Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
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
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.
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:
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
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…
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 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)
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
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 www.NCSL.org for more information.
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
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
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
Read the March 5, 2018, 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.