Congress Poised to Reform Federal Incarceration Policy
July 28, 2015
With a push from President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner, Congress seems poised to revise four decades of federal policy that greatly expanded the number of Americans now incarcerated (roughly 750 per 100,000), by far the highest of any Western nation.
• With a push from President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner, Congress seems poised to revise four decades of federal policy that greatly expanded the number of Americans now incarcerated (roughly 750 per 100,000), by far the highest of any Western nation. Senators from across the aisle worked together to meld several proposals into one bill, including an important expansion of so-called ‘safety-valve” provisions that give judges discretion to sentence low-level drug offenders to less time in prison than the required mandatory minimum term if they meet certain requirements. Another would allow lower-risk prisoners to participate in recidivism programs to earn up to a 25 percent reduction of their sentences. Lawmakers would also like to create more alternatives for low-level drug offenders, as nearly half of all current federal prisoners are serving sentences for drug crimes. A bipartisan bill is expected to be ready before the August recess. [NYT]
• House Republican leaders, looking for a way around an impasse with the Senate, are proposing a new measure that would fund transportation infrastructure programs through Oct. 29th without reviving the Export-Import Bank. House Speaker John Boehner presented the three-month measure as a possible way to resolve differences between the House and Senate, which have divergent approaches for renewing the Highway Trust Fund. As highway programs are set to expire this Friday, the House has passed a five-month extension to give it time to work out a longer-term plan, while the Senate this week is expected to pass a six-year bill with three years of funding. The goal of passing a three month patch is to give the House enough time to produce its own long-term bill and then seek to resolve differences between that measure and the Senate’s six-year bill in the fall. It will likely come up for a House vote on Wednesday. If the bill passes, the House would adjourn for an August recess, leaving the Senate to accept one of the two House highway bills or to immediately cut off federal reimbursements to states for transportation projects. [WSJ]
Economic Indicators & News
• Home prices rose 4.9% in May vs. the 5.7% increase that was expected. U.S. home prices continued to rise in May, according to the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index, but the increase fell short of analyst estimates. The 20-city index rose 4.9% year-over-year in May. Denver led the gains with 10% appreciation in home prices, followed by San Francisco and Dallas. Nationally, single-family home prices have settled into an annual 4% to 5% pace of increase, moderating after the double-digit bubble pattern of 2013. The weak link in the market remains first-time home buyers. [CNBC]