Capitol to Capitol | June 22, 2020

6/22/2020

House, Senate and White House Consider Police Reform

House Democrats introduced the Justice in Policing Act on June 8 while a task force of Senate Republicans introduced the JUSTICE Act on June 18. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing reform on June 16. Each measure seeks to put an end to the use of chokeholds, improve records maintenance and reporting on police conduct, and increase officer use-of-force training. However, each measure differs considerably as well. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Lucia Bragg and Susan Frederick

Senate Approves Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act would both fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and establish the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to pay for deferred maintenance projects on lands administered by the National Park Service, Forest Service and other branches of the Department of the Interior. The LWCF, funded by revenues from offshore oil and gas production, provides funds for federal acquisition of land and waters as well as grants to states for outdoor recreational facilities. The bill makes annual LWCF funding mandatory at the authorized level of $900 million, which is nearly double the amount Congress provided this year. The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund would receive $9.5 billion over five years from unallocated energy revenues that would go toward reducing the nearly $20 billion maintenance backlog in national parks and on public lands. NCSL has been advocating for permanent full funding of the LWCF.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Approves $500 Billion Transportation Reauthorization

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs for five years, through fiscal year 2024; current program authorizations expire in less than four months—Sept. 30, 2020. Overall, the INVEST Act would provide $319 billion for federal-aid highway programs, $105 billion for transit, $60 billion for passenger rail, $5.3 billion for highway safety and $4.6 billion for motor carrier safety. Additionally, many of the programmatic changes would not be implemented until FY 2022 (Oct. 1, 2021). Although the bill does not alter the current method for distributing federal funds to states, it does create a raft of new discretionary grant programs as opposed to formula programs that provide predictability and stability for states. Approval by the House committee and the approval in July 2019 of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act are important steps in the overall process for reauthorizing federal surface transportation programs. There are, however, many additional steps and unanswered questions before a reauthorization is signed into law. The most pressing of these questions is how to pay for the bill. Existing federal transportation revenues, such as gasoline and diesel taxes and other motor vehicle fees, only bring in $44 billion per year, $14 billion below the amount appropriated, with the difference made up through general fund transfers. A short-term extension of existing federal programs remains the most likely outcome, though, with many variables, a host of potential outcomes are possible between now and Sept. 30. Stay tuned to NCSL over the next few months as Congress works to reauthorize its fleet of surface transportation programs. Read NCSL’s summaries of the House and Senate bills.

CSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Speaker Pelosi Announces $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Package   

The proposal includes not only $500 billion in transportation funding but also hundreds of billions of dollars for schools, broadband, water projects and more. Bill text is expected shortly, with a vote before the July 4 recess. It remains unclear how the bill would be funded as well as what, if any, appetite exists in the Senate for such a package. President Trump has, on multiple occasions, highlighted his preference for some type of package, though his 2018 proposal was widely panned for its lack of federal funding and over-reliance on state and local investments.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch (transportation), Kristen Hildreth (water), Austin Reed (schools) and Abbie Gruwell (broadband)

House and Senate Republicans Come Together on Broadband

Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee released a legislative framework to close the digital divide, including principles to expand broadband access. The framework includes plans for broadband mapping, remote education, streamlined permitting, and investment in public safety infrastructure. The Republican-led principles will be used to guide future legislative proposals.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

House COVID-19 Task Force Opens Probe into Nursing Homes

The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation and sent letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the top five for-profit nursing home companies on their overall efforts to address the outbreak. They asked how companies dealt with preparedness, if the CMS properly managed the outbreak and how the agency has enforced health and safety regulations.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile
NCSL Contact: Name

White House Unveils Public Health Campaign Around Veteran Suicide

The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. The task force will be focused on changing the culture surrounding mental health and suicide prevention.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

HHS Provider Fund Announcement for Medicaid Providers

Funding will go to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program providers, with $15 billion going to providers participating in state Medicaid programs that have not received payment from the provider fund yet, along with $10 billion to safety net hospitals. The announcement came on the heels of pushback from congressional leaders and concerns that the funding is too low for these providers.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium Extended

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) issued a two-month extension to its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through Aug. 31, 2020. The moratorium applies to homeowners with FHA-insured single-family mortgages.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

NHTSA Announces New Autonomous Vehicles Testing Transparency Initiative

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing, or AV TEST, Initiative, aimed at providing “an online, public-facing platform for sharing automated driving system on-road testing activities.” The announcement follows several reports and studies, including from the American Automobile Association that the public still does not trust automated vehicles. However, the information submitted to the initiative is voluntary, as is the current requirement to submit any safety information to NHTSA regarding automated vehicles being tested on public roadways. Nine companies (Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber and Waymo) and eight states (California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah) have signed on as the first participants.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth  

U.S. Trade Representative Lays Out Trade Agenda

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week laid out the administration’s agenda on a plethora of trade issues ranging from enforcement of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to the viability of the World Trade Organization. Additionally, Lighthizer outlined the administration’s plans for trade deals with the United Kingdom, Japan and Kenya, while noting the delay in conversations due to COVID-19.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

In Every Edition

Read the June 15 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 and Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education