Capitol to Capitol | July 20, 2020


Fourth Stimulus Still Being Developed as House Appropriations Completes FY 2021 Spending Bills

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the remaining FY 2021 spending bills along party lines while the Senate continued developing its forthcoming blueprint for a fourth Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package. Returning this week from recess, the Senate is expected to present a $1 trillion plan that provides incentives for schools to re-start, another round of stimulus checks, and extends unemployment benefits. The Republican blueprint is not expected at this time to include additonal aid to state and local governments. The House passed the $3.5 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act (H.R. 6800) two months ago that would provide an additional $500 billion to states to compensate for revenue shortfalls, as well as and other provisions designed to help communities and businesses weather the pandemic. Both parties remain apart in their initial proposals for the next phase of relief, but the House has vowed to not adjourn for its scheduled August recess until a compromise can be reached.

Now is the time to contact your U.S. Senators to request the flexible assistance you need for your state. Tell them about the budget cuts you have already made and stress how additional state aid is vital to state’s economic recovery. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

REAL ID Modernization Act Introduced

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the REAL ID Modernization Act (S. 4133). This bill would update a number of statutory provisions from the original bill, enacted 15 years ago by allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue regulations on the use electronic means to present required information, including mobile or digital driver’s licenses, digital photographs, and social security information. The bill also permanently authorizes REAL ID grants for states that would cover some of the costs of complying with the law’s requirements. NCSL, along with the National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators collaborated with committee staff over the past six months prior to the bill’s introduction and includes many of our requests.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House to Vote on Great American Outdoors Act

The House is expected vote on, and pass, the Great American Outdoors Act following the Senate’s approval last month. This bill would both fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and establish the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to pay for deferred maintenance projects on lands administered by the National Park Service, Forest Service and other branches of the Department of the Interior. The LWCF, funded by revenues from offshore oil and gas production, provides funds for federal acquisition of land and waters as well as grants to states for outdoor recreational facilities. The bill makes annual LWCF funding mandatory at the authorized level of $900 million, which is nearly double the amount Congress provided this year. The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund would receive $9.5 billion over five years from unallocated energy revenues that would go toward reducing the nearly $20 billion maintenance backlog in national parks and on public lands. NCSL has been advocating for permanent full funding of the LWCF.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House Unveils Bipartisan Water Resources Legislation

Last week, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, H.R. 7575, was introduced and passed out of committee. A generally biennial, bipartisan piece of legislation, WRDA plays a key role in protecting, maintaining and further developing the nation’s water infrastructure systems, including ports, waterways, and clean and safe drinking water. It provides states with added stability and certainty to meet water infrastructure needs while also supporting the safety, environmental protection, and economic development of communities across the nation. WRDA not only provides the Army Corps of Engineers with its authorization to address and maintain America’s water infrastructure, including its ports, dam and flood resistance efforts, but it also provides funding and financing opportunities to states undertaking vital water infrastructure projects.

In May, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved two bills making up the 2020 authorization of WRDA, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. NCSL has sent two letters to the House and Senate–the first with other state and local government stakeholders, and the second raising NCSL-specific issues. It is of NCSL staff opinion that the House will pass its legislation prior to the August recess, but it is currently unclear when the full Senate will consider its bill.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Trump Administration Rescinds Rule on International Students Studying Online

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and DHS have agreed to rescind the July 6 policy directive that would have required international students to take at least some in-person coursework in order to remain in the U.S. The government will return to the status quo of its March 13 guidance, which permits international students with F-1 visas to stay in the U.S. while taking online courses. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid, Jocelyn Salguero (education) and Ann Morse (immigration)

Trump Administration Overhauls National Environmental Policy Act Regulations

The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a final rule revising its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for the first time in over 40 years. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions.

Changes include:

  • Shortening the timelines for conducting environmental impact statements to two years
  • Complete the environmental assessment in one year.
  • Establishes a process that would allow a lead federal agency to take charge of reviews, instead of having each department conduct its own.
  • Streamlining the process.
  • Reduces the scope of impacts federal agencies should consider–instead of assessing “cumulative” effects, agencies must now focus on “reasonably foreseeable” and “casually related” impacts.

The administration states that the changes were designed to provide clarity for federal agencies and reduce delays in decision making. It is likely the revisions will face legal challenges.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Adoption of 42 CFR Part 2

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced the adoption of a revised Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, referred to as 42 CFR Part 2. The revised rule will allow the integration of healthcare for those with substance use disorders while upholding privacy and confidentiality protections. The new rule will allow providers with patients’ consent to conduct activities such as quality improvement, patient safety, and program integrity efforts more easily. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deploys QIOs

The Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) will provide immediate assistance to nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspot areas and will work with healthcare provides to help improve the quality of healthcare they provide to Medicare beneficiaries. The CMS is also implementing an enhanced survey process to meet concerns in these hotspots, and will coordinate federal, state and local efforts to leverage all available resources. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicolson and Margaret Wile

New Suicide Hotline Number Finalized

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to finalize a three-digit number for Americans to quickly reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Starting on July 16, 2022, users nationwide will be able to dial “988” to reach the service. The vote comes after the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to designate 988 for the hotline and an FCC staff report to Congress on the importance of the change. The FCC declined to address expanding the service to text.

NCSL Contact:s Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

Supreme Court Review Webinar for States and Local Governments

Even though the Supreme Court decided less cases during the 2019-20 term, they did not disappoint. On July 29, at 1 p.m. EST, join Elbert Lin and Hunton Andrews Kurth, who argued the most significant water case in over a decade, Jeff Harris and Consovoy McCarthy, who argued an employment case, and Adam Liptak of the New York Times, in a discussion of the term’s most interesting and relevant cases to states and local governments. Topics of some of the other cases covered in the webinar include, DACA, abortion and “faithless electors.”  

The webinar is free. Register here.

NCSL Contact: Lisa Soronen, State & Local Legal Center

In Every Edition

Read the July 13 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 and Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education