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

Volume 17   Issue 7, February 25, 2010 

 

FIRST OF SENATE “JOBS” BILLS ADVANCES

With a 70-28 bipartisan vote yesterday, the Senate cleared its first of several “jobs” bills it intends to take up this year. The legislation, H.R. 2847, extends authority for SAFETEA-LU transportation authority through the end of 2010 and gives states funding certainty through a transfer of $19.5 billion from the general fund into the highway trust fund. States would also benefit from a second provision that expands the Build America Bonds (BAB) program to provide for direct subsidy to qualifying bond issuers of 45 percent of the borrowing cost for energy and school projects. NCSL backed both the transportation and BAB provisions. Small businesses would qualify for payroll tax exemptions for hiring previously unemployed workers and for a $1,000 tax credit for new hires retained for a full year. The fourth component of H.R. 2847 allows small businesses to write off up to $250,000 of certain capital expenses from their 2010 federal tax liability (Section 179 expensing). The Senate’s action substitutes a limited $13 billion bill for a much broader House-passed package, although the Senate intends to bring additional legislation to the floor soon (see succeeding stories). (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley)


SECOND SENATE “JOBS” BILL DRAFTED

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the second installment of the Senate majority’s “jobs agenda” yesterday, which includes a six-month extension of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s enhanced federal Medicaid match for states that NCSL has actively sought. This $21 billion provision would extend the enhanced match funds from Jan. 1, 2011, through June 30, 2011. The legislation includes another round of extended unemployment benefits and extends the 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy for terminated workers. Both provisions would be extended through the end of calendar year 2010. Also in the draft “American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act” are one-year extensions of expired federal tax credits, including the NCSL-supported optional deduction for state and local sales taxes and various provisions regarding natural disaster and pension relief. This legislation could move to the Senate floor next week. However, before that happens, the Senate is expected to pass this week short-term extensions of various provisions, like the extended unemployment benefit and COBRA, to temporarily keep these programs authorized while Congress works on longer-term fixes. (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley [jobs bills generally], Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan [ health], Diana Hinton Noel, Robert Strange [employment])


NCSL PROVIDES LATEST ON FEDERAL BUDGET/JOBS ACTIVITIES

Where does one go to find the latest information on all federal budget and related legislative priorities? NCSL staff constantly provides new information on legislative activities, ranging from the jobs bills proposals to tax extenders/reform to ARRA updates. To stay up to date, please go to NCSL’s FY 2011 Budget and Related Issues webpage (http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=19494). (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley)


HOUSE CLEARS ANTITRUST EXEMPTION REPEAL

On Feb. 24, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported legislation repealing the six-decades old McCarren-Ferguson health insurance anti-trust exemption. The legislation, H.R. 4626, would compel health insurance entities to comply with both federal and state antitrust regulations. These provisions are similar to those in the House-passed health care reform bill, but are excluded from the Senate-passed health care package and were not included in President Obama’s 11-page health reform proposal unveiled this past Monday. Fate unknown, stay tuned. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan, Neal Osten)


NEW WRINKLE OR OPPORTUNITY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

On Feb. 22, 2010, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that they would gradually phase in greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act for industrial sources, commencing with regulation of large stationery sources and related permitting requirements in 2011. EPA’s announcement might help intensify negotiations among Senate Democrats and Republicans who have balked at the prospects for immediate regulatory action in lieu of legislation. Nonetheless, until health care and/or jobs legislation are resolved, climate change remains on a second or further back burner. (NCSL staff contact: Tamra Spielvogel)