Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Poverty Scorecard 2012

Source: Shriver Center, March 2013

The Poverty Scorecard measures how every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted on what we have identified as the most significant poverty-related proposed legislation of 2012.

Key findings
• In 2012, Congress did virtually nothing to advance justice or opportunity for the 46 million people living in poverty in the U.S.
• While the significant poverty-related legislation voted on by Congress in 2012 spanned a wide range of subject areas, Congress passed only two pieces of significant poverty-related legislation, both of which were compromise measures related to extending tax cuts and credits and averting fiscal disaster.
• There were very few moderates in Congress in 2012. 95% of the Senators and 92% of the Representatives were at one extreme or the other, receiving a grade of A+ or A or D, F or F-. Only 5 Senators and 32 Representatives received a B or C grade.
• States with a lower poverty rate were more likely to have a Congressional delegation with a good recording in voting to fight poverty. 9 of the 10 states with A or A+ records had poverty rates below the national average of 15%.
• States with a higher poverty rate were more likely to have a Congressional delegation with a poor record in voting to fight poverty. 14 of the 20 states with D, F or F- records had poverty rates that were higher than the national average of 15%.
•There is at most only a very weak correlation between the poverty rate in a Congressional district and the voting record of the Member of the House of Representatives who represents that district.
See also:
Executive Summary
Bill Summaries
Voting Records by State
Summary Analysis
Infographic: What Are Our Representatives Doing About Poverty?

Survey of Federal Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Laws

Source: Jon O. Shimabukuro, L. Paige Whitaker, Emily E. Roberts, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R43045, April 22, 2013

This report provides an overview of federal whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws. In general, these laws protect employees who report misconduct by their employers or who engage in various protected activities, such as participating in an investigation or filing a complaint. In recent years, Congress has expanded employee protections for a variety of private-sector workers. Eleven of the forty laws reviewed in this report were enacted after 1999. Among these laws are the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The report focuses on key aspects of the federal whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws. For each law, the report summarizes the activities that are protected, how the law’s protections are enforced, whether the law provides a private right of action, the remedies prescribed by the law, and the year the law’s whistleblower or anti-retaliation provisions were adopted and amended. With regard to amendment dates, the report identifies only dates associated with substantive amendments. For enactments after 2001, the report provides information on congressional sponsorship and votes.

We Can Do Better: Child Care Aware of America’s Ranking of State Child Care Center Regulations and Oversight 2013 Update

Source: Child Care Aware of America, 2013

from the summary:
Nearly 11 million children younger than age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in some type of child care setting. State child care licensing requirements govern the health, safety and learning opportunities for these children. State oversight requirements monitor compliance with state policies.

We Can Do Better: 2013 Update is the fourth in a series of reports beginning in 2007 that scores and ranks the states, including the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense (DoD) on 11 program requirements and four oversight benchmarks for child care centers. Child Care Aware® of America’s update found that states have made progress but more progress is needed.

The average score in 2013 was 92 out of a possible 150 points (61 percent of all possible points). Using a standard grading scale, no state earned an A. The Department of Defense earned a B, the remaining top 10 states earned a C. Twenty-one states earned a D and the remaining states 20 failed.
See also:
Executive Summary
Conclusion and Recommendations
Program and Oversight Benchmarks
State Rankings
State Appendix Tables
One Pager
National Press Release

State Taxation of Internet Transactions

Source: Steven Maguire, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R41853, April 19, 2013

The United States Bureau of the Census estimate d that $4.1 trillion worth of retail and wholesale transactions were conducted over the Internet in 2010. That amount was 16.1% of all U.S. shipments and sales in that year. Other estimates, based on different data, projected the 2011 so- called e-commerce volume at approximately $3.9 trillion. The volume, roughly $4 trillion, of e- commerce is expected to increase, and state and local governments are concerned because collection of sales taxes on these transactions is difficult to enforce.

Under current law, states cannot reach beyond their borders and compel out-of-state Internet vendors (those without nexus in the buyer’s state) to collect the use tax owed by state residents and businesses. The Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that requiring remote vendors to collect the use tax would pose an undue burden on interstate commerce. Estimates put this lost state tax revenue at approximately $11.4 billion in 2012.

Congress is involved because interstate commerce typically falls under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Opponents of remote vendor sales and use tax collection cite the complexity of the myriad state and local sales tax systems and the difficulty vendors would have in collecting and remitting use taxes. Proponents would like Congress to change the law and allow states to require out-of-state vendors without nexus to collect state use taxes. These proponents acknowledge that simplification and harmonization of state tax systems are likely prerequisites for Congress to consider approval of increased collection authority for states.

A number of states have been working together to harmonize sales tax collection and have created the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA). The SSUTA member states hope that Congress can be persuaded to allow them to require out-of-state vendors to collect taxes from customers in SSUTA member states….

2013 Assisted Living State Regulatory Review​

Source: National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), March 2013

From the summary:
Published in March 2013, this report offers a state-by-state summary of assisted living regulations covering 21 categories; provides contact information for state agencies that oversee assisted living activities; and includes each agency’s Web site address.

Eighteen states reported making regulatory, statutory, or policy changes impacting assisted living/residential care communities from January 2012 through January 2013. At least nine of these states made major changes, including Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. In 2012, states continued developing new models for surveys, expanding disclosure and reporting requirements, addressing life safety and infection control issues, and allowing increased delegation of medication administration to non-nurse staff.

– New Jersey and Colorado joined the small but growing number of states with innovative survey approaches, developed in part to help better target resources. New Jersey’s Department of Health (DOH) collaborated with The Health Care Association of New Jersey Foundation to create a voluntary program called Advanced Standing. To receive this distinction, a facility must comply with all applicable regulations as well as submit quality data reaching benchmarks established by a peer review panel. Participating facilities do not receive a routine survey, but any time a facility falls below DOH standards, it can be removed for cause from the program. The state also performs follow-up surveys based on a random sample. In January 2013, Colorado began conducting risk-based re-licensure inspections for assisted living residences (ALRs), initially on a pilot basis. Under the new system, ALRs meeting criteria specified in the law will be eligible for an extended survey cycle. In 2012, Michigan also began using a new renewal inspection system.
– After creating an additional level of licensure for assisted living communities a year earlier, Georgia updated rules for personal care homes in January 2013, including new requirements for additional staff training, staffing above minimal standards, and a resident needs assessment upon move-in. Also effective in January 2013, New York adopted rules stating that no adult home with a capacity of 80 residents or greater may admit or retain more than 25 percent census of residents with serious mental illness.
– Several states made changes to policies and rules for care provided to residents receiving Medicaid services, some to accommodate managed care contracting. In 2012, the state of Washington changed its licensure term to “assisted living facility” from the outdated “boarding home.” Oregon began requiring facilities to adopt policies for the treatment or referral of acute sexual assault victims.

Personal Care Aide Training Requirements: Summary of State Findings

Source: Abby Marquand, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), March 2013

From the abstract:
Examines the rigor and uniformity of personal care aide training standards across all states and the District of Columbia. A summary of national findings is followed by brief descriptions of the training landscape in each state.
See also:
Blog post

The Workforce Investment Act and the One-Stop Delivery System

Source: David H. Bradley, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R41135, April 5, 2013

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA; P.L. 105-220), which succeeded the Job Training Partnership Act (P.L. 97-300) as the main federal workforce development legislation, was enacted to bring about increased coordination among federal workforce development and related programs. WIA authorized the appropriation of “such sums as may be necessary” for each ofFY1999 through FY2003 to carry out the programs and activities authorized in the legislation. Authorization of appropriations under WIA expired in FY2003 but has been extended annually through the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (Labor-HHS-ED). Reauthorization legislation was considered in the 108th and 109th Congresses. In both the 108th and 109th Congresses, the House and the Senate passed different versions of legislation that would have reauthorized WIA. However, in neither instance did the two chambers reconcile the differences between the bills they had passed. In the 112th Congress, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce ordered reported the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297) but it was not taken to the House floor….

WIA includes five titles: Workforce Investment Systems (Title I), Adult Education and Literacy (Title II), Workforce Investment-Related Activities (Title III), Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (Title IV), and General Provisions (Title V). Title I, whose programs are primarily administered through the Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), includes three state formula grant programs, multiple national programs, Job Corps, and demonstration programs. In addition, Title I authorizes the establishment of a One-Stop delivery system through which state and local WIA training and employment activities are provided and through which certain partner programs must be coordinated. Title II, whose programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), includes a state formula grant program and National Leadership activities. Title III of WIA amends the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933, and Title IV amends the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Title V includes provisions for the administration of WIA.

The focus of this report is on Titles I and II of WIA, both of which authorize programs to provide job search, education, and training activities for individuals seeking to gain or improve their employment prospects. The programs and services in these two titles are covered in detail in this report. Title III of WIA amends the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933, which establishes the Employment Service (ES), to make the ES an integral part of the One-Stop system created by WIA. Because the ES is a central part of the One-Stop system, it is discussed briefly in this report even though it is authorized by separate legislation (Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933).

“Amazon Laws” and Taxation of Internet Sales: Constitutional Analysis

Source: Erika K. Lunder, Carol A. Pettit Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42629, April 3, 2013

As more and more purchases are made over the Internet and states experience more and more fiscal distress, states are looking for new ways to collect taxes for sales generated online. There is a common misperception that states cannot tax Internet sales; however, the reality is that they may impose sales and use taxes on such transactions, even when the retailer is outside of the state. However, if the seller does not have a constitutionally sufficient connection (“nexus”) to the state, then the seller is under no enforceable obligation to collect a use tax. The purchaser, on the other hand, is still generally responsible for paying the use tax, but the rate of compliance is low.

Recent laws, often called “Amazon laws” in reference to the large Internet retailer, represent fresh attempts by the states to capture taxes on Internet sales. States enacting these laws have used two basic approaches. The first is to impose the responsibility for collecting use tax on those retailers who compensate state residents for placing links to the retailer’s website on the state residents’ websites (i.e., online referrals or “click-throughs”). The other is to require remote sellers to provide information about sales and taxes to the state and/or the in-state customers. New York was the first state to enact click-through legislation. Colorado was the first to pass a notification law. These laws have received significant publicity, in part due to questions about whether they impermissibly impose duties on remote sellers who do not have a sufficient nexus to the state….

..Until Congress decides otherwise, physical presence remains the standard used to determine the constitutionality of states’ “Amazon laws.” Both the Colorado and New York laws have been challenged on constitutional grounds. Colorado’s notification law appears to be the more constitutionally problematic approach—it was recently struck down by a federal district court. So far, New York click-through law has been upheld….

Super PACs in Federal Elections: Overview and Issues for Congress

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42042, April 4, 2013

From the summary:
Super PACs emerged after the U.S. Supreme Court permitted unlimited corporate and union spending on elections in January 2010 (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). Although not directly addressed in that case, related, subsequent litigation (SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission) and Federal Election Commission (FEC) activity gave rise to a new form of political committee. These entities, known as super PACs or independent-expenditure-only committees (IEOCs), have been permitted to accept unlimited contributions and make unlimited expenditures aimed at electing or defeating federal candidates. Super PACs may not contribute funds directly to federal candidates or parties.

This report explores what super PACs are, how they developed, and what they raised and spent in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. As of this writing, Congress has not amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to recognize formally the role of super PACs. No legislation introduced thus far in the 113th Congress focuses specifically on super PACs, but some bills contain relevant provisions. H.R. 270 (Price, N.C.) would bar super PAC fundraising by federal candidates and officeholders. The latest version of the DISCLOSE Act, H.R. 148 (Van Hollen), proposes new disclaimer requirements that would apply to ads funded by super PACs and other entities. At the agency level, the FEC has issued advisory opinions, but has not yet approved regulations governing super PACs.

Despite limited policy action on super PACs, these new entities are quickly occupying a major place in federal elections. In just 10 months of operation in 2010, almost 80 super PACs emerged, spending a total of approximately $90 million—more than $60 million of which went to elect or defeat federal candidates through independent expenditures. Super PAC activity increased sharply in 2012; more than 400 active super PACs spent more than $600 million directly supporting or opposing candidates. Various issues related to super PACs may be relevant as Congress considers how or whether to pursue legislation or oversight on the topic. These include relationships with other political committees and organizations, transparency, and independence from campaigns.

For those advocating their use, super PACs represent freedom for individuals, corporations, and unions to contribute as much as they wish for independent expenditures that advocate election or defeat of federal candidates. Opponents of super PACs contend that they represent a threat to the spirit of modern limits on campaign contributions designed to minimize potential corruption.

This report will be updated periodically to reflect major developments.