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

Volume 19   Issue 33 - November 19, 2012

PRECIPICE PROGRESS
 


States awaiting a resolution on the federal government's fiscal cliff witnessed some post-election progress last week. President Obama and congressional leaders came away from a November 16 White House summit with a very general action plan. They charged staff with structuring a framework for a broad deficit reduction agreement, due after the Thanksgiving recess. It could easily track some or most of the points that were the part of the negotiations between the president and Speaker John Boehner during the summer of 2011. Those negotiations tied together discretionary spending cuts, some revenue increases, and savings from Medicaid, Medicare and other entitlement mandatory programs. There is little reason to doubt that those same ingredients will not resurface. But negotiators have even more to reconcile:  the “Bush tax cuts,” sequestration, the alternative minimum tax, various expired or expiring tax credits, Medicare provider reimbursements, the emergency unemployment compensation program and payroll taxes. For the first time, both the president and speaker are calling for a balanced bipartisan agreement, albeit with differences as to what constitutes “balanced.” And they will have to find that balance amid stentorian calls from various groups to leave their favorite program or tax “off the table.” NCSL renewed its call for a comprehensive, everything-on-the-table, expeditious resolution of the fiscal cliff and deficit/debt-related issues in a November 14 letter to the administration and Congress. That communication is available at: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/statefed/NCSLDeficitReductionLtrNov14.pdf. Go to NCSL's webpage for periodic updates on the fiscal cliff and sequestration at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/budget/federal-deficit-reduction-overview.aspx.


HEALTH EXCHANGE DEADLINES EXTENDED
 


States now have until Dec. 14, 2012, (previously Nov. 16, 2012) to submit the health insurance exchange “declaration letter” for state-based exchanges. A similar deadline extension applies to the exchange application (blueprint) submission. States now have until Feb. 15, 2013, to submit state-federal partnership exchange declaration letters and blueprints, with certification to occur between Jan. 1 and March 1, 2013, on a rolling basis as blueprints are submitted. The extensions follow a request from the Republican Governors Association (RGA) to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for more time. The association expressed appreciation for the extensions that it believes address the previous problem of “not enough information” from which to make decisions. The response from Secretary Sebelius is accessible at: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/health/HHSLtr111512.pdf. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan


HOME ENERGY FUNDS RELEASED
 


States will have access to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds according to a November 8 announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Initial awards will be the lesser of the allocations in first two FY 2013 quarters or 90 percent of the state's annualized allocation, giving states “more certainty to plan for their upcoming heating season,” according to the HHS. LIHEAP funding for FY 2013 is the same as it was in FY 2012 plus 0.612 percent, per the continuing resolution. LIHEAP is also among the programs not-exempt from sequestration. Individual state award amounts can be found at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/2013-initial-cr-release-of-liheap-block-grant-funds-continuing. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius


HOMELAND SECURITY CONCERNS PRESENTED
 


The National Homeland Security Consortium recently published an update of a white paper identifying homeland security challenges in need of a collaborative government/private sector effort. NCSL signed on to the new report, “Protecting Americans in the 21st Century: Priorities for 2012 and Beyond.” NCSL recognizes the complex and interdisciplinary issues facing states as well as the importance for collaboration among all levels of government in regard to homeland security issues. The report states that leaders “must recognize and understand the interaction and intersection of these threats and vulnerabilities.” These include cyber hazards, climate change, global resource demands, changing demographics, emerging technologies, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent extremist ideologies and catastrophic events. The report and related documents are available at: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/statefed/2012NHSC_WhitePaper.pdf. NCSL staff contacts: Jennifer Arguinzoni