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

Volume 19    Issue 18 - June 1, 2012 



NCSL urged the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to “fully examine … the state impact of H.R. 4345 on existing state product liability and consumer protection laws,” in a letter sent in mid-May. The legislation would bar future and existing claims for state law violations regarding fuels or fuel additives in state courts, thus preempting state product liability and consumer protection laws. The legislation would take preemption one step further by prohibiting states from imposing stricter requirements and ascribing liability for leaking underground storage tanks. The NCSL letter and further explanation of the legislation is available at The legislation could get marked up before Congress recesses in August. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Tamra Spielvogel


State law determines whether children conceived after a parent’s death qualify for Social Security survivor benefits. That is the unanimous ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Astrue v. Capato, a decision that could spark future legislative activity in state capitals. Karen Capato’s twins were conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of her husband. Social Security law allows biological children to receive benefits if they qualify under state inheritance law. Florida, where Capato lives, and some other states do not grant inheritance rights to children conceived posthumously. Because state law is very mixed on this issue, this ruling could stir bill introductions next year. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick (Supreme Court); Lisa Soronen (State and Local Legal Center)


For nearly half a year, NCSL has alerted states to the imminent reality of “sequestration” under the federal Budget Control Act. That reality is two-fold: (1) domestic and defense discretionary spending cuts must produce $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next nine years starting Jan. 1, 2013; and (2) those cuts must be evenly split between defense and non-defense programs that are not exempt, across-the-board. For FY 2013, this means non-defense discretionary spending cuts of up to 9 percent for many state-federal programs and approximately 10 percent in defense discretionary spending reductions. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


Despite the clarity above, the “noise” in the nation’s capital is unclear and divisive. Both President Obama’s FY 2013 budget and the House Republican budget resolution replace sequestration with other spending cuts or revenue recommendations. Last week, South Dakota Senator John Thune and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions introduced legislation that would compel the administration to lay out the specifics of implementing a sequestration plan. The administration responded that it would do so only after it’s clear Congress won’t enact a comprehensive deficit reduction package that would void the sequestration. Senate Armed Services Committee members inserted language into their FY 2013 defense authorization bill seeking a detailed analysis of the potential impact of sequestration on defense and military preparedness programs. Virginia Senator Mark Warner and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, both members of the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six,” urged keeping sequestration until a more expansive deficit reduction deal is negotiated. Bottom line for states: The upcoming election in November prevents any of this from sorting out beforehand. Until then, go back one paragraph to “what’s clear.” NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget stated that overseas military operations would fall under the sequestration umbrella, but would “ease” across-the-board reductions in discretionary defense spending. However, the announcement will quickly lead to more exhortations to remove all defense/military spending from any sequestration plan. Concurrently, calls to substitute more cuts in state-federal discretionary programs for reductions in defense programs are
likely to intensify. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley