Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Congress returns to Washington this week following the Memorial Day recess. One of the first—if not the first—actions for the House will be a vote on a Senate-passed disaster aid package. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is looking for feedback this week on discussion draft legislation to control health care costs and billing transparency (more details below). Over the next month, SCOTUS will issue 31 opinions. The State and Local Legal Center filed briefs in 10 of those cases, of which NCSL joined six. Keep an eye on the NCSL Blog for more information on these decisions.
Before the Memorial Day recess, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released discussion draft legislation to address health care costs and billing transparency. The package would: 1) create an information exchange program for commercial health insurers, 2) increase incentives to improve cybersecurity practices for electronic health records, and 3) require a study of third-party health apps and increase cost transparency to lower health care costs. The package also includes proposals on prescription drug pricing and surprise billing practices. This draft has been anticipated after five congressional committees held several hearings over the last several months and received hundreds of recommendations about addressing rising health care costs. Read a committee Section by Section of the draft bill here.
The Senate health committee is requesting comments on the discussion draft. Comments must be submitted to LowerHealthCareCosts@help.senate.gov by 5 p.m. Wednesday, to be considered.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile
In Colonial America hemp was known as a versatile plant with strong fibers capable of producing important resources such as rope, canvas for ship sails and oakum for caulking ship timbers. The Chinese used hemp fibers for paper and clothing among other products. Archaeological evidence documents the use of hemp fibers in clothing as far back as 8000 B.C.
On May 28, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an updated opinion from USDA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) regarding hemp production and transportation following the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill. The OGC opinion contained four major points, which are outlined in NCSL’s Information Alert.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
On May 30, President Donald Trump announced his intent to impose a 5% tariff on all imports from Mexico beginning on June 10. The tariff would increase to 10% on July 1 unless Mexico takes more direct actions limiting migrants from crossing the United States border. “The tariff will gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied,” said Trump. In response, Mexico’s former chief NAFTA negotiator, Kenneth Smith Ramos said the tariff “would violate NAFTA as well as WTO commitments.”
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald
Last month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a proposed rule to amend Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act related to verification of eligible status. Section 214 prohibits the HUD secretary from making financial assistance available to persons other than U.S. citizens, nationals, or certain categories of eligible noncitizens in HUD's public and specified assisted housing programs. The proposed rule would require the verification of the eligible immigration status of all assisted housing program recipients who are under age 62, including those who are currently living in a mixed family and receiving prorated assistance. A household would not receive housing assistance unless every member residing in the assisted unit, including those over 62, is of eligible immigration status. Current regulation allows for prorated housing to continue indefinitely pending verification. The rule would also specify that individuals who are not of eligible immigration status may not serve as the leaseholder.
Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted here, until July 9, 2019.
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald (LED Committee); Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg (LCJ Committee) Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile (HHS Committee)
Tariff Act, 1789 was one of the first important piece of legislation passed by the new Congress. It gave the new national government a source of revenue by levying taxes on import goods. Tariffs without representation was a major principle in driving the American Revolution. Under the Articles of Federation, leaders had no power to tax citizens.
On May 30, EPA finalized regulatory changes to allow gasoline blended with up to 15% ethanol (E15) to be sold year-round. Previously, E15 sales faced restrictions during summer months. The agency’s decision was based on a reinterpretation of the Clean Air Act, which gives the agency a waiver authority it can apply to all fuels that contain at least 10% ethanol, rather than only blends between 9% and 10% that it had previously said could receive waivers from air pollution limits. EPA had declined to use its authority in 2010 and again in 2011 to issue a waiver under the Clean Air Act to allow summertime sales of E15 blends. The oil industry is expected to challenge this interpretation in court. EPA also finalized provisions that would increase the agency’s monitoring of the trade in compliance credits under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Specifically, entities and their subsidiaries that hold the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) would be forced to disclose their positions once they reach a threshold of 3% of the annual total number of RINs for conventional ethanol. EPA could act if it found evidence of manipulation.
Read the May 28 Capitol to Capitol.
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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.