By Molly Ramsdell
Yes, final agreement on the fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations has been reached and states have some fiscal certainty from the federal government, for the moment.
Next up? Congress will have to increase the debt limit in early spring, begin the 2015 appropriations process (although the top-line discretionary level is set), decide on whether to extend unemployment insurance benefits and hopefully complete a number of bills in conference—the Farm Bill and the Water Resources Development Act, just to name two that NCSL has been working on.
With the 2014 elections just around the corner, comprehensive tax reform, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and comprehensive immigration reform are unlikely. Nonetheless, the House is expected to release broad immigration principles.
Reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs, which are set to expire on Sept. 30, 2014, could be pushed to the front burner as reported comments from a U.S. Department of Transportation official suggest the Highway Trust Fund may be out of money prior to the end of September. NCSL continues to keep the pressure on when it comes to the Marketplace Fairness Act. NCSL also will continue to monitor regulations being developed by numerous departments and comment as needed.
Other issues on the radar screen: the Nov. 1, 2014, expiration of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, an increase in the federal minimum wage, pre-K expansion, career and technical education, and efforts to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is in response to the June U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Shelby v. Holder.
Molly Ramsdell is the director of NCSL's Washington, D.C., office.