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

Volume 19   Issue 8 - March 9, 2012


State authority is once again threatened by a federal checkmate. For the past year, NCSL, local government groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been engaged in discussions regarding “Waters of the U.S.A.,” a federal regulatory effort to clarify federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA recently submitted a draft final guidance document to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on this issue while continuing a related rulemaking process. The guidance could potentially expand CWA coverage and preempt state authority. In a letter submitted to OMB on March 7, NCSL and three local government groups restated their opposition to any final guidance document that undermines the rulemaking process. The letter is available at NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Marcus Peterson


With only three weeks left before the current extension expires, federal lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are trying to keep funding for highway, rail and other infrastructure programs on track. On Wednesday, the Senate reached an agreement to vote on 30 amendments and proceed with S. 1813, a two-year, $109 billion reauthorization bill. The Senate hopes to vote on these amendments early next week. With members of the House unable to agree on their five-year, $260 billion reauthorization plan, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House will consider the Senate’s bill once the House returns from a one-week recess. It is likely Congress will have to consider a short-term measure, which would be the ninth extension of the current law. State lawmakers looking for clarity for transportation programs have only the certainty that current extended authority expires on March 31, 2012. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jennifer Arguinzoni


The dance around FY 2013 defense spending took another twist this week. North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, stated that since the Budget Control Act’s FY 2013 “across-the-board slashing,” which includes defense spending, “is very poorly designed,” it should not go forward. Calling the sequestration “a mistake,” Conrad insisted, however, that any comprehensive deficit reduction plan must address the “open checkbook” mentality currently surrounding defense spending. Although this doesn’t give states any more certainty about how federal policymakers will reduce defense spending, it does add one key player to the not-so-subtle waltz around some aspects of sequestration. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


The House continues to work on setting a cap on discretionary spending, with the House Budget Committee aiming to mark up their FY 2013 budget resolution during the week of March 19. The two primary frameworks being debated are the $1.047 trillion cap set in the Budget Control Act, or a cap of $1.028 trillion, which is the same amount the House used for their FY 2012 budget resolution and $15 billion less than the current spending level. States may face greater cuts than the 9 percent reduction already expected in FY 2013 if the budget resolution is set below the statutory cap. House leaders must also determine if they will include the sequestration cuts, estimated at $100 billion, as required in the debt limit law. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


Registration for NCSL’s 2012 Legislative Summit is now open. Find out everything NCSL’s premier state legislative meeting has to offer and register at: