Capitol to Capitol | June 26, 2017

Health Care: Can the Senate GOP Bill Get to 50 Votes?

Last Thursday, the Senate Republican leadership released a working draft of its legislation to overhaul health care. Today, the Senate released a revised draft, which included a provision that would require individuals who had a lapse in coverage for 63 days or more to wait six months before obtaining insurance. The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. It has yet to be formally introduced and is expected to be tweaked to placate the demands of the still-undecided Republican senators who are crucial for the legislation's passage. At the moment, Senate leaders are hoping to vote on the measure before Congress leaves town on Friday for the weeklong July 4 recess. However, a vote this week is anything but certain as it appears that the legislation as currently written is unlikely to obtain the 50 votes necessary to pass the bill.

DYK?

Presidents Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were all born in different months of the summer of 1946.

Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected today to release its analysis of the working draft bill, which could further complicate matters. Like the House passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), budget analysts expect CBO’s analysis to estimate that the Senate bill will increase the number of uninsured Americans from 15 million to 22 million over a decade. If that’s what the CBO analysis reports,  uncommitted Senate Republican moderates, including Rob Portman (Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Dean Heller (Nev.), will face increasing pressure to oppose the bill as they all hail from states that have expanded Medicaid. Any changes to the bill to appeal to more centrist Republicans, however, may lead more conservative members to oppose it. Given the divide, it remains to be seen if a bill will pass, considering that Republicans can only afford two defections. The chamber’s 46 Democrats and two Independents are all expected to vote against the final bill.

Read NCSL’s Analysis of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

NCSL Contacts: Rachel Morgan, Haley Nichsolson

Budget Committees Move Forward on FY 2018

Last Wednesday, the House Budget Committee tentatively agreed to move ahead with the budget resolution this week. Lawmakers are likely to set spending levels at $511 billion for domestic programs and $621 billion for defense. Compared to current law, this would represent a $4 billion cut from domestic programs and a $72 billion increase in defense spending. The resolution would also pull back from President Donald Trump’s proposal to increase the FY 2018 defense budget to $668 billion. 

Divisions over the budget persist, even within the GOP itself. Defense hawks continue to push for a $640 billion defense allotment. House appropriators, including Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), insist that the 2018 defense bill will assume a $640 billion budget. Another area of contention includes adjustments over the nation’s air traffic control system. Last Thursday, House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to spin off air traffic control operations from the FAA to a nonprofit corporation. While stakeholders in the aviation industry have mixed feelings about Shuster’s bill, GOP tax writers and appropriators will decide its fate.

Decisions on these points and others are likely to come this week, as appropriators begin markup on Monday and the Budget Committee aims for markup on Wednesday. Keep in mind, however, that adoption of the FY 2018 budget resolution would invalidate the FY 2017 budget resolution, which is the legislative vehicle for the Republicans’ health care legislation.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

ACTION ALERT: Urge Congress to SUPPORT the Drone Federalism Act

NCSL is asking state lawmakers to contact their congressional delegations to urge them to support the Drone Federalism Act (S. 1272 in the Senate) and Drone Innovation Act (H.R. 2390 in the House).

While not identical, both bills include provisions that would give statutory authority to states over low altitude drone operations. These bills will allow drone technology to flourish and will maintain state authority to protect public safety and security, personal privacy, property rights, and managing land use.

This week both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction will be marking up their respective bills to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). NCSL, along with the National Governors Association and National Association of State Aviation Officials, issued letters of support for both bills (June 21 letter, May 25 letter).

As of today, 40 states have enacted legislation pertaining to drones. Without the statutory protection of the Drone Federalism Act and Drone Innovation Act, these laws may be pre-empted.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

House Passes Career and Technical Education Reauthorization

On June 22, the House passed by voice vote legislation reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Last reauthorized in 2006, the bipartisan bill outlines how the federal government will spend $1 billion annually on career and technical education programs and includes a yearly 1.38 percent increase in funding for the next six years. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, has indicated that reauthorization is a “top priority” and has asked Senatort Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to lead the way on the Senate version.

NCSL Contact: Lucia Bragg

Higher Education Regulations

The Department of Education published on June 22 a request in the Federal Register for public feedback identifying federal higher education regulations that are “unduly costly or unnecessarily burdensome” for potential adjustment or elimination.

DYK?

Hawaii is the widest state. It is composed of 132 islands, reefs and shoals that extend for more than 1,500 miles. That's equivalent to the distance from western Louisiana to San Francisco. Alaska comes in second at just 1,480 miles east to west. 

The request comes on the heels of the department’s formal announcement on June 14 that it will delay Borrower Defense to Repayment (BDR) regulations from the previous administration that were slated to take effect July 1. The rules would have allowed the department increased authority to take action against schools it considers a financial risk, eliminated mandatory arbitration clauses, and adjusted rules for when defrauded student loan borrowers could cancel their debt. Some Democratic senators and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have challenged the move, questioning whether DeVos has the legal authority to delay the rules. Healey has promised to sue.

NCSL Contact: Lucia Bragg

NCSL Policy Deadline for Legislative Summit is July 7

DYK?

One of the greatest ironies of the American Civil War is that both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were both born in Kentucky. The two men who would lead Americans in the most pivotal struggle in our history were born about 100 miles apart. 

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 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 5 p.m. on July 7, 30 days before the NCSL Annual Business Meeting.

More on the NCSL Policy Process.

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell

Congressional Efforts on Autonomous Vehicles Begins to Take Shape

On June 13, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a set of principles on self-driving vehicle legislation. The six principles outlined include:

  • Prioritizing safety to ensure federal standards should eventually be set.
  • Promoting innovation and reducing roadblocks by ensuring that existing rules are updated to account for this new technology.
  • Remaining tech neutral to avoid favoring one business model over another.
  • Reinforcing separate federal and state roles to ensure the federal government sets vehicle safety standards, while states regulate the driver and update their laws to accommodate for this new technology.
  • Strengthening cybersecurity to ensure that vehicles are safe to operate.
  • Educating the public around the differences between conventional and self-driving vehicles.  

Additionally, on June 15, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection released a set of 14 bills all focusing on a different aspect related to autonomous vehicles. Generally, the package includes aims to:

  • Prohibit states and cities from potentially regulating vehicle operation but clarifies their jurisdiction over registration, licensing and other additional activities.
  • Expand exemptions on current federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS).
  • Establish three advisory committees to address mobility access for people with disabilities, seniors and people under-served by public transit, and examine cybersecurity and data sharing issues.
  • Prevent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from attempting to verify vehicle designs before they go to market, more commonly referred to as pre-market approval.

NCSL staff remains highly engaged with both committees to ensure that the final form of any bill does not pre-empt or prevent a state from taking necessary action to address this groundbreaking technology. To learn more, please visit NCSL’s public database for more information on state action regarding autonomous vehicles and we encourage all to join us in Boston for NCSL’s 2017 Legislative Summit, which will feature a session on autonomous vehicles.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

FCC Chairman Supports the Gigabit Opportunity Act

On June 21. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai published a statement of support for Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-W.Va.) legislation, the Gigabit Opportunity Act, S.1013. The bill aims to incentivize private investment for broadband deployment and upgrades by establishing Gigabit Opportunity Zones in low income areas through a combination of tax and bond exemptions for investors. It further defines Qualified Gigabit Opportunity Zones as low income communities located in states that have enacted legislation that designates areas as qualified gigabit zones. In his letter, the chairman wrote of his support for the bill’s attempt to modernize regulations and establish tax incentives for businesses to build networks in underserved communities as a means to close the digital divide. The House companion bill was introduced by Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.). NCSL is currently drafting a bill summary, which will be posted later this week.

NCSL Contact: Danielle Dean

FCC’s Priorities: Access, Innovation, Public Safety and Consumer Protection

During the June 20 hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, the committee heard testimony from the FCC regarding its budget request for FY 2018. Like other budget hearings, the committee heard testimony from the commission regarding its priorities, including the continued focus on closing the digital divide, innovation, consumer protection, and public safety. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also submitted written testimony outlining her concerns about internal administration issues such as staff recruitment and retention, IT modernization and cybersecurity. The commissioner’s concerns match White House expectations and demands on agencies across the federal government under the recent executive order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure.

NCSL Contact: Danielle Dean

Dispute over Consumer Protections for Broadband Speeds

Attorneys General from 35 states wrote in opposition to a petition for a declaratory ruling regarding broadband speed disclosure requirements that is currently being considered by the FCC. The attorneys general  are asking the FCC to reject the cable and broadband industry’s request for a uniform national standard for consumer protection laws and regulations, thereby removing established state authority to investigate false advertising claims regarding a provider’s broadband speeds. The petition aims to cement federal authority on deciding consumer protection regulations that broadband companies are subject to, saying the wide-range of state government consumer protection rules often conflict, and a national standard would be consistent with commission efforts to establish a “light-touch framework” on internet service providers. 

NCSL Contact: Danielle Dean

Note: Capitol-to-Capitol will not be issued the week of the July 4 congressional recess

Read The June 19, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding Capitol-to-Capitol, please contact Max Behlke.

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 and Interstate Commerce
  • Rachel Morgan | 202-624-3569 | Health and Human Services
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure