Capitol to Capitol | June 12, 2017

Legislative Leaders State Case in Washington 

Legislative leaders from around the country convened in Washington, D.C., last week for the NCSL Symposium for Legislative Leaders. This annual NCSL meeting allows legislative leaders to share ideas with one another and hear from the country’s leading experts in economics, public policy and politics.

State lawmakers gather in front  of the U.S. Capitol.This year, state leaders had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price, senior staff from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and expressed their thoughts and concerns on the new health care bill that is being formulated in Congress to modify the Affordable Care Act. State leaders also heard from U.S. Representative  Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chair of the new bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Relations. Bishop, a former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, held a discussion on federalism issues and explained how to get more involved with the task force. The task force was created by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to explore the balance of interests among federal, state, tribal and local governments. NCSL is a member of the advisory council to the new task force.  


Thirty years ago today, in 1987, in one of his most famous Cold War speeches, President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the repressive Communist era in a divided Germany. Watch a video of the speech.

State lawmakers at a briefing in the U.S. Capitol.

While in town for the Leaders Meeting, Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos was also invited to the White House for discussions on infrastructure with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, several cabinet secretaries and other state and local officials.  This event, part of the White House Infrastructure Week, provided an opportunity for the administration to hear from some 30 state and local leaders and explore ways to improve our nation’s infrastructure and build better intergovernmental working relationships. 


NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell

Another Week of High Profile Capitol Hill (Budget?) Hearings

Last week’s testimony from former FBI Director James Comey was one of the most anticipated and watched hearings in decades as 19.5 million people tuned in to watch. This week, Congress will hold a slew of hearings on the much less exciting issue of the federal budget. But a few of the hearings may provide a little more excitement than number-crunching:

Monday, June 12

  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis will testify before the House Armed Services Committee on the DOD budget.

Tuesday, June 13

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to testify in public before the Senate intelligence Committee.
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate appropriations committees on the Justice Department’s budget.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the State Department’s budget.
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the DOD budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will testify before the Senate Budget Committee on the Treasury’s budget.

Wednesday, June 14  

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will appear before House Foreign Relations Committee regarding the State Department’s budget.

Thursday, June 15 

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the HHS budget.

Friday, June 16 

  • Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe will appear before the House Appropriations Committee to discuss the bureau’s budget.

In general, expect a lot of questions… not about the budget.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

DHS Secretary Reiterates Full REAL ID Enforcement Will Begin in January

Last Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated during a U.S House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee hearing that he “will ensure it (REAL ID) is implemented on schedule with no extension for states that are not taking it seriously,” and are “dragging their feet” on implementation. He added that "for those states and territories that cannot or will not make the January 2018 deadline—as I have been telling governors and members of Congress for months now—they should be honest and encourage their citizens to acquire other forms of REAL ID compliant verification like passports." Currently, only half the states are considered in compliance with REAL ID. While many other states have been granted extensions through either July or October, four states—Maine, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana—are currently considered to be “noncompliant” although, several of these states, including Minnesota and Maine, have passed recent legislation expected to qualify them for a waiver.

Beginning in January 2018, for those states that are not compliant or have not received an extension, residents will not be allowed to use their state issued drivers license at TSA airport security checkpoints for purposes of boarding a commercial aircraft. For more information see NCSL’s REAL ID homepage.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Molly Ramsdell

Consensus on Final Senate Health Measure Eludes GOP 

Proposals to revise and repeal the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have had their ups and downs since leaving the House.


The U.S. Open Championship golf tournament was suspended during both world wars. In 1917 it was canceled when the U.S.entered World War I and resumed in until 1919. During those two years, teenage golf prodigy Bobby Jones toured the country for exhibitions that helped raise $150,000 for the American Red Cross. Walter Hagen won the tournamentin 1919, and four years later, Jones won the first of four U.S. Opens.

The U.S. Open was canceled again after the U.S. entered World War II and didn't resume until 1946. In 1942, Ben Hogan won what some consider to be his first U.S. Open, except that it wasn't. The USGA, PGA of America and Chicago District Golf Association put on the Hale America Open as a substitute tournament to raise money for the USO and Navy Relief Society. Hogan, the winner by three shots over Jimmy Demaret, won a gold medal and $1,200 in war bonds. 

Republican leaders have optimistically reported that language was forthcoming in the next two weeks only to be stalled again by disagreements on the cost, subsidies to support the purchase of insurance and how to handle Medicaid.

If consensus is reached, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring language to the floor for a vote by the July 4 recess. It’s not yet known how the Senate version of the bill will fund the federal share of Medicaid. NCSL has been told an array of proposals are being considered, and has shared many of your recommendations with the Senate Finance staff.  A June 21 deadline for insurers to commit to participation in the ACA Exchanges in 2018 is adding pressure to the situation. Many insurers have commented that if the insurance premium subsidies are not financed, premiums will increase in the double digits for the 2018 plan year. In the meantime many states are faced with insurers dropping out of their exchanges, and consumers having fewer choices for their health coverage.  


Infrastructure Week Yields Little Additional New Details

Although the White House dubbed last week Infrastructure Week, there were few new major details released regarding President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to propose a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package.


In 1758, when George Washington ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses for the second time, he spent his entire campaign budget on 160 gallons of liquor to serve to potential voters. However, Washington was concerned that it wasn’t enough. In his note to his campaign manager on July 28, he wrote that “my only fear is that you spent with too sparing a hand.” (He went on to win handily.)

Buying votes with booze was a custom in England, as it was in Virginia, where barrels of liquor were rolled to courthouse lawns and polling places on Election Day. Not providing booze could prove costly, as Washington found out three years before. When he first ran for the House of Burgesses in 1755, he refused to engage in this practice. He went on to lose the election 271 to 40 votes.

The tradition of drinking and voting continued up to the era of Prohibition. Often, people working at the polls drank, as did voters. Sometimes, the polls were located inside saloons, which made imbibing more convenient for the men who were allowed in such places. The strict control of alcohol consumption during Prohibition, at least in public places like the polls, made serving booze to voters problematic. 

 On Monday, the president released a set of key legislative principles for moving forward with reform of the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system. ATC reform is expected to be a major issue of contention as both the House and Senate continue their work to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and it currently appears to lack enough support to pass. FAA’s authority expires at end of September. Additionally, following a Senate Commerce Committee hearing with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on June 7, Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) noted that he was surprised by the lack of specifics the secretary offered about the impact the White House's air traffic control principles would have on general aviation, saying ,“We were trying to give her an opportunity to talk about what safeguards would be in place for rural areas and general aviation operators and that sort of thing,” and “we were sort of, I think, looking for a little bit more specificity."

On Wednesday, the president traveled to Kentucky to highlight the positive impact of the nation’s system of inland waterways although he did not offer any specifics as to how such a system would benefit from his $1 trillion infrastructure plan. In fact, the president’s FY 2018 budget proposal would cut funding for both inland waterways and ports and harbors.

Bringing infrastructure week to a close, on Friday, June 9, the president announced a new advisory council, as part of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, that would be charged with helping infrastructure project managers navigate a federal permitting process he described as "painfully slow, costly and time-consuming. Additionally, the president tasked the council with establishing an online "dashboard" allowing the public to track "major projects.” Such an online dashboard mirrors action by the Obama administration when it created an online tool in 2011 to monitor high-priority projects for which federal procedures were expedited. Additionally, the last two surface transportation reauthorizations, MAP-21 and the FAST Act, enacted in 2012 and 2015 respectively, included a number of a provisions related to decreasing permitting time, many of which have yet to be fully implemented.

One specific provision in the FAST Act, known as FAST-41, calls for the creation of a steering council to address project streamlining. Shortly after the president’s remarks, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), released a letter expressing their concern that the president was not using existing tools to accomplish a widely held goal of reducing permitting times. The letter also noted that the president’s executive order issued in late January that pertained to expediting reviews alternately duplicates and conflicts with FAST-41.

For a review of previously released information regarding the president’s infrastructure initiative, see NCSL’s info alert from late May.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

House Made CHOICE For Dodd-Frank Repeal

Last week, the House passed the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which would repeal and replace banking regulations from the Dodd-Frank law. CHOICE, or Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs, is an effort to undo much of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which was enacted in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis that spurred the Great Recession.  

The legislation passed the House primarily along party-lines after Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) agreed to remove a controversial section of the bill that would have repealed the debit card swipe fee cap known as the Durbin Amendment.

The House bill in its current form is unlikely to pass the Senate, which is more likely to narrow the focus of the legislation if it considers it all.

NCSL Contact: Neal Osten


Read the June 5, 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
  • 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