Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 22, Issue 17


Capitol to CapitolHERE’S THE DEAL. A budget framework was released Monday that would clear the congressional deck on several prominent fiscal issues for the next two years. The Bipartisan Budget Act combines an increase in the statutory caps on discretionary spending for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. It also includes another temporary suspension of the debt limit until March 2017, which has less than a week remaining before the Treasury Department estimates the nation’s borrowing authority will be exhausted. Discretionary spending would increase by $80 billion over the next two years and be split evenly between defense and non-defense programs, with a separate allocation of $32 billion for defense funding through the Overseas Contingency Operations, which is not subject to a spending cap. A majority of these costs would be offset through a variety of program reductions and changes to the federal tax code, such as auctioning of federal spectrum and selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Other components of the agreement include a short-term reallocation from the Social Security trust fund to ensure the solvency of the Social Security disability trust fund and addressing the looming premium spike for Medicare Part B beneficiaries. The House may vote on the budget deal as early as today. NCSL will provide additional information on the proposal as it becomes available. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley   

KICKING THE TIRES ON A HIGHWAY EXTENSION. For the third time this year, Congress is expected to pass a short-term reauthorization that extends spending authority for surface transportation programs, which is currently set to expire on Thursday. The proposed extension would last until Nov. 20 and would provide lawmakers with additional time to consider a multi-year reauthorization, and also adds the task to the congressional “to-do” list before the end of the year. The three-week extension (H.R. 3819) was offered by soon-to-be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which just last week approved a six-year, $330 billion highway bill. The Senate passed a long-term package passed earlier this year. Both proposals continue to face lingering questions because of funding uncertainty. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

NCSL WEIGHS IN ON LAW ENFORCEMENT MEASURES. NCSL commented on two law enforcement bills last week, offering support to legislation reforming federal sentencing laws and opposing a measure that would limit funding for state law enforcement. Last Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123), legislation that would reduce mandatory sentencing and enhance anti-recidivism programs. In a letter to Senate leadership, NCSL noted that the bill would complement recent sentencing reform efforts by states and strengthen intergovernmental efforts to streamline the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, on the Senate floor last week lawmakers considered legislation to restrict resources for state and local law enforcement agencies. NCSL successfully urged lawmakers to oppose the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 2146), stating the penalty provisions would “only serve to impede state and local law enforcement efforts to fight crime, enhance and strengthen police-community relations and provide economic assistance to some of our most vulnerable populations.” A vote to limit debate on S. 2146 failed by a vote of 54-45, not accumulating the 60 votes needed to continue deliberation. In attempting to force federal immigration responsibilities onto states and localities, the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 2146) would withhold funding for several programs, including Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Danielle Dean

RECIPE FOR DISASTER. NCSL sent letters to both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership, urging Congress to move expeditiously to change the way wildfires are federally funded by treating them similarly to natural disasters. Currently, the manner in which wildfires are funded depletes resources from vital fire prevention and mitigation programs, including forest restoration and management activities to reduce future fire risk. The letter cites the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R. 167; S. 235) as being necessary to ensure our country is able to quickly respond to wildfires while maintaining a sufficient budget for wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

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.