Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 13, 2020


On Heels of FY 2020 Appropriations Enactment, President to Release FY 2021 Budget in February

Just two weeks after the enactment of the dual spending packages funding fiscal year (FY) 2020 federal government operations, President Donald Trump announced plans to transmit his FY 2021 budget request to Congress on Feb. 10. While not as delayed as the “skinny” budget proposal submitted in early March last year, the FY 2021 request will arrive one week after the nonbinding deadline and is expected to be the complete volumes.

Under the two-year spending caps agreement enacted last summer, FY 2021 discretionary appropriations will be capped at just $5 billion above the current fiscal, or $1.375 trillion. The small increase would be evenly split between defense and nondefense accounts. Senate appropriators are hoping the president’s proposal will follow the parameters of the spending caps so the new set of bills can be written this spring. In the same vein, House Democrats expressed optimism that the two-year spending cap deal should ease the appropriations process and allow for most bills to progress to the floor by June.

NCSL’s analysis of major agency funding highlights for states can be found here.

An analysis of key tax provisions in the spending package can be found here.

For a detailed agency breakout of the chronological history of the FY 2020 process, please review the Federal Funds Information for States table here.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

USMCA Passes Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of advancing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by a 25-3 vote. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said the agreement process has tested his patience and that “there are some aspects of this bill that I don’t particularly like.” While expressing his frustration, Grassley still believes the measure has a bit of something for everyone in it. “USMCA will bring much needed certainty and real benefits to America’s farmers, workers and businesses,” he said. During the markup, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tried offering an amendment to give Congress a direct role in deciding to terminate the agreement upon reaching the end of the sunset period. However, Grassley ruled the proposed amendment out of order on the grounds that the agreement was given special consideration and was under the fast-track process.
The agreement is expected to pass with strong bipartisan support in the Senate, when it finally gets a vote.

NCSL Contact: Michael Quillen

House Energy and Commerce Unveils Major Climate Legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released an overview of forthcoming climate legislation. While the legislation is likely to be approved by the House later this year, it is dead on arrival in the Senate. The overview notes that the bill will include a national clean electricity standard that requires utilities to provide 100% zero-carbon power within a few decades, though escalating requirements begin almost immediately. Nuclear power and fossil generation with carbon capture would be included in the clean electricity standard. It will also include new requirements for states to submit plans showing how they will meet net-zero emissions targets as well as requirements for low-carbon buildings codes and infrastructure. The legislation will also impose a mandate on the oil and gas industry to deeply cut methane emissions.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Administration Issues Major Changes to the National Environmental Policy Act

The Trump administration released proposed changes to implementing regulations for the 

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This action is the result of a multi-year process that began in 2017 with executive order 13807 that directed the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to consider modernizing its regulations. In 2018, the CEQ issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requesting comment on updating its regulations.

NEPA, enacted in 1970, requires the federal government to review the environmental impacts of major federal actions such as large-scale energy and infrastructure projects before they begin. For a full breakdown of the changes, read the proposed changes and fact sheet.

Challenges to the administration’s proposals are already in process, with several lawmakers considering a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution overturn the rulemaking with a simple majority vote. For more on the CRA, read NCSL’s blog on CRA 101

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Trump Signs FUTURE Act

On Dec. 19, Trump signed into law the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan bill that permanently authorizes $255 million in annual funding for historically black colleges and universities and other institutions serving minorities. The law also streamlines and simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows for automatic income recertification for federal student loan borrowers in income-driven repayment plans, and authorizes a small increase in Pell Grant funding.

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid

Trump Administration Proposes New Disability Benefits Rule

On Nov. 18, 2019, the Trump administration announced a new proposed rule for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a cash assistance benefit for individuals who have very low or no income and who also have a disability that prevents them from working. The proposed rule changes the timing and frequency of ongoing disability redeterminations. Comments are due by Jan. 31

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Proposed HUD Rule Seeks to Roll Back Obama-Era Housing Desegregation Regulation

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposed rule to make changes to a 2015 rule aimed at reducing racial segregation in government housing. The 2015 rule held local municipalities accountable for not advancing fair housing, by requiring them to gather data on poverty and segregation to receive federal funding. When it was unveiled, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule tied the ability of local governments to receive federal funding for infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges to completing the evaluations and tracking improvements. While most of the language would be rolled back with the goal of providing more flexibility to the states, HUD officials have said municipalities will still be required to complete evaluations and that the federal government will prioritize those municipalities that are deemed higher performers.
HUD is said to be focusing less on whether cities are building enough affordable homes for minorities in wealthier areas and more on whether they are building enough housing overall. The deadline for comments is March 2.

NCSL Contact: Michael Quillen

FCC Proposes $20.4 Billion Rural Opportunity Fund

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai introduced final rules to begin a new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would be a two-phased process to provide funding for the creation of high-speed broadband in areas where the FCC’s minimum speed standard is not being met. The commission will vote on the final rules at its open meeting on Jan. 30.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

FDA Vaping Guidance Released

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new vaping guidance for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDs) and other similar products that do not have premarket authorization. The guidance bans most flavors of e-cigarettes, including fruit, mint or dessert flavored cartridges, with exemptions for menthol and tobacco flavors. There is also an exemption for any flavored e-cigarette liquid that comes in vials for tank vaping, a product primarily sold in vape shops. The FDA will be prioritizing any ENDS products sold after May 12, and this guidance does not change that it is still illegal to market any new tobacco product without premarket authorization. The FDA is using this guidance and ongoing evaluations to adjust for necessary actions for these types of tobacco products, including on how to better address minors’ use of them.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

FAA Releases Rule to Help Identify Drones in the Air

On Dec. 31, 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its proposed rule for the remote identification (Remote ID) of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones. Remote ID is the ability of a drone to provide identification information that can be received by other parties during operations. The proposed Remote ID rule applies to all drones that are required to be registered with the FAA (recreational drones weighing under 0.55 pounds, or 250 grams, are not required to be registered at this time). Even if the proposal were finalized later this year with no changes, it still would not take effect for three years, likely pushing back any full delivery or commercial operations that would rely on flying beyond line of sight. For a more detailed breakdown of the proposal, read NCSL's Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDOT Releases New Version of Autonomous Vehicle Guidance

The Department of Transportation released its fourth iteration of autonomous vehicles guidance (AV 4.0). This version once again does not include any rules or requirements and restates the department’s preference for both the voluntary submission of a safety report by automakers as well as the current lack of AV specific federal motor vehicle safety standards. What is included is a complete listing of how each federal agency is approaching different aspects of autonomous vehicles, with many of these efforts having been promoted prior to the release of AV 4.0. Under the new guidance, the administration will generally seek “performance-based” regulations that are as “non-prescriptive as possible.” NCSL has heavily engaged with Congress and the administration regarding AVs based on the real-world activity taking place in state legislatures as well as past and current efforts by Congress to preempt states from being able to effectively regulate AVs.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

The Reading Room

Read the Dec. 16 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 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