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HOUSE OF CRs. Congress averted a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday three days before funding lapsed, effectively finalizing appropriations for the FY 2015 budget. The nine-month spending bill was agreed upon after federal lawmakers were only able to approve to a one-week stopgap measure on Friday, just hours before funding for the agency would have expired. A shutdown of DHS, which includes the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would have caused 80 percent of the Department’s employees to work without pay and would result in up to 30,000 furloughs, according to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of DHS. NCSL staff contacts: Jeff Hurley (appropriations/federal budget); Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni (homeland security/immigration)
NCSL RESPONDS TO FCC RULINGS. Last Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved rules on net neutrality and municipal broadband, the latter of which pre-empts state laws. In regards to net neutrality, the FCC voted to regulate internet service providers as “common carriers” under the Communications Act, essentially disallowing traffic to be prioritized by Internet service providers. The FCC also approved a new regulation on municipal broadband networks that supplants the principles of federalism. Last year, the City of Wilson, N.C., and the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn., filed a petition with the FCC that would preempt state law in their efforts to build out broadband deployment beyond their boundaries. “The position the FCC took today is unfortunate and downright disappointing,” NCSL Executive Director William Pound avowed in a statement following the FCC’s ruling. “NCSL takes the pre-emption of states very seriously and will continue to pursue our options to ensure that any action taken by the FCC on municipal broadband networks is overturned by the courts.” NCSL staff contacts: Jon Adame, Helen Narvasa
NCSL CALLS ON CONGRESS TO REAUTHORIZE EX-IM BANK. In a letter to congressional leaders, NCSL called on federal lawmakers to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The current authorization lapses on June 30. Signed by the co-chairs of NCSL’s Labor and Economic Development Committee, Senator Anna MacKinnon (AK) and Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton (NV), the letter urges Congress to enact a multi-year reauthorization with transparency mechanisms to protect American businesses and workers. NCSL opposes another short-term stopgap measure, which would continue to erode confidence in American exports. Legislation (H.R. 597) to reauthorize the agency until 2019 was recently introduced by Rep. Stephen Fincher (TN), and would include stricter transparency and accountability standards. A Senate proposal, likely to be a five-to-seven year extension, has yet to be introduced. NCSL staff contacts: Jon Jukuri, Ben Schaefer
FAILING GRADE ON TEACHER PREP RULES. In comments to the Department of Education, NCSL urged it to withdraw its new proposed requirements on teacher preparation programs and instead, work with state legislatures to develop incentives to strengthen ongoing reforms. The rules proposed to rank each teacher training program on criteria such as how many of its graduates obtain teaching jobs and how long those graduates stay in the profession, and the academic performance of students taught by its graduates. Based on these assessments, programs that underperform two out of three consecutive years would lose their ability to offer federal TEACH grants. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Ben Schaefer
ODDS AND ENDS. The U.S. Supreme Court Monday heard arguments on Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. NCSL previously filed an amicus brief supporting Arizona to preserve the Elections Clause delegation of redistricting authority to state legislatures. The Supreme Court will decide this case by June. … The Senate Judiciary Committee passed two anti-human trafficking bills, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), respectively, which are expected to be expedited to the Senate floor. The House passed similar legislation in early February. … NCSL and a host of other state and local organizations released a fact sheet on the fiscal conditions of state and local governments to help clarify financial misperceptions. … The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation (H.R. 622) that would make permanent the state and local sales tax deduction. This deduction, which benefits states without an income tax, has expired and will need to be renewed retroactively by the end of the 2015 calendar year.
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.