Capitol to Capitol | June 11, 2018

This Week: North Korea, Immigration, Net Neutrality and Trade

DYK?

Camp David, located about 60 miles north of Washington, D.C., in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park, has served as a retreat for U.S. presidents since the early 1940s. Formally called Naval Support Facility Thurmont, the compound originally was referred to as Shangri-La by Franklin Roosevelt, the first chief executive to visit. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed the retreat Camp David, after his grandson. His reason: Shangri-la was "just a little too fancy for a Kansas farm boy."

President Donald Trump and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, will hold a historic meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning in Singapore, which, given the 12-hour time difference, is 9 p.m. Eastern time tonight. After arriving in the southern Malaysian city-state on Monday morning, the president had lunch with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. During the meal, the president said, “We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely.” There is no doubt that the meeting will be interesting, but whether or not it will yield to a significant agreement remains to be seen.

The White House said today that the talks between the United States and North Korea “have moved more quickly than expected,” which likely means that the meeting will not last longer than one day. The White House said that tomorrow’s discussions between the two leaders will be one-on-one, accompanied only by translators. A “working lunch” will follow with an expanded group of officials from both countries.

This Week in Washington

  • Congress in Session—The Senate reconvenes at 3 p.m. today to begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019. The House returns on Tuesday.
  • Net neutrality—Today marks the official end of the federal government's net neutrality rules. The rules, which were adopted under the previous administration, had required broadband providers to treat all web traffic equally.

NCSL Resources on Net Neutrality

  • Immigration—Tuesday is the self-imposed deadline that backers of a House discharge petition on immigration have set to ensure the chamber will hold a series of immigration votes before the end of the month. Discharge petitions are rare procedural maneuvers that force votes on bills that have more than half of the signatures of members of the House. The petition is only three signatures short and supporters believe they have more than enough members willing to sign on. If successful, the petition would require votes on four immigration-related bills, varying from the most liberal to the most conservative.
  • Happy Birthday, Mr. President—Trump turns 72 on Thursday.
  • DOJ Inspector General Report on Clinton Investigation—On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general will release a report on a year-long internal probe of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) and DOJ’s handling of the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s treatment of classified information.
  • Five Primary Elections—Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia will hold their midterm primary elections on Tuesday.
  • Senate Summer Recess (Mostly) Cancelled—Last Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) canceled most of the chamber’s August recess because he said senators were not getting enough done. While McConnell claims that the move was necessary because of “historic obstruction” by Democrats, critics believe that the schedule change was politically motivated to keep vulnerable Senate Democrats in Washington and off the campaign trail leading up to the November elections.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Ohio Wins Voter Case in U.S. Supreme Court

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably for the state of Ohio in the case Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph. The court held (5-4) that Ohio’s process for removing people from its voter rolls is consistent with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Ohio has a two-step voter list maintenance process:

  1. The secretary of state compares the statewide voter registration database with the National Change of Address list and mails a confirmation notice to the voters with conflicting data. After four years, if the individual has not had any election activity they are removed from the voter rolls.
  2. The Supplemental Process begins with a list of voters who have been inactive for two years. A confirmation notice is then sent to these individuals, and following an additional inactivity period of four years, they are removed from the voter rolls.

Twelve states employ a process like Ohio: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia and South Dakota. Additionally, seven states delegate the confirmation procedure to local election officials: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina.

NCSL filed an amicus brief in this case supporting Ohio through the State and Local Legal Center.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg

New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Block White House Tariffs

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bipartisan bill last week that would increase congressional authority by providing Congress the ability to block Trump’s proposed tariffs. This comes after the Trump administration levied 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum on Mexico, Canada and the European Union, and also threatened additional broad ranging tariffs and penalties aimed at Chinese investments to the U.S. The recent tariffs have come under mounting opposition from Republican members of Congress. The bill, co-sponsored by five other Republican and four Democratic senators, would require congressional approval for tariffs levied for national security reasons. While McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have both criticized the metals tariffs, Senate Republican leaders will most likely not allow this bill to make it to the floor for a vote.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri, Miranda McDonald

A Contentious G7 Summit

The annual Group of Seven (G7) Summit took a number of unusual and dramatic turns over this past weekend in Quebec.

The G7 summit is a gathering of seven of the world’s most industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Fireworks began even before the meeting officially commenced when Trump suggested that Russia be allowed to rejoin the group. Russia was ousted from what was originally the G8 in 2014 as a direct response from major countries allied against Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Trump argued that Vladimir Putin and Russia should be at the negotiating table stating, “You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run.”

After two days of meetings, the summit looked as if it were going to end on a positive note as all global leaders at the meeting signed a “joint communique” or joint agreement that says the members “acknowledge free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade is a key engine for growth and jobs” and are committed to modernizing the World Trade Organization. However, things took a turn for the worse following a press conference with Canadian President Justin Trudeau, who reasserted his opposition to the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum and vowed to press ahead with retaliatory moves on July 1. This prompted Trump to take to Twitter and rescind his signature from the joint agreement and double down on demands that G-7 countries drastically reduce trade barriers for the U.S. or risk losing access to the U.S. economy.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri, Miranda McDonald

Former S&P Analyst Expected to Lead Federal Insurance Office

Steve Dreyer, former financial analyst at the global financial research firm Standard and Poor’s, is expected to be the next director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO).

DYK?

On Feb. 7, 2018, the United States Mint joined the National Park Service to celebrate the release of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program coin honoring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. The coin is the first of five America the Beautiful quarters to be issued in 2018, and the 41st release in the series.

Dreyer’s appointment follows the tenure of former Illinois Department of Insurance director, Michael McRaith. Some of Dreyer’s recent comments reflect his desire to support the state regulation of insurance and willingness to support states as the insurance industry’s primary regulators. Further, Dreyer expressed his intent to help foster a strong state regulatory system and not use the FIO as a means through which to pre-empt states. Dreyer did recognize the office’s role in promoting awareness and education of insurance and other financial instruments to address many issues prevalent today, including access to health insurance, retirement planning and catastrophic property and casualty losses.

The FIO was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. According to the Treasury, FIO is vested “with the authority to monitor all aspects of the insurance sector, monitor the extent to which traditionally underserved communities and consumers have access to affordable non-health insurance products, and to represent the United States on prudential aspects of international insurance matter.” Among other duties, FIO serves as an advisory body to the federal Financial Stability and Oversight Council.

NCSL Contact: Ethan Wilson

House Passes Deficit-Reduction Package

Last Thursday, the House passed a recession bill backed by Trump on a close 210-206 vote.

The bill, H.R. 3 (115), would target $15 billion in unspent federal funds from a variety of programs including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, energy department programs, and a number of smaller programs. While the bill targets $15 billion in recessions, the Congressional Budget Office projected that it would only result in an estimated $1.1 billion in real savings over a decade because a large part of the money would never actually be spent anyway.

The bill will now head to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain. Republicans will have just 10 working days to finish the job before a procedural deadline will eliminate their ability to pass the rescission with a simple majority.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Budget Update

The House passed its first batch of fiscal 2019 spending bills Friday on a mostly partisan line vote of 235-179.

The $147 billion “minibus” package, H.R. 5895, bundled three bills, which are usually the least contentious spending bills: Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA, and Legislative Branch. These are the first three of 12 spending bills that must reach the president’s desk before Oct. 1, 2019 to keep the government open or they risk another government shutdown. The package would increase funding levels by about 5 percent over fiscal year 2018, and by nearly 7 percent above the president’s request.

The bill will now head to the Senate, which may actually vote on it later this month, and which would make it the first spending bill to reach the president’s desk on time in two years, breaking the recent streak of combining all 12 spending measures together into a massive omnibus, like the $1.3 trillion fiscal year 2018 omnibus that passed in March.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

DeVos Testifies in U.S. Senate on Education Budget Request

Last week, the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction on the agency’s budget request. The secretary offered testimony outlining the department’s priorities to right size the federal footprint in education, modernize federal student aid and support a school culture that prevents school violence. She fielded nearly two hours of questions related to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal student aid, teacher strikes, and school discipline policies. The secretary also answered questions regarding the Commission on School Safety, referring to the ongoing work by state legislators to improve school safety.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

DeVos Approves Nebraska and North Carolina ESSA Plans  

On June 5, DeVos announced the approval of Nebraska and North Carolina’s state ESSA plans. DeVos applauded the states’ efforts, which “comply with the requirements of the law.” She also encouraged both states’ leaders to “embrace the flexibility afforded them in ESSA and to use their plans as a starting point, rather than a finish line to improve outcomes for all students.”

A complete list of state plans, both approved and pending.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

NCSL Policy Deadline for Legislative Summit is July 2

NCSL's Washington staff advocate before the Congress, the White House and federal agencies for the benefit of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions recommended by the Standing Committees and adopted at the NCSL Legislative Summit Setting the States’ Agenda (Business) Meeting. Because of the policy decisions voted on by the Standing Committees, NCSL is nationally recognized as a formidable advocacy force in state-federal relations.

All new policy directives and resolutions, as well as amendments to existing directives, must be submitted to the attention of the NCSL Washington Office directors Neal Osten and Molly Ramsdell (dc-directors@ncsl.org) by the close of business on July 2, 30 days before the NCSL Annual Business Meeting.

Upcoming Legislative Summit Dates:

  • Monday, July 2: Deadline for legislators to submit any new policies or amendments to existing policies. NCSL Policy Directives and Resolutions
  • Wednesday, July 11: Final day to access the advanced registration rate of $685. It increases to $750 July 12.
  • Wednesday, July 11: Hotel reservations must be completed to take advantage of NCSL’s discount room rates.

NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit will take place July 30-Aug. 2 in Los Angeles, Calif.

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell

U.S. DOT Announces $1.5 Billion in INFRA Grants

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced more than $1.5 billion in grants to fund 26 "critical freight, highway and bridge improvements" via the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America or "INFRA" program created by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.

DYK?

On This Day, June 11, in…

  • 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that would prohibit the desecration of the American flag.
  • 1970, Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington officially receive their ranks as U.S. Army Generals, becoming the first women to do so.
  • 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston to a committee to draft a declaration of independence.

The $1.5 billion combines two years' worth of funding, for FY 2017 and FY 2018.

The INFRA program prioritizes freight-related highway projects, though some limited rail and port infrastructure is allowed, as long as it reduces congestion on highways. The law specified that 10 percent of the funds be available for small projects valued at $5 million or more, while large projects must be at least $25 million.

Furthermore, at least 25 percent of the overall funding must go to rural projects.

Grants for Georgia's SR 400 express lane project and Wisconsin's I-94 freeway project received the biggest grants at $184 million and $160 million, respectively. Additionally, half the projects receiving funding are in rural areas, including two of the biggest awards: corridor improvements to rural stretches of I-95 and U.S. 70 in North Carolina and a I-94 project. Overall, the awardees are almost exclusively highway projects, with small rail and port projects totaling less than $50 million of the $1.5 billion total.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

Senate Agriculture Committee Releases 2018 Farm Bill; Mark-Up Scheduled for Wednesday

On Friday, the Senate Agriculture Committee released the base text for its 2018 Farm Bill. The committee is expected to hold up a markup session on Wednesday, June 13, with the aim of having the full body’s approval before the chamber adjourns for its July 4 recess. Current authorization for most farm bill programs expire at the end of FY 2018—Sept. 30, 2018. The bill does include language allowing full commercial production of hemp, which would be regulated at the state level.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

Also of Note…

  • Who is Kim Jong Un? Separating myth from fact (CNN)
  • The FCC’s net neutrality rules are officially repealed today. Here’s what that really means. (Washington Post)
  • Merkel: EU will retaliate against Trump tariffs (The Hill)
  • Trump’s latest health care move squeezes Republicans (Politico): Striking protections for pre-existing conditions renews a fraught repeal fight.

Read the June 4 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