2021 Transition Resources

11/24/2020
Federalism
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The Economy
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Infrastructure
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Education
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Health and Human Services
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Justice
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Immigration
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Labor and Economic Development
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Environment / Energy
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Technology
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Introduction

Since 1975, NCSL has been the preeminent bipartisan association representing the legislatures of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. Our bipartisan commitment is the solid foundation enabling legislators to come together to solve America’s toughest challenges. That emphasis on working together uniquely positions NCSL to promote collaboration and partnership between state legislatures and the federal government. NCSL stands ready to work with the new administration and Congress to move our states and country forward. By selecting one of the policy ares above, you will see NCSL’s position on more than two dozen issues. These positions were approved by an affirmative vote of more than three-quarters of state legislatures. Read more on the NCSL policy process.

Federalism

NCSL CONTACTS:

Molly Ramsdell, director, Washington Office

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel

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Good Government

Issue Description

NCSL’s federalism policy is our organization’s cornerstone policy. Through this policy, we urge the federal government to seek to restore “balance to federalism through changes in the political process, thoughtful consideration, and broad national debate.” To this end, NCSL has supported various iterations of the Executive Order on Federalism (EO 13132) beginning with President Ronald Reagan and ending with President Barack Obama. EO 13132 states that agencies must have an internal process in place that allows for early, “meaningful and timely input” from state and local officials or their national associations. Agencies must also have a person in place who shall submit a description of that agency’s consultation process to the Office of Management and Budget and provide a federalism impact summary in the preamble to any rule that is published in the Federal Register. Currently, few, if any federal agencies adhere to the consultation requirements of EO 13132. 

NCSL Position

NCSL urges the administration and congress to prioritize the codification of EO 13132. Good governance legislation that codifies the consultation requirements of EO 13132 will ensure that agencies are held accountable for engaging in meaningful consultation with states or their national associations early in the rulemaking process. This legislation should include the following:

  • Mandatory consultation: Mandatory state consultation will help prevent the promulgation of rules with detrimental state impact. 
  • Early consultation: The most effective time for federal agencies to understand how a proposed rule will impact state and local governments is before, not after, its publication. Early and frequent consultation is vital to ensuring the best possible result for all stakeholders.
  • Dedicated intergovernmental staff: Legislation must require federal agencies to establish formal intergovernmental teams that meet with state and local representatives several times per year to engage in a meaningful dialogue to solicit input from state-local-tribal leaders and provide an update on the agency’s actions.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Molly Ramsdell, director, Washington Office

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel

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White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

NCSL Recommends

  • The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) be directly linked to the domestic policy operations of the White House.
  • The White House and agency intergovernmental affairs directors should be placed at the assistant secretary level or higher. Placing intergovernmental personnel at this level sends a distinct message about the importance of working with state and local elected officials and their national organizations.
  • At least one special assistant in the IGA exclusively responsible for handling state legislators and NCSL.
  • The professional staff of the IGA understand the legislative and regulatory concerns of state and local government elected officials and represent those concerns during domestic policy discussions and formulation of positions on state-federal legislation and regulations.
  • The IGA meet periodically with state and local government association representatives. These meetings should be used to develop legislative and regulatory initiatives and solutions that account for federalism concerns and address matters raised by elected officials at all levels of government. These meetings should be used to achieve cooperation on the myriad of state-federal issues before the nation.
  • The White House and agency intergovernmental affairs staff should communicate with one another through periodic meetings and other means. These meetings and other communications should be used to assess concerns raised by state and local elected officials and their national organizations.
  • The IGA and agency intergovernmental staff participate in NCSL meetings and maintain communications with state legislators and NCSL through all possible means.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Erlinda Doherty, committee director, Budgets & Revenue

Jocelyn Salguero, policy associate, Budgets & Revenue

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State and Federal Budgeting: Partnering to Make Policy

Issue Description

Given the interdependency of federal government activities and state and local economies, establishing strong partnerships to develop sound state and federal budget policy is a top priority for state legislators. Determining policy priorities and enacting budgets are complex, and often protracted, even when revenues are healthy. During times of economic distress, the process is even more challenging. The fiscal and budgetary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on state and local economies demonstrated the importance of this state-federal relationship. Federal Covid-19 relief resources helped states cover some expenditures related to the pandemic while preventing some cuts in key citizen services.  Economically strong states are key for an economically strong nation.

NCSL Position

It is the policy of NCSL to advance and defend a balanced, dynamic partnership among local, state and federal governments. NCSL believes the federal government should maintain its financial commitment to federal programs that rely on state participation for implementation and provide stable and predictable funding for state-federal partnership programs. NCSL also calls upon the executive branch to affirm the role of state legislatures in the appropriation and oversight of federal funds, avoid unfunded mandates and underfunded national expectations in state-federal partnerships, and minimize the imposition of state maintenance of effort requirements in existing and future federal fiscal assistance-related legislation. Any devolution of federal responsibilities to the states should constitute a serious attempt at restoring balance to the state-federal partnership and not result in any reduction of the federal financial commitment to affected programs either in the short or long run.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Cannabis Legalization

Issue Description

The trends in state cannabis reform legislation began with California Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical cannabis. Since that time, a total of 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have legalized medical cannabis and 14 states and territories have approved adult-use recreational cannabis. In addition, 26 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis and at least 15 states passed legislation addressing expungement of certain cannabis convictions. Currently, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which makes federal law in direct conflict with state cannabis laws and policies.

NCSL Position

NCSL has long-standing policy on cannabis and federalism. While NCSL supports a strong intergovernmental partnership to fight illicit drugs, NCSL believes that federal laws, including the CSA, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own cannabis policies without federal interference. Where states have made a policy choice to legalize and regulate cannabis, the federal government should respect those state decisions.  In states that have authorized cannabis production, distribution and possession by establishing an effective regulatory scheme, the administration should direct federal prosecutors to respect state cannabis laws around enforcement. It should prioritize its enforcement actions against criminal enterprises engaged in cannabis production and sale, and not against citizens who are compliant with state cannabis laws. Legalizing cannabis and removing it from the CSA permits states to determine which cannabis laws and regulations work best to improve the public safety, health and economic development of their communities.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel 

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Cannabis Banking and Taxation

Issue Description

The conflict between federal and state cannabis laws creates challenging obstacles for states in the areas of banking and taxation. The federal Bank Secrecy Act and its implementing regulations impose substantial administrative and operational burdens, compliance risk and regulatory risk that serve as a barrier to banks and credit unions seeking to provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses. Allowing financial institutions to provide services to cannabis businesses in states where it has been legalized would help law enforcement track legal cannabis sales and assist in the collection of appropriate taxes. It would also increase public safety by getting large amounts of cash off the streets and into federally regulated banking institutions. 

NCSL Position

Allowing access to banking services will improve the regulation of cannabis businesses and NCSL supports these, like many banking decisions, taking place at the state level. Due to the expansion of legal cannabis, legitimate business enterprises need access to financial institutions that provide capital, security, efficiency and record keeping. NCSL also recognizes that without banking options, cannabis businesses are forced to operate exclusively in cash, which can attract criminal activity and create substantial public safety risks. Without access to banking services, a cash-only cannabis industry reduces transparency in accounting and makes it difficult for states to implement effective regulatory regimes that ensure compliance. Access to financial services for legal cannabis businesses in states that choose to allow it would enable each state to craft its own regulations, increase transparency, encourage economic development and promote public safety.

marijuana  map

NCSL CONTACTS:

Tres York, policy specialist

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Sports Betting

Issue Description

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional, paving the way for legalized sports betting in America. As a result, state legislatures across the country have began creating innovative and tailored sports betting policies that represent the unique constituencies in each state. As of Oct. 1, 2020, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting and have active operations. Four states have authorized sports betting but do not yet have operational systems and six other states are actively considering legislation. In an open regulatory environment, states have revolutionized the legal sports betting market, and the Supreme Court’s judgement in the PASPA decision illustrates why states provide the best solutions to these complex policy, regulation and law enforcement questions.

NCSL Position

NCSL supports the ability of each state to choose whether to legalize sports betting and believes that the federal government should recognize the sovereignty of states to allow or prohibit sports betting. In 2018, federal sports betting legislation was introduced that would have required sportsbook operators to use official league data, allow sports governing bodies to request that certain types of wagers be prohibited, and force states to receive approval from the United States Attorney General before they could proceed with implementing their systems. This would directly impede innovation by the states in creating systems that work best for their citizens.

NCSL supports eliminating the immense illegal sports betting market in the United States and believes that this can be achieved by providing more tools to law enforcement and allowing tailored state regulation. States have provided robust protections allowing consumers to safely bet in their legal marketplaces, and Congress should not preempt states’ legislative authority to legalize and regulate sports betting. We also ask that federal lawmakers respect state legislatures that choose to maintain their prohibitions on sports betting and other forms of gambling within their state.

The Economy

NCSL CONTACTS:

Erlinda A. Doherty, committee director, Budgets & Revenue

Jocelyn Salguero, policy associate, Budgets & Revenue

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Tax Reform

Issue Description

Modernization and reform of our federal tax system is of critical importance to state legislators. Federal tax reform efforts and tax actions directly affect states as federal and state tax systems are inextricably linked. For example, extension of the federal income tax filing deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in states following suit and thus postponing state revenue collections. Federal programs rely on state participation for implementation and any federal reform will likely have serious fiscal and administrative ramifications on the states.

NCSL created its bipartisan Task Force on State and Local Taxation to addresses important and timely issues on tax policy in order to provide guidance to state legislators as they address the emerging taxation issues. The task force strives to balance state sovereignty with the need for a workable interstate tax system. Our task force members identify the issues that legislatures must address – and provide state guidance by developing model principles for tax reform and modernization. It is NCSL’s position to advance and defend a balanced, dynamic partnership among local, state and federal governments.

NCSL Position

NCSL supports the preservation of state and local governments to adopt fair and effective tax systems. Among other federal tax reform initiatives, this includes: 

  • Preserving the fiscal viability and sovereignty of state governments and their discretion to tax certain revenue sources.
  • Restoring the full state and local income tax, sales tax and property tax deductions for federal income tax purposes. 
  • Continuing tax policies that reward work, specifically the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs).

NCSL urges all federal tax reform and other actions be guided by the following: 

  • Providing states with adequate transition time, preferably up to three or more years, to implement and respond to new tax systems. This includes providing adequate federal administrative funds for any federal tax reform involving modified or increased collection of state responsibility. 
  • Preserving tax-exempt financing for infrastructure and capital projects, including the use of public-private partnerships, while also maintaining the tax-exempt status of state and local government bonds, and lifting existing restrictions on state and local government use of tax-exempt bonds.
  • Avoiding provisions that weaken the fiscal integrity of state and local governments. 

NCSL CONTACTS:

Erlinda A. Doherty, committee director, Budgets & Revenue

Jocelyn Salguero, policy associate, Budgets & Revenue

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COVID-19 Economic Stimulus

Issue Description

State and local governments seek fiscal stabilization to immediately address revenue shortfalls caused by measures enacted at every level of government to contain the spread of COVID-19. These revenue losses come as costs for health care, emergency response, workforce assistance, education and other vital programs are skyrocketing. States are limited in their ability to provide fiscal stimulus during economic downtimes. Unlike the federal government, most states have balanced budget requirements and cannot engage in deficit spending. While the federal government is responding to the current crisis by increasing spending to stimulate the economy, states will likely be forced to reduce spending to ensure it does not outpace revenue. Most states depleted rainy day funds or other special funds to make up for significant budget gaps during the Great Recession. And even though many states were in strong financial shape before the pandemic, NCSL has found, states are facing an average revenue decline of 15% for Fiscal Year 2021.

In addition, National Association of State Budget Officers found these funds were not sufficient to maintain budget stability. Moody’s Analytics stated that without federal revenue replacement, state and local governments would need to cut more than $500 billion, shaving 3 full percentage points off the GDP and eliminating more than 4 million jobs.

Source: https://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/coronavirus-covid-19-state-budget-updates-and-revenue-projections637208306.aspx 

NCSL Position

NCSL supports and advocates for direct, flexible federal aid for states to mitigate the catastrophic economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the policy of NCSL to advance and defend a balanced, and dynamic partnership among federal, state, and local governments. The role of the federal government during economic crises is to help stimulate the national economy through fiscal measures. Without additional aid to states to compensate for drastically reduced revenue, the federal government would be eschewing its critical role and force states to cut citizen services that are more necessary than ever and prolong economic recovery from the pandemic.

Revised State Fiscal Year 2021 Revenue Declines AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MA MD MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VA WA WV WI WY VT ID PR AS GU MP VI

Percentage Decline

 < 5%

6-10%

11-15%

16-20%

 > 20%

 

Infrastructure

NCSL CONTACTS:

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Digital Divide and Broadband

Issue Description

States recognize more than ever the need to close the digital divide and provide reliable, affordable connectivity to all constituents. Especially as reliance on remote work, learning, and healthcare has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to the success of our economy and schools that rural and urban communities have access to the internet. NCSL closely tracks broadband legislation in the states, and in 2020, 33 states enacted legislation or adopted resolutions in areas such as  educational institutions, “dig once” programs, broadband funding, governance authorities and commissions, municipal-run broadband networks, rural and underserved communities, smart communities, and taxes. All 50 states have created state broadband task forces, authorities, or commissions to coordinate broadband expansion. Some states have created programs to identify underserved and unserved areas through online public mapping websites, while others have established task forces to provide input on the development of a statewide broadband framework and promote public-private sector participation. As more states develop Statewide Broadband Strategies, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have an opportunity to identify gaps in access and provide states with the tools they need to serve their unique constituencies.

NCSL Position

NCSL supports the expansion of innovative technologies and competitive access to high-speed internet. NCSL’s policies on telecommunications demonstrate our commitment to working collaboratively with the federal government to ensure everyone has access, no matter where they live or economic status. States are dedicated to finding new ways to close the digital divide as parents and workers face unprecedented connectivity challenges, and those efforts require regulatory flexibility and consistent funding for state broadband programs. NCSL also recognizes that broadband access is critical to empowering minority and minority women entrepreneurs to develop, grow and improve productivity of their businesses as well as strengthening our nation’s competitiveness worldwide. NCSL urges Congress to work with states in developing an integrated broadband strategy to ensure universal deployment, including mapping and deployment models.

Our policy also supports a periodic examination of current and future radio frequency spectrum needs and uses and supports management reforms to improve the current allocation and assignment process. NCSL encourages consultation with states when considering changes to spectrum allocation and recommends delaying proposals that would reallocate spectrum currently reserved for state, local, public utility, and state transportation and safety purposes without examining the impact on state users.

2020 Broadband map

NCSL CONTACTS:

Ben Husch, federal affairs counsel

Kristen Hildreth, senior policy specialist

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Transportation Infrastructure

Issue Description

The federal government plays a vital role in supporting a national transportation system that facilitates interstate commerce, addresses fairly and equally the mobility needs of all Americans, and meets national defense requirements. 

At this pivotal time, we have the opportunity to put forward a new vision to guide our transportation beyond the Interstate Highway era into the 21st century and the needs and challenges that lie ahead. Your administration, together with Congress and states must look at transportation infrastructure anew, authorizing and fully funding programs that better meet current and future needs for interstate mobility.

NCSL Position

A national vision for transportation should consider the following objectives:

  • Interstate commerce and freight mobility,
  • Interstate movement of people,
  • National defense and homeland security,
  • Safety,
  • Environmental and air quality preservation and improvements,
  • Research and innovation.
  • Economic productivity.

Though federal programs and funds should be focused on the above goals, these same programs should avoid preempting or interfering with state-specific transportation priorities.

Highways and Transit

NCSL supports the continuation and preservation of a federal-aid surface transportation program. The federal program should direct spending to national priorities while allowing for state and insular area flexibility in local and regional variations. This program should also prioritize formula-based funding which allows federal funds to be distributed through a predictable and stable manner, allowing for efficient project and multi-year program delivery wherein transportation needs and projects are identified by states, metropolitan planning organizations and local elected officials for funding prioritization. Additionally, traffic safety programs should be expanded to incorporate emerging safety issues while respecting state sovereignty.

Rail: Viable passenger and freight railroad systems are essential to achieving a balanced intermodal transportation system and ensuring personal mobility, the free flow of commerce and national security. Rail must have the same financial security provided the other modes of transportation, such as highways, transit, aviation and waterways. NCSL strongly supports a dedicated source of federal funding for passenger rail service.

Waterways and Ports: Recognition of the substantial benefits to the nation of the U.S. system of waterways and ports by providing access to the world’s markets and the combined efforts of all levels of government and users in sharing the cost of port and waterway development and maintenance. NCSL also supports increased investment in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to repair and modernize the existing infrastructure. 

Aviation: Aviation is a key component of a balanced transportation system and is vitally linked to regional growth and economic development efforts and is the mutual responsibility of federal, state and local governments. Given this mutual responsibility, NCSL urges Congress and the administration to actively engage state legislatures in discussions on the development and preservation of our system of airports, avoid federal mandates, preemption of state authority, and provide states maximum flexibility.

Transportation Technology: Transportation modes are on the cusp of a technological transformation with the potential to both revolutionize personal mobility and provide immeasurable safety benefits. Whether autonomous vehicles or unmanned aerial systems (drones), federal, state and local governments must work together to ensure a successful deployment of these and other transportation technologies. NCSL looks forward to working with your administration and Congress to clearly define state and federal roles as well as avoid unnecessary federal preemption.

Education

NCSL CONTACTS:

Austin Reid, Education Committee director

Jocelyn Salguero, policy associate

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K-12 Education

Issue Description

Elementary and secondary education is a primary concern for state legislators. On average, states spend nearly one-third of their budgets on K-12 education. In recent years, states had been steadily increasing spending on K-12 education with many states offering pay raises for teachers. However, the pandemic threatens to erase those spending increases at a time when schools face increased operational costs. While the state budget outlook continues to evolve, states are doing their best to maintain spending on K-12 education and are drawing from rainy day funds and employing one-time budgetary maneuvers to stave off undesirable cuts. As the pandemic continues to suppress economic activity and state tax revenues, maintaining previous spending levels of K-12 education could become increasingly more difficult. A handful of states were forced to make cuts in fiscal year 2020 and legislators are concerned lower tax revenues may force further cuts in FY 2021 and beyond.

NCSL Tracker: State Actions to Close Budget Shortfalls in Response to COVID-19

As schools continue to educate through varying modes of instruction, state legislators are concerned that inadequate resources for online learning and lessened academic supports for low-income students and students with disabilities will lead to significant learning loss. State legislators are focused on learning the latest best practices for keeping students and teachers safe and how to support students’ social and emotional development. Legislators are also grappling with declines in public school enrollment and thinking through what meaningful assessment and accountability should look like during these disrupted school years.

NCSL Position

State legislators believe the federal role should be as a supportive partner rather than play an intrusive, top-down role. States are inherently more capable than the federal government of moving quickly to initiate or change policies, can be more sensitive to public needs and can generate broader buy-in for policy changes from local school districts. The policies and activities associated with federal education programs, regardless of federal funding levels, should be encouraged and not mandated.

NCSL asks the federal government to provide state flexibility to implement and administer new block grants and to distribute competitive grants through a transparent and consistent process. New funding must encourage state innovation, respect state laws and avoid inappropriate federal preemption. Funding should also respect state budget processes. Federal funds should be incorporated into state budget processes for open hearings and deliberations. Federal funding going directly to state or sub-state bureaucracies or agencies should not bypass state legislative appropriations and oversight procedures. New programs should maximize state flexibility to implement and administer through a streamlined waiver process. This is critical to ensure states are not unduly burdened by federal regulation or legislation.

NCSL strongly urges Congress to appropriate the moneys to fully fund the 40 percent of average per pupil expenditures (APPE) statutorily authorized in Part B of IDEA.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Austin Reid, Education Committee director

Jocelyn Salguero, policy associate

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Higher Education

Issue Description

State legislators are increasingly concerned with the cost of postsecondary education and the rising student debt burden. In recent years, states had been steadily increasing spending on higher education and investing in strategies to lower college costs. College Promise programs have expanded nationwide to include more than 350 local and state programs spread across 44 states. However, the current economic downturn has challenged state spending on higher education. Governors in several states have trimmed higher education funding to balance their budgets in FY20 and at least a dozen states have already reduced funding for FY21.

With record levels of debt, states are looking for ways to help student loan borrowers. In 2020, 31 states have introduced 108 bills related to student loan forgiveness. These loan forgiveness or repayment programs aim to help borrowers reduce their debt while offering incentives for recent graduates to live, work and stay in their states. Other states have adopted additional consumer protections to strengthen student loan servicing oversight. Since 2015, 13 states have passed legislation to expand student loan oversight and legislative interest in this issue continues to grow. In recent legislative sessions, states have imposed new regulatory guidelines and created protections designed to help borrowers understand their repayment options and navigate the loan servicing process. 

NCSL Position

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act  offers another opportunity to renew this country’s commitment to accessible and affordable postsecondary education. Reauthorization efforts directing federal aid to students who need it most and helping them quickly become productive members in their communities without substantial debt will help local, state, and national economies. If federal aid is limited, there are fiscal impacts for state-funded efforts to support students. The federal government should ensure adequate federal funding for the Pell Grant program to help reduce dependency on student loans. The nation's legislators also support federal programs that complement state efforts to improve student participation in and completion of postsecondary education.

As states continue to prioritize and address competing public needs, federal policy must acknowledge this reality by noting the difficulties states face in satisfying maintenance of effort requirements for important postsecondary programs. Federal policy should continue to defer to state authority in regulating postsecondary tuition levels and states’ leadership in ensuring the quality of postsecondary education.

student loan oversight map

NCSL CONTACTS:

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Digital Divide and Broadband

Issue Description

States recognize more than ever the need to close the digital divide and provide reliable, affordable connectivity to all constituents. Especially as reliance on remote work, learning, and healthcare has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to the success of our economy and schools that rural and urban communities have access to the internet. NCSL closely tracks broadband legislation in the states, and in 2020, 33 states enacted legislation or adopted resolutions in areas such as  educational institutions, “dig once” programs, broadband funding, governance authorities and commissions, municipal-run broadband networks, rural and underserved communities, smart communities, and taxes. All 50 states have created state broadband task forces, authorities, or commissions to coordinate broadband expansion. Some states have created programs to identify underserved and unserved areas through online public mapping websites, while others have established task forces to provide input on the development of a statewide broadband framework and promote public-private sector participation. As more states develop Statewide Broadband Strategies, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have an opportunity to identify gaps in access and provide states with the tools they need to serve their unique constituencies.

NCSL Position

NCSL supports the expansion of innovative technologies and competitive access to high-speed internet. NCSL’s policies on telecommunications demonstrate our commitment to working collaboratively with the federal government to ensure everyone has access, no matter where they live or economic status. States are dedicated to finding new ways to close the digital divide as parents and workers face unprecedented connectivity challenges, and those efforts require regulatory flexibility and consistent funding for state broadband programs. NCSL also recognizes that broadband access is critical to empowering minority and minority women entrepreneurs to develop, grow and improve productivity of their businesses as well as strengthening our nation’s competitiveness worldwide. NCSL urges Congress to work with states in developing an integrated broadband strategy to ensure universal deployment, including mapping and deployment models.

Our policy also supports a periodic examination of current and future radio frequency spectrum needs and uses and supports management reforms to improve the current allocation and assignment process. NCSL encourages consultation with states when considering changes to spectrum allocation and recommends delaying proposals that would reallocate spectrum currently reserved for state, local, public utility, and state transportation and safety purposes without examining the impact on state users.

Health and Human Services

NCSL CONTACTS:

Haley Nicholson, senior policy director

Margaret Wile, policy director

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Public Health and Health Care Access

Issue Description

Public health and health care access is an ongoing priority for state legislators. While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted health care gaps, our members have been engaged in these issues long before the pandemic. State legislators are working to establish more efficient communications between themselves and state public health departments to address emergencies and to better understand how to use public health data that can help inform programming in their states. States are the laboratories of change, while federal health care access processes can move more slowly. Any changes to the U.S. healthcare system must consider the time, resources and staffing in states, and engage state legislatures. NCSL urges the administration to consider the following policy areas.

NCSL Position

Public Health Priorities:

  • Recognize the important role that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide to states in surveilling infectious disease, disease prevention and control strategies, accessing public health data, and helping detect new and emerging diseases. Encourage federal partners’ continued support through grants and cooperative agreements, and research and technical assistance, as they are important to the stabilization and operation of the national, state and local public health infrastructure. 
  • Support public health education initiatives that are culturally sensitive and age appropriate and have identified communities that have special health care concerns. 
  • Promote and support preventive health screenings and check-ups for adults and children with insurers and other third-party payers including Medicare and Medicaid. 
  • Support efforts to increase the overall number of children and adults that receive recommended immunizations and ways to administer in alternative sites that are accessible and cost effective. Ensure sufficient funding to maintain a reasonable stockpile.
  • Provide states and territories with stable, flexible funding to build and maintain an infrastructure that can prepare and respond to public health emergencies. 

Health Care Access:

  • Ensure that the underlying goal of the Medicaid program be to achieve mutually agreed upon goals, improved outcomes for patients, flexibility in administration of programs, and savings for states, territories and local governments, while supporting accountability and transparency.
  • Consult with state and territory legislatures as new Medicaid initiatives are being developed and ensure that states are given  sufficient  time to review and implement new changes while cautioning against uniform proposals and changes. 
  • Avoid proposals that expand the preemption of state laws and regulations beyond those already established in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or exempt any insurer or entity from state health insurance standards and laws. States must maintain their authority to regulate health insurance plans and provide oversight.
  • Ensure that federal implementation of health reforms requiring state action to comply provide a reasonable amount of time for state legislatures to debate and enact any necessary laws. In  cases where states have similar legislation in place, a process for declaring “substantial compliance” should also be developed.
  • Recognize that not all state legislative sessions are on a year-round basis and be sensitive to schedules and resources when making changes to Medicaid programs.

NCSL’s public health and health care access policies have full details.

immunization map

NCSL CONTACTS:

Haley Nicholson, senior policy director

Margaret Wile, policy director

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Health Disparities

Issue Description

Over the past several years state legislators have increasingly discussed racial disparities in health and human services policies and programs. The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impacts on communities of color has more acutely brought these disparities to light. For states to address this work in a sustainable and impactful way they need to shape racial equity and disparity work in a way that fits their communities' unique needs. State legislators have stand ready to share examples of  state legislation, public and private partnerships in their communities and best practices for addressing racial disparities in Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs. 

Health Disparities:

  • Ensure that HHS and its offices, institutes and centers that focus on health disparities work with NCSL and state policymakers to reduce and eliminate health disparities by: identifying social determinants which can lead to health disparities; adopting the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (CLAS Standards); and developing standards for the collection and report on relevant data.
  • Ensure health disparities data includes: race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, disability status, geography and other characteristics identified by the secretary of HHS for federally-funded health and human services programs to better analyze and monitor health disparity trends and develop well-rounded practices and programs that will help eliminate disparities.
  • Support federal funding to assist states in improving services to underserved areas by addressing health profession shortages including: developing additional ways to recruit and retain minority participants and health care professionals, supporting health professionals specifically trained in culturally diverse community-based systems of care, improve training to encompass cultural competency including geographic and regional differences, and increase emphasis on public/private partnerships including with faith-based institutions to enhance community involvement among other initiatives.

Human Services Disparities:

  • Provide states with flexibility in human services programs like the Transitional Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to make strategic policy decisions and design programs according to their communities’ specific needs including engaging in efforts toward self-sufficiency. 
  • Support regulations that authorize states to deem compliant individuals with disabilities who may fail to meet the TANF work threshold and other relevant human services programs.
  • Support efforts to minimize “benefits cliffs” or the “cliff effect.” Work with states to find timely solutions that would remove barriers for individuals to enter or remain in the workforce and increase their household income. This includes how states and our federal partners can better align TANF, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child care and Medicaid as work supports to mitigate benefit cliffs and increase family financial security.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Haley Nicholson, senior policy director

Margaret Wile, policy director

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Early Childhood and Child Welfare

Issue Description:

The health and welfare of children and their families continues to be a focus for many state legislators, particularly in the areas of early childhood education, child welfare and maternal and child health. State legislators recognize the importance of continued involvement in early childhood education with respect to funding opportunities and evidence-based programing including home visiting programs, access to affordable and quality childcare, and programing to improve family engagement. The Family First Prevention Services Act also referred to as “Family First” fundamentally changed the child welfare system, and legislators continue to work on implementing the new federal law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, implementation of Family First has posed numerous challenges for states. State legislators seek to work with federal partners to identify solutions to these new challenges. Finally, in recent years NCSL’s  members have had a special focus on the intersection between racial disparities and maternal and infant mortality and morbidity as they relate to federal funding and programing that can work towards reducing disparities and improving health outcomes for both the child and the family.

NCSL Early Care and Education 2019 State Legislative Action Report

NCSL Position:

Child Welfare:

  • Supports federal efforts that prevent child abuse, neglect or exploitation, establish a system of family support services, permit children to remain in their own homes or return to them whenever it is safe and appropriate or promote kinship and guardianship placements when it is not, and promote safety, permanency, and well-being for children in a range of foster care alternatives or with adoptive families, and provide programming to ensure educational stability for foster care children.
  • Supports federal efforts to improve judicial processes in child welfare cases and to support state efforts to sustain the integrity and efficiency of these efforts through interagency training, budgeting, planning, and conflict resolution as well as integrated data systems.
  • Encourage federal efforts to develop the supply and quality of the child welfare workforce, including funding for training, student loan forgiveness, and funding to states to improve staff training and reduce caseloads. 
  • Support federal efforts to develop a national information system to track data on families in the child welfare system and to solicit critical child welfare data, including outcomes for children and the impact of problems such as substance abuse and the effectiveness of treatment options.
  • Supports the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and urges that it be fully funded to assist states to respond to increased incidents of abuse and neglect.

Maternal and Child Health and Early Care and Education:

  • Supports the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) block grant and urges Congress to continue to provide adequate funding. We oppose any efforts to transfer program responsibilities to the MCH block grant without the funding to accompany it, thereby reducing the funding available to functions currently funded through the block grant.
  • Urges continued financial support for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and to provide state flexibility in the administration of the program based on needs assessments that identify community and family vulnerabilities.
  • Supports full funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant Fund (CCDBG) program.  NCSL opposes restrictive Child Care and Development fund regulations that restrain state autonomy in directing the use of funds, and proposed changes to the CCDBG that include additional mandates.
  • Supports childcare as a legitimate use of the Federal Transitional Assistance for Needy Families block grant and state Maintenance of Effort funds. NCSL supports families having a reliable source of childcare support while they look for another job rather than offering an incentive for them to return to cash assistance.

NCSL CONTACTS:

Haley Nicholson, senior policy director

Margaret Wile, policy director

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Behavioral Health

Issue Description

State legislators continue to have a strong focus on behavioral health, the umbrella term for both mental health and substance use disorders. And while many states have struggled to address the opioid epidemic, the crisis with other substances also continues. Legislatures across the country are enacting legislation to increase access to treatment through telehealth services, expand behavioral health treatment in correctional facilities, and respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on behavioral health issues for children and adults. With the wide-ranging experiences and challenges, our members continue to advocate for approaches to behavioral health policy that are holistic.

NCSL Position:

NCSL supports federal legislation, funding and programing that would:

  • Provide block grants to states with flexibility to address the most pressing behavioral health issues in their states.
  • Encourage federal proposals that supports states working to further integrate behavioral health and primary care services.
  • Promote providers to work easily together in this model.
  • Remove the unnecessary barriers created by 42 CFR Part 2 by allowing providers to communicate with one another.
  • Reduce the stigma associated behavioral health and treat those conditions in a holistic and integrated way.

behavioral health

Justice

NCSL CONTACTS:

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel 

Lucia Bragg, senior policy specialist

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Criminal Justice

Issue Description

State legislatures support a balanced and dynamic criminal justice partnership between governments at the local, state and federal levels while preserving traditional areas of state authority in this area of the law. State legislatures generally support mandate-free federal funding streams to help advance state criminal justice reforms – such as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) grant program, the Second Chance Act grant program, the State Criminal Alien Assistance state reimbursement program (SCAAP), the Violence Against Women grant programs (VAWA),  and the Community Oriented Policing Services grant programs (COPS).

NCSL Position

Policing Reform: State legislatures support the full funding of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Act, relieving the strain on state budgets to provide adequate and effective law enforcement personnel. Since the George Floyd protests, states have passed myriad bills addressing reforms to the use of force/chokeholds, duty to intervene, independent investigations/prosecution, certification and training, body cameras, alternative responses and officer wellness.

As Congress and the administration continue to negotiate policing solutions on the federal level, it is critical to avoid pre-empting the swift progress state legislatures have already made and focus on areas where interstate coordination is needed – like police personnel background databases.

Reentry: It is critical to eliminate barriers to successful reentry for formerly incarcerated populations. NCSL supports federal leadership and funding for state criminal offender reentry initiatives and criminal justice reinvestment approaches. State and local governments must be afforded maximum flexibility in using federal funds within criminal justice systems in such areas as drug treatment, mental health services, educational opportunities, job training, improved access to public assistance such as SNAP, Pell grants, and housing support. State legislatures support full funding of the Second Chance Act, supporting states to promote successful reintegration of individuals who have been incarcerated 

Drug Control: State legislatures support a strong intergovernmental partnership to fight the illegal use of drugs and asks that development of broad federal drug control strategies include state and local consultation without federal mandates. NCSL encourages the federal government to take a proactive role in securing United States borders against importation of illicit drugs; and in detection and deterrence of interstate drug trafficking, including cooperation with state and local law enforcement. While money for law enforcement is critical, federal dollars must also help support diversion, treatment and prevention efforts, including but not limited to interdisciplinary drug court funding unaccompanied by testing or other mandates. State legislatures support federal demonstration, funding and training roles that assist states in implementation and use of modern information systems that aid in detection and prevention of drug abuse, and for remediation of sites that have been used in illegal drug manufacture.

criminal justice

NCSL CONTACTS:

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel

Lucia Bragg, senior policy specialist

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Elections

Issue Description

Election administration is a critical issue for state legislators. Since the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, states have enacted myriad legislation aimed at making elections easier and more streamlined for voters and election administrators with the goal of making every vote count. Federal law affords states with opportunities to craft election procedures and policies tailored to each state’s unique needs. As the national debate on election issues continue, any federally mandated changes in election processes necessarily will impact state elections. Civil rights issues as they pertain to voting are also vitally important to state legislators and cannot be divorced from fair elections. The last two years illustrate the importance of elections administration to states. In 2019, state legislatures considered nearly 3,000 elections bills with an emphasis on voter registration enacting 367 of them. In 2020 states are on track to exceed that number with a particular focus on absentee voting and vote by mail. The sheer number of bills show that states are actively reforming elections processes, and it is critical that the federal government work in partnership with states in this arena, ensuring that any federal funding or policies avoid burdensome mandates or state law preemptions.

NCSL Position

NCSL reaffirms its commitment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and all other civil rights legislation that ensures a person’s right to vote. Given the states’ responsibility to conduct fair and accurate elections, NCSL maintains that it must be an equal partner with Congress or any federal agency or commission charged with regulating or establishing elections guidelines because even minor changes to federal election laws and policy will impact states in varying degrees. Federal action must not curtail state innovation and must afford a reasonable timeframe for implementation. Given bad actors’ efforts to probe state elections systems, NCSL urges Congress and the administration to partner with states on cybersecurity to ensure elections remain fair, accurate, and free from foreign interference. NCSL opposes any federally mandated elections standards that are either not accompanied by sufficient federal funding, preempt state law, or mandate burdensome requirements. Specifically, NCSL supports federal assistance to states for:

  • Improving the accuracy and security of election procedures and vote counts,
  • Improving election technology, systems and ballot design.
  • Facilitating states’ processes for voter registration, verification and maintenance of voter rolls.
  • Educating citizens on representative democracy and election processes and systems.
  • Providing greater access to states’ voter registration programs and polling places especially for rural and disabled voters. Providing training and education opportunities for elections personnel.

Immigration

NCSL CONTACTS:

Susan Parnas Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel

Ann Morse, federal affairs counsel

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Issue Description

Immigration Reform is a top priority for state legislators. While immigration policy is a federal responsibility, an unprecedented level of activity in state legislatures has occurred on this issue, especially in the absence of a federal solution. State legislators deeply care about immigration reform in this country and in a bipartisan fashion call on the federal government to create legislation that will enhance our border security while also addressing the inequities in our current system and assist states with the impact of immigrants. Federal policy should preserve the safety and security of our nation and encourage economic strength of our states.

NCSL Position

NCSL supports comprehensive immigration reform that enhances our border security and addresses the inequities in our current immigration system. NCSL’s immigration reform policy focuses on immigrants after arrival and impacts on state funding and programs. NCSL supports coordination and consultation with federal counterparts and provision of federal resources for immigrants allowed into the U.S. to assure their integration into the economic, social, and civic life of their adopted communities. Our policy supports the refugee program and funding for services to support health, education and job training, as well as protection for victims of trafficking, victims of domestic violence and unaccompanied minors. NCSL supports naturalization and integration services including state impact grants to underwrite costs of health, education, and English language acquisition.

NCSL created its Task Force on Immigration and the States to examine both the state and federal roles in immigration reform, craft NCSL policy, and examine state impacts.  State legislators have enacted laws related to immigrants in a range of policy arenas, including education, health, employment and law enforcement. In 2019, 181 immigration-related laws were enacted. The most recent trend is legislation addressing credentialing and occupational licensing for foreign-trained professionals.

It is NCSL’s position that federal immigration policy must strike a balance among core principles of our democracy: preserving the safety and security of our nation, encouraging the economic strength of our states and communities, and recognizing our history as a nation of immigrants. To be effective, balanced, and fair, comprehensive reform should not contain unfunded mandates or preempt areas of existing state authority.  It should require true collaboration between state and federal government.  Finally, comprehensive immigration reform must address the impact of immigration on the states.

Labor and Economic Development

NCSL CONTACTS:

Jon Jukuri, federal affairs counsel

Michael Quillen, policy associate

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Labor and Workforce Development

Issue Description

Federal and state governments must continue their partnership to ensure workers are protected on the job, address unemployment and retirement issues, and to provide assistance to employers so they can comply with federal and state employment and labor laws.  

Due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, states continue to experience severe stress and adversity in their efforts to pay out unemployment benefits. As a result, several states have taken out federal loans for their UI Trust Funds, and at least 15 others have used Coronavirus relief funds from the CARES Act passed in March 2020 to boost their UI Trust Funds. 

NCSL recognizes federal lawmakers’ obligations to implement measures to protect the rights and needs of employers and workers. It is therefore critical that when the federal government requires states to implement these federal laws, it must ensure adequate federal funding for such initiatives, both for states’ administrative and benefits costs. 

NCSL Position

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reauthorization & Funding

To train and maintain a highly skilled workforce NCSL supports the reauthorization of WIOA without restrictive federal mandates that would deny states the flexibility and discretion they need to meet WIOA’s broad goals .This flexibility extends to state use of WIOA funds. In addition, workforce development reporting should be streamlined to promote program and administrative efficiencies. NCSL believes administrative and technological funding for American Jobs Centers (AJC’s) should be central to WIOA appropriation and reauthorization. 

The Federal Role in Career and Technical Education (CTE)

NCSL urges the administration to support additional CTE funding and the authority of state flexibility to allocate some funds through a competitive state-administered grant that would support innovative, high quality and effective programs. NCSL believes state-administered CTE competitive grant programs should be sufficiently funded and used to incentivize and modernize state and local programs to meet students’ evolving needs. States should continue to have the authority to determine the split between secondary and postsecondary CTE programs.

Leave Benefits

NCSL supports the federalism structure regarding federal and state workplace leave benefits. The administration and congress should ensure that any new federal laws or regulations do not unduly burden the states with unfunded mandates. 

Unemployment Insurance

The basic unemployment insurance (UI) program is a well-established federal-state partnership. NCSL opposes federal laws or regulations that would create new and unnecessary barriers to the receipt of state UI benefits. NCSL supports the following:

  • Adequate federal funding for state UI administrative costs, including the processing of UI claims.
  • Job search assistance and reemployment programs. 
  • Federal funding to state UI programs to ensure adequate income support for the unemployed.
  • Payroll taxes in dedicated UI trust funds continue to be used solely for payment of unemployment compensation, as required by federal law.

States should retain their broad authority under existing federal UI guidelines to define labor market attachment eligibility rules, benefit levels and disqualification penalties for separations other than layoffs. NCSL supports extensions and more effective triggers for the federal-state Extended Benefits program when unemployment rates are high and to improve its responsiveness during periods of high unemployment. NCSL also supports continued reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program when unemployment is high.

State CRF, UI Trust Fund and Federal Loans Data

NCSL is committed to providing the most comprehensive and encompassing resources to our members. As such, we have been tracking state actions on appropriating Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) into respective state UI trust funds as well as monitoring which states have taken out federal loans. Currently 15 states are utilizing CRF for their state’s UI trust funds.

Eighteen have taken out federal loans for their UI trust funds and three more states—Florida, Louisiana and Virginia—have been approved for UI loans, and/or might plan to do so (21 total).

Resources

NCSL CONTACTS:

Jon Jukuri, federal affairs counsel

Michael Quillen, policy associate

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Military, Veterans and National Guard

Issue Description

State legislators across the country continue to examine issues affecting military-community relations and the health and well-being of service members, veterans and their families. This includes: development near military installations; military-community partnerships to respond to mission change; veteran hiring, licensing and procurement preferences; mental health, substance abuse and family relationships facing returning veterans; and benefits for military personnel, veterans and their dependents.

NCSL has a Military and Veterans State Legislation Database that tracks bills in the 50 states, District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. NCSL has written extensively on veteran homelessness.

NCSL Position

Benefits: NCSL supports maintaining VA funding of benefits for veterans. NCSL urges Congress to provide funding to streamline the VA processes for securing all benefits in a timely manner for those veterans returning home from deployment, including appropriate health care for physical injuries and psychological wounds.

Federal Impact Aid: NCSL supports Federal Impact Aid to help off-set the loss of tax revenue and supports continued funding of the program.

Federal Funding Cuts and Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC):  NCSL supports federal grant incentives for community involvement during the re-development of bases.

Employment of Veterans: NCSL urges the federal government to continue its partnership with states to assist veterans in their transition from military service to the civilian workforce.  NCSL supports Small Business Administration programs that help veteran-owned businesses and encourages federal assistance, including training and tax credits, for employers who hire veterans into their workforce.

Educational Assistance and GI Bill: NCSL urges Congress to fund, as authorized, all programs associated with educational opportunities for returning veterans to have those benefits equivalent to the GI Bill of previous years.

Preserve the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the Air National Guard (ANG): NCSL recognizes that the Guards are vital tools for helping states manage and respond to emergencies and natural disasters at home and abroad. NCSL urges the federal government to maintain current funding levels for the ARNG. NCSL opposes any effort to preempt domestic control of the ARNG from state authority. Services being provided to our veterans should also include members of the ARNG. NCSL supports equipment return, replacement, and upgrade to address destroyed material left abroad during deployment. Any review of the Army structure, including the role of the ARNG, must include input from state policy makers. 

Service Dogs for Veterans: NCSL supports federal policies that promote the use of service animals. 

Compact of Free Association: NCSL urges Congress and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to work together to develop a program or pass legislation to provide veterans from Compact of Free Association nations with access to high-quality medical care within their respective communities.  

NCSL CONTACTS:

Jon Jukuri, federal affairs counsel

Michael Quillen, policy associate

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Housing

Issue Description

Housing is a top priority for state legislators and they recognize that the lack of affordable housing is a serious national concern. Adequate and affordable housing are necessary ingredients for community, education, workforce and economic development. State legislators support the integration and coordination of public and private resources to make effective, affordable housing services available as a means of preventing homelessness, encouraging self-sufficiency, and promoting economic opportunity and homeownership. NCSL maintains that the best and most comprehensive way to address our nation’s housing crisis is to bring state policymakers and other relevant stakeholders to the table to discuss solutions. State legislatures enacted close to 158 laws in 2019―and 124 so far in 2020―addressing housing.

NCSL Position

NCSL encourages Congress and the administration to support flexibility and state discretion in housing programs and avoid unfunded mandates. NCSL supports efforts that promote a greater state role in administering federal housing programs, subject to sufficient funding and flexibility. More specifically, NCSL supports:

  • Public-private partnership programs and initiatives that increase the availability of financing for homeownership opportunities.
  • First-time home buyer tax credits to promote homeownership prospects.
  • Preserving the Mortgage Interest Deduction, and low-income housing tax credits that produce new, affordable housing. 

NCSL also urges the federal government to consult state legislators and other state officials as voucher program reforms are designed to ensure they will meet state needs, provide the flexibility we desire, avoid cost shifts to states, and continue with ample federal funding for program and administrative costs. Finally, we urge Congress to sustain funding levels sufficient to maintain existing vouchers, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) programs, and already committed project-based Section 8 subsidies. 

NCSL has established a Housing and Homelessness Legislation database that tracks bills in the 50 states, District of Columbia and the U.S. territories.

Environment and Energy

NCSL CONTACTS:

Kristen Hildreth, senior policy specialist 

Ben Husch, federal affairs counsel

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Environment

Issue Description

State governments play an indispensable role in our nation’s effort to protect natural resources and ensure the protection of our environment. From New York to Wyoming, state legislators have enacted legislation to enhance protection and conservation of our nation’s waters, ensured their citizens are safeguarded from both environmental and chemical health hazards, and developed new, innovative ways to address waste. States continue to demonstrate their commitment to the protection of the environment, and must maintain the independent authority to adopt laws, regulations and policies which are at least as stringent as federal laws, regulations and polices.  

NCSL Position

NCSL urges the federal government to renew its commitment to a state-federal partnership for environmental protection. As outlined in NCSL’s Environmental Federalism policy, your administration must return to a stricter and stronger regulatory structure that prioritizes state flexibility to meet minimum federal standards while maintaining authority to enact more stringent standards as standards set in Washington do not always accurately reflect the needs of individual states. A singular universal approach to environmental protection and management does not consider the unique challenges states face. We urge an enhancement to present levels of funding for natural resources and environmental protection efforts. Further, NCSL strongly opposes the creation of new unfunded mandates.  

Should your administration seek to promulgate a new rule, or impose new mandated requirements, federal agencies should, at a minimum, maintain strong compliance with the consultation requirements of EO 13132 by undertaking early, meaningful and substantive discussions with states and their respective national organizations. Additionally, states must receive adequate and timely federal financial and technical assistance, as requested, to account for any additional responsibilities placed on them by the federal government.  

In addition to these guiding and overarching principles, some specific and timely issues that stand at the top of NCSL’s environmental portfolio include:  

Clean Air Act Section 209: In 2019, under the One National Program rule, EPA formally revoked California’s waiver. NCSL strongly opposed the decision and favors a return to the stricter and stronger approach outlined in the Clean Air Act.  

Clean Water Act Section 401: Historically, Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) provided states and tribes authority to review and approve, condition, or deny any required federal permits or licenses for projects that would discharge pollutants into a WOTUS. EPA’s 2020 revisions to the implementation of Section 401 placed significant new and unprecedented limits on state authority. NCSL urges your administration to revoke such changes to Section 401 and reinstate proper state authority as provided in the Clean Water Act.  

Water Infrastructure Funding: State governments depend on the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, an integral state-federal partnership, to ensure a wide range of critical water infrastructure projects. We urge your administration to support increased federal investments in such programs, especially in these times of increasingly tight state budgets.  

Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: An increasing number of states are establishing their own maximum containment levels for PFAS, often more stringent than those of EPA’s current, non-enforceable, health advisory level. Should your administration undertake a new federal standard, NCSL urges early, meaningful, and substantial state involvement in such discussions. The voices of state expertise and experience must be acknowledged, and we urge the federal government to work regularly and directly with state legislative and regulatory arms. 

GHG Reduction Strategy: Should your administration decide to institute a national program to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, NCSL urges the federal government to consult with state elected officials and their national representative organization. Any federal program should provide states the authority and flexibility to work within an overall framework; to apply program effectively to all sources of emissions and ensure achievement of the program’s goals in the most cost effective, timely and efficient manner for each state. The federal government must also authorize and appropriate funding and other incentives to spur expanded research and development (R&D) into reducing GHG emissions. 

NCSL CONTACTS:

Ben Husch, federal affairs counsel 

Kristen Hildreth, senior policy specialist

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Energy

Issue Description

Our nation stands on the precipice of a wholesale change in how we produce and consume energy and how to nbsp; ensure the safety and reliability of this system. This is reflected in both the variety and quantity of legislation introduced and enacted across the nation. In 2019, state lawmakers considered over 3,500 energy-related measures—a sizable increase compared to 2018—and enacted over 500 new laws ranging from clean energy mandates, grid modernization, energy efficiency requirements, electric vehicles, energy storage, and workforce development. This trend has continued in 2020 even with many states focused on the impact of COVID-19.

NCSL Position

As states take action to address the evolving energy landscape, NCSL urges the federal government to continue working cooperatively with state governments to develop, implement and maintain an expansive, integrated, environmentally sensitive and cost-effective national energy policy. This should include, at a minimum, close consultation with state legislatures, devising mechanisms to bring state legislatures into the federal energy decision-making process as full participants on a continuing basis and ensuring the inclusion of representatives of the legislative branch of state government in all state-federal working groups dealing with energy policy.

Provisions of such a national policy, should include but not be limited to:

  • Avoidance of mandates, particularly unfunded mandates, and preemptive federal laws and rulemakings along with active participation of state and local officials in the development and implementation of a national energy plan and strategy.
  • Promotion of energy efficiency in a variety of ways including both setting and strengthening policies as technologies improve while recognizing the significance of economic costs on various segments of the population including rural areas. Federal leadership in the purchase and use of new energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and products should be expanded and supports federal incentives for consumers to purchase energy efficient products. 
  • Use of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for automobiles and light duty trucks, energy efficiency provisions in model building codes, "Whole Building" and life cycle costing approaches to construction and retrofitting, and a national transportation policy that emphasizes various modes of transportation, including passenger rail and transit
  • Recognition of a spectrum of renewable energy resources combined with federal support for their development from research through demonstration and commercialization in a cooperative effort among industry, higher education, and national laboratories.
  • Acknowledging that nuclear energy generates an essential share of the nation’s clean, non-emitting, zero carbon baseload electricity.
  • Ensure a robust national transmission system that can support new technology and allow for additional power production to be brought onto the grid.

Specific actions we urge your administration to take within its first 100 days: 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently finalized the imposition of a Minimum Price Offer Rule on those states with PJM Interconnection that undermines state policies intended to promote a certain energy mix by specifically targeting any resource states have sought to incentivize through legislation. In effect, the order challenges states’ rights to determine their energy mix, which is spelled out in Section 201 of the Federal Power Act. We urge a revocation of this rule.

Energy efficiency standards for appliances, equipment, and lighting protect consumers, are a cost-effective means to reduce energy and water waste, lower utility bills and decrease pollutants and atmospheric emissions including greenhouse gas emissions and we urge the Department of Energy resume its statutorily required work to promulgate, review and update energy efficiency standards as directed by Congress 

NCSL Resources:

Technology

NCSL CONTACTS:

Abbie Gruwell, senior committee director

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Data Privacy

Issue Description

With the proliferation of data online, the regulation of the collection, sales, and transmission of consumer data is increasingly a priority for state and federal lawmakers. Governments and police departments have also significantly increased their adoption of emerging technologies that may affect citizen privacy. NCSL recognizes the role of the states as leaders in establishing data privacy protections for their constituents.

In response to many high-profile security breaches, consumer data privacy has become the subject of increasing regulation, most notably the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and California Consumer Privacy Act. Emerging technologies and their increased use in private industry, services, and government surveillance also require elevated privacy considerations. Congress has yet to enact any comprehensive legislation addressing data privacy. Meanwhile, state activity in the areas of data privacy and security has significantly increased and states will not hesitate to act in the absence of federal legislation.

NCSL created the Privacy Work Group within its Task Force on Cybersecurity to examine the complex issues states face when regulating data privacy. The work group will educate legislators on government and consumer data privacy issues and recommend best practices to states and the federal government.

NCSL Position

NCSL opposes blanket state preemption in federal data privacy and security legislation. However, our data privacy and security policy recognizes that because of the interstate nature of the internet and data transmission, states acknowledge the need for uniformity in the regulatory environment. Although data privacy and security legislation has traditionally followed a sector-by-sector approach, NCSL further urges Congress to consider comprehensive legislation in setting any national standard. NCSL strongly urges Congress to engage in regular and meaningful consultation of state lawmakers when considering federal privacy and security legislation. State lawmakers should be included in hearings, review of draft language, principle setting, and other Congressional activity intended to affect state regulatory regimes.

If Congress develops a national standard, NCSL strongly encourages consultation with states and recognition of state expertise in addressing the varied interests of each state’s unique constituency. In any federal legislation, NCSL urges Congress to prioritize transparency and informed privacy decisions, and to carefully consider the best method for consumer notice, disclosure, and consent. States have also engaged in significant deliberation over the applicability of consumer protections to various data types, including how to define personal data and how categories of data collectors or sellers should be regulated. NCSL supports recognition by Congress of states’ expertise on these issues and opposes any legislation that preempts state law without meaningful consideration of state priorities or established consumer protections. States should retain the right to establish their own legal rights of action, enforcement regimes and oversight authority. NCSL urges Congress to protect the right of the states to enforce data privacy provisions in any federal legislation.

NCSL also recognizes the rapidly evolving nature of data collection and urges Congress to consider biometric data, location data and technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence when considering federal legislation.