Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 21, Issue 1

Jeff Hurley 1/14/2014

Capitol to Capitol

CONGRESS DEBATES SPENDING PACKAGE AS TIME DWINDLES. Just back from holiday recess, Congress faces yet another fiscal deadline, but unlike budget negotiations last year, a bipartisan agreement will likely be reached. On Monday night, appropriators released an omnibus package (see below) that includes all 12 appropriations spending bills for FY 2014. A top-line discretionary level has already been established, with last month’s Bipartisan Budget Act allotting $1.012 trillion for the fiscal year. This is an increase of $45 billion from the previous cap set in 2011’s Budget Control Act. With the current continuing resolution expiring at midnight on Wednesday, Congress is expected to pass a stopgap measure that funds the federal government until Saturday. Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Representative Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), have both indicated that this extension does not suggest an impasse in negotiations, but simply provides a few extra days to finalize the spending measure. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

FIRST LOOK AT APPROPRIATIONS BILL. A year after many federal programs experienced across-the-board spending cuts, the FY 2014 omnibus bill offers appropriators an opportunity to reassess many state-federal programs. Some highlights include the following. 1) Education programs, such as Title I and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), receive an increase in funding, although the total is still below pre-sequestration levels. 2) The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) gets a $170 billion increase, restoring the program to its pre-sequester level. 3) High-speed rail’s funding is eliminated. 4) Funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) is reduced 25 percent. 5) Obamacare receives no new funding and $1 billion is reduced in its prevention and public health fund. NCSL will summarize the 1,600-page appropriations measure for select state-federal programs. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

REAL ID UPDATE. On Dec. 20, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an updated schedule for phased in enforcement of the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act was enacted in 2005 to establish national standards for the issuance of state driver’s licenses and identification cards to be used for federal purposes. The first of four enforcement phases will begin on Jan. 20, 2014, with full enforcement for all “restricted” and “semi-restricted” areas by Jan. 19, 2015. The fourth phase, which pertains to entry on commercial aircraft, will go into effect no sooner than Jan. 1, 2016. As part of its announcement, DHS noted that 21 states were compliant with the standards of the REAL ID Act, while 20 states and territories received extensions, and 15 were found to be noncompliant. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Anne Teigen

NCSL COMMENTS ON TRANSPORTATION SAFETY. In light of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) advanced notice of a proposed rulemaking, NCSL submitted a statement on the Public Transportation Safety Program, which was established in the 2012 transportation reauthorization bill (MAP-21). Specifically, NCSL’s comments focused on FTA’s new transit asset management provisions (National TAM System), which were developed to improve the safety of the nation’s transportation system. Additionally, NCSL’s comments support “a continued federal role in helping to set national performance and safety goals,” but note that “any federal regulation should be made in consultation with state, local and tribal governments.” NCSL applauded the agency for issuing an advanced notice of rule-making and providing the public with adequate time to work with the federal government on the rules. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

NCSL FILES 2 AMICUS BRIEFS TO SUPREME COURT. NCSL signed onto two State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus briefs in early 2014. In the case of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, involving the question of who owns abandoned federally granted railroad rights-of-way, the SSLC’s brief argues the Supreme Court should rule in favor of the United States instead of the land owners adjacent to the railroad rights-of-way. In addition, the SSLC filed in Plumhoff v. Rickard, a case which the Supreme Court will determine whether police officers are entitled to qualified immunity for the use of deadly force in a high speed chase. The SLLC brief argues that officers should retain qualified immunity from Fourth Amendment force claims so long it is arguable force was reasonable. Oral argument for the latter case is scheduled for March 4, and the Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion on June 30. NCSL staff contact: Susan Parnas Frederick, SLLC staff contact: Lisa Soronen