Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 25, 2021


White House Executive Orders and Other Actions

President Joe Biden is taking action to freeze or reverse a number of regulatory and other actions taken by the former administration. A memo from Ronald Klain, assistant to the president and chief of staff, outlines the immediate steps federal departments and agencies must take in order to provide the president’s appointees or designees the opportunity to review any new or pending rules, a common practice of new administrations. Several executive orders have also been issued. NCSL is closely tracking these actions in areas including education, environment, immigration, the census and others. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

Administration Announces Details on Public Health Emergency (PHE) 

The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) sent letters to the nation’s governors on further details for the Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19. The secretary of HHS outlined that the current public health emergency was renewed on Jan. 21, 2021, and will be in effect for 90 days. It has been determined that the PHE will likely remain in place for all of 2021. When it is decided to end the declaration or to let it expire, the HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to the termination. The PHE determination allows for flexibilities and abilities to streamline access of health care including for telemedicine services and waives or modifies certain Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and HIPAA Privacy Rule requirements. The renewal of the PHE allows for the continuation of the available temporary 6.2% Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase that was included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, with the FMAP expiring at the end of the quarter in which the PHE ends. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Treasury Releases State Allocation Chart and Guidance for Emergency Rental Assistance

The U.S. Department of the Treasury published a FAQ document providing guidance on the official state and territorial allocations of the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program enacted under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Treasury is requiring applicants who request assistance to provide third-party source documentation of income and their experience of unemployment or financial hardship due to COVID-19. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

GOP Challenges Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Pandemic Relief Plan

Treasury Secretary-nominee Janet Yellen made the case for another economic aid package at her hearing last week, garnering resistance from Republicans who are wary of the need for more deficit spending to bolster recovery. Republicans in the bipartisan group of senators who helped propel talks on last month’s $900 billion stimulus legislation indicated it was too soon since that bill was enacted to look at additional spending. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another member of that group, has argued for a more targeted approach in the next aid package, such as the $1,400 direct payments that President Biden has proposed. Brian Deese, head of the White House National Economic Council, met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in an appeal for the administration’s $1.9 trillion relief plan. With the Senate now at a 50-50 partisan split, Biden will need at least 10 Republicans to support the plan or employ use of the reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes to advance legislation.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

Second-Highest Federal Court Vacates Trump Administration’s Major GHG Rule  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the Trump administration’s 2019 Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Final Rule, which was developed as a replacement to the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan Final Rule–which was never implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or ruled on by federal courts. The ACE established guidelines for states to develop plans to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, without setting individual state GHG emissions limits. In its ruling, the court stated that the EPA’s argument that the CAA only allowed the agency to develop emissions restrictions that apply directly “at the source” had “no basis—grammatical, contextual, or otherwise.” The court’s decision sends the rule back to the EPA, allowing the Biden administration to regulate GHG emissions from the power sector. NCSL was active during the development of both the Clean Power Plan and the Affordable Clean Energy rules and looks forward to working with the new administration to ensure the principles of cooperative federalism and state priorities are upheld.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

ED Announces the Distribution of $21B in Pandemic Relief Aid for Colleges and Universities

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, provides $20.5 billion to public and nonprofit colleges and universities. Institutions can use the stimulus money for lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses, technology costs due to the shift to online learning, and financial aid for students. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

USDA Issues Final Rule Regulating Hemp Production

On Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its final rule implementing the legalization of hemp production from the 2018 Farm Bill. This rule is a follow-up to Interim Final Rule (IFR), though the new final rule does make some changes to the IFR to provide hemp producers with additional flexibilities, including a few that were requested by NCSL. However, it leaves in place the requirement that hemp must be tested at a facility licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The new final rule will go into effect March 22, though it is unclear how the incoming administration may change or pause the rule given its release just prior to President Biden taking office. For additional details on the final rule, read NCSL’s Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

DoD Releases Report on Defense Spending by State in Fiscal Year 2019

Defense spending rose in fiscal year 2019. The Department of Defense (DoD) contract obligations and payroll spending in the 50 states and the District of Columbia increased by $64.3 billion, or 19%, over the prior year. This was driven by a 19% increase in DoD contract obligations. Personnel spending in the 50 states and the District of Columbia increased by 4%. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

College Scorecard Update Adds Loan Repayment Information

The update provides prospective students with information on how well borrowers from individual colleges and universities are progressing in repaying their federal student loans, as well as how overall borrower cohorts are faring at certain intervals in the repayment process. Later this year, the College Scorecard will be updated to include a new metric—the year-over-year change in cost at each institution. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

In Every Edition

Read the Jan. 11 Capitol to Capitol.

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