Capitol to Capitol | June 25, 2018

In the Name of Federalism and Free Markets


Soon after their victory over the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., the Athenians began the practice of ostracism, a form of election designed to curb the power of any rising tyrant. Once a year the people would meet and take a vote to determine if anyone was becoming too powerful and was able to establish a tyranny. If a simple majority voted yes, they met again two months later. At this second meeting, if at least 6,000 votes were cast, the man with the most votes lost and was exiled for 10 years.

In the name of federalism and free markets, Quill does harm to both. The physical presence rule it defines has limited States’ ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in South Dakota v. Wayfair

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did something it rarely does—admit that it was wrong. In a 5-4 opinion, the court ruled that the precedent it established in the 1967 Bellas Hess case and reaffirmed in the 1992 case of Quill v. North Dakota was bad precedent. For more than 50 years, the court had held that businesses must have a physical presence in a state before being required to collect and remit that state’s sales tax. That is no longer the case. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “the Court concludes that the physical presence rule of Quill is unsound and incorrect. The Court’s decisions in [Quill and Bellas Hess] should be, and now are, overruled.” In addition to vacating its previous rulings, SCOTUS remanded the case back to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which will reconsider the constitutionality of the sales tax law in the absence of Quill. Legal experts expect that the South Dakota Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of the state.

Kennedy wrote: “Two primary principles mark the boundaries of a State’s authority to regulate interstate commerce: State regulations may not discriminate against interstate commerce; and States may not impose undue burdens on interstate commerce.” He said that because South Dakota 1) exempted small remote sellers from having to collect and remit the state’s sales tax, 2) prohibited retroactive application of the law, and 3) simplified their sales tax administration, the state’s law did not discriminate against interstate commerce.

NCSL President, Senator Deb Peters (R-S.D.), who authored South Dakota’s remote sales tax legislation, said in NCSL’s statement following the decision that:

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for Main Street America. Brick and mortar stores will no longer be penalized for collecting the tax revenues that fund our schools, infrastructure, and the vital public services that state and local governments provide. For states, today is just the beginning. We’ve waited 26 years. Good tax administration is good public policy and state officials look forward to working with all stakeholders in the coming months as we move forward to level the playing field for all of our nation’s retailers.”

The NCSL Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation (SALT), which has championed the issue of sales tax fairness for nearly two decades, will meet later this week, June 28-29, and will be Facebook livestreaming their sessions on sales tax collection in the post Quill age. There will so be a session on the issue during NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit in Los Angeles.

NCSL Remote Sales Tax Discussion
  • When: June 28, 2-4:30 p.m. (PT)
  • Where: Incline Village, Nev.
  • Livestream: NCSL Facebook Page
  • Task Force Meeting Agenda 

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

NCSL Legislative Summit Policy Deadline is July 2

The deadline to submit new policy directives and resolutions or amendments to existing policy resolutions and amendments, for consideration at the 2018 Legislative Summit, is July 2, 2018. Please submit Policy Directives, Amendments, and/or Resolutions to:

Supreme Court Punts on Same-Sex Marriage and Gerrymandering

This morning, the Supreme Court announced it would not decide two controversial cases. First the court declined to make a decision regarding a North Carolina redistricting plan that a lower court had found violated the Constitution by overly favoring Republicans. SCOTUS sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether or not the plaintiffs had the proper legal standing to bring the case. Today’s ruling comes a week after the justices passed on chances to wade into similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland.

Today, the court also remanded a case back to the Washington state Supreme Court and asked the lower court to revisit a case in which a florist, based on her Christian beliefs, declined to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding. SCOTUS said that the case should be reconsidered in light of the recent decision earlier this month that found in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple out of religious beliefs.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick

Immigration Stalls in House 

House Republicans worked over the weekend to make changes on a compromise immigration bill that will likely be voted on this week. Members worked to include a provision to expand E-verify, a program the U.S. government uses to check the immigration status of workers. Even with these changes, the chances of this bill passing the House still seem unlikely. Momentum seems to have slowed even further as President Donald Trump tweeted last Friday that he thinks immigration should be addressed after the midterm elections. This comes after Trump also signed an executive order last week stopping the administration’s zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting migrant adults who illegally cross the border and resulted in the separation of families. While there is no deadline on getting an immigration bill passed, Congress leaves for its July 4 recess at the end of the week.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg

Congress Moves the Ball Forward on its 2018 Farm Bill

The House passed its 2018 Farm Bill last Thursday 213-211 while the Senate is expected to approve its version later this week, with the chamber expected to vote on invoking cloture later this evening. Assuming the Senate moves forward as scheduled, the next step will be for the two chambers to come together to develop a conference version. However, there are numerous differences between the two bills, which include potential changes to nutrition and conservation policy that may result in a lengthy conference process. Current authority for most farm bill programs expires Sept. 30.

Read the detailed breakdown of the House bill.

Read the detailed breakdown of the Senate bill, as it currently stands.

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

Rescissions Package Fails in Senate


Spanning 98.3 acres, Boeing’s final assembly factory in Everett, Wash., is the world’s largest building by volume. Seventy-five football fields could fit inside the building and the Boeing Everett campus is big enough to encompass Disneyland with 12 acres left over for parking. More than 30,000 people work at Boeing Everett, which has its own fire department, security team, day care center and fitness center.

The deadline for the Senate to approve a rescissions package passed last Friday, effectively killing the bill. HR 3 was an attempt by the Trump administration to rescind nearly $15 billion in previously approved funds that have gone unspent. Democrats had already made clear they would be voting against the bill claiming that pulling back this funding could undermine trust in the appropriations process because lawmakers would not be confident the difficult funding votes and decisions they make would be final. Republicans were hesitant to approve the package from the beginning because half of the cuts would come from the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. Although, Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) dealt the final blow in a 48-50 procedural vote stating his opposition came from the $16 million in cuts to the Land Water Conservation Fund, one of the congressman’s top priorities. The administration has announced that it may consider sending additional rescissions packages to Congress in the future.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Senate Education Committee Postpones Perkins CTE Reauthorization Markup

Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander announced that the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Reauthorization Act markup was rescheduled for Tuesday, June 26.  Last week’s markup was postponed because of Alexander’s oversight of the Senate Energy-Water appropriations bill.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Federal Commission on School Safety Convenes to Discuss Social Media’s Impact on Student Safety

On June 21, the Federal Commission on School Safety met to explore how entertainment, media, cyberbullying and social media affects violence and school safety. Entitled The Ecology of Schools: Fostering a Culture of Human Flourishing and Developing Character, the meeting was composed of three panels: Cyberbullying and Social Media; Youth Consumption of Violent Entertainment; and Effects of Press Coverage on Mass Shootings.

On Tuesday, June 26, the commission will hold another listening session in Lexington, Ky. Open to the public and state and local officials, the session will be divided into three parts: two roundtable discussions (1-3:15 p.m. EST) and a public comment period (4-6 p.m. EST). NCSL will be represented by lawmakers from Kentucky. Watch the livestream of the session. The commission will continue to offer listening sessions, formal meetings and field visits in the future. For more information, visit the FCSS website.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Trump Administration Proposes Reform of Federal Agencies

In an anticipated move toward government efficiency, the Trump administration announced a proposal to merge the federal education and labor agencies. Independently, the U.S. Department of Education has initiated restructuring, which includes the department taking over a host of programs currently managed by the Department of Labor. The proposed merger includes a department name change—Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW). The combined agency would have four major subdivisions that focus on K-12 education; workforce and higher education; enforcement of labor and civil rights laws; and research. Ultimate authority rests with Congress for final approval. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, applauded the proposed merger: “the federal government is long overdue for a serious overhaul.” Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, called the proposal “hastily concocted” and a threat to the federal investment in education and workforce programs.

The administration also proposed renaming the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Health and Public Welfare, which would move many of its safety net programs, including the SNAP program, into the newly named department.

White House statement on Reforming the Federal Government

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald (Education, Labor) Abbie Gruwell, Haley Nicholson (Health, Nutrition)       

Five Weeks Until NCSL’s Legislative Summit

We have an exciting program planned for NCSL’s Summit in Los Angeles, July 30-Aug. 2. The Legislative Summit promises to be full of interesting and provocative speakers and informative forums that address some of the most difficult issues you are facing in your state. We look forward to seeing you there! Information regarding registration and hotels, can be found here.

Highlighted Sessions
  • The Future of Gaming and Sports Betting
  • Online Sales Taxes: What’s Ahead for States
  • Gerrymandering: Is it a Problem? Can it be Fixed?
  • U.S. Economic Outlook

On this Day, June 25, in…

  • 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those infected with HIV are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the use of unofficial nondenominational prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.
  • 1951, in New York, the first regular commercial color TV transmissions were presented on CBS using the FCC-approved CBS Color System.
  • 1868, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were readmitted to the Union.
  • 1868, Congress enacted legislation granting an eight-hour day to workers employed by the federal government.
  • 1788, Virginia ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 10th state of the United States.

Also of Note…


SEAL Team Six, a special forces counter-terrorist unit, was formed in October 1980 after the failed mission to end the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. Although it was just the third Navy SEAL team, Richard Marcinko, the unit’s first commander, named it SEAL Team Six to confuse Soviet Intelligence as to the number of actual SEAL teams in existence. 

Mattis is out of the loop and Trump doesn't listen to him, say officials (NBC): On Iran, North Korea and other major issues, the defense secretary has been out of the loop.

Jeff Flake hints at slowing down Senate work to extract concessions from Trump (Washington Post): The senator and frequent Trump critic has threatened a rebellion on judicial nominations.

Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries (The Hill): Voters in six states—Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah—head to the polls Tuesday to pick nominees in critical races ahead of November’s midterm elections.

U.S. to present North Korea with post-summit 'asks': report (Fox News): The United States is preparing “specific asks” in a timeline that will be presented to North Korean because of the recent historic summit, Reuters reported.

House Passes Bipartisan Opioid Bill Package (Roll Call): the House on Friday passed a bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle for many of the 55 other House-passed bills designed to curb opioid addiction, ending two weeks of floor votes on opioids measures.

Read the June 18 Capitol-to-Capitol.

**NCSL Capitol-to-Capitol will not publish the week of July 2**

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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.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Jake Lestock | 202-624-8171 | 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