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

Volume 18   Issue 10 - March 18, 2011
 

CONGRESS PASSES SIXTH CONTINUING RESOLUTION

With the passage of H.J. Res. 48, states have certainty (at least for the next three weeks) of continued FY 2011 funding for state-federal and other programs. This sixth continuing resolution keeps the federal government open until April 8. It reduces FY 2011 domestic discretionary spending by $6.1 billion, 43 percent of which comes from eliminating earmarks. H.J. Res. 48 yanks earmarks from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and the Rural Community Development Grants and reduces funds for State Health Access Grants and Brownfields Redevelopment. The rest of the cuts comes from ending or reducing programs originally included in H.R. 1 (the House-passed FY 2011 appropriations bill), in the president’s proposed FY 2012 budget, or in the Senate majority’s most recent package of proposed reductions.

Now what? The House and Senate and the administration are approximately $50 billion apart. Although everyone knows where the road to the mid-point is, it’s full of potholes. The president wants education, job creation, infrastructure and technology programs off-limits. The House majority wants to prohibit the use of funds for implementing health care reform and environmental and net neutrality regulations, among other things. Some are arguing that a year-long defense appropriations bill with funding increases must be part of any agreement. Additionally, the new “sunset” date of April 8 is just one week before the statutory deadline for each house to adopt a budget resolution, which is probably not going to happen this year. It is also very close to when we’ll hit the national debt ceiling of $14.29 trillion. And, on top of all that, it’s just one week before federal tax income taxes are due. “March Madness” applies to more than just a couple of college basketball tournaments! Stay tuned. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)


NCSL LAYS DOWN BUDGET RESOLUTION MARKERS

NCSL’s leaders conveyed the organization’s chief principles to guide development of the FY 2012 federal budget resolution in a letter to key congressional budget committee members on March 15. NCSL described five principles to use in reducing the federal deficit that would ensure that congressional actions do not lead to expanded unfunded or under-funded mandates or cost shifts to the states. The letter, available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=22385, also urged Congress to curtail or minimize maintenance of effort provisions, put all programs on the table, and pass the Main Street Fairness Act. NCSL also discouraged “any federal funding for or action regarding state bankruptcy protection, debt obligation assistance or state pension and post-employment benefit program modification.” NCSL’s top officers, Massachusetts Sen. Richard Moore, Kansas Sen. Stephen Morris, New Hampshire Rep. Terie Norelli and Georgia Sen. Don Balfour, signed the letter that made its way to all members of Congress. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)
 


ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL FRONT

NCSL urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “focus its efforts on the development of best practices and incentive programs that will help develop and advance the necessary national infrastructure needed to manage electronic waste” in a letter dated March 14, 2011, and signed by Washington Rep. Jeff Morris and Maryland Sen. Dolores Kelley, chairs of NCSL’s Environment and Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committees respectively. The letter responded to EPA’s request for input as it develops a National Framework for Electronics Stewardship. The NCSL letter further urged that any federal framework “dovetail existing state programs for the management of electronic waste without instituting unnecessary federal mandates or preempting existing state law.” For more information, please go to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2011-0185 at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-01/pdf/2011-4505.pdf. (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke)


NOT ALL OF THIS WEEK FEATURED ELECTRONIC WASTE

On March 16, EPA proposed two new rules regarding power plant emissions. The first would establish technology-based limits on mercury, acid gas and sulfur dioxide emissions for existing and new power plants. A second would revise “new source review” performance standards by establishing stricter sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions. States have 60 days to comment. Go to http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/actions.html for more information. This week the House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared H.R. 910 (Michigan Rep. Fred Upton), which would strip EPA of authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation also would deem null and void EPA’s scientific greenhouse gas endangerment finding from 2009. On the Senate side, floor amendments that would accomplish the same are being offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, to a small business bill (S. 493). The McConnell amendment is countered by an amendment by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller suspending EPA’s greenhouse gas emission rulemaking for only two years. And there are the aforementioned prohibitions on EPA from rulemaking in numerous areas wrapped up in the FY 2011 appropriations showdown. (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke)