Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
House Gop Rewriting Crime Laws Victim Compensation, New Rules of Evidence Lead List of Seven Bills
Forging ahead with their "Contract with America," House Republicans started Tuesday to rewrite last year's hard-fought crime measure by moving to compensate victims and ease rules of evidence.
Republicans plan seven crime bills this year but have temporarily backed off from their most controversial item - the proposal to repeal the ban on assault weapons passed by the Democratic-led Congress last year.
Six of the bills in the Republican crime package will go before the House this week and next.
In addition to victim compensation and evidence rules, the bills would limit appeals by death-row inmates, replace last year's police hiring program with a block grant to states, pay for more prisons, ban inmates from weight training and require Washington to reimburse states for holding illegal aliens.
The seventh bill, mandatory sentences for carrying or using a gun in commission of a crime, was held off until it can be tied to reconsideration of the assault weapons ban.
The first step in the crime package proved noncontroversial, and the House voted 431-0 for a bill to require courts to order defendants to compensate victims of violent or property crimes.
Rep. George W. Gekas, R-Pa., said the measure would bestow "the ultimate sense of satisfaction and restitution" for victims, and New York Rep. Charles E. Schumer, Democratic point man on crime issues, applauded the measure as a "good idea."
Current law permits, but does not require, judges to order restitution for federal crimes. Under this bill, restitution could be made a condition of parole, probation or other forms of release from prison, and the courts could sell the defendant's property to pay the victim. No compensation would be ordered for white-collar crimes.
With the easy work out of the way, the House opened debate on a controversial plan to permit courts to consider evidence illegally obtained without a search warrant by police officers who believed their search was lawful.