Congress adjourned for recess late last week, but not before finalizing a short-term budget deal and considering several other legislative proposals with state implications. Federal lawmakers are not scheduled to return to the nation’s capital until mid-November, where many of the same items will need to be completed before the 114th Congress.
FY 2017 BUDGET BREAKDOWN. What at first was assumed to be a simple task turned into a last-minute budget agreement, with Congress completing a 10-week continuing resolution and averting a government shutdown just days before the start of a the new federal fiscal year. The stopgap spending measure extends funding for discretionary programs until Dec. 9, with a minor across-the-board reduction for discretionary programs to adhere to statutory spending caps for FY 2017. Only one of the 12 spending bills, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, received a full-year of funding. The initial impediments to a deal revolved around emergency spending for the Zika virus and assistance for contaminated water in Flint, Mich., with the former receiving $1.1 billion to combat the virus and the latter receiving a commitment to move forward in a water bill later this fall (see below).
Once Congress returns in November, it will again be faced with the task of figuring out how to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2017. Since passing all 11 remaining appropriations is not feasible, lawmakers may seek to package several spending bills together to achieve some semblance of order in the appropriations process. And with Congress only scheduled to be in session for several weeks before the current continuing resolution expires, a comprehensive omnibus package appears much more likely. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley
UPDATE ON REMOTE SALES TAX LEGISLATION. NCSL continues its advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill for passage of legislation that would provide states the ability to collect sales and use taxes they are owed from their residents who make out-of-state purchases. NCSL has urged Congress to establish a federal framework for sales tax collection that 1) preserves state fiscal sovereignty, 2) does not impose new or higher taxes, 3) and ensures parity at point of sale. On Aug. 25, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) released a discussion draft of his legislation, entitled the “Online Sales Simplification Act,” which NCSL opposes, as it violates each of NCSL’s principles. NCSL will continue to press for passage of legislation, such as the Marketplace Fairness Act and the Remote Transactions Parity Act that conforms to these principles during the lame duck session of Congress. If Congress does not act in December, the issue may ultimately be addressed by the Supreme Court in 2017. NCSL staff contact: Max Behlke
TESTING THE WATERS. The House last week approved, 399-25, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), which authorizes funds for water resources projects, including harbor maintenance, flood control, and environmental restoration. This bill also includes funding for the communities affected by lead contaminated drinking water. The Senate approved its version last month, which also contains an additional title authorizing funding for clean and safe drinking water programs. This sets the stage for conference negotiations later this fall, with leadership in both the House and Senate offering assurances that a final agreement will be reached. NCSL staff contact: Ben Husch
CONGRESS APPROVES BRIEF EXTENSION TO VISA PROGRAM. Congress extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program as part of the stopgap spending last week, allowing the program to continue for an additional 10 weeks. This immigrant visa program has helped states attract investments and support job creation in rural or high unemployment areas. In a letter addressed to congressional leaders NCSL urged action to be taken before the program’s reauthorization expired at the end of September. NCSL passed a resolution at its recent Legislative Summit calling for the continuation of the EB-5 program, noting states will “face the loss of billions of dollars in investment that EB-5 brings to their districts, along with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs that would have otherwise been created as a result of investment.” NCSL urges you to contact your congressional delegation and request a long-term reauthorization that includes improved accountability and transparency measures and increased state involvement. NCSL staff contact: Jon Jukuri
NCSL OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS TO NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY COMMISSION. Last month NCSL highlighted cybersecurity challenges states face now and in the future in comments submitted to the National Institute of Standards & Technology. These comments were provided to the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, which will make detailed recommendations aimed at strengthening cybersecurity and developing relationships between federal, state and local governments and the private sector. NCSL state legislators’ growing awareness to threats posed to their digital infrastructure, with states increasing resources to protect their systems. Last year, 24 states considered cybersecurity bills, with at least nine enacting laws. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Danielle Jarchow, Danielle Dean
PRE-EMPTION REMOVED FROM TELECOM BILL. Legislation that would impose an unfunded mandate on state and local taxes and fees was discarded after pushback from NCSL and other state organizations. The Wireless Telecommunications Tax and Fee Collection Fairness Act was initially included in the mark-up of S.2555, the MOBILE NOW ACT. The wireless tax and fee collection provision would preempt state 911 fee collection authority and also likely negatively affect state and local taxes that are currently collected by wireless service providers. The Congressional Budget Office stated the legislative language included in S. 2555 “is circular in nature, and consequently, it is difficult to clearly determine when state and local taxing authority would be allowed and when it would be pre-empted.” After these concerns were raised to members of the Senate, the expected consideration of the legislation was delayed. NCSL staff contacts: Max Behlke, Daniel Jarchow
FEDERAL BOOST FOR FIRST RESPONDERS States can expect additional federal funding in future years for emergency response providers if a House-passed bill is enacted. The Community Counterterrorism Preparedness Act would provide an additional $39 million for each federal fiscal year from 2017-2022. This funding is aimed at supporting emergency response providers in metropolitan areas to conduct training and exercises to prevent incidents and address threat scenarios in their communities. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Danielle Dean
NCSL CAPITOL FORUM. Find out what the outcome of the election will mean for the states at the NCSL Capitol Forum, Dec. 6-9, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Be a voice for the states on Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, learn the latest on pressing state-federal issues, and connect with legislative colleagues from around the country.
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.