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

Volume 19   Issue 26- August 17, 2012

 

BREAKING THE LEGISLATIVE “DROUGHT.”

With limited session time in September, federal lawmakers are likely to search for consensus on the farm bill and drought assistance, and could resolve these issues via a continuing resolution. An agreement won’t come easily. The House passed H.R. 6233 just before the August recess that would reauthorize several expired disaster-aid programs, including assistance to agricultural and livestock producers affected by drought. The Senate has not acted on the House bill; it appears that both Senate Democrats and Republicans would prefer to provide additional disaster aid through the five-year Senate farm bill (S. 3240). The Senate reauthorization renews and revamps nutrition and commodity programs and preserves state use of categorical eligibility for low-income programs as well as making targeted reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but not to the extent of the reductions that were approved by the House Agriculture Committee in their farm bill reauthorization (H.R. 6083). The House majority so far has been reluctant to reconcile differences in the competing farm bill reauthorizations through a conference committee. Although the administration supports the Senate’s version, it has not officially sought emergency drought aid. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch (farm bill; drought assistance), Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius (nutrition programs)


CONTINUING RESOLUTION MAY NOT COME “CLEAN.”
 

This much is clear:  Congressional leaders have come to an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution until March that would set discretionary spending at the $1.047 trillion cap determined in last year’s Budget Control Act. What remains to be decided are the funding allocations for the 12 appropriations subcommittees. Initial reports indicate a desire to have a “clean” extension, where program funding for the continuing resolution will be consistent with FY 2012 levels. However, some lawmakers are looking to add various policy provisions (see story above). Regardless, Congress must act when they return from recess next month or risk a federal shutdown when the fiscal year ends on September 30. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


IMMIGRATION: DISCRETIONARY PROGRAM NOW OPERATIVE
 


Unauthorized immigrants under the age of 30 who entered the country before the age of 16 can now apply to remain in the country temporarily and work under a new program entitled “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” In June, the Obama administration announced it would use prosecutorial discretion to grant deferred action on deportation proceedings. Applicants are also required to have lived at least five years in the country before June 15, 2012, be at least 15 years old, have no felony or significant misdemeanor offenses, and have graduated high school or been honorably discharged from the military. Find more information at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/immig/deferred-action.aspx. NCSL contacts: Ann Morse, Sheri Steisel


SENATE “EXTENDS” FUTURE TAX DEBATE
 


The Senate Finance Committee approved unnumbered legislation on Aug. 2 that would extend for 2012 and 2013 various tax credits and deductions already expired or on the brink of expiring. The $206 billion package, with no offsets to pay for it, would extend the optional state and local sales tax deductibility, qualified “zone academy” bonds for state and local school improvements, and the minimum rate for low-income housing tax credits. The legislation would also prevent the more household for qualifying for the alternative minimum tax in 2012 and 2013. The “tax extenders” are just one more piece of this fall’s pending fiscal cliff and tax reform discussions. Whether and when these resolve is guesswork for now. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


NCSL LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT POLICIES ONLINE
 


You can now view NCSL’s policy directives and resolutions adopted during the 2012 Legislative Summit in Chicago here: http://www.ncsl.org/state-federal-committees.aspx?tabs=854,15,685#685. These policies guide NCSL’s lobbying efforts on the behalf of state legislatures to Congress, the White House and federal agencies. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell


ON THE HORIZON


 

The U.S. Department of Education will have a Back-to-School conference call for state legislators on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. To participate, email Lee Posey at Lee.Posey@ncsl.org … Less than 45 days are left until the end of the federal fiscal year, and Congress is scheduled to be in session for only eight of those days. This ensures the “fiscal cliff” will loom until the end of the calendar year.