WE HAVE CERTAINTY. Following the House of Representatives’ lead, the Senate today passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 by a vote of 64-36, providing certainty to state budgets for the next two years. The president is expected to sign the bill later this week, which was approved by the House last Friday 332-94. The budget plan, spearheaded by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), increases by $63 billion the discretionary budget caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act for FY 2014 and FY 2015. This will be offset, along with an additional $23 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years, through a variety of user fees and extending sequester reductions to mandatory programs for another two years. As the budget deal emerged, House and Senate Appropriation Committees awaited 302 (b) allocations—top line limits of how much they can spend in FY 2014—from the budget committee. It appears likely that some of the 12 appropriations bills will be combined into an omnibus bill before Jan. 15, 2014, when the current continuing resolution expires.
The fiscal plan was announced a week after NCSL leaders sent a letter urging congressional budget leaders to reach an agreement on a budget for FY 2014. The letter on Dec. 2 urged federal lawmakers to: 1) provide fiscal certainty to state legislatures, 2) offer opportunities for shared savings and enhanced program flexibility while not shifting the fiscal burden onto states, and 3) not impose any new unfunded mandates on states. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley
NCSL HONORS FOUR U.S. SENATORS. NCSL’s Fall Forum saw the return of the Restoring Balance Award. The honor is bestowed on national policymakers who have worked to restore, protect and advance the standing of the states in our federal system. This year’s recipients were Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), each of whom were vital in ensuring the Senate’s passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act earlier this year. The award coincided with NCSL’s continued advocacy effort urging members of Congress to support the Marketplace Fairness Act. For the second time in less than a month, state legislators from throughout the nation converged on Capitol Hill and urged their fellow elected officials to pass the bipartisan legislation and provide states with long-term fiscal certainty. The Marketplace Fairness Act, which grants states the authority to require online and catalog retailers to collect and remit sales taxes, would level the playing field for local brick and mortar businesses and ensure tax equity for state taxpayers. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Max Behlke
NO FARM BILL IN 2013. Despite the best efforts of Agriculture Chairs Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Representative Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) to finish conference negotiations on a compromise Farm Bill, it will not be completed before adjournment. Both chairs have stated they expect the House-Senate conference committee to finalize the Farm Bill next month. Although the House adopted by a voice vote H.R. 3695 to extend the Farm Bill, it appears that the Senate will not take up the measure. House members raised concerns that dairy prices could reach $7 a gallon if the law reverts to the Agriculture Act of 1949. However, the USDA has announced that it will not immediately implement the changes that would have gone into effect on Jan. 1. The ranking member on the House Budget Committee, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), has also raised the possibility of using some of the farm bill savings to pay for a potential unemployment insurance extension. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (nutrition); Ben Husch, Melanie Condon (agriculture)
TREASURY DELIVERS INSURANCE REPORT. On Dec. 12, the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) delivered the past due report, "How to Modernize and Improve the System of Insurance Regulation in the United States." The 71-page report was mandated under Title V of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which also created the FIO in the Department of the Treasury. The report looks at all segments of the industry except health insurance and offers recommendations to modify the present state-based regulatory structure, and suggestions for federal involvement. NCSL previously provided comments to the director of the FIO championing state-based regulation of insurance and cautioning federal involvement. Specifically, NCSL voiced opposition to any action by the FIO or Congress that promotes the wholesale preemption of state authority; compels state compliance with federal standards or those of any nongovernmental third party; and restricts or redirects state insurance revenues. NCSL staff contacts: James Ward, Helen Narvasa
Capitol to Capitol is a publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the premier bipartisan organization representing the interest of states, territories and commonwealths. The conference operates from offices in Denver, Colo., and Washington, D.C.