Capitol to Capitol | Volume 21, Issue 12


Capitol to Capitol

Watch a video summary of this issue of Capitol to Capitol.

FLAG ON THE FIELD - ILLEGAL ENCROACHMENT ON FCC. "We urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to maintain the current broadcast rules that work for the NFL, states across the country, and football fans everywhere." This was NCSL's message in a June 10 letter to the FCC, which in December proposed eliminating the Sports Blackout Rule, which prohibits cable and satellite providers from televising games that are locally blacked out. The letter, signed by NCSL President Senator Bruce Starr (R-Ore) and President-elect Senator Debbie Smith (D-Nev), notes that this change would preempt state authority and hamper economic development. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), in their public support to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule, have urged the FCC to expedite the proposed rulemaking process by bringing the final order to a vote by the end of July. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contact: James Ward

WALK THE LINE. The steady and deliberate process to approve appropriations bills continues. The passage of the Transportation-HUD spending measure marked the fourth bill approved by the House, with several others passed at the committee level looming. The Transportation-HUD bill would provide $52 billion less than its companion measure in the Senate, including a reduction in TIGER grants. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the Senate will begin considering appropriations bills in the last two weeks of June. With contentious spending bills yet to be considered in either chamber, uncertainty in the House leadership after Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) unexpected primary defeat, and Congress turning its attention to the mid-term elections, it is likely a continuing resolution will be needed before October to maintain government operations. The only question remaining will be the length of an extension. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley

SUPREME COURT UPDATE. Here’s the latest on two recent decisions. In the case Bond v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the question of whether federal laws banning the use or possession of chemical weapons apply to a local crime in which a jilted wife attempted to injure her husband’s pregnant lover. The attempt ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water. All nine justices agreed with the plaintiff, Carol Ann Bond, that she cannot be prosecuted in federal court. Bond was charged with possessing and using a chemical weapon in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. In a unanimous opinion, the court concluded that treating the use of chemicals in this case as a chemical weapon would “alter sensitive federal-state relationships, convert an astonishing amount of ‘traditionally local criminal conduct’” into a matter for federal enforcement, and “involve a substantial extension of federal police resources.”

In a 7-2 decision, the court held in the case of CTS Corp. v. Waldburger that North Carolina’s statute of repose, which bars tort suits filed more than 10 years after the defendant’s last culpable act, was not preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA” or “Superfund”). The Superfund law does, however, preempt state statutes of limitations in state environmental tort cases. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, concluded that in reviewing the legislative history of the Superfund law, congressional intent is to preempt state statutes of limitations, which are generally triggered by an injury, but not state statutes of repose, which are generally triggered by the completion of an event. A statute of repose sets a strict time limit beyond which a defendant cannot be sued for damages. The time limit under a statute of limitation is viewed as less strict because it can be tolled for various equitable factors or events. The State and Local Legal Center will hold a webinar on Friday, July 18, at 1 p.m. EDT to review Supreme Court cases impacting state and local governments. Click here to reserve your webinar seat now. State and Local Legal Center Contact: Lisa Soronen; NCSL staff contact: Susan Frederick

IN OTHER NEWS. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted to Congress their annual report noting the impacts of federal regulation on state and local governments. OMB noted only five rules over the last 10 years that have imposed costs of more than over $100 million, which is the threshold as enacted in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act … In late May the Governmental Standards and  Accounting Board released two exposure drafts that propose “significant improvements on financial reporting by state and local governments” for other post-employment benefits (OPEB). These changes will be similar to GASB’s adjustments the reporting of pension standards by mandating state and local governments to recognize a net OPEB liability. 

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.