Capitol to Capitol | April 23, 2019






The District work period continues this week; Congress is scheduled to return to Washington on April 29.

Spending Caps Negotiations a Priority

Prior to the break, House Democrats agreed to an overall discretionary spending level of close to $1.3 trillion, which is about equal to fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels. “Deeming” this spending level without a formal resolution in place allows House appropriators to continue dividing up discretionary funds among the 12 subcommittees that draft the FY 2020 spending bills. A reminder that separate legislation also needs to be approved by both chambers to avoid 10% across-the-board agency cuts that will take place as mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.  Progress by the House on its spending bills will be squandered if a two-year deal raising these caps due to go into effect Oct. 1 can’t be reached. And while this process is expected to be contentious and protracted, both chambers continue to oppose absorbing the $125 billion in cuts BCA sequestration would mandate. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

White House Hosts Opportunity Zone Conference with State, Local, Tribal, and Community Leaders

Last week, the White House hosted a conference on Opportunity Zones, which included 150 state and local leaders. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, chair of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, provided an update on steps taken at HUD to support opportunity zone implementation. These actions include real-time policy analyses and reporting. A livestream of the conference may be found here.

The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Treasury released the second set of proposed regulations on April 17 for opportunity zone tax incentives. Full guidance can be found here.

NCSL Contact: Jon Jukuri, Miranda McDonald (Housing, Economic and Labor) and Erlinda Doherty (Budget, Tax and Revenue)


The Clean Water Act was vetoed by President Richard Nixon and only become law after Congress overrode the president’s veto.

EPA Updates Agency’s Position Concerning Clean Water Act Discharges to Groundwater

On April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an Interpretive Statement clarifying that the Clean Water Act excludes releases of pollutants to groundwater from the act’s federal permitting requirements, regardless of whether there is a hydrological connection between the groundwater and a “water of the United States.” For more details on EPA’s policy change and how it affects a number of federal court cases, read NCSL’s Blog.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan to be Implemented

Last week the president signed legislation to implement without delay the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, which was submitted to Congress on March 19 by Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Health Related Agency Updates

Since the beginning of the year, the Trump administration has made several announcements, released guidance documents, and proposed and finalized rules covering health-related issues. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Federal Drug Administration and Health and Human Services are working on issues including: proposed changes to prescription drug pricing, encouraging increased use of over-the-counter naloxone, and asking for feedback on the possibility of selling health insurance across state lines. More about announcements from these agencies over the past few months can be found here.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile

In a Win for States, SCOTUS Won’t Take Up Review of State ZEC Programs

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rejected a request to review the legality of state zero-emissions credit (ZEC) programs as previously enacted by both New York and Illinois. SCOTUS’ decline ends the legal case brought by electricity generators, including the Electric Power Supply Association, which argued that the states had improperly infringed on FERC's authority to govern matters that affect wholesale electricity rates by creating a large subsidy for nuclear power. Two different district court judges, as well as two different federal appeals courts, found that the states were within their legal authority. The Illinois case is Electric Power Supply Association v. Star, et al., No. 18-868 and the New York case is Electric Power Supply Association v. Rhodes, et al., No. 18-879.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth


Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has seen its share of crises, from initial construction delays to an earlier fire in the 13th century and poor renovation. During the French Revolution, revolutionaries ransacked the cathedral, beheading statues, stripping lead from the roof to make bullets, and melting down the cathedral’s bronze to make cannons. While rebuilding Notre-Dame will cost millions of dollars and take years, there is no doubt that it will return to its distinction as the jewel of medieval Gothic architecture.

USDA Publishes New Agriculture Census

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its 2017 Agriculture Census, which is conducted every five years. One of the biggest changes in this report, which covers 2012-2017, was that the survey allowed individual farms to list multiple people if they were all involved in decision making, which resulted in a seven-fold increase in the number of producers, although the number of farms declined by 3.2%. USDA defines a farm as an agricultural business with sales of $1,000 or more. Other findings include: The average age of producers rose by 1.2 years to 57.5 years old; male producers declined by 1.2 years; and female producers increased 27%. For more information, read NCSL’s Blog.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

FCC Initiative Aimed at Preparing 5G Workforce

The Federal Communications Commission has announced it intends to expand an initiative to develop accredited skills training programs at community colleges to prepare workers for careers in 5G deployment.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell

The U.S. International Trade Commission Releases Report on USMCA Economic Projections

March is National Nutrition Month.  Did you know that among the federal agencies working on nutrition issues is the Administration of Community Living (ACL)? The agency is using different initiatives to address chronic diseases that seniors face by coordinating more than 5,000 partners across the country to serve

On April 19, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) issued a report detailing economic projections following implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Projections include an increase in the U.S. GDP by $68.2 billion by its sixth year and the creation of 176,000 U.S. jobs, which would increase domestic employment by 0.12%. In response to ITC’s report, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted “these findings validate President Donald Trump’s action to withdraw from TPP and renegotiate the disastrous NAFTA.” The ITC’s full report can be found here.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

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

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health and Human Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education