Capitol to Capitol | July 24, 2017

Senator Peters to Fight for State Sovereignty at Congressional Hearing  

Senator Deb Peters of South Dakota, NCSL’s president-elect, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law on Tuesday, July 25, in opposition to the No Regulation Without Representation Act, H.R. 2887. The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). If enacted, this constitutionally questionable legislation would codify a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional right of states to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens and local businesses, as well as pre-empt countless laws in all 50 states.


The Anti-Masonic party is known as the first “third party” in the United States.

In September 1831, the anti-Masonic Party held a national convention in Baltimore and nominated William Wirt as their presidential candidate for the following year. Wirt had been the U.S. attorney general and, strangely, a Mason. Running against the popular Andrew Jackson, Wirt did poorly, winning only the seven electoral votes of the state of Vermont. Their prime impact had been to drain votes away from Henry Clay. It was the first American third party, the first political party to hold a national nominating convention, and the first to offer the electorate a platform of party principles.

Around 1834, the Anti-Masonic Party began a rapid disintegration with some of its members helping to establish the new Whig Party and others migrating to the Democratic Party.

Peters’ testimony will discuss how the Framers of the Constitution were concerned about an all-powerful central government, which resulted in the ratification of 10th amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

 “Since its ratification, the Tenth Amendment has defined American federalism, the relationship between the federal and state governments,” Peters will say in her testimony.  “However, Congress has persistently endeavored to erode state sovereignty and undermine the significance of the 10th Amendment in favor of more centralized power at the national level. This erosion of state sovereignty has only accelerated in recent years as the congressional thirst to dictate state governance apparently cannot be quenched.”  

She goes on to say, “All too often, members of Congress will tout the importance of ‘states rights’ to justify a position on an issue, and then pre-empt states on other issues that don’t suit their agendas. This ideological impurity is why the American people are frustrated. Therefore, it is the prerogative, no, it is the obligation of states to remind Congress that there are 50 stars on the American flag, not 535.”

In her testimony, Peters cites some of the hundreds of state laws that will be pre-empted by the No Regulations Without Representation Act as well as discussing how the Sensenbrenner/Goodlatte legislation will shut down efforts by states to collect sales taxes on remote transactions and pre-empt numerous other tax laws such as corporate taxes in 25 states.

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten; Molly Ramsdell

Health Care Bill Up in the Air

Following last week’s dramatic turn of events, the second version of the GOP’s repeal and replace health care bill fell apart after it was first delayed upon the news of Senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) emergency surgery and then shortly after, collapsed when Senators Mike Lee (R-Nev.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) indicated their opposition. The bill was ultimately defeated by deep divisions within the party and differing views on a health care alternative between conservatives and moderate Republicans. One side argued the bill doesn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the other posed political concerns like whether it would preserve coverage for enough people.


According to Internet Retailer, online sales grew by 15.1 percent in 2016 and now accounts for 11.7 percent of total retail sales.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still plans to hold a critical procedural vote tomorrow to begin debate on repeal of the ACA, but it appears unlikely to succeed and it’s also unclear what health care bill the Senators will even consider. GOP leaders will meet behind closed doors later today to decide what direction they plan to go. The aim could still be to bring to the floor a bill replacing major parts of the ACA or they might substitute in a bill repealing the law.

Along with the political roadblocks preventing the overhaul of the ACA, a whole new set of problems for the Senate GOP’s health care bill became apparent last week, when the parliamentarian indicated that Democrats could block several key elements of the legislation, including abortion coverage restrictions, a one-year ban on funding for Planned Parenthood and changes to Medicaid coverage requirements. These roadblocks were always on the horizon, but took a back seat to the political concerns about the bill. Now, policy problems like, what can and cannot fit inside the budget reconciliation bill, are back at the forefront. Either way, GOP leadership is currently short of the 50 votes it needs to advance its legislation and the vote is expected to fail. If repeal efforts collapse this week, Republicans will “go back to the drawing board” and try again, Senate GOP Conference chairman John Thune said yesterday.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson

House “Minibus” Package Drives onto House Floor

The House Budget Committee is expected this week to unveil and vote on its budget resolution for FY 2018, which begins on Oct. 1. The committee vote would be the first step

While the Senate stays busy with health care, House Republicans across the Capitol have an equally challenging feat to accomplish as they struggle to round up the votes for a FY 2018 budget resolution. The House Budget Committee voted 22-14 along party lines last week to send a resolution to the floor of the House for consideration by the full chamber. Their push to vote on a 12-bill omnibus to fund the federal government before recess fell short and they will instead vote on a scaled-back “minibus” package on security-related spending bills.

The Rules Committee will meet at 5 p.m. today to set up a floor debate on the four-bill bundle and Republican leaders are anticipating hundreds of amendments to be offered that will result in member statements late into the night. This may mean that the committee will not vote until tomorrow on letting the minibus hit the floor, resulting in a last-minute debate on defense spending, to begin later in the week. With five days left before the House plans on departing for summer recess, House Republicans have their work cut out for them.

Threatening to cause trouble for GOP leaders, a controversial “gender-reassignment” proposal that would bar Pentagon funding for transgender surgeries may be coming back into the fold. The amendment failed during debate earlier this month, but several House Republicans are working behind the scenes to add the language into the spending bill. Additionally, the bill is expected to provide $1.6 billion to pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border, which could generate strong Democratic opposition. A number of skeptical appropriators warn that if the House passes a budget, it will be ignored by the Senate. This will most likely result in 12 bills being bundled together late in the year into an omnibus package assembled by House and Senate leaders. Both the House and the Senate must approve a budget agreement to unlock the legislative tool of reconciliation to pass tax reform with a simple majority.

NCSL Contact: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

NAFTA Negotiating Goals and Objectives Released by USTR

On July 17, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, officially released a 17-page summary of the negotiating objectives for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation.  In this document, the trade agency sketched out a plan to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, restrict the amount of imported material in goods that qualify under the agreement, and also added a chapter on digital economy.

Since Lighthizer sent a letter to Congress informing them of the administration’s intent to initiate NAFTA negotiations, USTR has sought public comments, received more than 12,000 responses, and heard directly from more than 140 witnesses over three days of public hearings. The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, requires that USTR release objectives at least 30 days before any formal negotiations. As a result, NAFTA renegotiations will begin no earlier than Aug. 16, 2017.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri, Lucia Bragg

Urge Members of House Energy and Commerce Committee to Oppose the State Preemption of Regulating Autonomous Vehicle

NCSL is seeking your assistance in reaching out to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to urge them to oppose legislation that would vastly expand federal preemption of state authority to regulate autonomous vehicles.

  • Historically, states have been preempted from regulating “motor vehicle safety,” which includes vehicle design and construction. This bill would significantly expand this preemption to encompass vehicle operation and traffic safety as it relates to autonomous vehicles.
  • The bill would prohibit both states and the federal government from requiring a safety assurance letter from the manufacturer responsible for introducing these technologies to the public roadways. 
  • With the rapid pace of autonomous technological innovation not being matched by corresponding vehicle safety standards or other safety requirements by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, states have had to step into this role to ensure that autonomous vehicle testing is done in a safe and responsible manner.

For additional information or questions regarding the legislation, please contact NCSL staff Ben Husch (202-624-7779) or Kristen Hildreth (202-624-3597). 

NCSL’s States’ Agenda in Washington to be Adopted at Boston Legislative Summit


In 1899, the 55th Congress passed the Height of Buildings Act, which restricted buildings in Washington D.C. to be no higher than 110 feet. In 1910, the 61st Congress enacted a new height restriction law, the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, which limited building heights to 130 feet, or the width of the right-of-way of the street or avenue on which a building fronts, whichever is shorter. The current policy of the 1910 Height Act has been in place with only small modifications for over 100 years.

The NCSL Standing Committees will meet Aug. 6 and 7 to consider almost 50 policy directives and resolutions during NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Boston. If approved by at least three-fourths of the states in the committees, the policy directives and resolutions will then be considered at the annual Business Meeting. To be part of NCSL’s States Agenda, policy directives and resolutions will again need to be adopted by at least three-fourth of the states. These policy directives and resolutions will guide NCSL’s advocacy efforts before Congress and the administration.

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell

Read the July 17, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding Capitol-to-Capitol, please contact Max Behlke.


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.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services 
  • Rachel Morgan | 202-624-3569 | Health and Human Services
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure