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

Volume 17   Issue 15 - April 14, 2010


FIRST HEALTH CARE REFORM GUIDANCE ISSUED

On April 9, 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the first of many guidances on implementation of federal health care reform legislation (P.L. 111-148 and P.L 111-152). The first guidance informs states that they have the option to begin providing Medicaid assistance at any time to low-income individuals “who are not otherwise eligible under mandatory eligible categories,” up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, but are required to do so by January 2014. If states choose to cover this new group starting April 1, 2010, and receive the regular federal Medicaid match for doing so, they must submit amendments to their state plans by June 30, 2010. A federal enhanced match for covering this new group of people begins January 2014. This guidance, implementation timetables, key provisions taking effect immediately, and numerous other NCSL documents and links are available here. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson,Rachel Morgan)


WHERE’S THAT EXTRA SIX MONTHS OF MEDICAID MATCH FUNDING?

This week, the U.S. Senate is seeking to pass H.R. 4851, to provide short-term extensions for five expired programs. Those programs include extended unemployment insurance benefits, COBRA premium subsidies, Medicare physician reimbursements, national flood insurance and the use of 2009 federal poverty guidelines for many state-federal programs. As passed by the House, these “short-term” extensions would last until April 30, 2010, or May 5, 2010. However, getting agreement on whether these extensions should be offset and other impediments have shifted the short-term extension thinking to late May and early June. That does not bode well for expedited action on H.R. 4213 (“jobs” bill #2), which contains the six-month additional enhanced Medicaid match assistance for states and year-long extensions of the programs mentioned above. Today’s best guess is that H.R. 4213 will resolve sometime in May 2010. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley [jobs bills generally], Joy Johnson Wilson,Rachel Morgan [health], Diana Hinton Noel, Robert Strange [unemployment])


IRS ISSUES NEW RULE ON STATE LEGISLATOR TRAVEL EXPENSES

After four years of discussion and debate, the Internal Revenue Service has issued new regulations on travel expenses for state legislators under 162 (h) of the federal tax code. The final rule, effective April 8, 2010, is available here. The provisions of the rule will apply in taxable year 2011. In its comments, NCSL argued there was no need to define “legislative day” for determining state legislator travel expenses given that state law and practice should govern. Nonetheless, IRS felt some clarification was needed on travel regarding attendance at non-session committee meetings. While declaring that “the regulations do not preempt or supersede state laws governing the conduct or operation of state legislatures,” the rule recognizes that some state legislative committees conducting official business include non-legislators and expenses for such are legitimate. The rule also states that newly elected legislators are not members until sworn in, although they qualify for claiming expenses under 162(a) if they participate in legislative business at the Capitol prior to their swearing-in. NCSL thanks all state legislators who commented on the rule originally proposed in 2008. (NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni)


ON THE HORIZON

The 18-member Federal Deficit Reduction Commission holds its first meeting April 27, 2010…Tripartisan climate change legislation authored by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Connecticut Senator Joe Liebermann should finally surface in late April…Introduction of and action on a FY 2011 budget resolution remains in doubt—Congress may opt to move directly to the appropriations process upon approval of overall spending limits…Mark your calendars: NCSL’s Legislative Summit is July 25-28, 2010, in Louisville, Ky.