Watch a video summary of this issue of Capitol to Capitol.
DON’T LET OUR GUARD DOWN. Last Tuesday, NCSL sent a letter urging congressional leadership to preserve the current level of federal funding for the Army National Guard (ARNG). In recent years the administration has proposed reductions of ARNG forces. The FY 2015 budget recommended 335,000 members, a reduction from the current force of 355,000. The ARNG, who are the first military responders to disasters and other national emergencies, may face even more significant reductions of members in future years with federal reductions from sequestration. In May, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; H.R. 4435), which would freeze any potential funding reductions for FY 2015. It includes a provision to establish a Commission on the Future of the Army to study structural requirements of the ARNG. The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, approved a similar defense authorization bill with reductions similar to the proposal offered by the White House. NCSL staff contact: Jon Jukuri
CONGRESS NEARS PASSAGE OF ANTI-TRAFFICKING LEGISLATION. Over the past 10 years, states have been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate human trafficking, passing legislation that strengthens criminal penalties on traffickers and establishing services for identified victims. Congress is on the verge of joining the principled work of state legislators, as the Senate this week is expected join the House in approving legislation to eliminate trafficking. The “Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act,” sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would aid state and local governments in developing victim-centered programs, training law enforcement, and prosecuting human traffickers. This legislation follows the lead of state governments, which during the last three legislative sessions have enacted 221 anti-trafficking laws in 45 states. In a letter earlier this month, Nevada Assemblyman William Horne and Tennessee Representative Eric Watson, co-chairs of NCSL’s Committee on Law and Criminal Justice, applauded Senator Klobuchar for her “leadership in establishing a mechanism to eradicate the inhumane practice of human trafficking.” The companion bill in the House, sponsored by Congressman Erik Paulson (R-MN), passed by a voice vote in May. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE. NCSL last week responded to a notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), supporting an open and accessible Internet with “light touch” regulation. The debate on the issue, commonly referred to as net neutrality, has pitted internet service companies against content providers on whether certain traffic can be prioritized on the Internet. In a letter to the FCC, NCSL voiced concerns on burdensome requirements on Internet providers, and urged the FCC “to maintain the current minimal regulatory approach that allows the competitive marketplace to drive broadband and broadband-related application development and deployment.” The comment period has received considerable attention, with more than 1 million comments filed at the FCC as of Friday, the deadline for submissions. NCSL staff contact: James Ward
APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE. The House last week approved its seventh spending bill, passing the halfway mark with less than 75 days remaining before the 2015 fiscal year begins. The latest appropriations bill, Financial Services, passed by a party-line vote, largely due to funding disagreements on the IRS and financial regulatory oversight programs. Despite early indications the Senate would be similarly aggressive in debating spending measures, not one bill has been approved by the full chamber. The threat of debating potentially contentious and partisan amendments in an election year has stalled any optimism from the spring. The question now is not whether a continuing resolution will be needed, but rather if agreement can be found on any of the 12 spending bills to accompany a continuing resolution. Another issue yet to be determined is the length of a continuing resolution. Will funding for the federal government be extended until the lame duck session? Or will it be pushed to next spring, when the statutory debt limit will be reached and another funding fix may be needed for the Highway Trust Fund. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley
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 and Washington, D.C.