Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 21, Issue 19


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THE TIME IS NOW TO PASS EFAIRNESS LEGISLATION. The lame-duck period marks the final opportunity the 113th Congress has to bring fairness to the nation’s main street retailers and allow states the ability to manage an estimated $24 billion to $35 billion in uncollected taxes. Despite 12 years of congressional consideration, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recently stated the Marketplace Fairness Act needs further review by the House Judiciary Committee. NCSL leaders sent a letter on Monday reminding the speaker of the bill’s stagnation in the House and how the status quo continues to hurt local retailers. Signed by NCSL President and Nevada Senator Debbie Smith and NCSL President-elect and Utah Senator Curt Bramble, the letter declares the “time for consideration and adoption of this important legislation is now” and “12 years of congressional consideration and debate is enough.” With the Senate already having passed the Marketplace Fairness Act in May 2013, NCSL calls for the House either to bring this or similar efairness legislation to the floor or attach it to legislation to fund the federal government for 2015. NCSL staff contacts: Neal Osten, Max Behlke

LAME-DUCK TO-DO LIST. Funding the federal government, weighing extensions for almost five dozen tax expenditures, continuing terrorism risk insurance, and enacting the Marketplace Fairness Act are but a handful of bills Congress may or may not act upon before the end of the 113th Congress. The first order of business will be determining federal spending for the remainder of FY 2015, with the current continuing resolution scheduled to expire on Dec. 11. A government shutdown appears doubtful, although executive action on immigration may leave Congress and the administration at an impasse. Congress is more likely to enact another continuing resolution, pass an omnibus bill including appropriations measures, or settle on a hybrid of the two. A decision on the much-discussed “tax extenders” also awaits, which includes the deductibility of state and local sales taxes. Having already expired last year, an extension is needed promptly before tax season begins in early 2015. Also scheduled to terminate at the end of 2014 is the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. The NCSL-supported provision provides a temporary federal “backstop” to ensure both availability and affordability of property and casualty insurance for acts of terrorism. And finally, lawmakers will consider pairing the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which expires in mid-December and prohibits state and local taxation on Internet access, with the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect taxes they are owed on remote sales (story above). State legislators will address these issues when they meet with members of their congressional delegation during a “lobby day” at the NCSL Forum this December. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley

NCSL CALLS FOR MINIMAL APPROACH ON NET NEUTRALITY. The president last week released a statement of administration policy requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) disallow certain traffic to be prioritized on the Internet, an issue often referred to as net neutrality. In response, NCSL reiterated concerns that the president’s recommendation would force burdensome requirements on Internet providers. A statement from NCSL Executive Director William Pound urged “the FCC to maintain the current regulatory approach that allows the competitive marketplace to drive broadband and broadband-related application development and deployment.” The FCC, which earlier this year released a notice of proposed rulemaking supporting a “light touch” regulation and previously planned to write new regulatory rules by December, confirmed the five-member commission will not vote until 2015. NCSL staff contact: Neal Osten

STATE LEGISLATORS HEAD TO CONGRESS. When the 114th United States Congress begins on Jan. 3, 2015, almost half the members will bring with them experience as former state legislators. As of this writing, the Senate and House will have six and 29, respectively, new members with state legislative credentials. Several races with candidates who previously served in their state capitol are either yet to be decided or face runoffs. NCSL has compiled lists of all new members and a comprehensive state-by-state breakdown of former state legislators who will serve in the 114th Congress. NCSL staff contacts: Jeff Hurley, Max Behlke

SENATE CLARIFIES FEDERAL GRANT ALLOCATION. With support in both chambers of Congress, it appears an NCSL-endorsed amendment clarifying compliance standards for state correctional facilities will be passed. In September, NCSL joined law enforcement associations in thanking Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) for offering language that would amend the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Enacted in 2003, the bill lacks guidance on which funding a state or locality may lose if they don’t meet requirements of the federal statute, causing a reduction in funding for critical correctional facility programs. Cornyn’s amendment will help “state and local law enforcement protect victims by ensuring federal grant funds are not inappropriately diverted for other purposes.” NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni

NCSL COMMENTS ON EPA REGULATIONS. In mid-October, NCSL submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding proposed regulations that aim to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants. NCSL urged EPA to ensure state flexibility and authority, continue to consult with state legislatures, and take into consideration states’ legislative session schedules when constructing a compliance timeline for EPA’s implementation plan. In particular, the states’ legislative calendars do not match up with EPA’s schedule, and thus EPA’s timeline should be accessible to all states, including those with lower emission requirements in EPA’s existing rule. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

(LIQUID) ASSET-BACKED SECURITIES. The Federal Reserve issued a rule in September that may make municipal debt issued by states and localities less desirable. NCSL joined other state and local associations in a letter to the nation’s bank regulators on Oct. 16, calling for them to amend their decision not to treat municipal securities as High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA). The rule requires banks of a particular size to have a certain ratio of liquid assets in the event of a financial crisis. In particular, the letter urges the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to classify municipal securities that have proven to be highly liquid as HQLA. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley

REGISTER FOR NCSL’S FALL FORUM. The 2014 NCSL Forum will take place in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9-12. The meeting will focus on how best to advance the states’ agenda and address challenging policy issues. If you are unable to meet the Dec. 1 online registration deadline, NCSL will provide onsite registration at the Marriott Wardman Park. 

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.