Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 21, Issue 14


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NCSL REQUESTS A TRANSPORTATION FUNDING REFILL. “We urge Congress to ensure the continued solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), while committing to pass a long-term agreement on surface transportation funding as part of a multi-year reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).” This is the directive NCSL and other state and local government associations sent to congressional leaders on July 7. Time is of the essence, as a letter earlier this month from the Department of Transportation noted that without federal action, the department will be limited to using cash management procedures starting on August 1. This means the Federal Highway Administration will no longer be able to make “same-day” payments to reimburse states, but instead will be restricted to providing reimbursements twice a month as the HTF receives additional tax receipts. The two tax-writing committees, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, appear to have heard the message from state and local governments. Both committees passed similar legislation approving an $11 billion general fund transfer to replenish the Highway Trust Fund until the end of May 2015. Although both proposals are offset, differences remain on exactly where the offsetting revenue will come from. Both chambers plan to enact legislation before adjourning for their August recess, with the full House scheduled to vote on its version this week. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

STATE LEGISLATORS TELL CONGRESS: DON’T FALL ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL. State legislators traversed Capitol Hill last week meeting with federal lawmakers and congressional staff to discuss the HTF and MAP-21 reauthorization. NCSL’s delegation met with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as well as staff from the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. The group also visited the White House to meet with staff from the vice president’s office and other administration officials. The message they brought was clear: the federal government needs to provide states with funding certainty, both short-term and long-term, for the Highway Trust Fund and federal surface transportation programs. State legislators discussed the consequences continued federal inaction will have on states. In one example, NCSL President Senator Bruce Starr (OR) informed members of Congress that his state’s transportation department will halt all new projects if Congress fails to fund the Highway Trust Fund. “We want legislation that provides certainty and predictability so that we can plan for the future of our transportation networks in our states.” NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

JOB WELL DONE. For the first time in more than 15 years, Congress approved a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, legislation that administers job training and workforce development services. After the Senate overwhelmingly approved the NCSL supported legislation last month, on Wednesday the House passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, by a vote of 415-6. The president, who has already released a Statement of Administration Policy, is expected to sign H.R. 803 into law this week. The legislation reduces the size of state workforce boards and eliminates 15 programs deemed redundant, but most workforce policy remains unchanged. NCSL staff contacts: Jon Jukuri, Ben Schaefer

PARTIAL UNION. In a 5-4 ruling on Harris v. Quinn, the U.S. Supreme Court held that public employers cannot routinely force “partial public employees” to join labor unions or pay union fees. This contradicts a previous ruling by the Supreme Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allows public sector unions to collect fees from public employees. While the ruling in the Harris v. Quinn case attacked the outcome in the Abood case, it fell short of outright overruling it. This will likely bring another challenge to Abood and may harm public sector unions in the future. To learn more about Harris v. Quinn and other cases decided this term that affect state and local governments, the State and Local Legal Center will hold a webinar on July 18 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here to reserve your seat now. State and Local Legal Center Contact: Lisa Soronen; NCSL staff contact: Susan Frederick    

Capitol to Capitol is a publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the premier bipartisan organization representing the interest of states, territories and commonwealths. The conference operates from offices in Denver and Washington, D.C.