For the first time in a long while, there are active bills in both chambers aimed at reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. A Senate version with leaders from both parties awaits a markup by the Senate Judiciary, and the House version landed in the Education and Workforce Committee.
It is a virtual certainty that the Senate bill will at least move out of committee, because it was co-authored by the guy who sets the schedule, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Then it becomes a question of support from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The House version? Not so much. Youth Services Insider gets the sense that Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the chair of Education and Workforce either opposes or is indifferent to reauthorization of JJDPA.
After Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced his reauthorization bill – which would also plant a modest seed for his PROMISE Act concept – we reached out to Kline’s office on the subject. We were interested in what he thought of Scott’s bill, but we had a more basic question to start with:
Does Rep. Kline support the reauthorization of the JJDPA? Not Scott’s bill, or the Senate one. Just the idea that it should be reauthorized. Is he behind that?
Everyone knows that rhetorical gymnastics are the official sport of Washington, but even here, it’s not hard to just voice support for the idea of reauthorizing something. You can just say it, and then criticize every attempt to actually do it; you’re covered.
We asked Kline’s communications staff and that of the committee. The best either could muster was this little nugget of vagueness:
“We look forward to exploring reforms to improve the juvenile justice system and working with members from both sides of aisle to help ensure at-risk youth receive the assistance they need.”
So while none of Kline’s press people said he does not support reauthorization, YSI believes it’s pretty telling that nobody would say he does support it. It’s hard for YSI to think of a reason to dither on it unless you just wanted to avoid public opposition.
Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Senior Editor John Kelly.