Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 8, 2021

2/8/2021

House and Senate Approve the 2021 Budget Resolution, NCSL Works With Congress to Craft COVID Bill

Congressional Democrats completed work last week on the budget outline required to pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure. This week will be spent marking up the actual legislation, which serves as the template for President Joe Biden’s rescue plan. The House and Senate approved the same budget resolution that will allow Congress to pass the package with a simple majority, using a budget tool called reconciliation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to have a measure sent to the Senate well before unemployment benefits expire in mid-March. NCSL has been contributing to the formulation of this critical relief package and is currently working with congressional staff to craft a package that gives states the flexibility to address the pandemic in the manner that best suits their individual economies. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

House Passes Registered Apprenticeships bill

The House passed the National Apprenticeship Act by a 247-173 vote, mostly along party lines. The bill would authorize $400 million in fiscal year (FY) 2022, increasing by $100 million annually to $800 million in FY 2026, for a competitive grant program to expand registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. The measure also would redirect 50% of H-1B visa fees used for job training programs at the Department of Labor’s to the grant program. The bill does not include funding for the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program that began under the Trump administration. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Biden Announces Retroactive Waiver of State Cost Share for COVID-19 FEMA Assistance

After nearly a year since former President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, President Joe Biden signed a memorandum that directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide emergency COVID-19 assistance under the declaration at 100% federal cost share. During this pandemic NCSL has joined the nation’s governors and emergency managers in repeatedly urging the administration to waive the 25% state cost share requirement for assistance under the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration and subsequent COVID-19 Major Disaster Declarations. The waiver also applies retroactively to the Jan. 20, 2020, start of the pandemic declarations, saving states billions of dollars in emergency aid. For additional details, read NCSL’s blog and the memorandum fact sheet.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

DOL Extends Effective Date of Several Rules Issued by the Trump Administration

The Department of Labor issued a notice informing the public that the effective date of the final rule affecting foreign workers’ wages would be delayed from March 15, 2021, to May 14, 2021. On Jan. 20, 2021, Ronald Klain, assistant to the president and chief of staff, issued a memo titled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” that directed federal agencies to consider postponing the effective date of any rules published in the Federal Register that have not taken effect, to allow the new administration to review “any questions of fact, law, and policy” raised by the rule. This notice also informs the public that the department will solicit comment on the final rule for a period of 15 days. Comments must be received by Feb. 16, 2021. Read more.

The department has also proposed extending the effective date of both the independent contracting and tip-pooling rules the Trump administration advanced in its final days to allow the agency more time for review. The rule would establish a more simplified legal standard for when employers can classify workers as independent contractors, rather than as employees who are covered by federal minimum wage and overtime law. The tip-pooling rule would allow restaurants to pay more of their tipped employees below the federal minimum wage, but also included less controversial language prohibiting employers from participating in tip-pooling arrangements. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Delay of Trump Administration Drug Rebate Rule

The rule, scheduled to take effect in January 2002 and now delayed until 2023, would have changed payments to pharmacy benefit managers so they could not fluctuate based on the price of a drug. In the case, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) vs HHS, it was argued that the court should void the 2022 effective date as it would have significantly disrupted negotiations with drug makers. The Biden administration also froze the main part of the rule until March 22 to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate if they will move forward with the rule. HHS and PCMA have until April 1 to submit a joint report on how the lawsuit should move forward. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Special Enrollment Period for Health Marketplace Opened

Under an executive order signed on Jan. 28, the HHS announced a special enrollment period for the health care marketplace due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This enrollment period will allow individuals and families in states with marketplaces served by HealthCare.gov to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage from Feb. 15 through May 15, 2021.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

In Every Edition

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL’s Washington staff advocates on behalf of state legislatures before Congress, the White House and federal agencies 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
  • Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education