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Legislative Watch October 7, 2010

Legislative Watch

Posted October 7, 2010

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Last week the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund federal agencies from the beginning of the new fiscal year through 12/3, and then recessed until 11/15, when they are scheduled to return for a lame duck session.


On 9/30, President Obama signed into law the $219 billion stop-gap spending bill (H.R. 3081) to fund the government as it begins FY 2011 on 10/1. Known as a continuing resolution, the bill sets temporary funding levels for government agencies about $8.2 billion below current FY 2010 levels, but includes a $23 million increase in funding for the Interior Department's oil rig inspection programs. The increase is offset by a reduction in previously unobligated funds. Earlier this month President Obama asked Congress to add $100 million to Interior's FY 2011 budget to hire more safety inspectors and implement reforms in light of the Gulf oil disaster. Sen. LeMieux (R-FL) attempted to attach a measure to block the Environmental Protection Agency from using any of the funds in the bill to implement stricter water standards for Florida, but Senate Appropriations Committee chair Inouye (D-HI) argued that the majority and minority leaders had already negotiated a "clean" continuing resolution, meaning a version without legislative riders.


On 9/29, Sen. Graham (R-SC) proposed a renewable electricity standard (RES) to serve as an alternative to an RES introduced by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) and Sen. Brownback (R-KS) two weeks ago (S. 3813). Sen. Graham's legislation would include nuclear power and "clean coal" as sources of clean energy to be counted toward a mandate that requires a percentage of utilities' power to come from clean energy sources. Sen. Bingaman is pushing to have his bill considered during the lame duck session, which would require broad, bipartisan support. Sen. Graham has expressed a willingness to work with Sen. Bingaman and Sen. Brownback to find compromise language.

On 10/1, Sen. Bingaman and Sen. Snowe (R-ME) introduced the Advanced Energy Tax Incentives Act (S. 3935) to provide tax incentives for building and industrial energy efficiency, domestic manufacturing, emerging clean energy technologies and carbon mitigation. The legislation incorporates several bills the senators already introduced earlier this Congress. More specifically, the bill would allow home and business owners to offset the initial cost of investing in energy-saving technologies through tax credits and tax deductions, and would facilitate the growth of renewable electricity by providing a tax incentive for energy storage systems. The storage systems would allow utilities to use intermittent energy sources like wind and solar power during peak hours. Sen. Bingaman has urged Senate leaders to consider the tax bill, along with S. 3813 and oil spill legislation when it returns after the November elections.

Food Safety

The Senate may consider a food safety bill (S. 510) during the lame duck session. The bill would overhaul food safety laws by giving the Food and Drug Administration more power to recall tainted products, increasing inspections of food processors and requiring producers to follow stricter standards for keeping food safe. The House passed its version of the legislation (H.R. 2749) in July 2009.


During the lame duck session the Senate may also consider an alternative vehicles bill (S. 3815) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV). The bill would provide tax incentives for the manufacturing and purchasing of natural gas vehicles, grants for refueling stations and $100 million toward an Energy Department program to encourage the development and use of plug-in electric vehicles.

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