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

Volume 18   Issue 19 - May 27, 2011
 

TWO DOWN, 10 TO GO

The House Appropriations Committee approved its first FY 2012 bills this week, passing both the Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs funding measures, both with net reductions from FY 2011. Hit hardest are state and local homeland security programs, halved from this year’s funding levels. Amendments to restore some of the proposed reductions failed, partly because of arguments that states and localities are sitting on $13 billion in unspent homeland security funds. That number appears to be less than $1 billion in obligated, but not yet liquidated, grant funding. Appropriators did find an extra $1 billion for natural disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency by reducing funding for alternative technology car loans. Next up for the committee is the FY 2012 Agriculture appropriations measure that includes a 12 percent funding reduction in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, already approved by a subcommittee. The Senate remains silent its action plan for appropriations. Leaders continue to wait for an agreement from the debt ceiling/deficit reduction talks that includes a general domestic spending plan for FY 2012 (see story below). NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (appropriations generally), Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni (homeland security)


FOUR STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT

Senate leaders kept their promise to vote on four competing FY 2012 budget resolutions this week. They also rightly predicted that all four, subject to 60-vote procedural motions, would fail. H.Con.Res. 34, the House-passed FY 2012 budget resolution, attracted 40 votes; the president’s original FY 2012 budget proposal garnered none;. Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Toomey’s S.Con.Res. 21 (reducing federal spending to 18.4 percent of GDP over nine years) received 42 supporters; and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s five-year balanced budget approach (and elimination of federal Education, Energy, Housing and Commerce Departments) scored seven ayes. Now what? All eyes remain on the bipartisan group meeting under the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden. That group met yesterday but made progress only on their timetable due to House members leaving for floor votes. The group is aiming to reach consensus by mid-July,, a mere two weeks before the Aug. 2, 2011, “drop dead” debt ceiling date pronounced by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (see story below). NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


REGULATORY “LOOK BACKS” UNVEILED

An administration initiative to modify, streamline and eliminate outdated, duplicative, inefficient and unnecessary regulations moved forward yesterday with its release of a “21st century regulatory system.” As part of their regulatory reviews, 30 agencies are seeking comments from the public on how to make hundreds of existing rules more effective and less burdensome. NCSL concerns were raised after a very cursory review of agency documents showed  a lack of consultation with states during the development of hazardous materials transportation regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Yesterday, NCSL staff participated in an initial discussion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 31 rules up for review. State legislators and staff can read all relevant documents at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/actions/21st-century-regulatory-system. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (regulatory review generally), Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa (transportation), Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke (environment)


TIDBITS

The divisive debate over increasing the debt ceiling intensified this week. The Senate minority again urged Secretary Geithner to prioritize debt obligation payments rather than increase the ceiling. A second communication from the Senate minority suggested cutting FY 2012 appropriations by $800 billion to match anticipated revenues. Former Office of Management Director Peter Orszag predicted “market turbulence” if the Biden group fails to reach consensus …The House and Senate both passed legislation reauthorizing the Patriot Act for four  more years … Florida Representative John Mica proposed privatizing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in the transportation reauthorization package already considered a long-shot. This proposal is unlikely to sit favorably with the Senate … In Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, U.S. No. 09-115, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law that permits revoking business licenses from employers that knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants and requires employers to use E-Verify. The court’s 5-3 vote affirmed a 2008 appellate court decision. NCSL Staff Contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (debt ceiling), Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa (transportation), Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni (Patriot Act, U.S. Supreme Court), Sheri Steisel, Ann Morse (immigration)