Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 17   Issue 39 - December 29, 2010


FUNDING “AUTOPILOT” CONTINUES

For the next 66 days, the federal government and most state-federal discretionary programs will be funded at FY 2010 levels. This became official Dec. 22, 2010, when President Obama signed  P.L. 111-322, a fourth FY 2010 continuing resolution that will expire March 4, 2011. The legislation institutes a two-year (calendar 2011 and 2012) federal civilian pay freeze, extends funding authorization for state-federal transportation programs and does not provide specific funds to implement various components of federal health care reform legislation. This continuing resolution provides additional funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obligate the same amount for LIHEAP that was obligated for this period during the last fiscal year. This amount is estimated to be roughly $4 billion, or 80 percent of the total FY 2010 appropriation.During the next two months, recently elected members of the 112th Congress will address calls for rescission of unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, rescission of unobligated FY 2011 funds, and elimination of programs still operating despite calls for their termination by either the Obama or Bush administrations.  Termination of these programs was requested to trim up to $100 billion from the $1.1 trillion domestic and defense discretionary budgets for FY 2011. States will be well into their 2011 fiscal years before final “hard” numbers are determined for individual state-federal programs. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley [appropriations generally] Sheri Steisel [LIHEAP])


STORMWATER FEES

Legislation requiring the federal government to pay local fees for stormwater management services passed Congress by unanimous consent last week.  S. 3481, introduced by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, clarifies that reasonable service charges, as outlined in section 313 of the Clean Water Act, include fees or assessments for stormwater management.  The legislation states that appropriated funds may be used to pay such fees that are not considered a tax.  Congressional action came in the wake of several cases where federal facilities refused to pay such fees and a determination by the General Accountability Office (GAO) that the fees were taxes that are subject to sovereign immunity claims and do not have to be paid.  On Dec. 2, NCSL, along with other state and local elected official organizations, sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging enactment of the legislation.  View a copy of the letter at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=21970. (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel)


DIESEL EMISSION REDUCTION REAUTHORIZATION

Late in its lame duck session, Congress unanimously reauthorized the  Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA). House passage of H.R. 5809 on Dec. 21 clears the legislation for President Obama's signature. Originally created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the DERA provides grants to state, local and tribal governments for programs to reduce diesel emissions by upgrading and modernizing older diesel engines and equipment. H.R. 5809 authorizes $100 million annually for DERA in fiscal years 2012 to 2016, subject to annual appropriations. NCSL has actively supported the program since its creation and adopted new policy language calling for DERA reauthorization at its 2010 NCSL Legislative. (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel)


SENATE GROUP LEAPS TO DEFICIT REDUCTION FOREFRONT

Virginia Senator Mark Warner and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss have formed a “gang” of deficit reduction hawks intent on drafting legislation next year based on recommendations tendered in early Dec. 2010 by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The bipartisan Warner-Chambliss team is working from the “everything must be on the table” position to gain consensus for possible legislation. The informal group currently includes Senator Mark Begich (Alaska), Senator Bob Corker (Tenn.), Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.) and about 15 to 20 others. (NCSL staff contacts: Jeff Hurley, Michael Bird)