July 2016

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WASHINGTON, DC UPDATE


Guns Control Reform Difficulty Among Anti-Terror Legislation
After an unprecedented 26 hour demonstration on the House floor, Democrats in the House continue to push for increased gun control. The provision within the counterterrorism package that is up for a vote in the House would allow the Justice Department to prevent a gun sale to a suspected terrorist if a court order is obtained within three days. Democrats in Congress hope to vote on two amendments to the package that would expand background checks to internet sales and gun shows along with a means at preventing people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns.
 
The Homeland Safety and Security Act, H.R. 5611 would also attempt to address “radical Islamic terror.” The bill calls for the potential withholding of passports to suspected terrorists and requires the FBI to do annual reviews on their screening database and lists. The Department of Homeland Security would also open a new office specifically geared to prevent terrorism and money would be allocated to local communities in order to counter radical Islamic campaigns.
 
Health Spending Bills
The health spending bills in the House and Senate are moving through the legislative process, despite several differences between the two. The House bill has been met with strong opposition from Democrats over the lack of funding for opioid abuse programs and Zika virus suppression. The House bill also includes provisions to defund a part of the ACA implementation. In contrast, the Senate’s version of the bill largely has bipartisan support.   
 
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
On June 27, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled (5-3) that parts of a Texas law regarding abortion are unconstitutional. The 2013 law required abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery and also required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Court found that these requirements offered little to no health benefits for women.
 
The Court found that the Texas law placed an “undue burden” on women seeking legal abortions and was therefore unconstitutional.  The decision was a direct ruling to the law in Texas only, however it will have a nationwide impact as other states’ laws with similar provisions are more susceptible to being challenged as also being unconstitutional.
 
Crowdsourcing Investment
The House of Representatives voted 394-4 in favor of the Fix Crowdfunding Act on Tuesday, July 5, 2016. This legislation encourages investments in startups by raising the cap for crowdsourcing investment from $1 million to $5 million. This GOP-backed bill is expected to pass in the Senate and no veto threat has been issued by President Obama.
 
Congressional Appropriations

  • Senate Democrats blocked a McConnell cloture motion on the conference report on H.R. 2577, which has $1.1 billion in Zika funding and a Military Construction-VA compromise, over “poison-pill” insertions into the Zika funding which prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Zika funding and provisions which defund a part of the Affordable Care Act.
  • The State-Foreign Operations bill, S. 3117, was approved by full committee on June 29.
  • Congress’ priority remains the marking up and passage of the Federal Budget Resolution H.Con.Res.125, and appropriations measures. The House Budget Committee approved the resolution. Below is where each of the 12 discretionary spending bills currently stand in the process:

 
 
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Congress in Session
Senate
Week of July 4:                     6, 7, 8
Week of July 11:                  11, 12, 13, 14, 15
 
House
Week of July 4:                  6, 7, 8
Week of July 11:                11, 12, 13, 14, 15
 
After the July 15 summer recess, both Houses will be back in session on September 6.
 

STATEWIDE UPDATES

 

Pennsylvania Budget Update

On 7/10/16, Governor Wolf held a press conference regarding his plans for Senate Bill 1073 (General Appropriations). He opened with stating that over the course of the last several days, he has been asked what he will do with the General Appropriations Bill.  He stated his intent to avoid unnecessary distractions and he called this press conference to tell the public and the Members that he will let Senate Bill 1073 become law without his signature, unless he receives a sustainable, recurring and sufficient revenue package by midnight in which case he will sign.  He commented that the General Appropriations bill is something that Pennsylvania should be proud of and now we must pass legislation to pay for what is in it. He still expects and hopes the General Assembly will send him such a revenue package by tomorrow evening.

Some highlights of Senate Bill 1073 are as follows: 
 

  • Increases spending in the Department of Human Services by $537.3 million;
  • Increases spending on pension obligations by about $450 million;
  • Increases aid for public school operations and instruction by $200 million;
  • Increases spending in the Department of Corrections by $153 million;
  • Increases aid to higher education, including state system universities, state-related universities, student grants and community colleges, by $39 million;
  • And, increases to help address the Heroin Epidemic – Department of Drug and alcohol - $5M increase and $15M increase under the Department of Human Services for a total of $20M.

Disagreements over what revenue enhancements have support and how much revenue is needed, have jammed the process from moving forward just before the July 4 weekend.  Reports are that the recent posturing has a lot to do with the upcoming elections, with all 203 House seats are up and half the 50 Senate seats.  Also, both the Republicans and Democrats have their national conventions on their minds as well.
 
Revenue enhancements up for discussion include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) on natural gas utility service;
  • Increase in the Cigarette Tax (question still remains whether it will be $.50 or $1.00 per pack);
  • Taxing e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, among others;
  • Increase in the Bank Shares Tax to .99,
  • Removing the 1% vendor discount for retailers who collect the 6% sales tax for the Commonwealth;
  • Sales tax on digital downloads;
  • Internet Gaming;
  • And, borrowing funds from the State Workers Insurance Fund;

While the House and Senate Leadership and the Governor continue to meet to try resolve their differences on what revenue is needed to fund the budget, the rank and file House and Senate members have been put on notice that they will not likely return to session until Sunday, July 10th.
 
DMGS continue to monitor this process closely to ensure that clients and colleagues are updated frequently with real time information.

 

New Jersey

The most significant thing happening in NJ politics right now is the crisis over the Transportation Trust Fund: Governor Chris Christie's has released a list of transportation projects that will shut down Friday (7/8/16) due to a lack of funding after legislators failed to see eye to eye on a gas tax increase to fuel the state's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). In addition to the TTF, half of the transitional aid the state awards municipalities - including Camden and Atlantic City - as well as some spending the Democratic-controlled Legislature added to the budget for a host of programs, including court-appointed advocates for children in foster care, assistance to Holocaust survivors, and domestic-violence prevention will be effected.

Some of the biggest sites to close will be in North Jersey, including about a dozen valued at $1 million or more. They include the $13.2 million project to rebuild the Eighth Street Bridge between Passaic and Wallington over the Passaic River and the $3 million effort to rehabilitate the Broadway Bus Terminal in Paterson. It also means another delay in an $8.6 million contract to begin planning the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line into Bergen County, a project that initially was to have broken ground in 2011.

The shutdown comes right at the height of the summer construction season, just as New Jersey faces a growing backlog of delayed maintenance projects.

Click here for a full list of NJ Transit TFF projects that will be shut down.

Click here for a full list of NJ DOT TFF projects that will be shut down.

 

 

 

Ohio

Ohio, always a battleground state, is in the news once again as Cleveland prepares to host the Republican National Convention (RNC). DMGS will be providing periodic updates of the RNC (and DNC) on twitter this month. Please follow us @dmgsllc.

RNC Fundraising: Republican National Convention organizers have raised about 90 percent of their $64 million goal. But some major corporations, for whatever reason, are sitting out the convention this year, according to a recent report. Read more...
 
Security at the RNC will be heavier than ever: Is Law Enforcement in Cleveland adequately prepared? Cleveland.com recently did an overview of RNC security arrangements and their findings indicate that Cleveland is ready for the task.

Ohio Food Stamp Debate: According to Ohio Auditor David Yost, food stamps in Ohio were handed out to dead people and out of state stores. Yost, during a House of Representatives Agriculture Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, described weaknesses and wastefulness in Ohio's food stamp program, but was rebuked by members of the committee. Read more... 

Cleveland Minimum Wage: Manufacturing and building trade representatives spoke out against a proposal to raise the minimum wage in Cleveland to $15, read more...

 

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