Shelley Berkley

Child Safety and Protection Act - June 14, 1999

Shelley Berkley
June 14, 1999— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Chairman, Thank you for giving Congressman Mark Udall and me the opportunity to present to you our proposed amendment to H.R. 1501, the Child Safety and Protection Act.

Our amendment, entitled, The After School Education and Anti-Crime Act, would expand after school programs by building on the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Act to give local schools and communities even more options for improving student performance and reducing juvenile crime.

The amendment would provide $600 million in federal funding to help one million children around the country who are waiting for after-school programs.

Let me tell you about the need in my district. I have the district with the fastest growing school-age population in the United States. There are 5,000 new residents that come to Las Vegas, Nevada, every single month.

Mr. Chairman, the demand for after school programs in Southern Nevada is very high. Last year, our school district could only serve 3,000 with after school programs out of the 30,000 students in need.

Elementary School teacher Tracy Cook said it best, "A lot of my students are wearing their keys around their necks—they are letting themselves in because no one is home when they get there." Children are at risk during the critical after-school hours. According to the FBI, juvenile crime peaks between 3 and 6 p.m., when school is out and most parents are at work.

After-school programs give our children safe, productive places to go after the school bell rings and productive activities such as mentoring programs; academic assistance; recreational activities; technology and job skills training; and drug, alcohol, and gang prevention programs.

That's why more than 450 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors—along with the presidents of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Union of Police Associations have urged expanding after school programs.

We hope you will agree with the more than 90 percent of voters who favor providing more after school programs and allow us to offer this amendment on the floor.

Mr. Chairman, I also want to express my strong support for Bill McCollum's amendment that would allow additional district judges for the States of Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. The McCollum amendment would give relief to our overworked system by providing the first additions to our judicial circuit since 1984 -- fifteen years ago. Since then, our population has doubled.

When you consider the exponential population growth in Nevada, you would surely see the desperate need that we have for additional federal judgeships.

In 1998 alone, our district judges filed a total number of 863 cases, almost double the national average of 467 cases. Even more startling is the fact that Nevada is ranked third in the country for growth of civil cases and eight for growth of felony cases.

As an attorney and as a Representative for Nevada, I urge you to allow this amendment.