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

Volume 19   Issue 5 - February 10, 2012

 

EDUCATION: ON THE ONE HAND

Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee were granted waivers yesterday from the Obama administration from various requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. In exchange for the flexibility, the states must continue to evaluate teachers, raise academic standards, improve accountability and show improved student achievement. Twenty-eight other states have applied for the second round of similar waivers initiated by the administration in the absence of congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For more information, go to: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility ; http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests ; http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/02/09/everything-you-need-know-waivers-flexibility-and-reforming-no-child-left-behind . NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


EDUCATION: ON THE OTHER HAND

NCSL urged Congress “to fix and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before the beginning of the next school year.” Joined by governors, county officials, the Council of State Governments and school board officials, the letter NCSL sent on Feb. 6 warns that “education reforms codified at the federal level without a deep understanding of state and local needs or the buy-in and support of practitioners in the field are likely to fail.” Reauthorization of ESEA is five years overdue. And, the House and Senate are again on different, divergent and sluggish paths toward completing reauthorization this year. The letter calls for greater flexibility with programs and funding, maintenance of effort reform, a review of federal compliance requirements and a streamlined waiver process. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


SLOW AND STEADY

With less than 20 days before payroll tax relief, unemployment benefit insurance and Medicare provider reimbursements all expire, House and Senate negotiators are still at odds on how to pay for their combined $160 billion price tag. “We have agreement on probably one-half [of the 10-month extension], which is to spend the money. What we don’t have is an agreement on how much you have to offset and what is the cost,” Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, a panel member said. House conferees have offered $70 billion in offsets, through higher monthly Medicare premiums for seniors and a federal pay freeze for 2013. The Senate has largely pushed for a surtax on millionaires, and this week, closing corporate loopholes, as the cost-savers. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


COMMENTS PLEASE 

State and local governments may face higher costs for their capital projects, and/or diminished preference for their municipal bonds unless four regulatory agencies amend a proposed rule by exempting all municipal obligations from the “Volcker Rule.” The rule (as proposed in Section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) would differentiate between bonds issued by state and local governments and bonds issued by political subdivisions or agencies of state and local governments. This would go against the definition of municipal securities that has existed for almost 80 years. NCSL requests state legislators and legislative staff to submit comments to the appropriate federal agencies as directed in NCSL’s information alert at: http://www.ncsl.org/state-federal-committees/budgets-revenue/volcker-rule-information-alert.aspx.NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


ROADBLOCK AHEAD

Reauthorization of surface transportation programs is up for a vote in the House and Senate next week. The problem: Lawmakers will be voting on distinctly different pieces of legislation. The Senate bill, endorsed by the White House, would fund highways, roads, bridges and mass transit for two years at $109 billion. The House measure would fund transportation programs for five years at $260 billion. Finding common ground between S.1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act and H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Financing Act of 2012, will be challenging. Reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU has already been extended eight times and is currently scheduled to expire at the end of March. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jennifer Arguinzoni


ON THE HORIZON

On Monday the president will send Congress his FY 2013 budget proposal, and while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate will not consider a budget resolution this year, the House hopes to vote on a spending proposal by the end of March. … After the House this week passed a line-item veto proposal, 254-173, Arizona Senator John McCain announced the Senate will vote on it “as soon as possible.”