RUNNING ON FUMES. Congress this week will consider a two-month extension of authorization for federal transportation programs, which is set to expire at the end of the month. As funding for federal transportation programs, via the Highway Trust fund, does not face a "fiscal cliff" until late July, lawmakers are hoping that a two-month extension of authorization will provide an opportunity to finally complete a long-term bill. Against this backdrop, NCSL President-elect and Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R) testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on May 5 urging members of Congress to work quickly on a long-term reauthorization and stop the uncertainty of short-term funding measures that are causing significant difficulties and delays to state and local governments NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
KEEP OUR GUARD UP. NCSL last week issued a letter urging congressional leadership to maintain funding for the Army National Guard (ARNG) in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In particular, NCSL asks Congress to delay any reductions before an independent assessment is completed by the National Commission on the Future of the Army. The congressionally mandated commission is scheduled to release its recommendations next February. Signed by the co-chairs of both the Labor and Economic Development and Budgets and Revenue Committees, the letter notes the ARNG’s importance for states dealing with emergencies and natural disasters. On Friday the House approved the NDAA for FY 2016, while the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to take up a similar bill this week. Both the House-passed and the Senate-proposed measure would reduce the ARNG by more than 8,000 personnel. The president earlier this year also called for a reduction of the ARNG in his budget proposal. NCSL staff contacts: Jon Jukuri, Jeff Hurley
NCSL CAUTIOUS OF TOXIC PRE-EMPTION. NCSL joined the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) in a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding Senate legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697), named after the late senator who dedicated his congressional career to TSCA reform, would potentially pre-empt state action on “high-priority” chemicals. However, unlike previous reform proposals, the bill grandfathers in any state legislation in effect as of the beginning of 2015. NCSL and ECOS expressed their appreciation for efforts made by the committee to preserve state laws and regulations but also stressed the need for additional improvements to S. 697. The measure received bipartisan support and was recently approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in late April, and is expected to be on the Senate floor in June. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Frederick, Melanie Condon
IN OTHER NEWS. A dozen groups, including NCSL, representing the nation’s elected and appointed state and local government officials urged House leaders in a letter to quickly vote and approve anti-human trafficking legislation. The “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” S. 178, unanimously passed the Senate on April 22 and is expected to pass the House this evening, May 18. The measure would aid state and local governments in developing victim-centered programs, training enforcement officers and prosecuting human traffickers. … Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Wash.), co-chair of NCSL’s Education Committee, was in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and met with White House and congressional leaders to discuss the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Santos relayed NCSL’s message calling for a long-term ESEA reauthorization and urged lawmakers to consider recommendations from NCSL and the National Governors Association. “If you think the current law is fine, then do nothing. If you think the law is broken, you need to act,” Santos said.
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.