Current Legislative Update:

  • October 2014

    October 2014 Prior to adjourning to head home for the November election season, Congress approved a $1…
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Legislative Updates

Keeping you up to date on policy action from the presidential administration and the U.S. Congress.

October 2014

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» Business, Financial Services, and Insurance

Congressional Funding Measures through mid-December
Prior to adjourning to head home for the November election season, Congress approved a $1 trillion stopgap funding bill that will keep the government operating through December 11. While the bill largely maintains current programs and funding levels, the bill also includes additional funding to equip and train Syrian forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); additional funding to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa; and it extends the charter for the Export-Import Bank, which provides loan guarantees, financing, and insurance for U.S. companies to export.

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» Energy, Transportation, and Environment

President Barack Obama Speaks at UN on Climate Efforts
On September 24, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations, where he discussed his administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and encouraged other countries to follow suit. The President also called on the international community to band together to reject violent extremism such as that witnessed and felt by ISIS, and called for the end of Russian interference in the Ukranian crisis.

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» Law, Justice, and Ethics

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Resignation
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he will step down after serving six years in the post. Attorney General Holder has not indicated what his future plans will be, but he has assured the administration that he will remain in his position until his successor is chosen. Holder is the first African American in history to serve as U.S. Attorney General.

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D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to Rehear Subsidies Case
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to rehear Halbig v. Burwell, one of the many cases surrounding health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and states. Earlier this summer, the Court ruled that providing subsidies to ACA recipients in states with only federal exchanges were illegal. That same day a Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled that the subsidies, even those provided to states with federal exchanges, were in fact legal—only creating more confusion. The court will have the entire bench present to rehear the matter in December.

In a separate, but similar ruling on September 30, a federal judge in Oklahoma also ruled that ACA tax subsidies are ineligible for states with federal, rather than state, exchanges.

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Supreme Court Begins Term this October
The Supreme Court begins its fall term October 6. With many cases on its docket, below are cases of particular note:

  • Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama linked with Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama (considered jointly since the issue being litigated is the same) will determine if Alabama’s 2010 redistricting plan violates Section 2 of Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause.  The current plan shifts more Black voters into majority-Black districts, which impacts their voting power in other districts.  Petitioners argue the plan constitutes racial gerrymandering and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Comptroller v. Wynne will determine if the U.S. Constitution requires a state to extend its income tax credit to its residents regardless of where their income is earned.  The Wynnes received income that was earned and taxed in other states.  By Maryland law, the Wynnes received a tax credit against their Maryland state taxes but not against their county taxes.  The highest court in Maryland held that the law violated the Dormant Commerce Clause by imposing a county tax without a credit, which creates a burden to interstate commerce.
  • Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will determine if the right to draw congressional district lines rests solely with the state legislature in Arizona.  An independent bipartisan redistricting commission was created in 2001 through a ballot initiative.  The commission is charged with drawing new district lines for the state legislature and for the United States House.  Under the law, the legislature does not have the power to approve or disapprove of maps set by the commission, but the legislature filed this suit against the commission alleging that the U.S. Constitution vests the power to draw district lines within the legislature, and not in independent bodies that are not under control of the legislature. 
  • Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc. is about a private medical provider’s ability to sue a state in order to get the state to raise its Medicaid reimbursement rates to account for rising costs.  The lower courts ruled in favor of the medical provider stating that it did have a right of action against the state, noting that increases in the reimbursement rates had been recommended by state officials but the legislature declined to give the funds.  The state is appealing the ruling arguing that medical providers do not have a right to sue and that the state is only obligated to comply with Medicaid regulations and the Medicaid Act. 
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» Labor, Military, and Veterans Affairs

Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest in Six Years
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the September 2014 jobs report showing unemployment rates had fallen to 5.9 percent, the lowest it has been in six years.  There was also a gain in jobs with an additional 248,000 jobs in September.

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What’s Happening This Month?

  1. National Domestic Violence Awareness Month began as a day of Unity by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It is an opportunity to mourn those who have died due to domestic violence, link those facing domestic violence to services, and building connections to those working to end domestic violence.
  2. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to increase awareness of breast cancer and breast cancer screening.
  3. National Bullying Prevention Month was a campaign begun by the PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Center. It is chance to unite communities against bullying and raise awareness of bullying prevention.