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

Volume 18   Issue 18 - May 20, 2011


States would not have to maintain Medicaid eligibility standards through 2014 as required in the federal health care reform law if H.R. 1683 (Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey) reaches the president’s desk. On May 12, the legislation, the “State Flexibility Act,” moved out of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on a 14-9 vote. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), states are required to maintain Medicaid eligibility standards through 2014. H.R. 1683 reduces prospective federal deficits by $2.1 billion total through 2021 according to the Congressional Budget Office, and reduces state spending by approximately $2.5 billion over the same period. In a letter to Rep. Gingrey and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (S. 868, the Senate version), NCSL’s leaders expressed their gratitude for the introduction of the legislation. They stated that “The maintenance of effort requirements should end with the phasing-out of the enhanced (ARRA) federal match, or that alternatively, a permanent provision be added to the Medicaid statute that would establish a countercyclical assistance program.” Neither H.R. 1683 nor S. 868 contains a countercyclical “trigger.” Massachusetts Senator Richard Moore, Kansas Senator Stephen Morris, New Hampshire Representative Terie Norelli and George Senator Don Balfour, NCSL’s national officers, signed the May 19 letter, which can be viewed at: Full House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of H.R. 1683 has yet to be scheduled. The legislation faces a likely uphill battle in the Senate. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan)


Federal agencies are in the process of carrying out Executive Order 13563 ( This order directs all federal agencies to develop a comprehensive plan for reviewing their regulatory processes and identifying rules that are unnecessary, duplicative, outdated, unnecessarily costly and inefficient. One of the order’s objectives is to strengthen the consultation process with state and local elected officials and their national associations. NCSL has responded to three initial requests for comments and has developed recommendations for regulatory improvements. The first three comments—to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—all emphasize the need for early consultation on proposed regulations and guidance affecting state-federal programs. History proves that an announcement of a proposed rulemaking or guidance typically indicates the rule or guidance has already been drafted—often without consultation with state or local officials. NCSL is urging comparative analysis of the cost estimates ongoing for program implementation and compliance, including contrasting original estimates with actual costs. NCSL sent letters to EPA and HHS signed by Washington Rep. Jeff Morris, chair of NCSL’s Environment Committee, and NCSL’s Executive Director William Pound, respectively. The EPA letter is available here: (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke [EPA], Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa [Transportation], Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius [HHS]) 


With reports indicating the “Gang of Six” was close to releasing their deficit reduction proposal, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn withdrew from talks, citing “an impasse” in negotiations. His self-imposed “sabbatical” is reportedly due to disagreements on the amount of spending reductions in mandatory entitlements offered by the group. Senator Coburn is now expected to release his own recommendations, thought to provide $9 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years. The remaining five senators continue to work in the interim with the possibility Senator Coburn may rejoin them in the future. The outlook for the bipartisan group to reach consensus without Senator Coburn, however, seems dim. “We’ll continue to get together because there are still ideas, but it’s not going to be a proposal by the five of us,” stated Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. “It’s got to be the six of us.” The loss of the Gang of Six amplifies the responsibility on the debt working group led by Vice President Joe Biden. The group has reportedly identified approximately $150 billion in spending cuts agreeable to all parties involved. Savings found come from farm subsidies, duplicative programs indentified by the Congressional Budget Office, adjustments to federal employee pension plans and the sale of unused federal property. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)


Last Friday, California Rep. Duncan Hunter introduced legislation to consolidate or eliminate 43 federal education programs. H.R. 1891 reflects a multi-faceted strategy states will witness in the 112th Congress in several issue areas. First, the legislation aims to get reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act via a piecemeal approach, given the many differences that could weigh down a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Second, H.R. 1891 heeds the recent array of efforts and reports that recommend consolidating duplicative and similarly purposed programs by proposing that numerous education programs be consolidated. It also urges eliminating previously unfunded programs and repealing ones that lost funding in the final FY 2011 appropriations agreement. Third, the legislation reinforces ongoing efforts by appropriators and bipartisan debt ceiling/deficit reduction negotiators to curb future federal funding. More to follow. (NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed)


On May 19, NCSL submitted comments to the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACF) regarding the agency’s child and family service reviews. ACF sought comments via Federal Register notice (45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357). New Hampshire Rep. Mary Jane Wallner and Alaska Rep. Wes Keller, co-chairs of NCSL’s Human Services and Welfare Committee, urged ACF to adjust their review processes to eliminate duplicative efforts and to recognize the state employee staff time and resources needed for compliance. Their comments included recommendations for ACF to respect “state legislative [session] cycles” when seeking adjustments to child welfare systems. They also urged “improved (ACF) analysis to assist states in continuing to improve their child welfare policies and practice.” (NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius)


The Senate will vote on a pair of budget proposals next week, neither likely to garner the needed 60 votes to pass. Already a month after the non-binding deadline to pass a budget resolution, senators are expected to vote on the House-passed budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 34) and the president’s FY 2012 budget request released in February. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota once again postponed a markup for the FY 2012 budget resolution. This came after several weeks of wrangling for a proposal that could be supported by the Senate majority with hopes that a markup would occur this week. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)