Capitol to Capitol | July 15, 2019














This week the House is expected to pass a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over several years. The House will also vote on a full repeal of the tax on high-cost health plans, known as the Cadillac tax, which currently doesn’t take effect until 2022.

The Senate is expected to act on several nominations, including a committee hearing on the nomination of Mark Esper for secretary of defense. The Senate will also vote on tax treaties with Japan, Luxembourg, Spain and Switzerland. 

And last week, Stacy Householder, director of NCSL’s Leaders and International program, testified before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The topic of the hearing was Fostering the Next Generation of Leaders: Setting Members up for Success. Householder’s written testimony, which focused on state approaches to orientation and training and NCSL’s services to state legislatures in this area, can be accessed here. A recording of the hearing can be found here.

U.S. Budget Gap Widens

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget deficit was $746 billion for the first nine months of fiscal 2019, or $139 billion more than the deficit at the same time last year.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty


July 2 marked the 55th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in public places, and enforced desegregation of government-run school systems nationwide. It was the impetus for other landmark civil rights legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed voter discrimination, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlawed housing discrimination.

House Makes Progress on Appropriations, But Caps, Debt Ceiling Impasse Threaten Budget

It has been reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Republican leaders are looking to strike a multi-year deal that would remove the spending caps and raise the debt ceiling, which could be reached in mid-September. House leaders have already said the deal must have parity between defense and non-defense programs. 

The House has been adhering to its own spending limits of $733 billion in defense funds and $647 billion for domestic and foreign aid programs. While the House is only about $17 billion apart from the White House for defense programs, the two are more than $100 billion apart for non-defense funding. The Senate has yet to take up any of its bills but has floated that leaders would “deem” their own limits if necessary. A government shutdown still looms if all parties can’t come to an agreement. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

House Defense Bill Includes Significant Environmental Provisions

The House passed, 220-197, the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 2500. While the bill is primarily geared towards issues affecting the armed forces, it includes several environmental provisions concerning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In particular, the bill would accelerate PFAS cleanup near military and other federal installations, set federal limits on PFAS discharges into drinking water supplies, establish guidelines for incineration of PFAS wastes, end the use of PFAS in firefighting foam used by the military by 2023, and provide uncontaminated water to farmers and dairies with military-contaminated water. The Senate's NDAA, S 1790, which includes many fewer provisions on PFAS, would only require the EPA to set an enforceable drinking water limit within two years for at least the two best-studied chemicals in the class, perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, and to take additional steps as more is learned about the roughly 5,000 other chemicals in the class. It remains very unclear how the two versions will be conferenced together.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDOT Releases FY 2020 Federal Highway Funding Estimates

The Federal Highway Administration announced its fiscal year 2020 estimates for state apportionments for the seven major federal highway funding programs, which begins Oct. 1, 2019. These programs provide $43.4 billion in funding to states and include the National Highway Performance Program; Surface Transportation Block Program; Highway Safety Improvement Program; Railway-Highway Crossings Program; Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program; Metropolitan Planning and the National Highway Freight Program. The process to reauthorize these programs and other federal transportation programs has begun with the Senate expected to mark up its draft early next month.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

President Ends Push for Citizenship Question


The Seneca Falls Convention, which convened July 19-20, 1848, was heralded as the first women’s rights convention. It launched the women’s suffrage movement, which later ensured women the right to vote. The five women who are credited with organizing the convention were also active in the abolition movement.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced he would not seek to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, ending an extensive battle on the question’s legality and the reasoning behind it. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had insisted the data was needed to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act, but a challenge to the effort in court offered evidence that political motives were involved. The Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling last month, agreeing that a citizenship question itself would be permissible, but that given the circumstances, court approval would be contingent on the Commerce Department producing new, “genuine” rationale. After initially indicating a commitment to find a way to include the question, the president said on Thursday he would seek citizenship information from existing federal records and submit an executive order instructing federal departments and agencies to provide the U.S. Census Bureau with such information immediately.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

Supreme Court Review

The census citizenship question case and the partisan gerrymandering cases were the blockbusters of the Supreme Court’s recent term for states and local governments. Join Judith Vale, senior assistant solicitor general at the Office of the New York State Attorney General, who co-wrote the state of New York’s brief in the census case, and Paul Hughes and Mayer Brown, who argued an agency deference case and co-wrote the challengers' brief in one of the partisan gerrymandering cases, in a discussion of these cases and other cases of interest to states and local governments. Topics include religious displays on public property, takings, alcohol regulation, and employment.  

  • Date:  July 23
  • Time:  1 p.m. EDT
  • Register here.

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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
  • 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