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

Volume 17   Issue 10 - March 8, 2010


CONGRESS RETURNS TO JOBS, HEALTH CARE

The “jobs” ball and related bills continue to challenge our reporting skills. The coming week looks like this:

MEDICAID MATCH

States would receive $21 billion in enhanced Medicaid matching funds through NCSL-supported provisions included in the Senate’s pending version of H.R. 4213, commonly entitled “Second Senate Jobs Bill.” The Medicaid matching funds would be distributed among the states as an extension, from January 1, 2011 to June 30, 2011, of provisions originally written into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Debate commenced last week and will consume most of this week’s Senate floor schedule. H.R. 4213 is also home to one-year extensions of nearly four dozen federal tax credits and deductions, including the NCSL-supported extension of optional state and local sales tax deductibility. State legislators should contact their U.S. Senators Monday or Tuesday of this week and urge their support of the Medicaid and sales tax deductibility provisions. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan [Medicaid], Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley [deductibility])


TANF EMERGENCY CONTINGENCY FUND

On Tuesday, Mar. 9, 2010, the full Senate will vote on an amendment #3356 that would provide a NCSL-supported six-month extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund. The extension of this ARRA provision would go from Oct. 1, 2010 through Mar. 31, 2011. States could access extended funding for subsidized employment, increased basic assistance and/or non-recurring benefits from 1.3 billion made available by this amendment. The amendment is sponsored by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Washington Senator Patty Murray and also includes a six-month extension of the federal summer youth employment program. State legislators should contact their U.S. Senators immediately and urge them to support Amendment #3356 to H.R. 4213, the Kerry-Murray amendment. (NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Lee Posey [TANF], Diana Hinton Noel, Robert Strange [summer youth employment])


WHAT HAPPENED TO SENATE JOBS BILL ONE?

It traveled to the U.S. House of Representatives where it was amended and passed by a margin of 217-201. The amendments necessitate a return trip to the Senate. H.R. 2847, “First Senate Jobs Bill”, will be addressed after the Senate concludes its work on the “Second Senate Jobs Bill” this week. H.R. 2847 extends and funds the state-federal highway, bridge and safety program through the end of calendar 2010. It also expands the Build America Bonds Program, creates a payroll tax exemption for new hires and provides small business with an expensing deduction for capital improvements. One approved House amendment directs some transportation funding to small minority business enterprises. A second increases the authorized Build America Bond subsidy and applies it to four tax-credit bond programs, namely the qualified zone academy, qualified school construction, new clean renewable energy and qualified energy conservation bond programs. So, who’s on third? Stay tuned. (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley [jobs bills generally], Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa [transportation])


GREENHOUSE GAS CURBS - MORE COMPLICATED THAN JOBS?

At the top of the current issue pile is congressional concern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)
intent to regulate greenhouse gases via the Clean Air Act and a related “endangerment” finding. At least two pieces of legislation, S.J.Res.26 (Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski) and H.J.Res. 77 (Texas Representative Joe Barton), would strip EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Along side these two joint resolutions lie S. 3072 and H.R. 4753, Democratic-sponsored bills that would freeze EPA’s regulatory authority for two years while Congress strives to pass comprehensive climate change legislation. S. 3072 is sponsored by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller and H.R. 4753 is sponsored by West Virginia Representative Nick Rahall. Behind the smoking debate over EPA authority is the continued tripartisan search for a consensus climate change bill. Democratic Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham continue to progress toward soon-to-be-introduced legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions from utilities. It would, as currently described, impose a carbon tax on transportation-sector entities and expand offshore drilling and nuclear energy development. NCSL will keep you posted. (NCSL staff contact: Tamra Spielvogel)


ON THE HORIZON

Democrats may unveil a health care reform proposal this week that includes the Senate-passed health care reform bill and a list of possible amendments that would move in separate legislation. The unveiling is a first step in a process that will initially require the Congressional Budget Office to score the combined cost of the underlying legislation and any likely amendments.


Secretary Chu and Former Speaker Gingrich Headline Spring Forum…NCSL Spring Forum 2010 - Washington, D.C. - April 8-10

With a new decade comes a new agenda set by Congress. Legislators need to be resourceful, inventive and enterprising to face the complex problems and issues confronting states now and in the future. Come to NCSL’s Spring Forum to work with colleagues who are facing similar challenges, examine how federal issues affect the states, and develop state's advocacy positions before Congress and the administration. For more information visit: http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabID=714&tabs=2638,122,921#921

Spring speakers: U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will talk to state legislators, legislative staff and others from across the nation about the responsibilities and opportunities states have in the current economy. Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who has devoted his recent career to the search for new solutions to our energy challenges and ways to stop global climate change. Gingrich has remained involved in national politics and public policy debate since he left Congress. He is chairman of the Gingrich Group and of American Solutions for Winning the Future, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and founder of the Center for Health Transformation.