Congress Passes COVID-Relief and FY 2021 Funding Package
After an eight-month, stop-and-start test of endurance, Congressional leaders unveiled a $900 billion COVID-relief package and $1.4 trillion FY 2021 federal government funding package that will give critical pandemic aid to Americans, while ensuring federal agency operations through September 2021. The mammoth measure will provide another round of direct payments to certain citizens, enhanced unemployment benefits, funding for schools, and aid to sectors still reeling from the economic fallout of the pandemic. Access NCSL's summaries of the COVID-19 stimulus and omnibus appropriations provisions.
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of New Mexico in Water Dispute With Texas
The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of New Mexico in a case with Texas over water rights along the Pecos River. The court agreed with a previous ruling from a court-appointed “river master,” who found that New Mexico was entitled to a credit for water it was storing that then evaporated in response to Tropical Storm Odile in 2014. The case is expected to be the first of many over water rights in response to changing water levels due to drought and other climate shifts. The court is set to hear a water-rights case between Florida and Georgia later this term.
FDA Holds Second Vaccine Approval Meeting
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met last week to review and make final decisions regarding an Emergency Use Authorization for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was approved by the committee, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized an EUA for the Moderna vaccine, while also notifying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed to execute vaccine distribution plans. To learn about vaccine distribution and recent EUAs, and for additional state resources for vaccine distribution read more here.
FCC Report Stresses Critical Need for High-Speed Internet for Farmers
A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) highlighted how high-speed internet access is critical for farmers, as the industry becomes more reliant on data, automation and digital tools. Specifically, the report found “robust evidence that improved connectivity using a threshold of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds results in higher crop yields” for corn, cotton, hay, soybeans and wheat. The paper also found that better broadband access was associated with significantly lower fertilizer and seed costs due to improved access to accurate weather information and allowed implementation of precision agriculture for real-time data on crops.
The week before the report’s release, the FCC awarded $9.2 billion to provide high-speed internet service to rural parts of the country. It was the first phase of a $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund that aims to subsidize the build-out of broadband infrastructure in rural parts of the country. Phase one is focused on providing service to unserved areas, while phase two will include partially served areas.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth (Natural Resources and Infrastructure) and Abbie Gruwell and York Tres (Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce)
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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington
NCSL’s Washington staff advocates on behalf of state legislatures before Congress, the White House and federal agencies 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
- Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education