Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Today the Senate will consider a motion to proceed to the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S 1790). The House is expected to continue consideration of the five-bill FY 2020 appropriations package or second “minibus.” The package includes five FY 2020 spending bills: Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. Last week the House passed a four-bill FY 2020 minibus that funds the following departments: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State, and Energy. There are 16 legislative days remaining before the six-week long August recess.
NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty
Democrats last week advanced their first significant tax package since taking control of the House. The House Ways and Means Committee approved three bills aimed at helping lower-income workers. Estimated to have a fiscal impact of close to $100 billion, these bills would repeal renew expired tax breaks, and provide relief to disaster victims. The measures also omit a corporate income tax rate increase that was passed in 2017 that set the rate at 21%. HR 3299 would allow same-sex marriages to file jointly for years that weren’t previously allowed, HR 3300 would expand the earned income, child, and dependent care tax credits, and HR 3301 would provide tax relief for disasters that occurred during the last 18 months as well as any disasters up to 30 days after the bill’s enactment among other provisions. While the package is considered costly, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Maine) expressed commitment to find more offsets. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill (S 617) in March to renew expired breaks and provide tax relief for 2018 disasters. The committee hasn’t advanced the legislation, but it formed task forces to evaluate the provisions’ longer-term fate.
For more than 100 years members of Congress have gathered each summer, breaking from the workflow, for a game or two of baseball. The Congressional Baseball Game, originally organized by Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania—a former professional baseball player—has evolved from being a casual event to an institution enjoyed by thousands. Its popularity was instrumental in forming a foundation that supports Washington, D.C., area charities. This year's game is scheduled for June 26.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations, led by Senators Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.), passed its first appropriations bill of the 116th Congress, the bipartisan border supplemental appropriations bill by a vote of 30 to 1 on June 19. The supplemental bill addresses the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border and would increase funding for migrant care and shelter, the appointment of new immigration judges, and improvements to immigration data systems and counter-human trafficking operations. It is anticipated that this bill will be considered by the full Senate before the July 4 recess. For more information on the appropriations bill and the associated Senate appropriations committee hearing, check out the breakdown of the emergency supplemental appropriations in NCSL’s Blog.
NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Chesterfield Polkey
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have introduced the Lowering Health Care Costs Act. The bill includes cost containment proposals for in-network and out-of-network medical billing. Under the legislation, care from out-of-network providers would count toward in-network expenses. The bill also proposes for patients receiving emergency care, once they are in stable condition, must receive written notice advising them to get an estimate to continue seeing the out-of-network doctor and be provided with a list of in-network doctors they could visit instead for follow up care. If patients don’t receive a formal notice, they can only be billed at an in-network rate.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile
Last week Senate Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced his opposition to one of the Trump administration’s proposals to reduce how much Medicare pays for certain prescription drugs by tying them to lower drug prices paid by other countries, also known as the International Pricing Index. Grassley has been waiting to see if the administration would release a rule around the proposal, but the effort continues to stall. Grassley and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have also been working on their own legislation to lower prescription drug prices.
The first political debates, the Great Debates of 1858—between challenger Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas—were a series of seven debates, one in each congressional district in Illinois. They are considered the predecessor of the first presidential debate held Sept. 26, 1960 between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, which was broadcasted live on national television.
On June 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) final rule, replacing the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP). The ACE final rule establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from coal-fired electric generating units, without setting individual state GHG emission limits, which was a primary component of the CPP. For more details, read NCSL’s Info Alert.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
On Wednesday, Mexico became the first country to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA, with a final Mexico Senate vote of 114-4. In response, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted “The USMCA is the strongest and most advanced trade agreement ever negotiated. It is good for the United States, Mexico, and Canada in a way that truly benefits our workers, farmers and businesses. The USMCA’s ratification by Mexico is a crucial step forward, and I congratulate President López Obrador and the Mexican Senate on this historic achievement.”
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald
Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified before both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees to discuss the Trump administration’s trade policies and interests, including the complete ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Lighthizer expressed his goal to mediate between the administration and Congress on labor and environmental standards, saying that both sides could resolve issues “in half a day.”
Lighthizer’s opening testimony to the Senate Finance Committee can be read here. Listen to the livestream of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
The Department of Education recently released the final non-regulatory guidance regarding the supplement, not supplant provisions under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance describes how the updated provision under ESSA offers increased flexibility for local educational agencies (LEAs) to implement effective programming in Title I, Part A schools. Unlike the previous test under the No Child Left Behind Act, which required an item by item review, the new requirement ensures LEAs demonstrate an allocation methodology that is “Title I neutral”: The allocation methodology does not consider the status of the school’s receipt of Title I, Part A funds when allocating state and local funding. Read the final non-regulatory guidance: Supplement Not Supplant Under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, As Amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act.
NCSL Contact: Colleen Brooks (Denver office)
The Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Fatalities in 2018 reports traffic deaths were down slightly in 2018—from 37,133 to 36,750—but "pedalcyclist" deaths jumped by 10%. Overall, after two years of substantial increases in roadway fatalities in 2015 and 2016, 2017 and 2018 have shown slight reductions with a 1.8% and 1% respectively.
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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.