Capitol to Capitol | June 18, 2018

SCOTUS Will Issue Final Opinions in Next Two Weeks


A moment is an actual measure of time that lasts about 90 seconds.  

The unit of measurement dates back to 1398, when John of Trevisa wrote that there are 40 moments in an hour. Over the past 600 years, the meaning of the word changed, and is now defined as “a very brief period of time,” but if we want to go off the original meaning, it’s 90 seconds.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) typically waits until the end of its term to issue its major decisions; 2018 is no exception. Before the court adjourns next week, it will issue opinions that could have major implications for states, such as political gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering, public union dues and remote sales tax collection. SCOTUS does not release advanced notice of when it will decide any particular case, so expect major decisions to trickle out over the coming days. After today’s opinions, the court has 19 cases left to decide this term; it will release its next round of opinions on Thursday. 

First Gerrymandering Case Dismissed

This morning, in a 9-0 decision, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs in one of the terms notable gerrymandering cases, Gill v. Whitford, did not have legal standing to sue. The court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that they were harmed as individuals by the gerrymandering of their districts, and sent the case back to the district court to allow the plaintiffs the opportunity to prove “concrete and particularized” injuries that demonstrates that there was a burden on their individual votes. While this ruling signals that the court is hesitant to broach the issue of how political districts are drawn, it does not necessarily mean that the court will not weigh in on gerrymandering this term, given that several other cases have yet to be decided.

Gill v. Whitford Opinion.

Wayfair Watch

The outcome of the remote sales tax case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, will have lasting effects on state revenue as well as how states structure their tax codes. The decision could mean tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the states, or, on the flip side, could mean that sales tax collections will continue to decline as more consumers shop online. In the end, it comes down to the SCOTUS counting to five votes.

   NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick (SCOTUS); Max Behlke (Sales Tax)

House Overwhelmingly Passes NCSL-Supported STOP Act

On Thursday, the House approved the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act with significant bipartisan support. The legislation passed the chamber 353-52 with 49 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting against the bill. NCSL has policy supporting the STOP Act, and is actively advocating for its passage.

Designed to close a shipping loophole that has benefitted the United States Postal Service (USPS) over private shipping companies, the STOP Act would require the USPS to provide United States Customs and Border Patrol with heightened security data. This information, also known as “advance electronic manifest data,” has accompanied inbound foreign shipments handled by private carriers for more than 15 years. Containing information such as where a package originated, its destination and its contents, advanced electronic manifest data will help law enforcement identify, inspect and seize packages containing illegal, illicit and counterfeit substances and goods.

This issue was explored at last year’s NCSL Capitol Forum during a session titled “Buyer Beware - Counterfeit and Hazardous Goods Bought and Sold Online.” The session, focusing on consumer awareness and protection, touched on the recent influx of dangerous items entering our country, primarily via shipments originating outside of the country. During the event, NCSL hosted shipping, manufacturing and law enforcement experts who discussed how these items get through customs and into our country.

View NCSL’s most recent letter to Congress.

NCSL Contact: Ethan Wilson (Commerce), Susan Frederick (Law)

Immigration Politics Dominate the Week

Following a month-long push by moderate Republicans to force a vote on immigration, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) announced that the House will consider two immigration bills this week to halt a discharge petition that would have forced votes on four different immigration bills. This also comes during an intense public debate on whether the U.S. government should be separating families who cross the border illegally from seeking asylum. One bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), is a more conservative measure, which even GOP leaders have said lacks the votes to pass the House. The other is a compromise bill that GOP leadership is crafting that would create a new merit-based program for “Dreamers,” provide $25 billion for border security, end the diversity visa lottery program, and limit family-based migration.

President Donald Trump will meet with House Republicans tomorrow to clarify his support for the compromise legislation after making confusing statements last Friday. First, the president revoked support from both bills, but shortly later, the administration clarified he was criticizing a Democratic bill. The president has made clear that any immigration bill that would like to get his signature will need funding for his number one campaign promise; a border wall. Trump is increasingly frustrated with Congress’ failure to fund the wall and has even threatened a shutdown if funding isn’t included in the appropriations bills in September. Neither proposal currently enjoys unanimous Republican support, and Democrats have warned they will not support any proposal other than a bipartisan bill.

Farm Bill Held up by Immigration

Last month, the House failed to pass a House Farm Bill after 30 Republicans broke with party leaders to put pressure on leadership to force a vote on immigration. Now, the House Agriculture Committee is hopeful to get approval for their Farm Bill following the immigration debate ends later this week. 

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg

CMS Releases First Medicaid/CHIP Scorecard

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a national scorecard looking at the best practices and challenges in state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs. States were asked to provide data for the scorecard on a voluntary basis, while CMS also utilized publicly available reports. Some program measures looked at included: postpartum care, well-child visits, adult immunizations, follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness and many others. CMS has developed this initial scorecard to measure: state health system performance, state administrative accountability and federal administrative accountability. CMS officials would not comment on specific states successes or setbacks, but emphasized how scorecards could shape state and federal work, and improve the health outcomes of Medicaid beneficiaries moving forward.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson

Senate to Vote this Week on Rescission Package

The Senate plans to vote before this week’s Friday deadline on the White House’s $15 billion rescission package. If the chamber fails to vote before June 22, the special rules for the rescission legislation that prevent the package from being filibustered, will expire. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supports the House-passed legislation, H.R. 3 (115), which cuts $15 billion in unspent federal funds from a variety of programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, programs in the energy department and a number of smaller programs.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care


Alice Stebbins Wells was the first American-born female police officer in the United States, hired in 1910 in Los Angeles. Previously a minister in Kansas, Wells joined the Los Angeles Police Department after petitioning the mayor, police commissioner and the Los Angeles city council to better aid other women and children who were victims of crime. Wells went on to become the founder and first president of the International Association of Police Women, and traveled America and Canada to promote female officers.

The Department of Education released its current guidance on ensuring the educational stability of foster care youth. It can be found here. According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, of the approximately 415,000 children in foster care in 2014, more than 250,000 were in elementary and secondary schools. The federal guidance provides support for state and local educational agencies.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Department of Education Announces Changes to GEAR UP State Grants  

On June 12, the Department of Education announced plans for changes to the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program. Currently, the discretionary grant program supports efforts to increase the number of low-income students who obtain a secondary school diploma and attain postsecondary education. Program changes made include a new maximum award of $5 million per year over the course of six or seven years.

It is the responsibility of each governor to designate which state agency may apply for and administer the proposed state GEAR UP grant. While the application deadline remains July 13, 2018, the only states eligible to receive the new GEAR UP award are ones that are without active GEAR UP grants or states whose grants are scheduled to end prior to Oct. 1, 2018. More information can found here.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Senate Acts on the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act  

On June 13, Sen. Lamar Alexander announced the Senate Education Committee plans to mark-up a bill reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (CTE) on June 20, which permits $1 billion each year in government spending to fund CTE programs. The House passed its reauthorization bill, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act in June 2017. The Trump administration has expressed support for reauthorizing the CTE bill and earlier this year, the president proposed level funding for CTE programs in FY 2019. In addition to CTE reauthorization, the Senate Education Committee is also set to consider the nomination of Scott Stump for the Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education office’s top post.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Senate Agriculture Committee Approves 2018 Farm Bill in Bipartisan Vote  

On June 13, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its 2018 Farm Bill, 20-1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he would like the full Senate to vote on it prior to the July 4 recess. The House Agriculture Committee approved its bill on April 18, but the legislation failed on the House floor in early May. A second vote is expected later this month. Current authorization for most farm bill programs expires at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2018. An extension may be necessary if a reauthorization is not signed by then.

Although the Senate Agriculture Committee’s bill avoided any major changes in farm policy, it still included several noteworthy provisions. One of the biggest changes would be the legalization of hemp production. Farmers would be allowed to grow and sell the plant as an agricultural commodity that would be eligible for crop insurance. The bill gives states the authority to regulate hemp, and hemp researchers could apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants. NCSL strongly supported the inclusion of this language.

On funding for conservation programs, the Senate bill maintains the existing overall level, significantly different than the $800 million overall reduction contained in the House bill. Additionally, the Senate bill maintains the largest conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which the House bill would eliminate, although it does reallocate some of CSP’s funding for Environmental Quality Incentives Program—a federal cost-sharing initiative that supports capital projects that have positive environmental effects, such as cover crops.

Commodity support programs remained largely untouched outside of changes aimed at ensuring payments from the commodity support program known as Agriculture Risk Coverage, are more consistent across state lines. Additionally, the bill provides permanent funding for several USDA competitive grant programs by replicating the $200 million for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, first established in the 2014 farm bill, while also removing a grant-matching requirement for National Institute of Food and Agriculture competitive programs.

Key Documents:

Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill)

Section-by-Section Summary of 2018 Farm Bill

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth (Agriculture) Haley Nicholson, Abbie Gruwell (SNAP)

On this Day, June 18, in…

  • 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride, Sally, Ride!
  • 1979, in Vienna, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II (SALT 2).
  • 1898, Atlantic City, NJ, opened its Steel Pier.
  • 1873, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for attempting to vote for a U.S. president.

Also of Note…


Ulysses S. Grant was a gifted writer. After leaving the presidency, Grant became ill and was financially destitute. His memoirs, written as he was dying from throat cancer, show a clear, concise style, and his autobiography, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, is considered among the best, if not the best, written by a president.

  • The Health 202: Congress tackles Medicaid rule in effort to dent opioid crisis (Washington Post)
    President Trump and congressional Republicans have highlighted repealing the rule as a cornerstone of their effort to address the nation's burgeoning opioid crisis.
  • The Force Behind Europe’s Populist Tide: Frustrated Young Adults (WSJ)
    Struggling to find jobs, and often living at home, younger generations are propelling antiestablishment parties to new heights of power.
  • DOJ Inspector General, FBI Director To Testify Monday About IG Report (NPR)
  • Scalise's return to the baseball field brings emotion, improbable plays (Fox News)

Last year’s congressional baseball game was about who wasn’t on the diamond. This year’s game was about who was.

Read the June 11 Capitol-to-Capitol.

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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.

  • 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
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Human 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
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education