Capitol to Capitol | March 12, 2018

Congress Plans to Release and Vote on $1.3 Trillion Omnibus by Week’s End  

Congressional leaders are hoping to finalize negotiations this week on a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill that is almost six months late. However, there are obstacles that congressional leaders still have to navigate. While the past several funding negotiations have stalled this year because of Democrats pushing for protections for “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Democrats now seem willing to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with legislation outside the funding bill. Moreover, the contentious issues of funding Planned Parenthood and funding a wall along the Southern border have resurfaced and could torpedo the bill.

Congress needs to pass the massive omnibus bill by March 23 before the short-term spending expires. If lawmakers do not get something passed by then, they will most likely pass another stopgap funding measure to avoid another government shutdown.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

South Dakota v. Wayfair

A case before the Supreme Court, South Dakota v. Wayfair, could affect how states collect online sales tax. Mick Bullock, NCSL’s director of public affairs, sat down with Max Behlke, NCSL’s federal director of budget and tax, to discuss the latest on the case in this FB Live video.

Looking to Kentucky for Waiver Costs 

Earlier this year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a new policy that would permit states to apply for work and community engagement Medicaid waivers. Since then Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas have been approved, and several other states await a response. The first state approved, Kentucky, has become a go-to example for other states when considering the costs and long-term projected savings of these programs. 


The attorney general is popularly elected in most every state (43). However, the chief law enforcement officer is selected by secret ballot by the state legislature in Maine, by the state Supreme Court in Tennessee, and by the governor in Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming.

The Kentucky governor’s office and state Medicaid agency have stated that running their program will cost an initial $187 million with $167 million of that coming from the federal government. They’ve also predicted the new program will create about $2.4 billion in savings over five years for Kentucky and the federal government.

Medicaid work and volunteer programs are in their infancy and costs can vary by:

  • The types of populations enrolled in a state’s Medicaid program.
  • What work and volunteer opportunities currently exist.
  • Reviewing the current systems states have in place to track eligibility.

What the costs of running these programs looks like in other states remains a work in progress.

For further information on work and community engagement waivers, learn more here. To stay up to date on health and human service issues, please read NCSL’s biweekly HHS newsletter.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson  

House Agriculture Chair Plans to Release Farm Bill Draft This Week

In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Congress passed the first farm bill, The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. Today, it remains the primary legislation for food and agriculture policy for the federal government.


On this day, March 12, in…

  • 2002 - U.S. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge unveiled a color-coded system for terror warnings.
  • 1993 - Janet Reno was sworn in as the first female U.S. attorney general.
  • 1985 - Former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon announced that he planned to drop Secret Service protection and hire his own bodyguards in an effort to lower the deficit by $3 million.
  • 1959 - March 11 the Senate passed the Hawaii statehood bill. The House approved the bill the following day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on March 18, 1959.
  • 1933 - Great Depression: Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses the nation for the first time as President of the United States. This was also the first of his "fireside chats."

The farm bill is passed roughly every five years and directs the major programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including crop insurance and farmland conservation funding. The farm bill also contains the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, which is by far the legislation’s biggest spending category. In the last farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, SNAP accounted for 80 percent of the $489 billion in outlays for 2014-2018.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) hopes to release his draft farm bill this week, but he faces stiff opposition from Democrats on the committee who objected to provisions in the nutrition title that aimed to push more able-bodied food stamp recipients into jobs. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been pitching such programs as part of the GOP initiative to turn welfare programs into “workfare.” Last week, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said that his staff has already started sharing legislative text with minority staff on the committee and that he plans to begin moving a bill in April.

Most major provisions of the Farm Bill expire at the end of FY18 on Sept. 30.

NCSL Opposes Pre-emption Provision in Farm Bill

NCSL staff is working with Republican and Democratic members of the House Agriculture Committee to highlight the strong opposition to a bill from Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), the Protect Interstate Commerce Act of 2018, which may be included in the committee’s base bill. In a letter sent on Feb. 28, NCSL, along with other organizations representing county and local officials, wrote that “The bill would pre-empt state and local agricultural laws and statutes that aim to protect the safety and well-being of our nation’s farmland, waterways, [and] forests.”

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

President Trump’s Tariffs to Go Into Effect

Last Thursday, President Donald Trump signed two proclamations levying tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. A 25 percent ad valorem tariff on steel articles and a 10 percent charge on aluminum will go into effect on all countries except Canada and Mexico beginning March 23. Opponents of this move believe that the tariffs will worsen economic relations, possibly leading to a trade war while also creating higher costs for U.S. consumers. The administration believes it will help the U.S. steel and aluminum industries as well as bring other countries to the table to negotiate U.S. national security concerns. Congressional Republicans have also voiced their opposition and have even threatened to introduce legislation to block the tariffs.

NCSL Contact: Jon Jukuri

Registration Is Open for the 2018 NCSL Legislative Summit

NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit will take place in Los Angeles, July 30-Aug. 2. Connect with legislative peers and policy innovators and explore the constantly changing work of state legislatures. From skills training to policy deep dives, you'll take home ideas you can put into action in your state.


In 1922, Alice Robertson of Oklahoma became the first woman to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives.

The NCSL Legislative Summit business meeting, Setting the States’ Agenda, is where NCSL adopts the policy directives and resolutions that guide NCSL’s advocacy before Congress, the White House and federal agencies.

Visit the Summit Registration webpage or for more information.

Speaker Ryan: Infrastructure Package to Be in “5 or 6 Different Bills”

During a March 8 event in Atlanta, House Speaker Ryan said Congress will begin to work on infrastructure legislation in the coming weeks, but instead of one large package, he said that “the plan is to do this in about five or six different bills.”

Congress is expected to include a short-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which expires on March 31, in the omnibus bill to allow time for a formal reauthorization of the agency in the summer. The speaker also plans to include some infrastructure funding in the massive spending bill, which he called a “down payment on the infrastructure plan.” Additionally, a third infrastructure bill expected from Congress is a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that provides federal funding for ports, inland waterways and drinking water infrastructure.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

Feds Sue California Over Sanctuary Laws

On March 6, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the state of California over three sanctuary-focused laws that the state enacted last year in response to Trump’s vows for stricter enforcement of immigration laws. The lawsuit is similar to the one that the Obama administration filed in 2010 against an Arizona law that sought to crack down on illegal immigrants, S.B. 1070. That case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down parts of the law for unconstitutionally intruding on Congress’ right to establish immigration policy.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg

Background Check Legislation Gains Momentum

Momentum is building on Capitol Hill for the “Fix NICS Act of 2017,” S. 2135, which now has 62 co-sponsors in the Senate. The legislation seeks to amend the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act by requiring all federal agencies and courts to certify whether they have provided any disqualifying records of people prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also seeks to amend the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to provide incentives to states that upload mental health and criminal history records to the NICS system. The incentives proposed are waivers of grant-match requirements under the National Criminal History Improvement Program. The administration has also come out in favor of this legislation.

NCSL Contact: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg

This Week in Washington

  • All eyes in Washington will be looking at western Pennsylvania tomorrow when voters in the state’s 18th congressional district will head to the polls to fill the vacant House seat. More than $12.5 million has been spent in the surprisingly close race in a district Trump carried by 20 points in 2016 between Democrat Conor Lamb, who is not running as a progressive, and a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House, Rick Saccone.
  • Government funding expires in 11 days on March 23.
  • The House reconvenes tomorrow and is expected to adjourn on Friday by 3 pm.
  • The Senate will reconvene today at 4 p.m. and will resume consideration of S.2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which is legislation intended to provide smaller banks relief from rules and regulations established under Dodd-Frank. Debate on the measure is expected to last most of the week in the chamber.

Also of Note …

  • Republicans wage 11th-hour blitz in Pa. special electionPolitico
  • White House vows to help arm teachers and backs off raising age for buying gunsWashington Post
  • Trump Tariffs May Threaten U.S. Auto Jobs, European Executives Warn  Wall Street Journal
  • Mueller may delay decision on obstruction of justice: report The Hill

Read the March 5, 2018, Capitol-to-Capitol.

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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.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | 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