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

Volume 18   Issue 21 - June 10, 2011
 

PICKING UP STEAM

Talks between the “Gang of Six” and Vice President Joe Biden’s debt working group accelerated this week, with more discussions on the horizon. On Tuesday, Virginia Representative Frank Wolf and Tennessee Representative Jim Cooper circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter voicing their support for the Gang of Six’s work to achieve a bipartisan deficit reduction plan. The two congressmen wrote: “There is never a convenient time to make tough decisions, but the longer we put off fixing the problem, the worse the medicine will be.” Later in the week, members of the Gang of Six presented details of their debt reduction plan to roughly 20 senators in an attempt to build support for the plan. It includes revenue increases and changes to entitlements that would ultimately reduce the deficit by $4.7 billion over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, possibly in an attempt to meet Ohio Speaker John Boehner’s ultimatum to reach an agreement by the end of June, members of Biden’s bipartisan group will meet three times next week after ending a two-week hiatus yesterday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, a member, stated the group “had much substantive discussion today [Thursday] and looks forward to more next week.” NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


PUBLIC SAFETY COMMUNICATIONS HELP APPROVED

State and local public safety entities would have access to additional spectrum for public safety communications should S.911 reach the President’s desk this year. On June 8, the Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 911, the SPECTRUM Act, that would fund a national broadband network for first responders. The legislation, approved 21-4, would generate revenue for the network’s establishment via incentive auctions in which broadcasters voluntarily relinquish some of their spectrum for auction and harvest a share of the proceeds. Additionally, a portion of spectrum known as D Block would be reserved for public safety as sought by NCSL and other state and local government organizations. The road ahead for S. 911 is littered with obstacles. First, the Senate is virtually frozen until an agreement is reached on reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling. Second, some House Energy and Commerce Committee members from both parties oppose the D Block allocation, preferring allocation of spectrum to commercial users. Others in the House would rather use auction proceeds exclusively to reduce the deficit. Future action on this guarantees to be slow and unsteady. NCSL staff contact: James Ward


THREE’S COMPANY

The Republican Study Committee sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor outlining three major elements to be included in a debt limit increase. The “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan would cut the deficit in half next year through discretionary and mandatory spending reductions, provide enforceable caps to limit spending at 18 percent of GDP, and adopt a balanced budget amendment. (If the amendment passes by two-thirds in each congressional chamber, it would then need to be ratified by at least 38 states.) The cuts advocated by the Republican Study Committee would reduce spending by $380 billion in FY 2012. Signed by 103 of the 175 members of the group, the Republican Study Committee also reiterated they would not vote for a clean debt ceiling increase. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


TWO IN A ROW FOR STATES

On June 6, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a California Supreme Court ruling upholding that state’s law allowing long-term unauthorized immigrant students to receive in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements. Eleven other states have similar statutes that typically condition eligibility on attendance and graduation from a state high school and acceptable college admission applications. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law allowing the state to revoke business licenses from employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants and requiring businesses to use of E-Verify when hiring. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick (U.S. Supreme Court, immigration), Sheri Steisel, Ann Morse (immigration)