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

Volume 19   Issue 23 - July 13, 2012 


FARM BILL MOVES IN HOUSE 

Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) is in question under the House version of the farm bill. The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2012 (H.R. 6083), which passed the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday by a vote of 35-11, would reduce spending for the program by $16 billion over the next decade by limiting the state use of categorical eligibility and eliminating the high performance state bonus program. This cut is more than four times the amount proposed in the Senate’s version, S. 3240. NCSL raised concerns that, although states are also alarmed by the federal government’s deficit, H.R. 6083 would accomplish savings by disproportionately cutting funding to states. South Dakota Senator Tom Hansen and Kansas Representative Barbara Ballard, co-chairs of NCSL’s Human Services and Welfare Committee, signed the NCSL letter sent on July 10 that urged the House to support the smaller reduction ($4 billion) contained in S. 3240. The letter can be read here: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/letter-to-house-ag-cmte-on-farm-bill-2012.aspx. It is unclear when the full House may vote on H.R. 6083; Speaker John Boehner is considering the possibility of bypassing a floor vote and going directly to conference. Stay tuned. NCSL contacts: Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius


MIXED MESSAGES

Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act except the one that authorized penalties on states that fail to expand Medicaid eligibility, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement to the nation’s governors. The statement expresses HHS’ intent to provide states with as much flexibility as possible, as long as the goals of the health reform law are achieved. She reiterated that states will have until the end of 2014 to apply for funding that will support activities to build a state exchange or create one through a partnership with other states or the federal government. In addition, HHS will be hosting a series of meetings this summer to provide information and answer questions regarding exchanges and Medicaid expansion, with the first being in Washington, D.C., at the end of July. In other activity, on July 11, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure repealing the law in a 244 to 185 vote, and will consider eliminating funding for implementation of the law in the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan


DON’T COP OUT

NCSL joined more than three dozen groups urging passage of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 6062). Currently set to expire at the end of the federal fiscal year, H.R. 6062 would authorize funding for Byrne JAG criminal justice programs through FY 2017. These programs provide direct aide to law enforcement officers and support programs to prevent violent crime and build strong communities. Addressed to Texas Representative Lamar Smith and Michigan Representative John Conyers, chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, respectively, the letter notes the “central role Byrne JAG plays in preventing victimization and fighting crimes in neighborhoods across our country.” The full letter is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=24979NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni


TRANSPORTATION ROUNDABOUT

Last week President Obama signed into law legislation reauthorizing surface transportation program funding until Sept. 30, 2014. Further review of H.R. 4348 shows a number of other issues with a state nexus. Funding for the Transportation Finance and Innovation Act program (TIFIA) will increase by more than 600 percent, to $750 million, in FY 2013 with an even larger allocation of $1 billion in FY 2014. Additionally, the reauthorization measure allows states to use federal funds in certain instances for toll roads so long as the state has approved its own law permitting tolling. H.R. 4348 also reauthorized the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, which provides counties with funding per acre of federal land, until FY 2013. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Jennifer Arguinzoni  


FEDERALISM AND THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

 Don’t miss the free webinar on Thursday, July 19, covering the recent Supreme Court rulings and featuring several prominent speakers who argued the cases. NCSL and the State and Local Legal Center will host the webinar. To register go to https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/599978554. NCSL staff contact: Susan Parnas Frederick, SLLC contact: Lisa Soronen