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

Volume 19   Issue 10- March 23, 2012

 

BUDGET BATTLE BREWS

On Wednesday the House Budget Committee approved by one vote Chairman Paul Ryan’s (Wis.) FY 2013 budget resolution and 10-year budget that would provide $5 trillion in savings. The budget resolution’s main purpose is to provide Congress a framework in which to consider revenue, spending and other budgetary considerations, including an overall spending limit. Chairman Ryan’s proposal would set discretionary spending for FY 2013 at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion less than the spending cap outlined in the Budget Control Act (BCA). “The Path to Prosperity” would replace the BCA’s sequestration trigger with budget reconciliation instructions that would give six committees in the House the responsibility of finding $261 billion in savings over 10 years.The resolution would lower and consolidate income tax rates, convert Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into block grants, and establish a Medicare exchange that would allow private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare. So what’s next? The House is expected to have the budget resolution brought up for floor consideration, where a handful of substitute budgets will likely be discussed. The House budget resolution can be viewed here: http://budget.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Pathtoprosperity2013.pdf. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


REAL ID UPDATE

The federal government is not likely to extend the Jan. 15, 2013, deadline for states to come into compliance with the REAL ID Act. That was the prevailing message from an official of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. “We have no plans to extend the deadline,” stated David Heyman, head of the Policy Office for DHS. Heyman also mentioned that DHS had submitted draft guidance to the Office of Management and Budget that would help states assess where they are in complying with the law. This guidance is expected to be released in the next month. The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005, requiring state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to meet federal standards. NCSL submitted a statement to the House Judiciary subcommittee, citing several implementation obstacles that remain. These include the federal government’s failure to fully fund REAL ID, uncertainty on privacy protections, and the failure of DHS to recognize the role of state legislatures in the law’s implementation. The statement can be viewed here:  http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/transport/ncsl-statement-on-the-real-id-act.aspx. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell


MALPRACTICE MADNESS

The House this week passed H.R. 5, which would preempt state medical malpractice laws. Approved by a vote of 223-181, the legislation would cap the punitive damage awards in medical malpractice cases, an area that has long been regulated by states. The House also passed amendments to the bill that would preempt state Good Samaritan laws and repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s antitrust exemption for health insurers. The letter NCSL sent to House leaders on March 14 that strongly opposes H.R. 5 can be viewed here: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/justice/house-medical-malpractice-letter-march-2012.aspx. Long-term prospects of H.R. 5 remain dim, with President Obama threatening to veto the legislation and the Senate unlikely to bring up the bill. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni


ACA’S DAY IN COURT

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cases early next week. Of particular interest for states is whether the federal government—by threatening to withhold funding—can force states to expand their share of Medicaid costs and administration. Although the Supreme Court will not allow the proceedings to be televised, it will provide the public with audio recordings and transcripts through the Court’s website (www.supremecourt.gov). Links to the orders and briefs as well as other pertinent documents are available on the U.S. Supreme Court resource page at www.supremecourt.gov/docket/PPAACA.aspx. NCSL has documented the action plans that states have developed to implement the Affordable Care Act, available here: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/state-reports-on-federal-health-reform-implementat.aspx. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan


ON THE HORIZON

The House will most likely not consider the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion surface transportation reauthorization legislation. Instead, House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida introduced a three-month extension this week. Time is running out; only eight days remain before funding for highway, rail and transit programs expires.