Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 3, 2020

2/3/2020

The Senate is expected to take a final vote on impeachment this week. The House is scheduled to consider a bill—the Support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (HR 2474)—making substantial changes to labor law as well as a bill to provide supplemental appropriations to Puerto Rico. And the president will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

NCSL in D.C.

Fly-In: Giving States a Voice

Representative Tom Oliverson (R-Texas) and Delegate Bonnie Cullison (D-Md.) were in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with members of Congress, congressional committee staff, and intergovernmental partners at the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss what actions states are taking to address prescription drug pricing and transparency. Their visit also included a briefing for congressional offices, the administration and state and local partner organizations, which allowed the legislators to share their success and challenges in passing prescription drug-related legislation.

  • NCSL will send a letter this week to House and Senate leadership supporting funding for our nation’s National Guard.
  • NCSL will host Colorado Representative Jeni Arndt (D), who will speak on the future of hemp at the annual Foster Our Future meeting of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and meet with members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.
  • Join NCSL for a Real ID webinar briefing with the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 13. Register here.

House Leadership Releases $760 Billion Infrastructure Plan

House Leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), introduced their 19-page, $760 billion infrastructure plan. The plan, as outlined, would provide significant new federal funding for investments in surface transportation, although a significant portion of these would be sent directly to local governments. Further, the plan includes federal funding for railroads, aviation, broadband, waterways, drinking water, clean energy, schools and public safety communications. As for the legislative vehicles, the House would eventually combine a few existing pieces and legislation and several pending bills into a single package. However, House leaders offered no specific guidance on when the package would move through the appropriate committees or come to the floor. For further details, read NCSL’s Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

NCSL Efforts to Preserve State Authority on TNC Regulation

NCSL was recently informed that a bill in the House, HR 4686, which would have cut federal road funding to states by billions of dollars if states did not make certain changes to how they regulated transportation network companies, has dropped all provisions relating to state penalties. Although the bill, if enacted, would include a “sense of Congress” for states to implement front and back license plates, the threat of a “sanction” was removed. NCSL lobbied members of Congress throughout the second half of 2019 to remove the penalty and preserve state authority.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House Committee Leaders Unveil Climate Legislation; Enactment Unlikely This Congress

House Energy and Commerce leaders, including Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), announced the release of Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act by committee Democrats. The bill includes a wide-ranging set of policies that aims to reduce carbon emissions and the emissions of other pollutants throughout every sector of the economy. Highlights include a federal clean energy standard of 100% by 2050 as well as emissions standards for motor vehicles that increase 6% annually, and setting emissions standards for trucks, locomotives and airplane engines. The bill would also require states to develop individualized plans to reach net-zero emissions, create a national climate bank to "provide financing for low- and zero-emissions energy technologies" and other clean energy projects, and require projects receiving federal funding to use cleaner materials. While the bill may pass the House later this year, it stands zero chance of Senate passage as currently drafted. It also sets national policy to prioritize transmission lines for clean energy.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Administration Announces Medicaid Block Grant Opportunity

Last week the administration announced the Healthy Adult Opportunity (HAO) initiative that will allow states to apply for an 1115 demonstration wavier to turn their Medicaid programs into block grant programs. Legislation to block this initiative is anticipated to be introduced in the House this week.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

SCOTUS Lifts Nationwide Injunction on the Public Charge Rule

On Thursday, Jan. 27 the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction on the public charge rule allowing the new rule to go into effect. NCSL opposed this rule in comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security. For more information on public charge, see NCSL’s resource: Immigration and Public Charge: DHS Proposes New Definition.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Abbie Gruwell

Tribes Eligible to Apply for Free Spectrum Licenses

free spectrum licenses through the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) effort to bring faster internet to a population that currently has less than half of its citizens connected to fixed internet and modern broadband. The FCC will use spectrum band previously used by educational institutions and will grant priority to tribes before offering the licenses to commercial providers. Tribes may be able to use these licenses to establish their own broadband networks.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

CBO Projects Low-Interest Rates Will Mitigate $1 Trillion Deficit in FY 2020

Reporting before the House Budget Committee last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the federal budget deficit will reach $1 trillion in fiscal year (FY) 2020, the first time since 2012, and that as a percentage of gross domestic product is the largest it’s been except for immediately following World War II. Projected deficits will rise from 4.6% of GDP for FY 2020 to 5.4% of GDP in FY 2030. Because of these large deficits, federal debt is expected to grow from 81% of GDP in FY 2020 to 98% in FY 2030. Offering some mitigation to these record projections, however, is that low interest rates will make treasury debt less costly, giving Congress more time to address the nation’s fiscal challenges. 

The CBO also reported that high and rising federal deficits would:

  • Reduce national saving and income.
  • Boost the government’s interest payments.
  • Limit policymakers’ ability to respond to crises.
  • Increase the chances of a fiscal crisis.

Federal outlays are projected to rise from $4.6 trillion in 2020 to $7.5 trillion in 2030, with growth in Social Security, Medicare and debt interest comprising more than two-thirds of the increase.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty (budgets and revenue) and Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth (natural resources and infrastructure)

FCC Approves $20 Billion to Expand Rural Broadband Service

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a $20 billion plan, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, to provide subsidies to providers who set up broadband in currently unserved areas. The funding is slated for disbursement over 10 years, although $16 billion is scheduled for the first tranche. Two FCC commissioners complained about the state of the FCC’s maps that identify those areas that lack broadband service, which could lead to areas not receiving funds because they have been mislabeled.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch (natural resources and infrastructure) and Abbie Gruwell and Tres York (commerce and financial services)

HUD Issues Proposed Rule on Manufactured Housing

As part of Secretary Ben Carson’s bus tour, “Driving Affordable Housing Across America,” he announced a proposed rule to revise the federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards to expedite construction projects and update safety requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in manufactured housing. Specifically, the department proposes modernizing the provisions of U.S. code that allow for optimal use of manufactured housing in urban areas, including those in opportunity zones. Additionally, the proposed rule expands on requirements to carbon monoxide detectors to allow for manufactured homes to be recognized in the ANSI/UL standards, while adding provisions for homes designed for structures attached at sites, including garages and carports.

NCSL Contact: Michael Quillen

The Reading Room

Read the Jan. 27 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