Capitol to Capitol | Dec. 11, 2017

Searching for the Lost Shaker of SALT

Now that the tax reform conference committee has been formed, the difficult task of reconciling the two House and Senate bills can begin. And given the numerous differences between the two bills, the conference committee will definitely have its work cut out for it if it wants to produce a final bill that can pass both chambers.


On this day in...

1972: Apollo 17 became the sixth and last Apollo mission to land on the moon.

1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the Americans' declaration of war on the Empire of Japan in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States, in turn, declared war on them.

1816: Indiana became the 19th U.S. state.

One of the many issues that the committee must address is the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, which allows individuals to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal return. Modifying the SALT deduction has been one of the key revenue raisers in both the House and Senate tax bills, but significantly curtailing it could mean higher tax bills for millions of taxpayers, especially those in higher tax states, such as California and New York.

Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director and President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, said Friday that the administration is open to a SALT deduction change in the final bill.

However, modifying the SALT provision, such as allowing taxpayers to deduct their income taxes and/or their property taxes, would force the conference committee to find a way to pay for it.

For more about the issues the conference committee must address, read the overview in last week’s Capitol-to-Capitol



House Conferees

Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas), conference chair

Representative Peter Roskam (R-Ill.),

Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)

Representative Diane Black (R-Tenn.)

Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)

Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah)

Representative Don Young (R-Alaska)

Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill.)

Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.)

Representative Sander Levin (D-Mich.)

Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

Representative Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)


Senate Conferees

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.)

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

Senator Robert Menedez (D-N.J.)

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.)

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Mick Bullock, director of public affairs for NCSL, interviewed Max Behlke, director of budget and tax in NCSL’s State-Federal Relations Division, ahead of the NCSL Capitol Forum to discuss what to expect this week in Washington.

USDA to Give States More Flexibility in Food Stamp Administration

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) signaled that it plans to give states more flexibility over how they administer the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. SNAP is a more than $70 billion program that helps roughly 1-in-8 Americans.


President Benjamin Harrison placed the first Christmas tree in the White House in the second floor Oval Room (then used as a family parlor and library) in 1889. It was decorated with candles, toys, and other ornaments designed to impress the Harrison grandchildren.

In a Dec. 5 press release, USDA stated that it “intends to offer state agencies greater local control over SNAP, the safety net program that serves millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. Specifics on such flexibilities will be communicated to state agencies in the coming weeks.” The flexibility will potentially open the door for states to put into place stricter work requirements or drug testing of SNAP recipients. In the coming weeks, the Trump administration is also expected to allow states more flexibility to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

“SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families, but it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “As a former governor, I know first-hand how important it is for states to be given flexibility to achieve the desired goal of self-sufficiency for people. We want to provide the nutrition people need, but we also want to help them transition from government programs, back to work, and into lives of independence.”

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell

Many SCOTUS Bloggers and Scholars Seem Optimistic About New Jersey’s Chances in Christie v. NCAA

After the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Christie v. NCAA last Monday, legal experts, stakeholders, states and regulators are wondering which way the court will come down. There are plenty of opinion pieces floating around, speculating which way the justices may rule on the issue. SCOTUS bloggers and legal scholars believe that the court was, overall, sympathetic to the state of New Jersey and skeptical of the arguments put forth by the NCAA and professional sports leagues.


President Calvin Coolidge was known for his quiet demeanor, which earned him the nickname "Silent Cal." In fact, he refused to use the telephone for presidential business while in office. A man of few words, he once said, "If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it." In general, Coolidge didn’t like telephones and refused to even answer them. However, he did enjoy practical jokes, such as buzzing for his bodyguards and then hiding under his desk.

Until the court’s holding comes down next year, arguments for both sides can, and will be, touted and promoted by stakeholders and scholars. What cannot be argued, however, is the case’s importance to states—to federalism and dual sovereignty. At stake in Christie is a state’s ability to legislate without undue coercion by the federal government. It’s been well covered in the media: Christie is about sports betting at New Jersey casinos and racetracks. The court’s holding, however, could affect any policy area not expressly pre-empted by the federal government via the Supremacy Clause, nor included in its constitutionally enumerated powers.

Want to get more involved in this issue? NCSL’s Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee is hosting an educational session today at the NCSL Capitol Forum titled: The Future of Sports Betting: State Regulation? The session is slated to host constitutional, legal and gaming experts who will analyze the Christie implications including what states need to be aware of if the court strikes down PASPA in whole or in part. The session will be live-streamed on NCSL’s Facebook Live account and on the NCSL web homepage on Monday, Dec.11, from 1:30-2:45 p.m. PST.

NCSL Contacts: Ethan Wilson (PASPA); Susan Frederick (Supreme Court)

Trump Administration to Release Infrastructure Plan in January

Next month, the Trump administration is expected to release a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that the president championed on the campaign trail, albeit a little later than expected. According to an administration official, the administration will release a document of principles for upgrading the nation’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges and airports, before he gives his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30.

The plan is expected to call for $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years and will aim to incentivize at least $800 billion in spending by states, localities and the private sector. However, it is unclear if the plan will also attempt to shift a greater responsibility for funding infrastructure projects from the federal government onto states and localities. Additionally, the plan is expected to focus on reducing the permitting time for infrastructure projects.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

NCSL Capitol Forum Live Stream Sessions

We are live-streaming four policy sessions from the NCSL Capitol Forum in Coronado, Calif. They will be available to view on our NCSL Facebook homepage, as well as our NCSL web homepage.

These sessions include:

1. What Could Federal Tax Reform Mean for the States? Monday, Dec. 11 | 9-10:15 a.m.

2. The Future of Sports Betting: State Regulation? Monday, Dec. 11 | 1:30-2:45 p.m.

3. Defending Democracy Against Cybersecurity Attacks. Tuesday, Dec. 12 | Noon-1:15 p.m.

4. Aerospace & Education: The New Economy. Tuesday, Dec. 12 | 9:45-11:15 a.m.

For more information on the sessions, please view the NCSL Capitol Forum agenda

Also of Note …

  • President Trump signed a two-week extension of government funding on Dec. 8., which will push the funding fight to Dec. 22. More from POLITICO
  • Final push for Moore and Jones in Alabama Senate race. More from Newsday
  • Budget Deal Could Bust Caps by $200 Billion. More from Roll Call

Read the Dec. 4, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

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

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

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