Capitol to Capitol | July 26, 2021

7/26/2021

Senators Continue Negotiations to Turn Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework into Legislative Text

A bipartisan group of senators, large enough to overcome a filibuster, continues to work towards turning their nearly $1 trillion framework agreement into legislative text. Members have expressed optimism they are close to a bill that could be released this week, followed by the start of formal debate and amendment offerings on the Senate floor. The package is likely to be based on a number of bills already approved at the committee level, including bills on highway and road funding (Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee), rail and roadway safety (Commerce Committee), clean and safe drinking water (EPW Committee), and energy infrastructure (Energy and Natural Resources Committee), and broadband funding. However, it remains unclear when and how a Senate package will be conferenced with the House. Stay tuned to NCSL for further updates, including our federal infrastructure update as part of Base Camp 2021.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth (natural resources and infrastructure) and Abbie Gruwell (Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce) 

House Set to Approve 2022 Appropriations, Senate Further Behind

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that the chamber will take up the Agriculture (H.R. 4346), Energy and Water Development, Interior-Environment (H.R. 4372), and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills as part of a seven-bill minibus this week. Although these bills generally provide significant increases over current year spending, it remains unclear when and how Congress will adopt final spending levels as the Senate remains further behind the House. It’s likely final levels will not be set until after Thanksgiving.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

PFAS Action Act Passes House with Bipartisan Support

The House last week passed HR 2467, 241-183, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency to create a national drinking water standard for select per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—within two years. It also designates both chemicals as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law and requires the EPA to determine whether or not to list other PFAS within five years, and designates both chemicals as hazardous air pollutants via the Clean Air Act within 180 days. Additionally, the bill would require the EPA to place limits on industrial discharge of the chemicals and authorizes $200 million annually to assist water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities. A previous version of the PFAS Action Act passed the House in January 2020 but stalled in the Senate under threat of veto by former President Donald Trump. Members of the Biden administration have already vowed to take action on PFAS. A companion bill has not yet been taken up in the Senate.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment that have emerged as an issue of increasing interest to state legislatures and the federal government. PFAS are used in a wide range of products used daily—from cookware to rain jackets to pizza boxes—because they contain many properties such as the ability to repel dirt, water and grease. PFAS chemicals are extremely stable and persistent in the environment and in the human body, meaning they do not break down and can accumulate over time. According to the EPA, studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can impact reproductive and developmental systems, liver and kidney function and cause immunological effects in laboratory animals.

For more information on what states are doing to address PFAS, visit NCSL’s webpage here.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House Energy and Commerce Passes Medicaid Support for U.S. Territories

The Supporting Medicaid in the U.S. Territories Act (RH 4406), a bipartisan agreement within the committee, maintains current funding levels and the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for five years for Puerto Rico and eight years for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Movement on the legislation in the Senate is unclear. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Debt Ceiling Deadline Looms but Expected to be Suspended

The two-year suspension of the U.S. debt limit enacted by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 ends July 31, which would require the Treasury to begin “extraordinary measures,” such as the sale of certain securities, to keep cashflow moving. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress last week to extend the suspension to avoid a payment default and risk detrimental economic impacts and risking sole credit rating downgrades. It is expected that Congress will approve a waiver of the debt limit, but with the national debt at historic levels as reported by experts such as the Congressional Budget Office, debate on federal spending has reached peak levels. The Congressional Research Service released a report—The Debt Limit in 2021—on July 23 Read more.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Funding Available to address Health Workforce Burnout and Mental Health

The Health Resources and Services Administration announced the availability of $103 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help reduce burnout and promote mental health among the health workforce. Funding will need to take into consideration the needs of rural and medically underserved communities and help health care organizations establish a culture of wellness among the health and public safety workforce. Resources will also need to support training efforts that build resiliency for those starting in their health careers. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

CMS Proposes Increasing Penalty For Hospitals That Fail to Comply with Price Transparency Rule

Some hospitals have not been complying with a new regulation requiring them to post prices for at least 300 “shoppable” services. The current maximum penalty for not posting is $110,000 per year. The new proposal would make $110,000 the minimum penalty and raises the maximum penalty to $2 million per year for the largest hospitals and is seeking comments on tougher penalties. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is also asking for comments on best practices for online price estimator tools hospitals could use instead of posting charges for the 300 services. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

In Every Edition

Read the July 19 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
  • Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Service
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education