The following Crime Bill update was written by Rob Kampia of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws). NORML can be reached at:
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
1001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Probably a week to contact the Senate/House conference committee.
UPDATE & OVERVIEW
(For a copy of a more complete overview of the crime bill, please call the NORML office.)
In November, the U.S. Senate passed a crime bill that contains hundreds of widely criticized, "tough on crime" provisions. This bill was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 3355. Earlier, U.S. Representative Craig Washington (D - Texas) had introduced H.R. 3315, an alternative crime bill that would have abolished all mandatory minimum sentences and reformed the civil asset forfeiture laws, among other things. NORML members supported Mr. Washington's bill.
Neither of these bills passed the House. Instead, the House passed H.R. 4092, another unfocused bill that isn't as bad as the Senate's version. Among other things, this bill:
NORML members and other activists across the country who acted on the regular announcements from the national office of NORML apparently had an impact: On April 19, during a diatribe on the House floor in support of his "three strikes and you're out" amendment, Rep. Gerald Solomon (R - New York) charged, "The ACLU and the National Organization for Legalizing Marijuana [sic] are telling people, and I think I just heard it on the floor here, that this amendment would apply to the possession of small amounts of marijuana."
Your messages are getting through. Keep up the good work!
Because the Senate and House have passed different crime bills, leaders from the Senate and House must get together in what is called a "conference committee" to reconcile the differences between the bills. These leaders, who are called "conferees," are currently meeting informally to discuss these matters. By the time the conference committee meets publicly, the conferees will have already decided what the final bill will look like. Hence, the time to act is now.
The informal discussions will continue for at least two weeks, but it is important to act as soon as possible while the conferees' opinions are still being molded. However, it is possible that the bill will not leave conference committee for many months because of the controversy over banning assault weapons. The bill to do so, which passed the House on May 5 by a two-vote margin, might be included as part of the crime bill package.
When a crime bill is finally approved by the conference committee, it must pass both the House and the Senate, and then President Clinton must sign it into law.
Although we cannot be sure of who the Senate conferees will be, we can take a good guess:
EXPECTED CONFEREES FROM THE SENATE:
Tel # (202) Fax # (202)
1. Sen. Joseph Biden (D - Delaware) 224-5042 224-0139 2. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont) 224-4242 224-3595 3. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum(D - Ohio) 224-2315 224-6519 4. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D - Massachusetts) 224-4543 224-2417 5. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D - Arizona) 224-4521 224-2302
6. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R - Utah) 224-5251 224-6331 7. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R - S. Carolina) 224-5972 224-1300 8. Sen. Alan Simpson (R - Wyoming) 224-3424 224-1315 9. Sen. Charles Grassley (R - Iowa) 224-3744 224-6020
CONFIRMED CONFEREES FROM THE HOUSE:
Tel # (202) Fax # (202)
1. Rep. Jack Brooks (D - Texas) 225-6565 225-1584 2. Rep. Don Edwards (D - California) 225-3072 225-6193 3. Rep. John Conyers (D - Michigan) 225-5126 225-0072 4. Rep. Bill Hughes (D - New Jersey) 225-6572 225-8530 5. Rep. Mike Synar (D - Oklahoma) 225-2701 225-2796 6. Rep. Charles Schumer (D - New York) 225-6616 225-4183 7. Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr. (R - New York) 225-5441 225-0962 8. Rep. Henry Hyde (R - Illinois) 225-4561 226-1240 9. Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R - California) 225-4176 226-1279 10 Rep. Bill McCollum (R - Florida) 225-2176 225-0999 11 Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R - Wisconsin) 225-5101 225-3190
Address for any U.S. Representative: Address for any U.S. Senator: The Honorable Henry Hyde: The Honorable Joseph Biden House of Representatives United States Senate Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20510
1. Before May 25, please call, mail, or fax all 20 members of Congress listed above, as well as your own Senators and Representatives. (If you live in the state of one of the Senators or the district ofone of the Representatives, put extra effort into influencing his opinion. He wants your vote!) Stress the following points:
2. Get all of your friends to do the same!
3. Write letters to the editor making the same points.
End of NORML writeup +++
The group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (F.A.M.M.) has asked their members to make all the same requests, and in addition, that they ask the conferees to oppose amendments which would A) remove weight-training equipment from prisons; and B) eliminate Pell grants for inmates.
DRCNet suggests that you also put in a pitch for H.R. 3100, Don Edwards' bill to form a federal drug policy commission, as called for in the "Hoover" Resolution (see Federal Reform, for more information on H.R. 3100). Tell the conferees that whether or not they can work it into the Crime Bill, you support H.R. 3100 and you want to see that commission get to work.