Capitol Comments

Congress finished 2015 on an unusually productive streak – at least compared to recent years – by passing a variety of legislation important to state governments, including funding the highway trust fund, reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act), reauthorizing the highly debated Export-Import Bank, extending a variety of tax incentive provisions, and funding the federal government through September 2016.  Going into a presidential election year, many experts do not expect Congress to act on major policy initiatives before November, and are closely watching what President Obama will do in his final year in office. 

As the world becomes more interconnected, state leaders continue to play a larger role in international affairs – both by identifying opportunities to grow their economy through international trade and monitoring the geopolitics to ensure the health and safety of their citizens. In Washington, DC, states will be watching Congress to see if they act on President Obama’s top priority on his trade agenda – the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or the TPP. The TPP agreement between 11 nations would be one of the largest agreements on history, covering over 800 million consumers and 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. It is important that state leaders review and understand the proposed agreement and voice their thoughts with Congress and federal agencies.

As state leaders outline their strategies and goals for 2015, they are keeping a close watch on the actions of the federal government and how such policies will impact their respective state. Such federal actions – whether in the form of federal funds, congressional legislation, executive orders, and regulations – can dramatically influence the direction and overall strategy of the state. With nearly one third of state funds appropriated from the federal government, many state programs are dependent on a consistent source of funds. This close relationship between the federal government and states has grown more complex in recent years, leaving less certainty about the roles and responsibilities of each respective government.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) a bipartisan, bicameral bill that was the result of months of negotiations between House and Senate leaders.  The bill, which received wide support (415 to 6), will modernize and improve the federal workforce development programs aimed at helping workers attain the skills needed for 21st century jobs.   The legislation recently passed through the U.S. Senate with overwhelming support (95 to 3, with 2 no votes) and now awaits the President’s signature.