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

Volume 19   Issue 14 - April 27, 2012 

 

NCSL URGES SENATE TO GIVE STATES MORE AUTHORITY

NCSL once again urged Congress to allow states the ability to require out-of-state sellers to remit owed sales and use taxes in a statement to the Senate Committee on Finance. The committee held a hearing on April 25 and discussed a gauntlet of issues such as internet sales, digital downloads, tax-exempt financing and the federal deduction for state and local taxes. NCSL’s statement to the Senate Committee—submitted on the behalf of NCSL’s Task Force on State and Local Taxation of Communications and Electronic Commerce—specifically urged Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 1832). This bill would give states that comply with the tax simplification requirements the authority to require remote sellers to collect and remit sales taxes. To read the full statement, go here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=24657. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Max Behlke


SENATE PLANTS BIPARTISAN FARM PACKAGE

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted yesterday on legislation that would reduce spending by $25 billion over 10 years, with yeoman reductions coming from commodity and conservation programs along with $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (a reauthorization of the farm bill) passed on a 16-5 vote. The bulk of savings is scored for deficit reduction and is generated by repealing direct, countercyclical, and average crop revenue election payments and limitations on states’ use of SNAP “Heat and Eat.” Concerns were expressed over the lack of mandatory funding for the rural development title, which supports jobs in rural communities via infrastructure projects, investments in low-income and minority farmers, and other economic development initiatives. South Dakota Senator Tom Hansen and Kansas Representative Barbara Ballard urged the committee to oppose the amendments that would “eliminate or limit categorical eligibility,” thereby increasing state administrative costs. In their letter to the committee on April 25, the NCSL Human Services and Welfare Committee co-chairs also voiced opposition to other amendments to limit state flexibility in nutrition programs, decrease employment and training services funding and reduce incentives for states to improve payment accuracy. All of these amendments were withdrawn. The letter is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=24652. The Agriculture Committee’s action makes floor consideration this summer more likely, since farm bill authority expires Sept. 30, 2012. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Marcus Peterson (farm bill generally), Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius (nutrition)


DATA ACT ON DISPLAY

State governments would have to report directly to the federal government on all grants, contracts and loans if legislation the House passed on Thursday becomes law. H.R. 2146, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 (DATA Act), would increase and make permanent the reporting requirements established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Although NCSL agrees that states and the federal government should ensure the accountability and transparency of federal funds, it issued a statement, along with the governors, voicing concerns on H.R. 2146 in its current form. This lack of support centers on the unfunded federal mandate imposed to carry out the reporting and oversight requirements. You can read the statement here:  http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=24650. Virginia Senator Mark Warner has offered similar legislation, S. 1222, which would include funding for state and local governments and would keep the current Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that was created in the Recovery Act. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley 


SUPREME BOWL:  STATES VS UNITED STATES

Arizona’s immigration laws were the focus of oral arguments presented this week to eight of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself). Federalism is at the heart of Arizona v. United States, the age-old question of whether federal authority and law trumps state law. A quartet of statutory provisions—dealing with citizenship and immigration status, warrantless arrests, unlawful presence, and employment—drew sharp questioning and poignant legal debate, and is available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/11-182.pdf. A handful of other states have similar laws, which, along with other state legislative activities, are monitored by NCSL staff and can be found at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/immig/omnibus-immigration-legislation.aspx. A ruling from the Supreme Court is expected within 60 days. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Susan Parnas Frederick, Ann Morse (immigration). Additional contact: Lisa Soronen, State and Local Legal Center