Capitol to Capitol | Volume 21, Issue 8

Jeff Hurley 5/5/2014

Capitol to Capitol

NCSL TESTIFIES IN OPPOSITION OF TOXIC PREEMPTION. As currently drafted, the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), would preempt state authority on regulating harmful chemicals. Last Tuesday, Massachusetts Senator Michael Moore testified before a U.S. House of Representative’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to discuss federal efforts to reform the current chemical regulatory program. Senator Moore’s written testimony noted that CICA—unveiled by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and Economy—would “strip states’ residents of protections enacted by their elected officials [and] would be a serious breach of state sovereignty and would leave everyone more susceptible to increased harm from toxic chemicals.” The subcommittee is expected to mark-up CICA and discuss alternatives to reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), legislation enacted in 1976 that provides the current federal regulatory framework on toxic chemicals, later this month. Please urge your House delegation, particularly members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to oppose state preemption in the Chemicals in Commerce Act as it will impede state efforts to protect the health and safety of their residents. See NCSL’s section-by-section analysis of CICA for more details. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Melanie Condon

ON THE ROAD AGAIN? Perhaps the highest priority for Congress before the mid-term elections in November will be finding a solution to the question of how to fund transportation infrastructure. First, the Highway Trust Fund, which funds surface transportation projects, is expected to be insolvent by July without additional funding. Second, the current authorizing bill, Moving Ahead for the Progress of the 21st Century (MAP-21) expires at the end of September, and without a new bill or reauthorization, there will not be enough funds available for new highway projects. In response, earlier last week, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx submitted the administration’s reauthorization proposal to Congress. The four-year, $302 billion surface transportation bill, which was originally introduced in the president’s FY 2015 budget request, would significantly increase funding. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to release an alternative proposal this week. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

FEDERAL FISCAL UPDATE. House appropriators returned last week after a two-week recess to pass the first two appropriations bills for FY 2015. The Military Construction – Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch measures, debated first because they are both considered noncontentious, passed 416-1 and 402-14, respectively. Next up in the House will be the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, with the Senate expected to begin their appropriations process in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the status of a host of tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, commonly referred to as “tax extenders,” remains in limbo. The Senate is expected to bring the package of tax bills to the floor in mid-May, while House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is planning to hold votes on each provision individually to determine if they should be made permanent. Like most discussions in Congress, the underlying issue remains the cost, and in particular the possible need to find offsets. The price of extending the tax extenders vary, with some estimates concluding that making all 55 provisions permanent would cost close to $1 trillion over the next 10 years. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

SUPREME COURT DECIDES: WILL YOU BE MY (GOOD) NEIGHBOR? The Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Good Neighbor Provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollution in amounts that will significantly impair downwind states’ abilities to meet air quality standards. In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, the lower court concluded that upwind states must be given a chance to allocate their emissions budgets when they are known, before the federal government can do so, and that EPA can rely only on physical contributions to air pollution when determining responsibility for downwind pollution. The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, disagreed on both issues. The court concluded the CAA does not require states be given a second opportunity to file State Improvement Plans after EPA has informed them of their emissions budgets. The court also concluded that the Good Neighbor Provision does not require EPA to disregard costs and consider only each upwind state's physically proportionate responsibility for each downwind air quality problem. States and local governments filed on both sides in this case. NCSL staff contacts: Lisa Soronen (State and Local Legal Center), Susan Parnas Frederick (NCSL) 

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.