PRESIDENT SIGNS ANTI-TRAFFICKING BILL. The president last week signed into law comprehensive anti-human trafficking legislation after the Senate and House overwhelmingly approved the measure with bipartisan support. The “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” S. 178, addresses all aspects of human trafficking, including the creation of the Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund, to better identify and apprehend traffickers. NCSL thanks state legislators who contacted their congressional delegates to voice support for this legislation. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni
TEMPORARY REFILL. Congress extended spending authority for surface transportation programs at the end of May just days before its tank ran empty by approving a two-month stopgap until July 31. Several lawmakers preferred an extension until the end of the 2015 calendar year, presumably allowing enough time to enact comprehensive tax reform to help finance a long-term transportation authorization. Current forecasts predict that extending transportation programs through December would require an additional $11 billion for the Highway Trust Fund, the primary funding mechanism for surface transportation programs. As of now, the Highway Trust Fund is scheduled to drop below $1 billion in mid-August and become technically insolvent by early September. The continued uncertainty has caused several states to delay construction projects and may lead to increased costs for infrastructure financing. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
NCSL CALLS FOR ACTION ON REMOTE SALES TAX COLLECTION. The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing Tuesday on federal legislation affecting state taxation. Areas of interest included establishing a framework for state taxation of digital goods and defining a physical presence standard for business activity taxes. The agenda did not address remote sales tax collection despite being the most pressing taxation issue to states. Several members of the committee, such as Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), conveyed this message during the hearing’s question and answer period. They urged colleagues to mark-up and approve legislation to resolve the collection of remote sales taxes. NCSL urged similar action, issuing a statement that calls on the committee to hold a hearing and vet two such approaches, the “Remote Transactions Parity Act” and the “Online Sales Simplification Act.” The former would provide retail parity and not raise taxes, while the latter preempts state sovereignty and has little support from outside groups. NCSL staff contact: Max Behlke
EPA UNVEILS CLEAN WATER RULE. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a final rule late last month clarifying the waterways in the United States that are subject to the Clean Water Act permitting requirements for protection from pollutants. The Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the U.S. was written as a draft EPA guidance document, but was crafted into a proposed rule in March 2014. According to EPA, the final rule applies to waters with a “direct and significant” connection to larger downstream bodies of water that already are protected. On May 12 the House of Representatives passed legislation by a vote of 261-155 that would order EPA to withdraw the rule and craft a new one. The U.S. Senate is expected to discuss similar legislation this summer. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
SUPREME COURT UPDATE. In a 5-4 decision of Comptroller v. Wynne, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Maryland’s tax structure resulted in double taxation of income earned out-of-state and therefore violates the Commerce Clause. In Maryland, both residents and non-residents pay income tax on income earned within the state’s borders, with the former also paying taxes on income earned out of state. The Court determined this model failed a “consistency” test, as individuals would be taxed twice if all states developed a similar tax scheme. For more information on this decision, along with other tax cases before the Supreme Court, the State and Local Legal Center will host a free webinar on June 22 at 1pm EST. Register and find out more details here. NCSL staff contact: Susan Frederick; SLLC staff contact: Lisa Soronen
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