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The Fall Forum gives you the chance to advance the States' Agenda and tackle the difficult policy issues of our time—budget gaps, health care coverage, education affordability, transportation funding, energy costs and many others.

The 12 Standing Committees meet at the Fall Forum to share state concerns and the effect of federal actions.

If you are a member of a Standing Committee, come and direct the advocacy efforts of NCSL. But even if you are not on a committee, you are encouraged to attend these lively, informative sessions! Any legislator and legislative staffer is welcome to attend. You'll be glad you did!
 

Volume 18   Issue 33 - September 26, 2011
 

CONGRESS IN RECESS? 

Last week Congress failed to pass legislation authorizing continuing appropriations to avoid an Oct. 1, 2011, shutdown of the federal government. It simultaneously failed to replenish near-exhausted emergency disaster assistance funds. The House managed to pass H.R. 2608 to continue FY 2012 funding levels established in the Budget Control Act through Nov. 18, 2011. It also would add $3.6 billion in emergency disaster assistance funding with $1 billion of it offset. The latter issue has hit the Senate’s “disagreement” button. Although Congress is scheduled to be in recess until Oct. 3, 2011, the Senate will return later today to decide the fate of H.R. 2608. Meanwhile, other action affecting states flourished as explained below.


STATES GET TANF EXTENSION

Congress heeded NCSL's call for an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and sent H.R. 2943 to the president. The legislation extends TANF and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CDBG) through Dec. 31, 2011, but does not apply to TANF supplemental grants. On Sept. 19, NCSL sent a letter to the entire Congress calling for the extension to avoid state loss of funding and program authority on Sept. 30, 2011, which is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=23604. An overview on the need for an extension of both TANF and CDBG is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=23599. NCSL thanks state legislators for encouraging the extension, which will hopefully provide additional time to craft a comprehensive TANF reauthorization by year's end. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius


STATE CHILD WELFARE WAIVERS RE-ESTABLISHED

Lopsided action in both the House and Senate last week facilitated the passage of H.R. 2883, NCSL-supported legislation re-establishing and extending state waiver authority in the child welfare program. The bipartisan legislation also reauthorizes the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. NCSL urged support for the legislation in letters sent to both the House and Senate, available here, http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=23598; http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=23576, respectively. NCSL thanks state legislators for their persistence in getting these flexible state-federal partnerships serving vulnerable children and families renewed. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius


NCSL HELPS MOVE UMRA “FIX”

Last week, a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee voted 5-4 to move H.R. 373 to the full committee for future consideration. This legislation would require the Congressional Budget Office to score any new conditions on states for grant assistance in its fiscal reports. H.R. 373 would also bring independent regulatory agencies under the umbrella of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and authorize congressional requests for “look-back” cost analyses of existing federal mandates. NCSL has long sought all of these changes and supported the legislation in a letter on Sept. 21, 2011, from Massachusetts Rep. Jay Kaufman, chair of NCSL's Budgets and Revenue Committee. The letter stated these “provisions will strengthen the analysis and oversight of federal intergovernmental mandates on state and local governments.” The letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=23608. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


WAIVERS TO NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ANNOUNCED

On Sept. 23, 2011, President Obama and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan rolled out a broad state waiver program addressing many of the NCSL-identified shortcomings and impediments in the original No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Prompting the administration to go the waiver route—which is authorized in the NCLB statute—is the inability of Congress to reauthorize NCLB, and virtually any other program, successfully (note TANF story above). To get waivers, states will have to transition to college-and-career-ready standards, focus on the 15 percent most troubled schools, and create guidelines for evaluating teachers based in part on student performance. Go to http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabID=756&tabs=951,64,224#224  for the latest information on ESEA reauthorization, and to the U.S. Department of Education’s website http://www.ed.gov/esea for more detail on the waiver plan. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


NCSL’S DEFICIT REDUCTION TASK FORCE COMES TO WASHINGTON, D.C.

Eighteen members of NCSL’s Deficit Reduction Task Force blanketed Capitol Hill last week meeting members and staff of the dozen congressional representatives on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSCDR). NCSL’s entourage made stops at other congressional offices and sat down on Sept. 21 with Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew. Future changes to domestic discretionary and entitlement spending and revenue-related issues, and the fiscal implications for states, were the focus, with NCSL’s letter to the select committee serving as a guide for discussions. The letter is at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=23377, and a roster of NCSL’s Task Force can be found at http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabID=773&tabs=855,106,949#949. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (DC), Mandy Rafool (Denver)


PENSION COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED

Last week the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) gave states and others until Oct. 14, 2011, to submit comments on the board's proposed pension accounting and financial reporting changes. The two-week extension results from a recommendation from NCSL and other state and local government organizations urging more time so that field test results could inform public comments. Get more information on public comment opportunities and hearings by visiting www.gasb.org. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


ENVIRONMENTAL RULES DELAY CLEARS HOUSE

The first of several regulatory reform bills sought by House Republicans as part of their jobs agenda cleared the House last Friday. H.R. 2401, the “TRAIN Act,” would require cost studies of several pending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. It would delay until 2015 a rule that requires more than two dozen states to reduce ozone and fine particulates emitted from power plants and transported to other states. It would delay until 2018 implementation of a proposed rule governing the use of “maximum achievable control technology” for toxic air emissions from power plants and require less burdensome regulations. H.R. 2401’s fate is uncertain. The Senate does not have any committee action scheduled, and the administration has threatened a veto. NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke