Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 27, 2020


President Donald Trump will deliver his third State of the Union on Feb. 4. The following Monday, Feb. 10, the president is scheduled to release his 2021 budget request. After completing its work today, the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States will be in recess, returning on Feb. 24. Read about the court’s latest activity on the NCSL Blog (select U.S. Supreme Court).

NCSL in D.C.

Letter to the Hill

Comments to the Administration

NCSL to host Real ID webinar briefing with DHS

  • Join NCSL for a Real ID webinar briefing with the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 13. Register here.

Senators Request FDA to Address Mislabeling of Dairy Products

A bipartisan group of seven U.S. senators wrote to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Han, concerning the mislabeling of non-dairy products with dairy terms and requested that his agency "move swiftly to address this unfairness and ensure that dairy terms may only be used to describe products that include dairy." The concerns highlighted in the letter are similar to those seen in several states that enacted their own dairy labeling requirements.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House and Senate Committees Request for Real ID Implementation Update

A letter from eight bipartisan lawmakers, including the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees, was sent to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf requesting details about the department’s plans to implement an Oct. 1 deadline requiring the use of a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to pass through airport security. The letter notes that the members are “increasingly concerned about potential disruptions to air travel if significant travelers present themselves.”

Join NCSL for a Real ID webinar briefing with the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 13. Register here.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Supreme Court Denies Speeding Up ACA Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request from a group of Democratic states and the House Democratic Caucus to fast-track hearing a case, brought by some Republican-led states, on the latest constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The administration had asked the court to not expedite hearing the case. Read more about what prompted this request and background on the previous decision here

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Supreme Court Hears Case on Public Funding for Religious Schools

On Jan. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that could have significant implications for public education and school choice policies. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that Montana violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax-credit scholarship program that allowed students to claim the credits to attend private schools, including religious schools. The Montana court ruled that the subsidy violated a state constitutional provision barring any state aid to religious schools, whether direct or indirect. Thirty-seven states have similar no-aid policies, often known as “Blaine” amendments, which prohibit the use of government funding for religious purposes. Opponents argue that such prohibitions discriminate against religious families and schools, while others argue that allowing public funds to be used for private and/or religious schools could harm public education.

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid

U.S. Department of Treasury Wants to Collect Cyber Risk Details from Banks

The Treasury Department is seeking public comment on a proposed request for information to financial institutions about cybersecurity and critical infrastructure. The Treasury's Office of Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection is looking for more information about the cyber vulnerabilities of financial institutions, especially relating to their connection to other critical sectors like energy. Treasury officials say this information will help the department work with agency and industry partners to develop risk management protocols.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

EPA Issues New Rule Defining What Types of Water Bodies Fall Under Federal Jurisdiction

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which would update the federal definition for “Waters of the United States,” more commonly referred to as WOTUS. This final rule comes more than two years after the initial proposal and is the second and final step in a two-step process to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which similarly sought to clarify federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The now final rule outlines four clear categories of jurisdictional waters that would be considered WOTUS, while 12 categories of waterbodies are not included within the four WOTUS categories. The rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agencies are hosting a public webcast to discuss the final rule on Feb. 13. Register here.

For additional information on the rule and its regulatory and legal history, please read NCSL’s Info Alerts, and relevant agency fact sheets.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

ABAWD Lawsuit Announced

Attorney generals from New York and the District of Columbia are co-leading a lawsuit with 14 other states against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The lawsuit is regarding a recently finalized rulemaking changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and enrollees referred to as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD). The final rule would revise the conditions under which the administration would accept state waivers on time limits for ABAWD in areas that have an unemployment rate over 10% or lack enough jobs.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

USDA Proposes Changes to School Lunch Program

On Jan. 23, the USDA published proposed changes to the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The new rules would provide schools greater “flexibility” over what types of fruits and vegetables to serve. It would also allow schools to offer lunch entrees a la carte, which is intended to reduce food waste. The USDA said it also would make it "simpler" to provide meat and meat alternatives at breakfast. Critics argue that schools will try to substitute fresh fruit and vegetables with more cost-efficient foods that lack nutrition or regularly offer unhealthy food such as pizza and hamburgers as a la carte options. The proposed rule would alter current regulations on the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which was a major initiative led by former first lady Michelle Obama. Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted through March 23, 2020.

NCSL Contact: Austin Reid

NIST Releases Draft Privacy Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, released the final version of its landmark privacy framework, with some revisions to further stress the risk of emerging technologies in managing personal information. The guidance is intended to help companies and organizations comply with the expanding regulatory landscape and identify privacy outcomes. NIST laid out five “core” privacy functions based on public comment—identify, govern, control, communicate and protect—and includes specific implementation recommendations. The framework also comes with a road map to support stakeholder engagement.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

First Case of 2019 Coronavirus Confirmed in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first two novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases of 2019, also referred to as coronavirus. The cases were confirmed in Washington and Illinois. The patients who contracted the virus had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of pneumonia caused by coronavirus has been happening since last year. The CDC has been working with clinicians to develop testing and management of the virus, developing a diagnostic test for coronavirus and activating its Emergency Operations Center to provide ongoing support to respond to the virus. An additional three cases have been reported in 2020 bringing the total to five.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Reading Room

Read the Jan. 21 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