Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 10, 2020


President Donald Trump released his $4.8 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2021 today. Federal agency officials head to Capitol Hill this week to testify on the request. Stay tuned for NCSL's full analysis. Also this week, the House is expected to vote on several items including a resolution to remove the 1979 deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, a Western wilderness package (HR 2546) to designate 1.3 million acres as wilderness or potential wilderness areas, and a measure to strengthen partnerships between historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions and the Department of Homeland Security to fully use talent. The Senate will consider judicial nominations. In committee, D.C. statehood, surprise medical billing, cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles are just a few topics being addressed.



President Releases FY 2021 Budget as Appropriators Work Under 2019 Budget Deal

President Trump released his FY 2021 budget proposal Feb. 10—more detailed and about a month earlier than last year—as Congress officially begins the FY 2021 appropriations process. Operating under the two-year budget plan enacted by the Bipartisan Budget Plan of 2019 (BBA2019) last August, the House Budget Committee will not present a formal budget resolution but will instead function under the deal’s discretionary 2020 and 2021 toplines. BBA2019 raised the restrictive caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which would have required steep cuts in defense and non-defense spending, and suspended the debt ceiling to avoid default. Congress passed laws to avoid severe cuts in 2013, 2015 and 2018, and ultimately enacted BBA19 to raise the caps a final time before their expiration after 2021. House and Senate appropriators begin hearings this week on the president’s priorities while readying their own spending bills in response. Stay tuned for a full analysis of the president’s budget by NCSL staff.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Puerto Rico Emergency Supplemental Disaster Relief Approved in House

On Feb. 7, the House approved HR 5687—the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, 2020. The bill would allocate $4.67 billion to five federal agencies for disaster aid to Puerto Rico following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit the territory on Jan. 7, set off additional earthquakes and caused widespread power outages. Introduced by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the legislation is designated as emergency supplemental funding and wouldn’t count against discretionary spending caps. It has been reported that Senate Republicans will not advance the bill; Trump has issued a veto threat. More details on the funding can be found here.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

NCAA President at Senate Hearing on Athlete Compensation

The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection is holding a hearing Tuesday titled “Name, Image, and Likeness: The State of Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation.” The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature testimony from the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the executive director of the National College Players Association, among others. Watch the live stream of the event on the Senate’s website.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

House Passes Service Dog Legislation for Veterans with PTSD

The House voted last week to pass the PAWS for Veterans Act, which would establish a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program to assess the effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder by providing veterans with a trained service dog. The bill would allow the VA to give grants to nonprofit organizations that would not only provide veterans with puppies to eventually become service dogs but would also cover the cost of training the puppies. The VA currently does not coordinate such programs with nonprofit organizations since the task of searching for service dogs typically falls on the patient. A similar bill (S 2948) was introduced in the Senate. NCSL supports federal policies that promote the use of service animals for veterans, including members of the states’ National Guard.  

NCSL Contact: Michael Quillen

FY 2021 Obstacles Remain for 2017 Tax Law Corrections

Congress included three tax corrections in the FY 2020 appropriations legislation enacted last December, but other glitches remain from drafting errors in the 2017 tax overhaul law that appear unlikely to be addressed before this year’s lame-duck session. Remaining tax corrections being watched closely include the retail glitch, which keeps stores and restaurants from immediately writing off the costs of certain renovations, as well as lawyer fees in sexual harassment cases, and transition tax on offshore corporate income and companies’ ability to carry over operating losses to future years. Republicans and Democrats are divided on how much political capital should be expended to address remaining errors even though the Joint Committee on Taxation has scored the fixes as revenue-neutral. Corrections enacted in last year’s budget package, such as the reversal of a tax increase on survivor benefits given to children of service members who died while in action, had largely bipartisan support.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

President Trump Urges Congress to Approve Federal Tax Credits for School Choice

During his recent State of the Union address, President Donald Trump urged Congress to approve federal tax credits for school choice. He also called for an expansion of career and technical education and promoted his administration’s support for historically black colleges and universities and religious liberty in schools. In the weeks leading up to the State of the Union, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos traveled across the country to promote the administration’s Education Freedom Scholarships proposal.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

President Trump Tweets Yucca Mountain Policy

Trump tweeted about Yucca mountain, noting that he would "RESPECT," Nevada and that "my Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches – I’m confident we can get it done!" The Nuclear Waste Policy Act established Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository for nuclear waste from the nation's nuclear power plants. However, the repository has yet to be licensed by the federal government, a required step before construction can begin. The state of Nevada, including the legislature, has long opposed its creation. NCSL has been advocating for a consent-based siting process for both interim and permanent storage of nuclear waste for the better part of the decade.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Implementation of Public Charge Grounds Final Rule Begins

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted several new and revised forms to its website on Feb. 5. These forms are associated with the Feb. 24 implementation of the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule. These new and revised forms will not be used in Illinois, where the final rule remains enjoined by a federal court. The Department of Homeland Security has requested a stay of the Illinois injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in light of the Supreme Court decision to stay the last nationwide injunction. The new forms include a declaration of self-sufficiency, a public charge bond form, and a request for cancellation of public charge bond. For additional information, read this USCIS policy alert.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

DOT Approves First-Ever Exemptions From Federal Safety Standards for Autonomous Vehicles

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved the first-ever exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards for autonomous vehicles. Specifically, NHTSA issued an exemption to Nuro, a California robotics firm seeking to test an autonomous vehicle (AV) in Texas, for a "low-speed vehicle" that would transport only goods, not passengers, from having rearview mirrors or backup camera system. General Motors has also petitioned NHTSA for exemptions from several federal safety standards, though its petition is applicable to vehicles that carry passengers. There are currently no AV-specific safety standards, though all existing safety standards apply to any AV on the roadway unless it has been granted an exemption by the federal government.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDA Unveils New Crop Insurance Programs for Hemp

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced two new crop insurance programs for hemp production. The Multi-Peril Crop Insurance Pilot Insurance Program, available to 20 counties across the country for producers who have previously grown hemp, provides coverage should a farmer face weather-related losses. The national Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provides coverage against loss for hemp grown for losses due to low yields. For both programs, any growers seeking insurance are required to comply with all state and federal rules concerning the growing of hemp.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Initiative to Lower Insulin Prices

The administration is working on a proposal to create a demonstration program that would lower out-of-pocket costs for insulin for seniors. The administration has been working on this initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It could provide health insurance companies an incentive to cap monthly insulin costs for Medicare Part D enrollees, with more details forthcoming. The cost of and spending on insulin including in Medicare Part D has continued to increase over the past several years, and the administration has signaled an interest as they wait for Congress to move on drug-pricing legislation.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

The Reading Room

Read the Feb. 3 Capitol to Capitol.

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 policy 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