Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 7, 2019


Partial Federal Government Shutdown Continues


With her election as speaker of the House for the 116th Congress, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) becomes the seventh individual in history to serve as speaker in nonconsecutive terms. Sam Rayburn (Texas) was the most recent speaker, before Pelosi, to serve nonconsecutive terms when he was sworn into office in 1955. Seven people have served nonconsecutively: Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, Henry Clay of Kentucky, John W. Taylor of New York, Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine, Rayburn, Joseph Martin of Massachusetts, and Pelosi. More facts on the history of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives can be found here. 

No agreement is in sight over funding for a southern border wall as the federal government’s partial shutdown heads into week three.

The House, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) leadership, passed a spending package last week to fully fund six of the unfinished appropriations bills and fund the Department of Homeland Security through early February. But there was no funding for the border wall. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it well known that the House proposal to reopen the federal government was a “nonstarter” in the Senate. This weekend, it was reported by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that the House will “do the same thing this week. The difference is we'll do it bill-by-bill.” The House plans to pass four separate spending bills this week to open the remaining parts of the federal government; there was no mention of funding for the wall. There was also discussion over the weekend about the interest and ability of the president to declare a national emergency to build the wall.  

Until last week, a number of affected agencies were able to continue some operations using carryover funds and other measures. That has now come to an end for most. Below are some great resources on the partial shutdown thanks to Federal Funds Information for States.

Capitol to Capitol will keep you updated as discussions continue.

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

New House Rules

The House passed new rules for the 116th Congress, which included some major changes to past rules. Committee and subcommittee chairpersons will no longer be limited to six-year terms. The existing requirement for legislation to be made publicly available for “three-days” before it is voted on was changed to “72 hours,” which would prevent legislation from being released on Friday night and voted on Monday morning.

Additionally, the rules package reinstitutes pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules, replacing “cut-as-you-go” (CUTGO). PAYGO requires that new mandatory spending or tax cuts be fully offset with tax increases or mandatory spending cuts whereas CUTGO allowed only spending cuts. As for tax increases, the rules package also repeals a rule that no legislation containing an increase in federal income tax rates can pass the House without a three-fifths vote on a roll call. Dynamic scoring requirements on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are also rescinded although a provision would now require CBO to determine the budgetary impact of federal land transfers to state, local or tribal government.

Another major budgetary change is the undoing of a requirement that transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), “shall be counted as new budget authority and outlays equal to the amount of the transfer in the fiscal year the transfer occurs.” This rule, which had been in place since 2011, meant that such transfers needed to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases elsewhere in the budget. Other changes include: extending some powers and privileges of members to delegates and the resident commissioner; creating a select committee on climate change and an office of diversity and inclusion; changing the name of the Education and Workforce Committee to Education and Labor; and, providing powers to the speaker regarding legal issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act. More information can be found in this House summary.  

NCSL Contacts: Molly Ramsdell (budget), Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth (HTF)

Preserve the House Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs


The first selfie was introduced to the world in 1839, and was not new, as originally thought in 2003. Robert Cornelius an American photographer, working outdoors to take advantage of sunlight, made a head-and-shoulders self-portrait using a box fitted with a lens from an opera glass, and thus was born the first selfie.

In the final hours of the 115th Congress, NCSL joined other groups representing state and local elected officials in a letter to House leadership asking them to preserve the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs as part of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the 116th Congress. “The Subcommittee is highly valued by our organizations because it presents a bipartisan venue where federal, state and local governments can identify common goals and address issues and solutions that benefit our shared constituents,” the letter stated.

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

A Second and Final Round of Trade Aid for Farmers

The Trump administration announced a second and "final" round of trade aid for farmers and ranchers affected by retaliatory tariffs. This round of relief payments will apply to the second half of 2018 production for producers of corn, soybean, wheat, sorghum, cotton, shelled almonds, sweet cherries, dairy and pork. Payment rates for each farm good included in the program were unchanged from the first round of direct aid.

Producers only need to sign up once to be eligible for both rounds of payments. The sign-up period ends Jan. 15, but producers have until May to certify their 2018 production. Direct payments under the relief program will total $9.6 billion. More than $7.25 billion, or 75 percent, is devoted to soybean growers. Corn growers will still receive just one cent per bushel for their crop, while the National Corn Growers Association said producers have lost 44 cents per bushel on average since tariffs were first announced.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Final Rule for the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food

USDA announced its final rule for the labeling of genetically engineered food, requiring companies to disclose the presence of genetically modified ingredients in food. The “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard” defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

Specifically, by January 2022, items of food that contain genetically modified ingredients will need to include one of three disclosure options: a USDA-selected logo that is a picture of a field with the letters "BE"; the phrase "bioengineered;" or a QR code. However, products will not be subject to the rule if they do not contain any detectable genetic material, which is likely to affect many products. Companies can voluntarily disclose their presence even if not required by the rule. The rule results from legislation S. 764 in July 2016. The rule is likely to be challenged in court.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

An Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure that aims to serve as a blueprint for reducing lead exposure and associated harms by working with a range of stakeholders, including states, tribes and local communities, along with businesses, property owners and parents.

The four goals of the plan are to reduce children’s exposure to lead sources, identify lead-exposed children and improve their health outcomes, communicate more effectively with stakeholders, and support and conduct critical research to inform efforts to reduce lead exposures and related health risks.

"The first and most fundamental responsibility of government is to protect the people, especially the most vulnerable among us," said Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  "Lead exposure is a threat that disproportionately harms children in low-income communities. All Americans, regardless of their age, race, income or home address, deserve an opportunity to live in safe and healthy environments."

The plan clearly states that it "is not a budget document and does not imply approval for any specific action" by the White House Office of Management and Budget and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs,” and that it "will inform future federal budget and regulatory development processes within the context of the goals articulated in the President's Budget. 

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Federal School Discipline Guidance Withdrawn: Defers to State and Local Policy Leaders 

On Dec. 21, 2018, the Departments of Education and Justice jointly released a letter withdrawing and rescinding the 2014 Obama discipline guidance package. A few days earlier, the Federal Commission on School Safety recommended the rescission of the discipline guidance in its final report.

Ultimately governors and state legislators should work with school leaders, teachers and parents to address their own unique challenges and develop their own solutions,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, speaking of the report. ”The primary responsibility naturally rests with states and local communities. Local problems need local solutions."


The longest federal government shutdown lasted 21 days, which happened under the Clinton administration in 1995. So far, this government partial shutdown ranks second. The clock ticks away to the government being closed for a full 16 days.

A summary of the mixed reactions and possible policy implications may be useful for state legislatures reviewing the matter. The federal policy action follows two recent federal reports highlighting racial disparity in school discipline.

In March 2018, the Government Accountability Office analyzed national civil rights data from the 2013-2014 school year and found black students, boys, and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (e.g., suspensions and expulsions) in K-12 public schools. In April 2018, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released its 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a biannually published self-report by 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and educational programs. The CRDC School Climate and Safety Issue Brief reported that “during the 2015-2016 school year, black students represented 15 percent of the total student enrollment, and 31 percent of students who were referred to law enforcement or arrested–a 16 percentage point disparity.”

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

States Reminded to Review “Emergency Operations Plan” for K-12 and College School Emergencies

On Dec. 12, 2018, the Department of Education sent an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) letter to chief state school officers and state board of education leaders encouraging states to review the “State’s Emergency Operations Plan” in times of emergency, such as a school shooting. The letter provides access to tools for states and school districts currently lacking EOPs or looking to improve their plans. Two examples are the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans and the Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Institutions of Higher Education.

More information is available at

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Announces United States Delegation to China

On Jan. 4, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced members of the official delegation to China, which is set to convene trade relationship discussions today,  Jan. 7. Senior officials from the White House, USTR and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State, Treasury will accompany the delegation.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald

On This Day, Jan. 7, in …

  • 1999: President Bill Clinton begins his impeachment trial before the Senate and was acquitted. It was only the second time in U.S. history that an impeached president had gone to trial. President Andrew Johnson went to trial Feb. 25 - May 26, 1868, and was also acquitted.

Read the Dec. 17 Capitol to Capitol.

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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
  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | 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
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education