Leahy Scores Key Victories For Vermont As Appropriation Bill Clears Committee

. . . Leahy, As Vice Chairman, Was Instrumental In Securing Funding To Combat Opioid Epidemic, Protect Lake Champlain

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Thursday secured major victories for Vermont and communities across the country as the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill cleared the Appropriations Committee.

Leahy was instrumental in including millions of dollars in additional resources to combat the opioid epidemic, support Lake Champlain through the National Sea Grant program, promote economic development in Vermont and other Northern Border communities, and assist victims of domestic violence – all programs that have played pivotal roles in Vermont.  From the day President Trump sent his budget proposals to Congress for 2018, Leahy also has led in pushing back against what he termed the President’s “unbalanced priorities.”

Leahy said:  “This bill makes meaningful investments in the lives of Vermonters and in communities across the country by rejecting the misguided and unbalanced priorities outlined in the Trump Budget.  This bill take a step forward in combatting the opioid epidemic, which has plagued families across the country; supports research at universities like UVM to keep our lakes clean; assists victims of domestic violence; and invests in economic development along our Northern Border.  These are the investments we should be making in Vermont and in the American people and their communities.  But we can – and should – be doing more, and I look forward to continuing to fight for Vermonters on the Senate Appropriations Committee.” 

Leahy was instrumental in securing an additional $2 million, for a total of $12 million in fiscal year 2018, for the Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) program, which Leahy led in creating as part of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in 2014. The AHTF program took an unprecedented step in targeting the sharp rise of heroin and opioid addiction in Vermont and communities across the nation, and in 2015 the Department of Justice awarded a $1.4 million grant to the Vermont State Police to tackle the opioid epidemic.  The legislation approved by the Committee includes $171.5 million total to combat opioid addiction in fiscal year 2018, $11 million more than fiscal year 2017.

The bill includes $65 million for the Sea Grant Program, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is $2 million more than fiscal year 2017.  Leahy memorably fought and won his battle in 1998 to include Lake Champlain in the Sea Grant Program.  In the process, Lake Champlain briefly was deemed a “Great Lake” for the program’s purposes.  Since Leahy’s win, the Sea Grant Program has included Lake Champlain grant funding to UVM and other institutions, and the additional funding Leahy secured for Sea Grant in fiscal year 2018 will ensure that Vermont receives at least $1 million in funding.

The bill includes $3 million in new funding to support the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC).  Last week, language secured by Leahy in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill also increased NBRC funding by $5 million.  The program provides funding for development in economically distressed Northern Border counties in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.  The NBRC is estimated to have saved or created thousands of jobs by leveraging federal funds in attracting other public and private investments.

The bill includes $483.5 million, $2 million more than in fiscal year 2017, which was also secured by Leahy, for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs.  Leahy authored the landmark legislation enacted in 2013 that strengthened VAWA and renewed its charter and led the fight in that bill for inclusion of all victims, regardless of immigration status, sexual orientation or tribal affiliations.  Two VAWA programs specifically created and authored by Leahy – the rural grants program and transitional housing assistance grants – each received a $1 million increase compared to fiscal year 2017.

The bill includes $1 million in funding for digital investigation education in support of law enforcement.  These funds could support the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.  In 2009 Leahy worked to secure federal funding that led to the creation of the center, which is a world-class laboratory to advance the field of digital investigation, with a focus on law enforcement.

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