WATER INFRASTRUCTURE BILL FLOWS FORWARD. Last Thursday, House and Senate conferees released a long-awaited water infrastructure conference report. The bipartisan and bicameral bill, titled the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), would reauthorize funding for water resource development and maintenance. The House and Senate passed the measure (H.R. 3080) by votes of 412-4 and 91-7 earlier this week, and the administration has signaled their support. NCSL sent a letter, signed by the co-chairs of NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee, to the leadership of both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, thanking them for helping to protect the nation’s waterways. The NCSL co-chairs also applauded the leaders for: 1) ensuring that all the money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund go toward harbor operation and maintenance activities by 2025, and 2) creating a new pilot—the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority—without having to tap into existing funds set aside for states’ infrastructure projects. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
NCSL RESPONDS TO CHEMICAL PREEMPTION THREAT. In late April, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of a House Environment and Economy subcommittee released an updated draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act. And once again, NCSL registered its opposition to this broad preemptive strike in a May 19 letter to the subcommittee’s chair and ranking member. The letter, signed by NCSL President Senator Bruce Starr (OR) and NCSL President-Elect Senator Debbie Smith (NV), asserts that “the newly released draft does not take into account the concerns of our nation’s state legislatures,” since it would remove states’ authority to regulate new chemical substances. The draft legislation would reform the way the federal government regulates toxic chemicals, which hasn’t changed since the Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted in 1976. With a mark-up of the proposed draft likely to occur in the next few weeks, we again request that you contact your House delegation and urge them to oppose the Chemicals in Commerce Act as it will impede states’ abilities to protect their residents from toxic chemicals. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Melanie Condon
BIPARTISAN WORKFORCE INNOVATION BILL PROPOSED. On Wednesday a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate members introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Workforce Development Act for the first time since 1998. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) would consolidate and streamline workforce development programs and initiatives while maintaining flexibility for states. The bill maintains a 15 percent funding set-aside to address state-determined needs and allows local boards to shape services to their region’s employment needs. As WIOA has bipartisan support, congressional leaders are hoping to fast-track the bill to reach the House and Senate floors in June. NCSL staff contacts: Jon Jukuri, Ben Schaefer
APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE. After a steadfast and uneventful start to the FY 2015 appropriations process, at least relative to prior years, appropriators have begun to hit several speed-bumps that may hamper budget deliberations. In the Senate, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) must determine how to apportion $4.3 billion less than she anticipated in discretionary spending as she gets set to release overall spending allocations, known as 302(b)s. The reduction—due to a drop in federal housing revenue—may endanger the prospects for passing spending bills in the Senate. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture approved a spending bill, but not without dissent. The bill includes a waiver for schools with financial hardships from complying with nutrition rules for school lunches, which the Department of Agriculture later agreed to as part of their new “school meal flexibility” policy. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley (appropriations generally); Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (child nutrition)
IN OTHER NEWS. The House approved five bills on human trafficking on Tuesday. Two of them NCSL strongly supports—H.R. 3530 and H.R. 3610—because they would strengthen trafficking enforcement and provide assistance to trafficking victims. The Senate is expected to take up companion legislation in June. … On May 13, NCSL hosted an intergovernmental consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the new Waters of the United States proposed rule. NCSL staff discussed which waters the rule is expected to cover and the questions and feedback the agency has received to date with the EPA officials. NCSL will continue the dialogue with EPA as this process continues.
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.