After a debate that set larger states against smaller ones, the Senate approved a new funding formula yesterday for grants to state and local law enforcement agencies that would respond to terrorist attacks, reports the Los Angeles Times. By a vote of 71 to 26, senators backed a proposal that would increase the amount of money available to all states, rather than provide additional funds primarily to larger states that were perceived as more likely terrorist targets.
The contentious discussion over funding for first responders – including police, fire and paramedic units – came as the Senate considered a $31.9-billion bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The bill’s had called for 30 percent of about $2 billion in grants to be distributed evenly to all states, with the remaining funds allocated based on an assessment of their risk of terrorist attack. An amendment by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) increased to 40% the funding level guaranteed to all states, regardless of size or risk of terrorism. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that certain areas were at greater risk and needed to take extra precautions. In New York, every major bridge is guarded by four police officers 24 hours a day.