Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 21, Issue 9


Capitol to Capitol

NCSL APPLAUDS LAWMAKERS’ EFFORTS AGAINST SEX TRAFFICKING. The House Judiciary Committee earlier this month approved two bills that would supplement state services and provide federal funding to states to enhance trafficking deterrence programs. Both H.R. 3530, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2013” and H.R. 3610, “the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013,” were passed by voice votes and are expected to reach the House floor later this month. H.R. 3530, sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), would aid state and local governments in developing victim-centered programs, training law enforcement, and prosecuting human traffickers. H.R. 3610, sponsored by Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN), would provide incentives to states to enact safe harbor legislation that treats minors who engage in commercial sex acts as victims rather than offenders. NCSL also supports the companion bills that were introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL). Please urge your House delegation to support both H.R. 3560 and H.R. 3610 to combat human trafficking. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni

SENATE PROPOSES NEW TRANSPORTATION PATH. After several delays, four senators on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee introduced bipartisan legislation that would fund surface transportation programs for six years. The bill, S. 2322, which the committee approved on a voice vote on Thursday, would reauthorize the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The act would provide $38.4 billion in FY 2015 and gradually increase funding to $42.6 billion by FY 2020. Of potential interest to states is the authorization of a competitive grant program, similar in nature to the TIGER program, at $400 million annually. This is in addition to the American Transportation Program, which, if established, will provide $125 million a year to states that display innovative and improved project delivery. This proposal is released on the heels of legislation supported by the White House that reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs for four years at the significantly higher funding level of $302 billion. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last week stated that without a new federal highway bill, the department would have to delay payments to state and local governments. The Highway Trust Fund is currently forecast to become insolvent as soon as July. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

SENATE “EXTENDS” TAX DEBATE. The Senate Tuesday approved by a vote of 96-3 legislation that would extend for two years various tax credits and deductions that have already expired. The $85 billion package, commonly referred to as “tax extenders,” would extend the optional state and local sales tax deductibility, qualified “zone academy” bonds, and the popular bonus depreciation deduction. The Senate vote contrasts with the strategy in the House, where House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) plans to analyze and vote on each tax provision individually. Whether the tax extenders will be offset looms over this discussion. When a deal will be made is guesswork for now, with the possibility a resolution won’t be determined until after the mid-term election. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

DATA DEAL DELIVERED. The president last week signed into law the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) of 2014, legislation that enhances data standards and federal reporting requirements. In particular, the DATA Act expands current federal requirements that aim to remove duplicative reporting, provide uniformity and improve usability to track federal spending. NCSL expressed concern with previous iterations of this bill, particularly regarding costs to state and local governments and the lack of time provided to implement new standards. These concerns have been allayed, as the enacted law does not require additional recipient reporting and will provide a two-year pilot program before federal agencies will begin using the new data standards. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LEGISLATIVE PRAYER. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Town of Greece, N.Y., did not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with a prayer. To learn how the Supreme Court’s decision affects both state and local governments, join a webinar on Wednesday, May 28, at 1 p.m. Eastern time hosted by the State and Local Legal Center. NCSL staff contacts: Lisa Soronen (State and Local Legal Center), Susan Parnas Frederick (NCSL)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. Last Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act in the Senate, which would give qualifying states the authority to require remote sellers to collect those states’ sales and use taxes. The legislation is currently being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, with new legislation being crafted that would address concerns on state audits and software certification. … We are only three months away from NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minn. For more information, take a look at the Legislative Summit’s newly posted online agenda to view more than 100 sessions on topics ranging from job creation, health care, education and technology. Click here to register now! 

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.