Capitol to Capitol | April 9, 2018

Status Update: Facebook’s CEO Set to Testify Before Congress

DYK?

On April 20, 1933, Amelia Earhart broke up a White House dinner party when she invited Eleanor Roosevelt to go on a flight to Baltimore and back.

Dressed in their evening clothes, the two abandoned their dinner guests and went to Hoover Field in Arlington, Va., the first airport to open in the area, and climbed aboard an Eastern Air Transport twin-engine Curtis Condor. Earhart, dressed in a white silk gown and wearing white kid gloves, was at the controls of the plane for most of the flight. Roosevelt, who had just received her student pilot's license, was by Earhart's side. "I'd love to do it myself. I make no bones about it," Roosevelt told The Sun. "It does mark an epoch, doesn't it, when a girl in an evening dress and slippers can pilot a plane at night."

On Friday, Facebook announced new transparency requirements for political advertisements on its platform. In addition to existing requirements for political ads, the new requirements will require issue ads, which focus on such topics as climate change or immigration, to display a label and disclaimer of who paid for them, as well as confirmation of the location and identity of the advertiser. The move comes just days before the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before both chambers of Congress this week.

Zuckerberg will face a joint panel of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday, and will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday on the topic of consumer data and privacy. The hearings were scheduled in the wake of the news that the data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained information of 87 million Facebook users for election purposes. The hearing is also likely to examine the social network’s handling of Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as its efforts to combat “fake news.”

Zuckerberg also came out in support of the Honest Ads Act, legislation introduced in the Senate that would hold internet companies to the same standards of political advertising that are required for radio and television. However, the bill is unlikely to gain traction this Congress given that of the 18 co-sponsors, John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the only Republican. Starting today, Facebook will also begin displaying a link at the top of users' News Feeds called "protecting your information." The link will direct users to a page where they can see which apps and websites they have used Facebook to log into, and can remove any they no longer want connected to their account.

Fiscal Hawks Seek Cuts to Recently Enacted Spending Package

Congress passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package last month that will fund the government through the remainder of FY 2018. The final package increased defense spending by $80 billion and nondefense spending by $63 billion for the current year. Now, facing pressure from fiscal hawks, Republican leaders are considering using congressional procedures to cut billions of dollars in spending from the funding deal they just passed.

DYK?

The term “earmark” derives from the practice of tagging or removing the ears of livestock—“earmarking”—to indicate ownership. (Trivia courtesy of the NCSL Fiscal Affairs program.)

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 allows the president to send a proposal to Congress to rescind certain funds from the budget but the proposal requires congressional approval. The White House is working with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on a plan to potentially rescind tens of billions of dollars in federal funding. While Democratic support is unlikely, rescission bills only need a simple majority to pass in both chambers. Full support from Senate Republicans is far from certain at this time.

Also of note: The House will also vote this week on a balanced budget amendment, which would amend the Constitution to include stricter budget rules for Congress. The amendment is all but certain to fail as it needs a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate as well as the support from three-quarters of the 50 state legislatures or state ratifying conventions. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), introduced the amendment and stated that it "would finally bring discipline to federal spending." But the vote arrives at an awkward time for fiscal conservatives, including Goodlatte, who voted to support last month's $1.3 trillion spending bill.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Prospects of a Trade War with China Grow

From the early days of the campaign trail, Donald Trump discussed the importance of renegotiating trade deals that he believed were unfair to the United States. Therefore, it was not surprising that soon after he took office, his administration announced that it would look to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and would not participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China’s economic influence in Asia. The administration’s latest moves, however, have economists worried about a possible trade war. Last month, the Trump administration announced $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. In response, China announced $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods, which then led the White House last week to propose an additional $100 billion in new tariffs on goods imported from the country.

The trade escalations with China are concerning to many sectors of the American economy, including industries dominated by the president’s supporters. For instance, Republicans from agriculture-intensive states worry that Chinese tariffs could threaten the industry. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), whose state’s second-largest crop is soybeans—now facing a 25 percent tariff in China—said, “We’re talking about a lot of money that goes down, just on the speculation of having a tariff put in place.” Last week, in discussing the president’s attempt to address China’s unfair trade practices, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) went so far as to say: “This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”

Other Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, were cautiously optimistic that the president’s actions will address China’s trade practices. Yesterday, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said,  “I think we need a more nuanced approach, but I give the president credit for levying these tariffs against the Chinese, with whom we’ve talked for a decade about their unfair trade practices and their theft of intellectual property from American firms. This is costing us jobs in this country, and we do need to get tough with China. But we need to do so in a way that we do not spark a trade war.”

How this trade dispute will end is anything but clear. The president tweeted yesterday morning that his administration’s moves will ultimately force China to “take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do.” Many skeptics of the tariffs believe that they will lead to a vicious cycle of tariffs that could ultimately damage both economies. Time will tell.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri, Miranda McDonald

Commission on School Safety

On March 28, the newly formed Federal Commission on School Safety held its first organizational meeting. Lead by DeVos, other attendees included U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. The establishment of this investigative commission is in response to recent school shootings. The commission’s directive is to develop policy and funding recommendations to ensure increased school safety. The general public is encouraged to submit school safety recommendations to safety@ed.gov.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

ESSA Plans

DeVos recently approved the consolidated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plans of Texas, Idaho, Mississippi and Rhode Island. Each state is tasked with developing a plan that meets the unique needs of its students. For example, Idaho’s plan includes a new student engagement survey in grades K-8. To date, the department has approved 40 state ESSA plans.  

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

GAO Study on School Discipline

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report on the disproportionate effects of school discipline during the 2013-2014 academic year. The report notes that while black students make up roughly 15 percent of public school students, they represent nearly 40 percent of students suspended from school.

Another key finding includes the discipline disparity among minority students with disabilities. Evidence shows that 23 percent of black children with disabilities were suspended. The statistics for American Indian and Alaskan Native students with disabilities closely matched at 20 percent.

Read the full GAO report .

DeVos recently hosted two listening sessions for feedback on the department’s current guidance on school climate and Title VI, which prohibits racial discrimination. The Obama administration previously implemented discriminatory discipline guidance, which is currently being reconsidered.

A complete list of organizations represented and attendees may be found here.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Movement on Combatting Opioid Crisis Continues

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is working on draft legislation to combat the opioid crisis. The first piece of legislation would require certain opioids to be given in blister packages with set dosages. Prescribing opioids this way could allow doctors to easily prescribe smaller amounts, and provide an easier way to dispose of unused pills. Per the proposed legislation, the federal government would be able to require this type of packaging, but it is unclear which method they plan to use. They can declare a public health crisis, or they could interact directly with drug manufacturers and supply chains.

DYK?

New Jersey’s official state animal is the horse for good reason. The state has more horses per square mile than any other state. New Jersey has more than 4,000 horse farms and is home to the U.S. Equestrian Team.

The second piece would increase coordination between the Federal Drug Administration  and Customs Border Protection. This would help both agencies in their work to stop illicit drugs coming across the border, specifically the synthetic drug fentanyl. Fentanyl is a high dosage painkiller often prescribed for those in hospice or cancer care. Recently more states are finding the presence of synthetic fentanyl in illegal opioids and heroin, and being purchased in large quantities online. Opioid policy remains one of the most active issues in Congress with more than 100 pieces of related legislation introduced this session. Whether any of these bills can make it to the floor for a vote remains unclear.

See NCSL’s letter to Congress on the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) ACT.

NCSL Contacts: Haley NicholsonAbbie Gruwell

On this day, April 9, in…

Also of Note …

  • The 2018 NCSL Legislative Summit begins July 30 | Register Here
  • The race to replace Paul Ryan is on | POLITICO
    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise have started courting Republicans in case the speaker retires.
  • Senate braces for a showdown over Trump's nomineesThe Hill
    The Senate is barreling towards a shutdown over Present Trump's latest Cabinet shuffle with three critical deparments looking for new leaders and more that could follow.
  • In New Hampshire, the 2020 presidential race is already well underway | NBC News
    Potential canidiates are making visits and wooing activisits behind the scenes.
  • Republcan Governor Rick Scott enters Senate race in Florida, setting up marquee contest | Washington Post
    The battle against Demoncratic imcubent Bill Nelson will help determine which party controls the Senate next year.

Read the March 26, 2018 Capitol-to-Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell | 202-624-3569 | Human Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education