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

Volume 19   Issue 27 - September 5, 2012


THE TIME IS NOW
 

“I have an assignment for you…please call your U.S. Senator to help us pass this legislation,” Illinois Senator Dick Durbin told Legislative Summit attendees in Chicago last month. Senator Durbin and Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi are lead sponsors of the act, S. 1832. The legislation would simplify sales and use tax collection systems and allow states that comply with the simplification requirements to collect taxes from remote sellers. Mounting talk of tax cuts, tax reform and deficit reduction have heightened the bill’s profile and enhanced its chances of making it to the president’s desk. Adding to the 19 current bipartisan co-sponsors would also strengthen its chances of being marked up and moving either on its own or in concert with other fiscal-related legislation. The bill gives states an opportunity to simplify their tax systems to help deal with previous federal reductions to state-federal programs as well as the impending “fiscal cliff,” with sequestration and discretionary spending caps looming. NCSL urges state legislators to encourage their U.S. senators to co-sponsor S. 1832. A list of current co-sponsors is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:SN01832:@@@P. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Max Behlke


THE “OTHER” SEQUESTRATION"

 

The failure of last year’s “super committee” to find $1.2 trillion in deficit savings has caused sequestration—across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Most of the talk in our nation’s capital has focused on the fact that these cuts will take effect on Jan. 2, 2013—required under the Budget Control Act passed in August 2011—if Congress can’t come up with a solution. The act, however, also requires sequestration if states violate domestic discretionary spending caps set for the next decade. These caps, designed to save $787 billion in spending apart from the $1.2 trillion target, are set in statute and measured against the work of House and Senate appropriators. On Aug. 20, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported that appropriations approved by the House for FY 2013 would trigger a $6.6 billion sequestration in addition to savings in spending in underlying bills. The Senate’s appropriators have almost hit the spending cap ceiling. The OMB report does not account for a continuing resolution, which appears likely and is based on what lawmakers can agree to this month. In other words, certainty on what to expect in FY 2013 funding for state-federal programs and defense efforts is miles away. NCSL contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


COURT TO DECIDE WHO’S IN CHARGE
 

NCSL has signed on to two State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus briefs addressing a pair of cases concerning storm-water runoff that will be argued during the U.S. Supreme Court’s next term. One case will determine whether or not stormwater runoff flowing from logging roads into ditches, culverts, and channels requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. A second case will resolve whether storm-sewer systems are parts of single bodies of water, who the regulators are, and whether states and localities violate discharge permits when pollutants from storm sewers flow into rivers and streams. Both cases are classic federalism issues involving the Clean Water Act. To wade further into the details of these cases and the amicus briefs, please go to: http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Northwest_Environmental_Defense_Ctr_v_Brown_640_F3d_1063_9th_Cir_; http://statelocallc.squarespace.com/storage/pdf/Deckerv.NEDCFINALasFILED.pdf  NCSL staff contact: Tamra Spielvogel (environment); SLLC contact: Lisa Soronen


NEW FUEL STANDARDS ANNOUNCED
 

On Aug. 28, the Obama administration finalized  Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new autos and light-duty trucks. The standards incrementally increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025. The announcement comes from a 2009 agreement among California, manufacturers, unions, environmental groups and the administration. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the new standards will reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly, curb domestic oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day (compared to 2010) and save consumers an estimated $1.7 trillion in fuel costs. However, greater fuel efficiency will likely reduce future highway trust fund revenues. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch (transportation), Tamra Spielvogel (environment)


MORE ON THE COURT
 

A State and Local Legal Center summary of the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012  rulings relevant to states is available at http://statelocallc.squarespace.com/articles/. The summary includes synopses of the federal health care reform, Arizona immigration law and Texas redistricting cases decided in 2012 and 17 other cases from the Court’s term. NCSL staff contact: Susan Parnas Frederick; SLLC contact: Lisa Soronen