Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 17   Issue 23 - June 11, 2010

 

MEDICAID MATCH—LITTLE PROGRESS THIS WEEK

H.R. 4213, legislation that would provide states with a six-month extension of the ARRA enhanced match for Medicaid and Title IV-E programs, had plenty of Senate floor time. But that abundance of time produced negligible progress. Prospects for significant or final action next week have waned. Agreement on how many or what amendments might be offered remains elusive. The procedural device to limit debate (cloture) has not been tapped—and seems a remote possibility before June 17. Disagreements over some of the underlying bill’s offsets and some members’ frustration with the lack of an extension of COBRA premium subsidies remain unresolved.

South Dakota Senator John Thune, chair of the minority party’s policy committee, introduced a full-blown alternative to H.R. 4213 (Amendment #4333) that will likely get a floor vote next week or possibly later. Senator Thune’s amendment retains the extension of unemployment insurance benefits and expired federal tax credits. It also builds on the “fix” for Medicare physician reimbursements, and is projected to reduce the federal deficit by $54.9 billion over 10 years. The amendment jettisons all of H.R. 4213’s “pay-fors” (revenue offsets) and replaces them with a combination of spending cuts. It drops several provisions from the underlying bill. Dropped provisions include the enhanced Medicaid/Title IV-E match, extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund, extension of the Build America Bonds program and agriculture disaster assistance. Spending cuts include returning $37.5 billion in unused (but already obligated) stimulus funds, selling $15 billion worth of unused federal government property and freezing federal employees’ salaries.

Like last week, the Senate’s calendar for the coming week is fairly light; judicial nominations and H.R. 4213 are the only noteworthy debate items. And also like last week, NCSL encourages state legislators wanting a six-month extension of the enhanced match for Medicaid/Title IV-E programs authorized in ARRA to discuss the need for and effects of the extension with their U.S. senators. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan (Medicaid), Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (fiscal issues generally), Sheri Steisel, Lee Posey (TANF)


DISTRACTED DRIVING BILL MOVES

This week the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved S. 1938, bipartisan legislation creating an incentive grant program for states that enact bans on texting while driving. To qualify for a portion of $94 million in grant funds, states must require drivers to use hands-free cell phone devices and prohibit novice drivers under age 18 from using cell phones while driving. Additionally, states must make distracted driving a primary offense, which generated the most discord during committee mark up. The legislation’s fate is uncertain. There appears to be little if any time before the August recess for floor debate. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa


CHILD NUTRITION BILL INTRODUCED

Yesterday, California Representative George Miller introduced legislation reauthorizing federal child nutrition programs. The legislation seeks to improve the availability of school and out-of-school meal programs, increase funding for nutrition education, strengthen food safety requirements and streamline program administration. Representative Miller’s proposal would authorize the state use of Medicaid/CHIP data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications. The reimbursement rate for school lunches would increase six cents—the first possible increase in three decades. And, the WIC program would move to electronic benefits from its current paper voucher system for food. There are many reauthorizations scheduled for this year that will not occur, notably the No Child Left Behind Act, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and federal, highway, mass transit and highway safety programs. Child nutrition has an outside shot of getting over the goal line before the calendar year is out. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Lee Posey


ON THE HORIZON

The House Appropriations Committee might mark up its own FY 2010 supplemental appropriations bill next week. It currently contains $23 billion for states and localities to offset anticipated teacher lay-offs…Any movement on a FY 2011 budget resolution by the House of Representatives remains in doubt. And as long as there is doubt, the annual appropriations process is snagged.