A SALUTE TO VETERANS! Thank you to all the legislators and legislative staff who are current or former members of the U.S. military. We appreciate your valuable service to our country.
FARM BILL CONFERENCE BEGINS. NCSL leaders urged Senate and House members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee to finish work on the Farm Bill Reauthorization by the end of the year to give both the farm and nutrition communities some certainty on what to expect from the federal government next year. In a letter from NCSL leaders on Nov. 12, they expressed their concerns over provisions that would “erode state sovereignty by preempting state laws protecting our nation’s food production and manufacturing as well as increase state administrative costs and complexities to provide nutrition assistance to millions of Americans.” NCSL reiterated concerns with certain provisions in H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, including opposing Section 11312, the “King Amendment,” that would preempt state agricultural statutes, enacted by state legislatures, to protect the safety and well being of our nation’s farmland, waterways and forests. NCSL leaders also urged the conferees to oppose the provisions in H.R. 2642 that would increase state administrative costs and complexities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). NCSL leaders urged the conferees to adopt instead the nutrition provisions in S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, which achieves a balanced state-federal partnership in administering the SNAP program. ACTION: Urge Farm Bill conferees to oppose the “King Amendment” in the House version and support the Senate version’s nutrition title. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (SNAP); Ben Husch, Melanie Condon (King Amendment)
BUDGET CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN. Federal lawmakers continue to search for common ground in efforts to fix the federal government’s fiscal mess. The budget conference committee, consisting of members from both the House and Senate Budget Committees, was established in tandem with last month’s continuing resolution that ended the federal government shutdown. The committee’s next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, is only a month before the deadline to produce a fiscal agreement. A couple of themes have begun to emerge. First, a “grand bargain,” or large deficit reduction plan such as the Bowles-Simpson proposal, will not occur. Lack of motivation, desire and time are impeding the difficult work required on tax and entitlement reform to achieve such a grand plan. Second, if a budget deal is reached, it will likely include one to two years of funding with some relief or modifications to sequestration. Working in a deadline-driven environment, House and Senate appropriators have given the committee until Thanksgiving to finalize a top-line spending figure for FY 2014. Last month’s budget deal ended the government shutdown by extending FY 2013 levels until Jan. 14. Now appropriators must find a way to bridge the $91 billion gap top-line spending level between both the House and Senate for FY 2014. The difference between the two budget plans is largely attributed to whether reductions from sequestration will continue or be eliminated. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley
ALL ABOARD ON AMTRAK. On Oct. 29, NCSL sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee regarding upcoming efforts to reauthorize the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 that would provide funding for Amtrak and other rail system providers. NCSL expressed support for “the continued economic viability of Amtrak” and urged reauthorization of the act to help “states in meeting their expanded role in high-speed and intercity passenger rail.” The letter was signed by Representative Jim Gooch Jr. (D-Ky.), Senator Ross Tolleson (R-Ga.), Representative John McCoy (D-Wash.) and Senator John Watkins (R-Va.),co-chairs of NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon