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

Volume 19   Issue 1 - January 12, 2012
 

HAPPY NEW YEAR

The second session of the 112th Congress starts next week when the U.S. House of Representatives convenes for two days. The Senate follows one week later, the same week the president delivers his State of the Union address. The president’s FY 2013 budget proposal will likely surface February 6 or 7, and Congress faces a Feb. 29 deadline for resolving payroll tax, unemployment insurance benefits and other issues temporarily resolved last December (see article below).


NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND—ONE STEP AT A TIME

Last week Minnesota Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced his latest chapters in an incremental approach to reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The two latest, unnumbered pieces address accountability and teacher effectiveness issues. The legislation would jettison NCLB’s annual yearly progress (AYP) matrix, terminate state maintenance of effort requirements and put an end to NCLB’s “highly qualified teacher” requirements. Rep. Kline also seeks to grant states greater flexibility in using federal education dollars and cease NCLB’s mandate for federal intervention in low-performing schools. Last year, the House Education and Workforce approved three NCLB reauthorization segments, only one of which cleared the entire House. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin continues to press for a comprehensive, bipartisan NCLB solution while rejecting the incremental House approach. Congress is four years past due on reauthorizing NCLB. Hope does not spring eternal for quick action on this NCSL priority. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Late last year, congressional leaders and the administration agreed to a two-month extension of various expiring provisions—many that are key for states—that proved very divisive throughout the fall. H.R. 3630 extended to Feb. 29, 2012, a 2 percent employee payroll tax deduction, emergency unemployment compensation benefits, current Medicare provider reimbursements, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program and the Qualifying Individual (QI) program. H.R. 3630 (originally one of many “jobs” bills) gave policymakers two months of additional political breathing room paid for with a 10-year increase in mortgage fees. Leaders have named “conferees” to find longer-term solutions to these same issues. They include Senators Barrasso (Wyoming), Baucus (Montana), Cardin (Maryland), Casey (Pennsylvania), Kyl (Arizona) and Reed (Rhode Island. Representing the House will be Representatives Becerra and Waxman (California), Brady (Texas), Schwartz (Pennsylvania), Ellmers (North Carolina), Hayworth (Arizona), Camp, Levin and Upton (Michigan), Price (Georgia), Reed (New York), Van Hollen (Maryland) and Walden (Oregon). The issues challenging these conferees are formidable; and more so will be the offsets. No sign yet of any discussion or action. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (“jobs” bills generally), Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (TMA, QI), Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius (TANF), Michael Reed (unemployment benefits)


MORE TRANSPARENCY, MORE INFORMATION

On Dec. 23, NCSL and three local government organizations renewed a regulatory economic analysis request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The issue:  a pending regulation that would modify the definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. EPA previously responded positively to NCSL’s petition for a federalism consultation process and a formalized and transparent rulemaking process. Up to this point, EPA has initiated an effort to quantify and account for “indirect costs” related to the proposed regulation. A Dec. 23, 2011, letter sent by NCSL and organizations representing mayors, cities and counties calls on EPA “to undertake any necessary steps, to the extent feasible, to ensure that the final economic analysis for the regulation ... quantifies the full impact the definitional change will have on all Clean Water Act programs.” Full text of the letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=24046. NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Marcus Peterson