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

Volume 18   Issue 42- November 18, 2011

 

COURT TAKES ON HEALTH CARE REFORM

On Nov. 14, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would likely hear arguments next March on four issues related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Court agreed to consider issues related to the individual mandate and matters of severability, if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional. The Court will also address the question of whether Congress unconstitutionally coerced states into agreeing to substantially expand the Medicaid program by threatening to withhold states’ federal Medicaid funding. Five and a half hours (very atypical) are set aside for next spring’s oral arguments, with a decision likely to be rendered before the Court’s term concludes in June 2012. NCSL has various case-related resources available at http://www.ncsl.org/?TabId=17747. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan (health/Medicaid), Susan Parnas Frederick (Supreme Court)


UNANIMITY UPENDS UNFUNDED MANDATE

95-0. 422-0. Those are the final Senate and House floor votes, respectively, on H.R. 674, NCSL-backed legislation that will eliminate an unfunded federal mandate and gives states billions of dollars in long-term administrative and fiscal relief. The bipartisan legislation now heads to the Oval Office for an assured presidential signature. H.R. 674 (California Rep. Wally Herger) repeals an enacted but never implemented law requiring federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of all vendor contracts for tax compliance purposes. It also modifies the definition of income for determining eligibility for insurance exchanges, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. NCSL thanks all legislators who contacted their delegations and urged passage of this legislation. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


ANOTHER UNFUNDED MANDATE WIN

Yesterday the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed H.R. 373, NCSL-supported legislation strengthening the 16-year-old Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Passed by a vote of 22-12, H.R. 373 (Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford) will require the Congressional Budget Office to measure the fiscal impact of any new conditions placed on grant assistance if  requested by committee chairs or ranking members. The legislation expands UMRA’s reach to independent agencies and allows committee members to request evaluations or “look-backs” of regulations and their impacts on state and local governments and the private sector. H.R. 373 now heads to the House Budget, Judiciary and Rules Committees for hopefully expeditious review and successful votes. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT

The president today is expected to sign a three-pronged, $128 billion spending package, H.R. 2112, that will also provide a stopgap spending provision until the middle of December. The conference report on H.R. 2112 garnered 298-121 and 77-30 bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, respectively. The package contains funding for the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD spending measures for the remainder of FY 2012. Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, child nutrition programs and food stamp (SNAP) administration get modest upward bumps. Highway funds, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), community development block grants, the women, infants and children (WIC) nutrition program, and public housing programs are all reduced from FY 2011 levels. Also incorporated is the third continuing resolution of the fiscal year to keep programs not included in H.R. 2112 operating at current levels until Dec. 16, just beating tonight’s midnight deadline. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


DEAL OR NO DEAL

Only days away from its deadline, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is still having difficulty reaching consensus. If the “supercommittee” is unable to produce a legislative package totaling at least $1.2 trillion, it will trigger sequestration, leading to across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending beginning in January 2013. In recent days, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and Democrats on the “supercommittee” have released competing recommendations totaling $1.5 trillion in reductions. The specific amount of revenue and entitlement reform remain the largest sticking points. Also at issue is how to handle the 2001 and 2003 tax cut extension that expires at the end of the 2012 calendar year. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley