December 9, 2013

THE WEEK AHEAD

Legislative Focus:  Budget Deadline, Emergency Unemployment Insurance, Firearms

This week House and Senate negotiators continue to work on a budget agreement ahead of Friday’s deadline, which was established in October’s Continuing Resolution. A key hurdle remains the possible extension of emergency unemployment benefits set to expire on December 31.

 The Senate convened at 2:00 p.m. EST with votes expected to begin at 5:00 p.m.

Today the Senate is expected to vote on the House-passed H.R. 3626, a bill to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. This legislation would continue to require that firearms manufacturers include metal components in all guns to ensure detection by security equipment. The Senate will also continue consideration of S. 1197, the 2014 defense authorization bill and vote on the confirmation of Patricia Ann Millett for a vacant seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

The House convened at 12:00 p.m. EST with legislative business beginning at 2:00 p.m. No votes are currently scheduled.

Today the House is scheduled to take up H.R. 3627, a bill to allow enhanced federal penalties for habitual child abusers and require the Justice Department to compile a list of states with increased penalties for child abuse cases resulting in serious injury. For the remainder of the week, the House will consider eight bills including H.R. 3521, a bill to renew the Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act, legislation that currently provides the Department of Veterans Affairs funding to lease 27 major veteran medical and care facilities in numerous states.


KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS

Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs:  The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a series of hearings on housing finance;
Tuesday, December 10th at 10:00 a.m. EST, 538 Dirksen Building.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the American manufacturing industry;
Wednesday, December 11th at 2:30 p.m. EST, 538 Dirksen Building.

Commerce, Science & Transportation:  The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing titled “Crafting a Successful Incentive Auction: Stakeholders’ Perspectives;”
Tuesday, December 10th at 2:30 p.m. EST, 253 Russell Building.

Energy & Commerce:  The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the state of online gaming and the Internet Poker Freedom Act (H.R. 2666); 
Tuesday, December 10th at 12:30 p.m. EST, 2123 Rayburn Building. 

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to examine the Affordable Care Act, its implementation and the rollout of HealthCare.gov;
Wednesday, December 11th at 10:00 a.m. EST, 2123 Rayburn Building.

Finance:  The International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the digital trade agenda;
Wednesday, December 11th at 2:30 p.m. EST, 215 Dirksen Building.

The Senate Finance Committee will mark up pending legislation to repeal the sustainable growth rate system and to consider health care extenders;
Thursday, December 12th at 10:00 a.m. EST, 215 Dirksen Building.
Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs

The Financial Contracting Oversight Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “A More Efficient and Effective Government: Streamlining Overseas Trade and Development Agencies;”
Wednesday, December 11th at 2:00 p.m. EST, 342 Dirksen Building.

Judiciary:  The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on oversight of government surveillance entities;
Wednesday, December 11th at 2:30 p.m. EST, 226 Dirksen Building.

Small Business:  The Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Contracting Away Accountability – Reverse Auctions in Federal Agency Acquisitions;”
Wednesday, December 11th at 10:00 a.m. EST, 334 Cannon Building.

Ways & Means:  The Oversight Subcommittee and Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on improper payments and identify theft;
Wednesday, December 11th at 1:00 p.m. EST, 1100 Longworth Building.



HHS AWARDS FUNDING FOR HEALTH CARE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

   
Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $55.5 million to strengthen training for health professionals and increase the size of the nation’s health care workforce. The announcement includes $3.1 million to help state designated dental health professional shortage areas develop and implement programs to address dental workforce needs. States must match at least 40 percent of the grant funding or provide equivalent support. HHS also awarded funding to address workforce needs in nursing, public health, behavioral health and health workforce development. 

The Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education in Las Vegas was awarded $140,776.  For a full list of grant awards, click here




US UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN TO 7% IN NOVEMBER


The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Friday that non-farm payroll employment added 203,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.0 percent from 7.3 percent in October. Employment grew in the manufacturing, health care, and transportation sectors. In November, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged at 4.1 million. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons fell by 331,000 to 7.7 million. 




HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES STATE REIMBURSEMENT BILL

  
The House Natural Resources Committee approved by voice vote H.R. 3286, the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), directs the Treasury Secretary to reimburse states for state funds expended for an activity that: 1) was conducted in FY 2014 when the federal government was shut down; 2) was necessary to operate and open to the public a national park located, in whole or in part, within the state; 3) was authorized under federal law; 4) was conducted in a manner and at a level not substantially greater in scope and cost than how the activity would have been conducted by the federal government; and 5) the activity is not a settlement or defense against a claim of liability on the part of the states. 

The Senate companion bill is S.1572, sponsored by Senators Alexander (R-TN), Hatch (R-UT), Udall (D-CO), and Bennet (D-CO). The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where it is pending consideration. According to House leadership, it is unlikely that the House will consider H.R. 3286 before the end of this year. 




NEVADA GRANTED ADDITIONAL ESEA FLEXIBILITY
 
The U.S. Department of Education announced that Nevada and Mississippi would receive additional time to implement state teacher evaluation system requirements of their Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waivers. In June, the department announced that they would accept requests for additional flexibility for states to implement teacher and school leader evaluations. States that received an ESEA flexibility waiver are required to develop evaluation systems for teachers and principals based on multiple measures to include student achievement. Twelve states with ESEA waivers applied for additional flexibility for teacher evaluations. The department is expected to announce decisions on additional applicants in coming weeks.



USDA AND EPA ANNOUNCE EXPANDED PARTNERSHIP TO SUPPORT WATER QUALITY TRADING
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an expanded partnership to support water quality trading policies and programs. The stated purpose of the partnership is “to support states, interstate agencies and tribes as they develop and implement water quality trading programs for nutrients, sediments and other pollutants where opportunities exist to achieve water quality improvements at reduced costs.” Under the partnership USDA and the EPA will, among other objectives, coordinate and enhance communications and outreach to states; engage expertise across agencies in the review of grants, loans or technical assistance programs focused on water quality trading; and collaborate on developing tools and informational resources for states. To read the joint press release, please click here and for additional background information on the water quality trading policy, please clickhere.



CMS RELEASES PRELIMINARY DATA FOR MEDICAID AND CHIP ENROLLMENT
 
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the first in a series of monthly reports on enrollment in each state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). According to the report, more than 1.46 million people were determined eligible for Medicaid or CHIP during the month of October. States also saw an increase in the number of people applying for eligibility. In states that are expanding Medicaid, applications increased by 15.5 percent compared to the average for the previous three months. States that are not expanding Medicaid saw an increase of 4.1 percent. 

To view the full report, including a state-by-state table with information on Medicaid and CHIP applications and eligibility determinations, click here



US SUPREME COURT SAYS NO TO CHALLENGE TO NY AMAZON LAW

On what has become known as Cyber-Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear a challenge to New York’s state law requiring Internet-based sellers to collect New York sales tax. The challenge was brought by Amazon.com and Overstock.com who questioned whether the state has the authority to require them to collect sales taxes when a customer uses one of the companies’ in-state affiliates. The decision is both victory for state authority over tax policy and an incentive for those supporting a federal solution like the Marketplace Fairness Act.