SJI) for Fiscal Years 2005-08 and proposes to allocate grant money to state courts and other entities that support their operation. I understand that this bill has not been reauthorized since 1996, so this bill is indeed timely, as the need certainly does exist.
Since its inception in 1984 and operation in 1987, the SJI's $125 million in grants and $40 million in private and other public funds have played a role in making the state court system in Houston an efficient engine of the administration of justice of which we Houstonians are quite proud. Given the urgent need for us to allocate energy and resources to our critical infrastructure and to the first responders in the context of Homeland security, the insurgence of funds to improve the overall flow of work through the state court systems is extremely important. For example, during the recent blackouts, those agencies and offices that needed this kind of assistance the most had to suffer until power was restored. In some instances, the blackouts were crippling. If there had been a real threat of terror in those instances, the areas of vulnerability would have translated to disaster. This area of the assessment of threat and vulnerability will be best served by the provision that requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Judicial Center, to submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary as to the success and effectiveness of the SJI.
Furthermore, the authorization of the Institute to procure goods and services from the General Services Administration (GSA) will be a boon to those administrative areas that are antiquated and non-functioning for want of new equipment and resources. Should this bill pass, I would look forward to conducting a full assessment of need in Houston and make these GSA resources available as soon as possible.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, for the above reasons, I support H.R. 2714 and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 2714, as amended.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.