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'94 Crime Bill Is First in 5 Years

August 22, 1994|D'JAMILA SALEM

Congress has not passed a major crime bill since 1988, when it expanded the death penalty to major drug traffickers and placed restrictions on plastic guns. Since then, frustration and deadlock have ruled:

1989--President George Bush unveils a $1.2-billion crime bill in May, calling for increased law enforcement and prison construction and tougher sentencing. Democrats criticize the package for limiting Death Row appeals and not banning semiautomatic assault weapons. After the two sides fail to reach consensus, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) requests a postponement until early 1990.

1990--Bush signs the Crime Control Act, a remnant of his original proposal, after House and Senate conferees strip away the major aspects of the bill: an expanded federal death penalty, limits on appeals and restrictions on semiautomatic assault weapons. The final bill increases penalties for child abuse and adds funding for local law enforcement.

1991--Senate Republicans kill an anti-crime bill with a filibuster after it clears the Democrat-controlled House. The final bill would have greatly expanded the federal death penalty and imposed a waiting period for handgun purchases. Bush and the Republicans complain that the bill does not go far enough in restricting Death Row appeals and loosening curbs on illegally seized evidence.

1992--Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) attempts to reintroduce the measure filibustered in 1991. But after Democrats and Republicans failed to resolve their differences, GOP senators filibuster again--and Democratic efforts to close debate fail. The measure dies.

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