Capitol to Capitol | June 8, 2020

6/8/2020

NCSL Spearheads Virtual Fly-In Hill Briefing

Amplifying efforts to garner additional resources for states to combat the effects of the pandemic, NCSL hosted its first virtual fly-in Hill briefing June 5 for select Senate staff. Senator W. Briggs Hopson III (R), chair of the Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee, and NCSL Executive Committee member Representative Marvin L. Abney (D), chair of the Rhode Island House Committee on Finance, discussed the deterioration of their states’ fiscal conditions due to the COVID-19 virus and urged Congress to provide additional flexible funding for states. A video of the briefing will be available later this week.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Susan Frederick

House Transportation Committee Unveils Infrastructure Package

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act. The nearly $500 billion bill would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs for five years, through fiscal year 2024, as current program authorizations expire in less than four months—Sept. 30, 2020. While the bill’s release and anticipated approval by the committee is an important step in the overall process for reauthorizing federal surface transportation programs, several additional steps and unanswered questions remain before a reauthorization is signed into law. The most pressing of these questions is how to pay for the bill. 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. For further details, read NCSL’s Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Department of Education Releases CARES Act Maintenance of Effort Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision for the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act requires states that accept either the K-12 or governor’s funds to maintain support for both K-12 and higher education in FY 2020 and FY 2021 at a level at least equal to the average funding levels for FY 2017- FY 2019. The guidance explains the methodologies states may use to quantify their support for K-12 and higher education. Notably, the department reports it does not anticipate reviewing MOE waiver requests for either FY 2020 or FY 2021 until September 2021.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

Trump Vetoes Bill to Overturn DeVos’ Borrower Defense Rule

President Donald Trump vetoed House Joint Resolution 56, a Congressional Review Act resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. House leaders are preparing for a veto override vote on July 1, but will likely lack the votes to override it.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

EPA Issues New Rule Curtailing States’ Rights to Implement Clean Water Act

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule affecting the implementation by states of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The rule places significant new limits on state authority to certify, condition or deny any activity that would result in the discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States. The final rule includes reductions in state timelines for review and certification, restrictions on the scope of certification reviews and conditions, and modifications of other related requirements and procedures. For further details, read NCSL’s Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Congressional Leaders Ask for Answers on Medicaid Providers

In a show of bipartisanship, leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. The letter raised concerns over delays in the disbursement of funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, also known as the Provider Fund, for Medicaid-dependent providers. The letter included a list of questions and provided a deadline of June 10, 2020, for answers from the agency.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Additional COVID-19 Testing Data Guidance Issued

Last week HHS announced new guidance for additional data that must be reported by laboratories with COVID-19 test results. The guidance is standardizing reporting to ensure public health officials at the state and federal levels have access to comprehensive and real-time data to best inform decision-making in response to COVID-19. Labs will have three ways to report data and will be required to report test results and date and the patient’s race, ethnicity and zip code, among other criteria. This will also help HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receive unified data on how COVID-19 is affecting certain races and ethnicities, data the CDC has had a hard time capturing in a uniform way. The authority to require this additional information was authorized in the CARES Act.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

In Every Edition

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