CONGRESS INCHES CLOSER TO EDUCATION REAUTHORIZATION A House-Senate conference committee adopted a bipartisan conference report before Thanksgiving on a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The reauthorization is expected to provide states with greater flexibility in accountability systems and school improvement strategies, and move away from the policy-by-waiver system in education governance. The conference deal includes a provision requiring state legislatures to be consulted in the development of a state’s education plan. This agreement reflects previous recommendations from NCSL and the National Governors Association that emphasize the principles of federalism and calls for increased state authority of K-12 policies. The House will consider the conference agreement this week, with the Senate expected to follow suit shortly thereafter. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Ben Schaefer
WALKING DOWN A CONFERENCE ROAD. Federal efforts to pass a surface transportation plan will move into early December, as a two-week extension has provided House and Senate conferees additional time to continue negotiations on a long-term reauthorization. The length of the reauthorization, along with total funding, are the primary areas of dispute as lawmakers aim to deviate from short-term extensions and the resulting uncertainty that have become commonplace in recent years. Both the House and Senate have approved a six-year reauthorization, with the Senate bill providing an additional $30 billion as compared to its House counterpart. As the conference moves forward, NCSL urged congressional leaders to consider several provisions, including: maintaining a state pilot program to explore alternative funding measures, preserving the current 50/50 state-local split within the Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Program, retaining state flexibility in highway safety programs, and authorizing a national freight program. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
NCSL ADDRESSES FCC PRE-EMPTION OF STATES. In a letter issued in mid-November, NCSL reiterated opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) pre-emption of state municipal broadband regulations in advance of a congressional oversight hearing. In February, the FCC issued an order pre-empting Tennessee and North Carolina from regulating their municipal broadband networks. Earlier this year NCSL, along with the National Governors Association and the Council of State Governments, signed an amicus brief in support of Tennessee’s challenge to the FCC’s pre-emption of the states’ municipal broadband laws. NCSL will provide additional information as it becomes available. NCSL staff contacts:Jon Adame, Susan Frederick
BIG 7 CALLS FOR UNFUNDED MANDATES REFORM.NCSL joined several other state and local associations, commonly referred to as the Big 7, in a letter applauding federal efforts to improve analysis of federal mandates on state and local governments. The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (UMITA; S. 189/H.R. 50) has been introduced in the Senate by Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and in the House by Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), the latter of which was approved by the House in February. UMITA would strengthen 1995’s Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by expanding Congressional Budget Office reporting requirements to include new conditions of grant aid and creating a regulatory look-back process. In addition, the letter calls for regulatory agencies to consult with state and local governments during the rule-making process. NCSL has held several meetings with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in recent months and has provided recommendations on how the agency can improve outreach and intergovernmental cooperation. NCSL staff contact:Jeff Hurley
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