Capitol to Capitol | Dec. 9, 2019


NCSL’s Capitol Forum takes place in Phoenix this week. Unable to attend? NCSL will be blogging about sessions, and session resources will be available after the meeting. 

NCSL in D.C.

Last week, NCSL’s Natalie Wood, director of NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening, testified before the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on the “Rules and Procedures in the U.S. House: A look at Reform Efforts and State Best Practices.” Read the NCSL blog on the event.

States Avoid a Major Pothole With Repeal of the $7.6 Billion Transportation Rescission (Dec. 9, 2019, NCSL Blog)

Final FY 2020 Spending Bill Negotiations Nearly Complete

House and Senate appropriators have almost completed negotiations on the 12 spending bills funding the $1.3 trillion federal government budget. This increases the likelihood that another stopgap funding measure may not be necessary and that normal FY 2020 spending bills can move forward this week. The current continuing resolution, which funds federal government operations at FY 2019 levels, is set to expire Dec. 20. Major contentions persist surrounding funds to construct a border wall. Democrats have been reluctant to backfill military construction projects that were delayed to provide additional funds for the $8.6 billion project. Most of the budget disagreements have been resolved and lawmakers are expected to move the spending bills in packages instead of individually to expedite the process in advance of the looming deadline.

Appropriations legislation could also serve as a legislative vehicle for other measures on trade and pensions. A bill (S 2788) that would shore up coal miners’ pension plans and ensure they will not lose health care benefits has been a priority for the administration and could serve as a negotiating tool for other tax provisions supported by Democrats.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Lawmakers Taking Steps to Create Privacy Standard

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has released a long-awaited proposal for a federal data privacy standard. The discussion draft preempts state privacy laws and prohibits harmful or deceptive practices, among other consumer protections.

Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) Committee, initially led a bipartisan working group on the issue, but Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on some fundamental principles and moved forward with separate proposals. Democrats also released their own bill, the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act, that does not preempt states. The Senate CST Committee held a hearing with industry representatives and privacy law experts to discuss state preemption, private rights of action and enforcement. California’s Consumer Privacy Act will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

House Passes Anti-Robocall TRACED Act Bill

The House passed a bipartisan bill to reduce robocalling. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act increases penalties for bad actors and requires companies to authenticate calls or alert consumers if they are unable to authenticate a phone number. It also gives more authority to the Department of Justice, Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to investigate violations and enforce consumer protections. The Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

SALT Bill and Tax Law Technical Corrections Activity Continue in House  

House Ways and Means Democrats continue to push for a floor vote by the end of the year on a measure to temporarily repeal the $10,000 state and local tax deduction cap implemented by the 2017 tax reform law. Senate Republicans, however, are opposed to the draft legislation, which has yet to be officially introduced. A dense year-end legislative calendar also poses a major challenge to any progress on this measure even though Democrats are determined to advance it. Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) scheduled a markup on the legislation this week. Likewise, he hopes to attach technical corrections to a year-end tax bill that lawmakers are currently negotiating.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Final Rule on SNAP for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents

On Dec. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new final rule that revises the conditions under which the administration would accept state waivers on time limits for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) in areas that have an unemployment rate over 10% or lack sufficient jobs.

This rule would eliminate unlimited carryover of ABAWD discretionary exemptions, instituting a one-year limit. For waivers, the effective date is April 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2020, for discretionary exemptions. States will also need to screen ABAWDs for fitness to work, track enrollees and provide access to all available federal, state and local work and workfare programs. See a full press release and additional resources. Stay tuned for an NCSL webinar to understand state impacts of the new rule.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Education Department Prioritizes Funds to Opportunity Zones

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the department will “prioritize funding for grant applications that support students, teachers and parents in economically-distressed communities, known as Opportunity Zones.” The priority, originally announced in the Federal Register on July 29 and now effective Dec. 27, will align the department’s discretionary grants with the administration’s opportunity zones initiative, “which aims to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities.” See a copy of the final priority and a summary of submitted comments to the proposal.  

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

Reading Room

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