I have signed H.R. 558, the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Title III of this bill authorizes the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a National Board to oversee the expenditure of money for emergency food and shelter programs for the homeless. It also authorizes local governments to constitute boards to determine how the program funds will be distributed.
In approving this measure, I must note concern about the appointment of members of both the National Board and the local boards. If read literally, the measure could be interpreted as requiring the Director of FEMA to appoint to the National Board any individual nominated by one of six private organizations. Any such construction would raise serious questions as to whether the bill violates the appointments clause of the Constitution. Moreover, if the organizations' recommendations are not deemed advisory, further constitutional questions could be raised under the establishment clause with respect to appointment of both the National Board and the local boards, because four of the six organizations are affiliated with religious organizations. In order to avoid these constitutional infirmities, I have signed the bill with the understanding that the nominations made by the private organizations under H.R. 558 are purely advisory and do not circumscribe the discretion of the Director or the local governments. It is my intention that charitable organizations, including those with religious affiliation, should continue to play a vital role in the delivery of services contemplated in this legislation.