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Newsroom: Policy News

March Federal Issues Update

Friday, April 19, 2013  
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March Federal Policy Report
by Karly Malpiede Andrus, Urban Land Conservancy

Next Critcal Date: Not to be cynical but the current status quo in Washington DC is govern by chaos. This is the next date or two to bear in mind.

Ø March 27, 2013 – the current CR was slated to expire - averted

Ø April / May – Debt Ceiling will be reached again

Ø September 30, 2012 – CR will expire, if no budget is in place a shutdown could occur.

Some legislation to Watch: Rumored, Being Studied, Winding its way through the process and what you need to monitor because it’s passed and could have implications for the industry.

Sequester - As you all know the sequester went into effect March 1, 2013. The estimated economic impact could be a 1% reduction in growth in 2nd & 3rd quarters, when an estimated 3% annual growth is estimated. I am sure you have viewed some of the multitude of information about the detrimental effects to particular programs. This comes on top of budget cuts which have affected non-discretionary defense spending in the first portion of the Budget Control Act. At this point it does not look as though Congress has the appetite to form a grand bargain and redistribute sequester cuts in a common sense manner.

You may remember that as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, Congress enacted $1.5 trillion in budget cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. The bicameral, bipartisan so-called "super committee” was formed to dictate what the additional $1.2 trillion in cuts to spending or cuts to "back door spending” in the tax code would look like. In order to entice members to work together the BCA included the "sequester”, a package of cuts that yielded the correct amount of savings in such a destructive way to areas that every side cared about so as to push both sides to reasoned compromised. Unfortunately, the "Super committee” seemed doomed from the start. This is the link to the BCA;

It is important to remember that the overall impact of the sequester is ~2.3% of the budget but when you begin to examine that 2.3% coming from a mere 16% of the budget which is Non-Defense Discretionary spending, and remember that NDD spending has already absorbed cuts you can appreciate the impact of the sequester. Again, the majority of the budget is off limits to cuts at this point, ~56% of the budget is entitlement spending, interest in the national debt is ~6%, defense discretionary is ~19% and the GOP has now taken revenue increases off the table. It is critical to note that if the Government agrees to take in less revenue, i.e. give tax breaks, or agrees to spend on programs it is essentially government spending as the end result is less government revenue.

Continuing Resolution/Budget FY 2014 –The House GOP have offered a CR (H.R. 933), the Senate amended it and passed the amended version last week just in time for another two week recess on the Hill. The House quickly approved the final FY13 spending measure. The package includes new appropriations bills for FY13 Agriculture; Commerce-Justice-Science; Defense; Homeland Security; and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs programs, but continues the current CR's funding levels for other appropriations categories, including Labor, HHS, and Education.

Important to remember, the CR maintains the BCA's sequester for the rest of FY13. Therefore, additional legislation must be passed to retroactively address these cuts. This was expected, as leadership in both parties sought to decouple sequestration from the funding bill in order to avoid the threat of a government shutdown. For more information, on HR 933,

With funding levels now set through September, federal agencies will soon be able to calculate the exact reductions that each of their sequester-able programs are facing in the remaining months of FY13. Once the applicable across-the-board cuts are applied at the program level, agencies will then be able to determine what this means for states and other stakeholders. Given the complexity of this task, it will likely take several weeks before any updated information is available.

It is important to remember that we are in the CR position because Congress could not pass a traditional budget for a full fiscal year. It is also important to remember that both the House and the Senate have proposed budgets for FY 14 that are farther apart than before the election.

Representative Paul Ryan’s recently released budget, which was much decried last round, changes little in terms of priorities although now it "balances” in 10 years. Many have called out his budget as again relying on unspecified tax loopholes being closed to achieve necessary savings, he also assumes recall of the Affordable Care Act, affectionately dubbed Obama Care, to a certain extent. You may remember the House has voted over thirty times in the 112th Congress to try to repeal the law, to no avail in the Senate. Further, Ryan’s budget assumes the tax measures and reforms to Medicare made in Obama Care stay, the healthcare portion of the bill would be abandoned. Obviously, it is dead on arrival for the Senate and President. Here is the link to Representative Ryan’s budget bill which has been passed in the House.

Senator Murray and the Senate Democrats passed a FY 14 budget, it contains $975 billion in tax revenue and $975 billion in spending cuts over 10 years here’s the link to their bill

Despite the rare showing of compromise with the CR which has allowed the government to continue operating until September 30th , there are great differences in the proposed budgets for FY 2014 and a Joint Resolution from a Conference Committee will be difficult. Another fine point to keep in mind, the CR is from FY 2012 levels and programs so if a program was not in existence in 2012, there is no line for its funding.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – Recently passed after a long hiatus related to increased protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented women. Historically, the act has been expanded every time it has been reauthorized. The recent passage was deemed a huge success because it included protections for these new classes. The bill contains provisions that affect federal housing or purveyors of federal dollars like Section 8. Essentially, if a woman is in a dangerous domestic relationship she can be released from a lease. You can find more information at the Office on Violence Against Women within the US Department of Justice -

Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight Ongoing Implementation report was released - As you may know, the report is the third one Joseph Smith has released despite not being required to release a report until the second quarter of this year. Quick reminder, this money was awarded for misdeeds by national banks regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) during the housing crisis of 2007. The money was filtered to the Attorneys General of the 49 states that participated in the action, in Colorado the money was dedicated to housing items like the Colorado Housing Investment Fund (CHIF) fund. You can read his report on their website;

In related news, February 8, 2013 this office signed an information sharing agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the government agency charged with investigating the complaints not covered under the settlement.

The Home Construction lending Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013 H.R. 1255 – Introduced March 19th, Thomas does not have the bill language although it has been said to be identical to the bill they introduced in the 112th Congress under H.R. 1755. The link fro that bill language is here;

The goal is to rebuild credit flow to construction of new homes. It does this by taking down barriers to lending while preserving the ability of regulators to assure the soundness of the financial institutions they oversee.

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