Capitol to Capitol | June 19, 2017

6/19/2017

Capitol to Capitol | June 19, 2017

NCSL to Congress: There are 50 stars on the American flag, not 535 

"State sovereignty, or states' rights, is not a doctrine of convenience. Rather, it's the idea that states, and their citizens, know best how to govern themselves. All too often, members of Congress will tout the importance of "states' rights" to justify a position on an issue, and then preempt 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."

- NCSL Letter to U.S. House of Representatives, June 13, 2017

DYK?

The first Congressional Baseball Game took place in 1909. Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania, a former professional baseball player, organized the inaugural game. The Boston Daily Globe observed, "The game was brewing for weeks and the Members of the House were keyed up a high pitch of enthusiasm. Deep, dark rumors were in circulation that 'ringers' would be introduced, but when they lined up at 4 o'clock the nine republicans were stalwart, grand old party men, while the democrats were of the pure Jeffersonian strain." Democrats won 26-16, for the first of six consecutive wins. Republicans won their first game in 1916.

The event has at times interrupted the work flow of Congress. In 1914, Speaker James Beauchamp 'Champ' Clark of Missouri became frustrated with the Congressional Baseball Game interfering with legislative business. Lacking a quorum on the House floor, Speaker Clark sent the Sergeant at Arms to the field to return the Members to the House Chamber. When the Sergeant at Arms arrived, rain had already canceled the game. The House eventually achieved a quorum, but adjourned without making progress on the bill because Members remained preoccupied with their unfinished work on the baseball diamond.

Over the last century the Congressional Baseball Game's popularity has contributed to its evolution into a fundraiser for Washington, D/C. area charities. Starting in 2017, funds will also benefit the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund and the Fraternal Order of Police as a show of our support and gratitude to the United States Capitol Police officers who put their lives on the line every day and especially during the Republican practice on June 14, 2017.

With an 11-2 win last week, the Democrats now have a one game edge over the Republicans. Series Record: Democrats: 40-39-1 Republicans: 39-40-1

On June 13, NCSL sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives that expressed strong opposition to H.R. 2887, the "No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017." The legislation, filed by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), provides that "to the extent otherwise permissible under federal law, a state may tax or regulate a person's activity in interstate commerce only when such person is physically present in the State during the period in which the tax or regulation is imposed." While the full scope and constitutionality of the legislation remain in question, the legislation would prohibit states from enforcing their laws.

NCSL wrote that the legislation "is one of the most coercive, intrusive, and preemptive legislative measures ever introduced in Congress" as it would "preempt countless laws in all 50 states." During a June 15 meeting of NCSL's Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation, NCSL Immediate Past President Senator Curt Bramble said that the legislation "is a direct assault on the very premise of a representative democracy, a complex, constitutional republic where citizens vote for the individuals who represent them." He also said that the bill would eliminate "the people's representatives at the state level, who set the tax policy each of us as citizens is subject to. It says that voice doesn't matter."

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Molly Ramsdell

Congressional Baseball Game Brings Unity to Washington

Despite the partisanship that has divided Washington in recent years, unity triumphed last Thursday at the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Following the tragic shooting at the morning practice of the Republican team the day before, which saw House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana sustain extensive injuries, the Republicans and Democrats still played on Thursday night at Nationals Park. Capitol Police officer David Bailey throw out the ceremonial first pitch alongside MLB executive and ex-New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. Bailey was one of the first responders to Wednesday's early morning shootout as he was part of Scalise's security detail. The game, which sold a record 25,000 tickets, raised more than $1 million for charity.

After winning 11-2, the Democrats' team manager Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania handed the trophy to Republican manager Joe L. Barton of Texas to honor Scalise, who remained in critical condition during the game. Congressman Doyle wanted the award to be placed in the Louisiana congressman's office until he returns to Congress. "It was a tremendous gesture and it's exactly what we needed," said Alabama Republican Rep. Gary Palmer, one of Scalise's teammates.

President Trump's National Apprenticeship Week

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 15 to increase funding for apprenticeship programs and scale back related government oversight. The executive order more than doubles current spending levels for apprenticeship programs from $90 million to nearly $200 million per year, which is a shift from the 36 percent funding cut to workforce training programs included in the president's 2018 budget. The regulation reduction is designed to allow industries more leeway in creating their own apprenticeship programs. Agencies are also directed to review job training programs for potential reduction in those deemed ineffective, and redirect funds to apprenticeship grants. Officials also indicated they want to allow students the flexibility to use federal student aid dollars for apprenticeship programs in addition to four-year universities.

The executive order marked the culmination of the president's National Apprenticeship Week, during which the administration promoted workforce development and apprenticeship programs. Trump visited Waukesha County Technical College on June 13 with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The President had planned to speak at the Department of Labor the following day on these issues, but in the wake of a shooting that morning at a congressional baseball game practice, the speech was cancelled.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri; Lucia Bragg

House Cancels Vote on Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 

The House of Representatives has again postponed a vote on H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, legislation that would result in substantial pre-emption of state laws in the area of medical malpractice reform.

Originally scheduled for a vote on Thursday, the legislation was removed from the floor calendar following the shooting incident at the Republican baseball practice. H.R. 1215 was fast tracked through committee, with the bill's introduction on Feb. 24 and then quickly scheduled, marked up and passed through committee by Feb. 28. Continuing its momentum, the bill was hurriedly placed on the House calendar for a floor vote. The bill was then sidelined due to the debate and subsequent withdrawal of the first Affordable Care Act repeal bill on the House floor. This is the second time the bill has been scheduled for a vote only to be withdrawn within 48 hours. NCSL sent an opposition letter to the House.

NCSL Contact: Susan Frederick

FCC is Moving Forward With FirstNet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its Report and Order (R&O) on June 1, which clarifies the FCC's evaluation process of the state opt-out alternative plans.

DYK?

On this day in 1846, the first officially recorded, organized baseball game played under modern rules was played on Hoboken, N.J.'s Elysian Fields. The Knickerbocker Rules, as the rules were called, are a set of baseball rules formalized by William R. Wheaton and William H. Tucker of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845. The rules are informally known as the "New York style" of baseball, as opposed to other variants such as the "Massachusetts Game."

The Knickerbocker Rules have previously been considered to be the basis for the rules of the modern game, although this is disputed. One of the significant rules prohibited hitting the runner with the thrown ball, and instead required fielders to tag or force the runner, as is done today, and avoided a lot of the arguments and fistfights that resulted from the earlier practice.

Writing the rules didn't help the Knickerbockers too much. The team lost to the New York Base Ball Club 23–1. 

The FCC will vote on and finalize the R&O on June 22, one highlight being the suggested additional 60-day cushion to the original 180-day period for opt-out states to finalize their RFPs. Monday, June 19 is the initial target date for governors to receive final state plans, after which the state can accept the state plan or choose to opt-out and implement their states' alternative long term evolution of the radio access network (LTE RAN). By way of background, the timeline for the opt-out process on FirstNet state plan begins once the state receives the June state plan. That will trigger a 45-day review of the proposal by states and territories and an opportunity to provide improvements if needed. After receiving any comments, FirstNet will resubmit the plan attempting to address any issues outlined by the states. FirstNet's resubmission of the state plan will trigger the statutory 90-day clock for each governor to accept or opt-out. However, there are still some lingering issues to be ironed out, including the Terms of Use (ToU) document FirstNet has requested states sign before the state can access the plan. Washington has been vocal against making any commitments in order to access the state portals and review FirstNet's state plan. FirstNet argues that the ToU are "comparable to other website terms of use".

NCSL Contact: Danielle Dean

Digital Empowerment, Diversity and Botnets

Digital empowerment and closing the digital divide are priority issues for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Just this past Thursday, the FCC announced its intent to establish the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment.

DYK?

The first Father's Day was celebrated on this day, June 19, 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Was., is credited with starting Father's Day after hearing a sermon on Mother's Day. Dodd wanted to honor her father William Jackson Smart, a widower who raised six children on his own. The holiday gained traction during World War II, and in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday of June to be Father's Day. President Richard Nixon made it a federal holiday six years later. 

The advisory committee will engage in conversations on how to "empower disadvantaged communities and accelerate the entry of small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities, into the media, digital news and information, and audio and video programming industries, including as owners, suppliers, and employees. It will also provide recommendations to the commission on how to ensure that disadvantaged communities are not denied the wide range of opportunities made possible by next-generation networks."

National Telecommunications and Information Administration also has a request for public comment on how to promote action against botnets and other automated threats. The comments should "identify and promote action by appropriate stakeholders to improve the resilience of the Internet and communications ecosystems and to encourage collaboration with the goal of dramatically reducing threats perpetrated by automated and distributed attacks." This would include developing "collaborative solutions to prevent and mitigate these attacks."

NCSL Contacts: Danielle Dean

U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Case on Partisan Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from Wisconsin that could clarify whether redistricting plans violate the Constitution because they are too partisan. The redistricting lawsuit was filed by a group of Democratic voters who contend the legislative district lines drawn by Republicans in 2011 were "both unconstitutional and profoundly undemocratic." Last year, in a 2-1 decision, a federal court agreed, writing the plan "intended" to burden the representational rights of Democrats. This comes after the Supreme Court has dealt with four North Carolina voting rights cases in the past month regarding racial gerrymandering, which is not new to the court. Although, if the Supreme Court finds this plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering, it would have a tremendous impact on elections to come, especially the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election.

NCSL contact: Susan Frederick

Read the June 12, 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
  • 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