Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 25, 2019

Congress Returns

Congress returns this week after a weeklong recess. On Tuesday, the House will vote on a resolution (HJ Res. 46) to block the president’s emergency declaration to use billions in federal funds to build a border wall. If the House passes the resolution, the Senate will need to act within 18 days.   

Military Services Testify on Emergency Declaration Impacts on State MILCON Funds

The president’s emergency declaration to build a border wall could affect the $3.6 billion in military construction funds slated for states. Officials from the military services will testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday on potential cuts to construction and readiness projects on military installations. The hearing will be streamed live.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

House Announces Series of Hearings on Higher Education


The Civil Rights Act of 1866 became the first major piece of legislation in American history to become law over a president's veto.

The House Education and Labor Committee announced it will hold a series of five bipartisan hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Topics will include: cost, accountability, completion, community colleges and minority-serving institutions and degree pathways.

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

Supreme Court to Decide Groundwater Clean Water Act Case

If a state or local government discharges a pollutant from a point source to a navigable water, it must obtain a permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Read more of NCSL’s CWA Blog, by contributor Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Federal Court Holds Grant Conditions on Sanctuary Cities Unconstitutional

A federal district court for the central district of California issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from withholding federal Byrne/JAG and Gang Suppression Planning Grants funding from so-called “sanctuary” cities. The court ruled that this withholding of federal funds was unilaterally created as a grant condition by the DOJ and amounted to the creation of new grant conditions, which is unconstitutional because it “upset[s] the constitutional balance between state and federal power by requiring local law enforcement to partner with federal authorities.”

NCSL Contacts:  Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

Senate Proposes Bipartisan Data Security and Collection Bill

The Senate is eyeing stricter standards for financial firms who collect personal data. The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing to examine giving consumers more control over their data and proposed a bipartisan bill to heighten data security and collection standards.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell

White House Announces Creation of American Workforce Advisory Board


While House and Senate committees of jurisdiction over Department of Defense legislation are required to authorize and appropriate funds, the military construction appropriations process allows for individual members not assigned to these committees the opportunity to provide substantial input on specific projects located within their districts.  to provide substantial input on specific projects located within their districts. 

On Feb. 13, the White House announced the creation of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, following President Donald Trump’s 2018 executive order establishing the National Council for the American Worker.

Tasked with the responsibility of developing job training programs, the 25-member board will be chaired by Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Ivanka Trump. Members include the CEOs of Apple Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Walmart Inc. In addition to the board’s responsibilities, it will provide recommendations on ways to improve labor market data, as well as more accurately identify the needs of employers and companies during the hiring process.

Read more on the National Council for the American Worker.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald

DOT Funds States to Research New Ways to Pay for Roads

The Federal Highway Administration awarded $10.2 million in Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) grants to seven state transportation departments (DOT). The STSFA program aims to test “new ways” to finance highway and bridge projects. The grants awarded to DOTs in California, Delaware, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon and Utah will “investigate and evaluate various mileage-based and road-user charges, including for trucks and automated vehicles, and the implementation and operation of the technologies at a regional level.” Two of the awards—to Delaware and Oregon—are funding regional initiatives. The grant to Delaware supports the I-95 Corridor Coalition, with the Delaware Department of Transportation as the lead entity. The grant to Oregon will help support the Western Road User Charge Consortium; a group made up of 11 states that is also testing whether a pay-by-mile system can effectively replace fuel taxes. More information is available here.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Request for Funding for Pediatric Cancer

In his recent State of the Union address, Trump asked Congress to provide $500 million over the next 10 years for pediatric cancer research. While his announcement has been met by some with trepidation for being too low, national organizations welcome any additional funding to ongoing cancer research efforts. Additional resources on pediatric cancer data and advocacy can be found here.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson

New Student Privacy Resource Released 


The Opportunity rover was declared dead Feb. 13, after 1,000-plus attempts to restore its communication with Earth. The Opportunity mission surpassed NASA’s expectations in scientific value, endurance and longevity—spending 5,352 days on Mars.

Last week, in connection to recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety, the Department of Education released a frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The FAQs consolidate federal guidance, technical assistance and common questions on student privacy. Additional information is available.

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

FAQs Released on Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Last week, in connection to recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety, the Department of Education released a list of frequently asked questions related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The FAQs consolidate federal guidance, technical assistance and common questions on student privacy. Additional information is available.

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

NEW: The Reading Room 

On this Day, Feb. 25, in…

  • 1965: Muhammad Ali, known at the time as Cassius Clay, became the world heavyweight champion by knocking out Sonny Liston in seven rounds.
  • 1913: The 16th Amendment was ratified and took effect. It authorized the federal government to tax individual income without regard to the population of each state.
  • 1793: President George Washington held his first cabinet meeting with department heads of the U.S. government.
  • 1791: First Bank of the United States, which was chartered by the U.S. Congress, was signed into law by President George Washington.

Read the Feb. 11 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.

  • 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
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education