CHEMICALS IN COMMERCE ACT PREEMPTION ALERT. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) will hold a hearing Thursday on his discussion draft for modernizing the regulation of chemicals, which he unveiled Feb. 27. The Chemicals in Commerce Act includes broad preemption language that would prohibit a state from establishing or continuing to enforce its own laws that require chemical use reporting, prohibit or restrict the manufacture and distribution of a chemical, or have other requirements to develop or submit information to the state enforcement agency, once EPA completes a safety determination on that chemical. The bill would also preempt a state from regulating any new chemical that is introduced into commerce. Although NCSL advocates for the need to reform and modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has not been updated since 1976, NCSL cannot support a reform bill that contains such broad preemption language and jeopardizes state sovereignty. ACTION: Tell your House delegation, especially members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to oppose the preemption in the Chemicals in Commerce Act as it will impede state efforts to protect health and safety. See NCSL’s Action Alert and section-by-section analysis of the discussion draft for more details. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Melanie Condon
PRESIDENT’S BUDGET COMMENCES FY 2015 BUDGET SEASON. On March 4 the president released his FY 2015 budget proposal, requesting $3.9 trillion and anticipating $560 billion in deficit spending. While the president would abide by the $1.014 trillion cap on discretionary spending for FY 2015, his budget recommends eliminating reductions from sequestration starting in 2016 through a combination of new spending cuts, revenue increases from tax reform and the anticipated enactment of immigration reform. As for FY 2015, the president proposes a number of new initiatives or modifications to programs that would affect states. This includes dedicated funding for surface transportation, enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing the cigarette tax, and establishing several new education programs that would create incentives for states to increase academic performance and transition to digital learning. In addition, the president proposed a “wish list” of additional defense and nondefense funding for education, research and development, and job-training programs. The “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” would be fully offset by spending changes, such as reforming crop insurance subsidies and passenger fees for aviation security, and by additional revenue from tax increases on high-income earners.
The president’s budget recommendation marks one of the first steps in the FY 2015 budget process. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will unveil his fiscal vision later this month. The House budget resolution is expected to focus on welfare reform (see below) and propose entitlement reform. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), on the other hand, has already stated the Senate will not introduce a budget resolution, citing one isn’t needed as Congress already approved a discretionary spending cap late last year. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley
TALKING ABOUT POVERTY. Last week, just prior to the president’s budget release, Ryan released a 204 page report, “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later” to “help start the conversation” on the federal approach to reducing poverty. If House Republicans retain control over the House, Ryan may become Chair of the Ways and Means Committee with jurisdiction over many of the key anti-poverty programs. Seen by many as a response to President Obama’s focus on income inequality, Ryan praises state experimentation and raises concerns in the report about program spending and duplication, concluding that the poverty rate is stuck at 15 percent and “some programs work; others don’t. And for many of them we just don’t know…” Interestingly, common ground emerged this week when both President Obama and Rep. Ryan praised the Earned Income Tax Credit as an incentive for low-income workers. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (human services); Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley (budget)
HEALTH INSURANCE POLICIES EXTENDED. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an extension until Oct. 1, 2016, of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance transition policy for small group and individual health markets. On Nov. 14, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a letter to state insurance commissioners outlining a transitional policy for nongrandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets. It gives them an option, if permitted by their state, to renew their current policies for current enrollees without adopting all of the 2014 market rule changes. In addition, CMS extended the hardship exemption until Oct. 1, 2016, for people whose noncompliant coverage is cancelled and who meet specified requirements. NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan
NCSL COMMENTS ON EARLY CHILDHOOD. In a letter to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8, NCSL supported federal efforts to improve early learning opportunities for young children that provide states with the flexibility to meet local needs. Reminding the committee that state legislators have and continue to be at the forefront of efforts to create and improve opportunities for young children, the letter supported “initiatives that provide a broad range of high quality, affordable early care and education options that are informed by research and designed to enhance learning opportunities for young children and includes parents as a fundamental part of the effort.” NCSL staff contacts: Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan, Lee Posey
ON THE HORIZON. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Exploring Alternative Solutions on the Internet Sales Tax Issue.” The hearing, rescheduled from March 4 due to a snow storm in Washington, D.C., will examine alternative proposals from the Senate-passed Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 743) that would allow states to collect sales taxes made from remote purchases. … The Senate will begin debate on S. 1086 to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides child care funds to states to pay for low-income families. The bill includes new educational, health and safety standards for child care.
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, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.