Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 24, 2020


The Senate returns today from recess, the House is back tomorrow.

Surprise Billing Legislation in House Education and Labor Committee

On Feb. 11, the House Education and Labor Committee marked up and passed by a 32-13 vote a bill on surprise billing. Members noted that theirs is the only committee with jurisdiction over Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 plans, making it important for them to weigh in on the issue. The legislation blends methods proposed in other proposals, including settling bill disputes between insurers and providers by setting a federal benchmark payment with the option to go to arbitration for any bill above $750. The legislation also bans patients from receiving exorbitant “surprise” bills from air ambulances. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the legislation in line with other House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) proposals.

The House Ways and Means Committee has also been working on its own version of surprise billing legislation, allowing open negotiations between insurers and providers before sending a dispute to a third-party arbitrator with no set benchmark rate. The bill was also scored by CBO with a projected $17.8 billion in savings over the course of 10 years.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Prescription Drug Pricing Policy Stalled in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not commit to bringing prescription drug pricing legislation to the floor for a vote yet. Bipartisan legislation, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 (S 2543), passed out of the Senate Finance Committee late last summer, with several Republican committee members voting against it. Since the markup, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have worked with their colleagues to find a compromise that can guarantee passage in the Senate. McConnell feels there are still too many internal divisions within the Republican caucus on the issue and another Senate HELP bill dealing with surprise billing that passed out of committee last year. Senate Democrats want the prescription drug pricing legislation (HR 3), which passed the House last year, to be considered in negotiations as well.

NCSL Contacts:  Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

DHS Allows REAL ID Electronic Document Pre-Submission

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced states can now establish a process for applicants seeking a Real ID to pre-submit certain materials electronically that verify their identity and lawful status in the U.S. in advance of visiting their state motor vehicle agency in person. According to the DHS, “The result will be a faster, more streamlined process for DMVs and the American public.”  

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Public Charge Rule Becomes Final

The federal rule on public charge became final on Friday when the Supreme Court ruled against Illinois, staying an injunction prohibiting its implementation and permitting the rule to apply nationwide. NCSL had previously filed comments with the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) objecting to its implementation due to its detrimental impact on states. The final rule, published on Aug. 14, 2019, and originally scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15, 2019, prescribes how the DHS will determine whether an alien is granted a visa to enter the United States or whether a noncitizen can adjust to lawful permanent residence in the U.S. “Public charge” means likely to become dependent on government assistance under section 212(1)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. USCIS will now apply the final rule to all applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after Feb. 24, 2020. For more information on public charge, visit NCSL’s research page.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick (law, criminal justice and public safety) and Ann Morse 

ED Launches School Safety Website

The Trump administration launched the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website: This website is a collection of resources for K-12 administrators, educators, parents and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security and support in schools. The launch of the website fulfills a key recommendation from the 2018 Federal Commission on School Safety.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

Secretary DeVos Announces Earn and Learn Opportunities Pilot

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the participants in a new pilot program that would boost private sector involvement in the Federal Work-Study program. The program, which includes 190 institutions, will allow more students to use Work-Study funds while working for private sector employers through internships, apprenticeships and other “work-and-learn” arrangements.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

FERC Again Approves Order That Would Hinder State Authority

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved new "buyer-side mitigation" rules for New York state electricity production. The rules set a minimum price floor for certain types of production that receive state subsidies due to their lack of carbon emissions, such as renewable energy, battery storage and nuclear power. The approval matches a similar rule FERC approved for the PJM region last December that will affect Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Both approvals are likely to end up in court.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

The Reading Room

Read the Feb. 10 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
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education