Congress Passes Major Changes to Shipping Industry; President Signs Into Law
Congress, in a strong bipartisan manner, approved the first major changes to the ocean shipping industry in 25 years. The bill provides additional authority to the Federal Maritime Commission to investigate monopolistic practices in the shipping industry and sets new rules affecting container shipping practices and the refusal to carry containers leaving U.S. ports. The president signed the bill into law on June 16. Read more.
20 Senators Agree on Bipartisan Gun Safety Framework
Last week, a bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators, with 10 from each party, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), agreed to a framework for upcoming gun safety legislation. Based on the framework, a new Senate bill would:
- Provide funding to support red flag laws that allow courts and police departments to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals who may be a danger to themselves or their community.
- Close the “boyfriend loophole” that allows unmarried domestic abuse perpetrators to keep guns after assaulting their partners.
- Provide new enhanced background check standards for gun purchasers under the age of 21.
- Allow new criminal prohibitions on interstate gun trafficking.
- Provide a commitment to spend billions of dollars on mental health treatment, especially in disadvantaged areas.
The agreement does not include a ban on assault rifles. Currently, the framework is only a guideline for developing a Senate bill on gun safety. The group still needs to produce and submit a bill based on the framework, which may prove difficult to complete before the next congressional recess starting on June 24. Click here to learn more about firearms and school safety legislation.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Passes House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2021, 231-190, on June 14. The bill would amend the existing Pittman-Robertson Act, which funds the restoration and improvement of wildlife habitat and management, to provide an additional $1.3 billion per year for states and territories to assist in their efforts to conserve, restore and protect habitats via the congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans. Additionally, the bill provides $97.5 million annually for tribal wildlife conservation efforts. The bill awaits action in the Senate, where a slightly different version advanced out of the Environment and Publics Work Committee, 15-5. It’s unclear when the bill will see Senate action as questions remain over “pay-fors.”
EPA Issues Health Advisory Levels for PFAS Chemicals, Releases $1B in IIJA Funding
The Environmental Protection Agency announced drinking water health advisories for several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Specifically, the agency released two interim health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and two final advisories for GenX and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid, which were developed as PFOA and PFOS replacements, respectively. A health advisory level is the concentration of drinking water contaminant for a specific exposure duration, at or below which exposure is not anticipated to lead to adverse human health effects. The EPA’s health advisories are nonenforceable and nonregulatory and provide technical information that federal, state and local officials can use to develop monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure. The agency’s actions align with its PFAS Action Plan and with its plan to propose a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation in fall 2022.
Relatedly, the EPA also opened its application process for states and territories to apply for $1 billion—the first of $5 billion in grant funding from the federal infrastructure law—to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. States are to use this funding for eligible emerging-contaminant projects or activities in small or disadvantaged communities, or both. To receive grant funding, states and territories should submit a letter of intent by Aug. 15, 2022.
Treasury Releases Equity and Outcomes Resource Guide
The guide includes examples of how State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund recipients are applying equity principles, engaging their communities, considering evidence-based interventions, and using performance management strategies in their SLFRF-funded programs. Read the resource guide.
Transportation Department Releases First Safety Data for Automated Vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the first data covering safety performance and crash reporting from automated and semi-automated vehicles. The data show that, over the past year, the NHTSA received reports on 392 crashes involving Level 2 vehicles, such as Teslas equipped with driver-assistance systems, and 130 reports of crashes involving vehicles equipped with automated driving systems at Levels 3 and 4. However, this no way to compare the statistics to conventional vehicles, or even among automakers, as the NHTSA itself noted that the quality of data is not adjusted to account for the number of miles driven by certain vehicles. Read more.
Guidance on HIPAA and Audio-Only Telehealth
This guidance will help patients continue “to benefit from audio-only telehealth by clarifying how health facilities can provide the service in compliance with HIPAA rules.” Read more.
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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 | Budget and Revenue | Health and Human Services
- Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
- Nicole Ezeh | 202-624-3568 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
- Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Kristen Hildreth | 202-624-3597 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Jon Jukuri | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
- Deanna Ross | 202-624-8680 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education
- Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce