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

Volumen 18   Issue- February 4, 2011



Today, the bipartisan leadership of NCSL and the National Governors Association (NGA) stated they “do not support” federal legislation permitting states to seek bankruptcy protection. In a joint letter to Congress, the two organizations discounted the need for any federal bankruptcy protection because of states’ ability to address historic budget gaps over the past three years, their readiness to deal with additional looming budget challenges and state sovereignty. The joint letter was signed by Massachusetts Senator Richard Moore and Kansas Senator Steven Morris, NCSL’s president and president-elect respectively. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and Nebraska Governor Dave Heinemansigned on behalf of NGA. The letter is available at Two House subcommittees intend to take up the bankruptcy issue and related state debt and default topics in hearings next week. (NCSL staff contact: Susan Parnas Frederick)


 Although the legislation (S. 223) on the Senate floor this week would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, early floor amendments to it focused instead on the federal health care reform law. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered a full repeal amendment requiring 60 votes, which failed 47-51. Following that vote, the Senate handily passed an amendment by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow that repeals the federal health care reform law’s “1099" reporting requirement. This tax-compliance provision requires businesses to file 1099 forms to the Internal Revenue Service for each vendor with whom they pay $600 or more during each tax year. Before the dust settled, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Wyoming Senator John Barasso introduced S. 244, which would allow states to opt out of a smorgasbord of provisions in the federal health care law. More surely will follow. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan)


Late last week the White House gave its support to reallocating the D Block portion of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum to emergency responders. The administration joined with a majority of the first responder community and intergovernmental organizations, including NCSL, in supporting the reallocation of the D Block to public safety for the development of an interoperable broadband public safety network. This move contradicts the Federal Communications Commission's desire to auction the D Block to commercial operators. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has reintroduced legislation (S. 28) this year reallocating the spectrum and funding to assist public safety with the construction of a network for first-responders. It's unclear what will happen in the House where there are concerns about costs. (NCSL staff contact: James Ward)


Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill introduced the “Commitment to American Prosperity Act” (CAP) this week that would provide a 10year path for capping all discretionary and entitlement spending. According to the sponsors, the legislation would reduce federal spending from its current 24.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) down to 20.6 percent. The legislation defines “emergency” spending and requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to sequester funds in any year that appropriations exceed the cap. The legislation is silent on the issue of deficits when revenues don’t match the spending cap. North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, dismissed this approach and instead renewed his call for a presidential-congressional leadership summit on debt reduction before Congress addresses an increase in the federal debt limit. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week stated that the limit will be reached between April 6 and May 31, 2011. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)