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NCSL COMMENTS ON FCC PREEMPTION OF STATES. Recent remarks made by Thomas Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), were challenged in a July 22 letter from NCSL. Chairman Wheeler stated his intention to preempt state sovereignty over local government involvement in operating broadband networks. The letter, signed by NCSL President Senator Bruce Starr (OR) and President-Elect Senator Debbie Smith (NV), reminds the chairman that such action would be a violation of the principles of federalism. “NCSL will challenge the constitutionality of any action on the part of the FCC that seeks to diminish the duly adopted laws of states.” Earlier this month, the House passed a provision to prohibit the FCC from modifying state laws on municipal broadband networks. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) offered the amendment in the FY 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill, which became the seventh and last, spending measure to pass the House this year. NCSL staff contact: James Ward
STATE LEADERS CONVENE IN WASHINGTON. House speakers, senate presidents, majority leaders and other legislators in leadership positions gathered in Washington, D.C., last week to attend an NCSL-sponsored state legislative leaders meeting. The meeting offered attendees an opportunity to discuss some of the more pressing policy issues facing state legislatures, including funding and financing infrastructure programs (story below), federal reductions to defense programs and regulation of the television and Internet industry. State legislative leaders visited Capitol Hill to meet with members of their state’s congressional delegation to advocate for prompt Senate action on the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act, received a briefing from the Pentagon, and heard a prognosis of the upcoming mid-term election from political analyst Charlie Cook. The meeting also included a visit to the White House, where Secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell (Health and Human Services), Arne Duncan (Education), and Sally Jewell (Interior) addressed state concerns in their respective policy areas. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell
HIGHWAY TRUST FUND UPDATE. With just days remaining before the Department of Transportation would be forced to delay reimbursements for transportation projects, Congress appears set to approve legislation this week that would avoid an insolvency crisis. Senate leaders last week reached a deal to vote on H.R. 5021, which the House passed earlier in July to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through May, 2015. Although there appears to be enough consensus in the Senate to reach the 60-vote threshold, the agreement between Senate leaders allows several other proposals to be debated. These include amendments to: 1) limit funding to the Highway Trust Fund until December, forcing another funding measure to be determined in the lame-duck session, 2) replace some offsets of the $10.8 billion deal, 3) reduce the federal gas tax significantly and transfer most transportation responsibilities to state governments, and 4) remove certain requirements to perform environmental studies when replacing infrastructure after certain disasters. If any of these amendments are adopted, the bill would go back to the House. A date has yet to be determined for the Senate to vote, although legislation is expected to be finalized before the end of this week, when Congress adjourns for the August recess. Still, as noted in an open letter from 12 former Department of Transportation secretaries, even if a short-term funding fix is passed, Congress’ work doesn’t end. Lawmakers will still need to adopt a sustainable, long-term reauthorization for federal surface transportation programs. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
IN OTHER NEWS. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has signaled a two-month extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) will likely be considered before the August recess. The Senate is currently considering combining ITFA, which passed the House two weeks ago, with the Marketplace Fairness Act … On July 17, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act by a vote of 93-4. In June, NCSL sent a letter urging congressional leaders to enact a long-term extension, which is set to expire on Dec. 31 … We are only three weeks away from NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minn. This Friday, NCSL will post all proposed policy directives and resolutions to be considered by NCSL standing committees. Policies that are adopted by their respective standing committee will be voted on at NCSL’s General Business Meeting on Friday, Aug. 22, at 10:30 a.m.
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.