Friday, March 8, 2013 The CSAC Bulletin
CSAC Officials Travel to Washington, D.C.
CSAC leaders and dozens of other California county officials were in Washington, D.C. this past week for the National Association of Counties' (NACo) Legislative Conference. The conference is held on an annual basis and brings over 2,000 elected and appointed officials from across the country to focus on key legislative issues facing county government.

During their time in the nation's capital, CSAC officers met with key members of Congress and Obama administration officials to discuss the Association's federal priorities for 2013. Led by Del Norte County Supervisor and CSAC President David Finigan, the Association covered topics ranging from Indian fee-to-trust reform, the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination (SRS) Act, and health reform implementation, to name a few.

As part of this year’s conference agenda, CSAC hosted its seventh annual congressional breakfast on Capitol Hill. Despite a mix of rain, sleet, and snow - which forced the closure of most federal offices within the District of Columbia on March 6 - the Association's event went forward as planned. The breakfast featured presentations by the following members of the state’s congressional delegation: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Republican Representatives Gary Miller, Jeff Denham, David Valadao,  Doug LaMalfa, and Democratic Representatives Michael Honda, Jackie Speier, and John Garamendi.

At the breakfast briefing, California lawmakers spoke to county officials on a variety of issues, including budget sequestration and immigration reform. The members also discussed the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), as well as recently introduced legislation (HR 684; S 336) that would provide states with the authority to require remote sellers to collect and remit sales and use taxes. The Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) levee vegetation removal policy also was a topic of discussion at the event.

In addition to the congressional breakfast, CSAC leadership had several meetings with individual members of Congress, including Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA). The group also met with a key aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

From the Obama administration, the CSAC contingent met with Dr. Stephen Cha, the chief medical officer for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS), to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Cha was joined by several of his colleagues from CMCS.

Additionally, CSAC officials met with two key staff members from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The group discussed several regulatory and budgetary matters as they pertain to CSAC's federal priorities.

In other conference-related developments, a CSAC-sponsored resolution on the Corps' levee vegetation removal policy was approved by three separate NACo Steering Committees and by the Association's Board of Directors. The resolution expresses NACo's support for the Levee Vegetation Review Act (HR 399) and for modifying the Corps' policy to address significant local government implementation challenges.

Approval of the resolution ensures that NACo is able to assist in generating broader support for key modifications to the Corps' vegetation requirement. To date, key California stakeholders, supported by key members of the state's congressional delegation, have taken the lead in calling for the Corps to reevaluate its vegetation policy, which calls for all vegetation to be removed from levees at considerable cost to local taxpayers.

On the legislative front, the House cleared a stopgap spending bill (HR 933) this week to keep the government funded through the final six months of fiscal year 2013. The $984 billion measure would essentially freeze existing appropriations levels for most accounts. However, it does include protections for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which is intended to give those agencies the flexibility they need to adjust to the across-the-board cuts that began on March 1.

Across Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are pushing to include additional appropriations measures as part of their fiscal year 2013 spending package, which is currently being drafted by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Conservatives in both chambers appear willing to accept such a solution, as long as the sequestration cuts are left in place. Lawmakers will have until March 27, when the current continuing resolution expires, to approve a new spending bill.

In other budget-related developments, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is preparing to release a fiscal year 2014 budget resolution the week of March 11. He has pledged to present a resolution that balances the budget in ten years without raising taxes. This is a more ambitious timetable than previous GOP proposals, which would have reduced the deficit to $287 billion after ten years. The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), also is expected to consider a budget resolution next week.

While little prospect exists of agreement between the two chambers, there is still a financial incentive for lawmakers to act. Earlier this year, lawmakers included as part of an agreement to suspend the nation's borrowing authority a provision that tied their salaries to whether their respective chambers pass a budget. If the House or the Senate do not pass a budget by April 15, the pay for members in that chamber will be held in an escrow account until they do pass a budget or until the last day of the 113th Congress. It should be noted that Senate Democrats have not approved a budget resolution since 2009.