Capitol to Capitol | March 2, 2020


Administration, Congress Propose Funds for Coronavirus in Advance of March Recess

Responding to increasing concerns about the severity of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced last week his $2.5 billion plan, which would use a combination of current fiscal year 2020 funds with new proposed FY 2021 appropriations. Negotiations will have to occur with the administration and congressional appropriators debating the level of funds needed for an appropriate response. For congressional Democrats, the request to enhance the authority to take money from other Health and Human Services funds is a nonstarter. An emergency spending bill could come to the floor for a vote as early as this week. Find additional NCSL resources on federal and state efforts to address COVID-19.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson, Margaret Wile (health and human services) and Erlinda Doherty (budgets and revenue)

Senate and FCC Take Harder Look at 5G Security

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing this week on 5G supply chain security. The committee will examine the role of the federal government in mitigating risks to the telecommunications system and talk with companies that are involved in 5G buildout. The hearing comes as the Federal Communications Commission announces requests for information on replacing Chinese equipment in U.S. systems.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

House Financial Services Committee Passes Major Housing Legislation

During a mark-up session, the House Financial Services Committee passed four bills aimed at tackling the affordable housing crisis in the country. The Housing Fairness Act, HR 149, would authorize increased funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Initiatives Program and make several reforms to the program. The Yes in My Backyard Act, HR 4351, would require localities that receive Community Development Block Grant funding to submit a plan to track and report on the implementation of certain land use policies that promote housing production. The Housing Is Infrastructure Act, HR 5187, authorizes more than $100 billion in federal spending for the nation’s affordable housing infrastructure, including public housing, supportive housing for seniors and people with disabilities, and rural and Native American housing. Lastly, the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act, HR 5931, requires the Federal Housing Administration to review of its policies to identify any barriers to supporting mortgages under $70,000 and report to Congress within a year with a plan for removing such barriers.

Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said, “Affordable housing remains an important issue for this committee as well as the country. We need to ensure HUD, state and local enforcement entities have the tools they need to enforce the Fair Housing Act.”

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Administration Releases National Water Reuse Action Plan

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the release of the National Water Reuse Action Plan aimed at increasing wastewater recycling and reuse. Water reuse, also known as recycled or reclaimed water, can be used to meet water demands and mitigate the risks posed by droughts. The plan features 37 actions and more than 200 implementation milestones that can be tracked online with opportunities for reuse in the Western United States, at oil fields and for agriculture. Overall, U.S., municipal wastewater facilities reuse only about 2.2 billion of 33 billion gallons treated per day.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

DOT Sends $650 Million to States for Road and Bridge Repair

The Federal Highway Administration, a division of U.S. Department of Transportation, will award $653.2 million in emergency relief funds to help 37 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, make repairs to roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods, mudslides and other unexpected events dating back as far 2011. See a complete list of funds awarded.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Differential Privacy and the 2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau has had a long-standing statutory requirement to ensure that data from individuals and households remains confidential. For the 2020 census, it plans to use a new statistical approach, called “differential privacy,” for maintaining that confidentiality. For the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the bureau used a statistical technique called “data swapping” to avoid disclosing confidential data. Data swapping has proved insufficient to counter 21st century threats that could re-identify census respondents, so the bureau has adopted this new approach, described on this census webpage. Details are not yet finalized, and the bureau is open to input.

Using differential privacy means reported 2020 data will differ more from the raw data than in previous decades. The bureau has stated that only the total population in each state will be “as enumerated.” Reported data from all other levels of geography—including congressional districts, legislative districts, counties, townships, census tracts, block groups and census blocks—may differ from the raw data to such an extent that it reduces usability.

In addition, race and ethnicity data are likely to vary more from the “as enumerated” data than in past decades. The bureau is aware that the currently proposed differential privacy plan will reduce usability and therefore is exploring solutions. Feedback will help the bureau prioritize privacy and accuracy. Given the importance of census data in federal and state funding and policy decisions, redistricting and community confidence, it is important that the Census Bureau hear from states on how differential privacy will impact census data in every state. NCSL will host a webinar on Differential Privacy and the 2020 Census on March 5, at 2 p.m. ET to increase understanding of this process and its effect on states.

NCSL Contacts: Wendy Underhill (elections and redistricting) and Susan Frederick (law, criminal justice and public safety)

ED Improves Federal Student Aid Website

The Department of Education announced upgrades to the Federal Student Aid website. Borrowers will be able to view detailed information for each grant and loan, receive alerts about their accounts, and view their progress toward repaying their loans. They can also track the number of qualifying payments they have made toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The upgrade features a loan simulator tool that helps borrowers compare repayment plan options and select one that suits them. The Federal Student Aid office also launched a pilot that allows eligible borrowers to make student loan payments directly on the Federal Student Aid website.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

DeVos Announces Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to combat the rise of sexual misconduct in elementary and secondary schools. The initiative aims to improve the department’s Office of Civil Rights’ enforcement of Title IX in K-12 schools, which will include nationwide compliance reviews in schools and districts to examine how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX. The department is anticipated to release the final Title IX regulations in the coming weeks.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

ACF Releases New Details on Family First Transition Act

The Administration of Children and Families released a memo providing additional details of the new passage of the Family First Transition Act, which provides additional funding and guidance to states as they implement the Family First Prevention Services Act.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Banks, Fintechs Clash at CFPB Symposium on Customer Data

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) hosted a symposium last week that explored potential rules regarding how data aggregators can use banks to give customer data to personal finance apps and other fintech products. The event showed the divide between banks and fintechs, which both had the chance to weigh in on whether the CFPB should regulate financial data sharing. At this point, the CFPB has decided not to. Activities such as screen scraping and applications programming interfaces are common fintech practices that were hotly debated among the two industries. Watch the symposium and read panelist statements.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

NLRB Announces New Joint Employer Rule

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule that restores the joint-employer standard that the board applied prior to the 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris. The rule specifies that a business is a joint employer of another employer’s employees only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment. More specifically, the joint employer must possess and exercise control over one or more areas–—wages, benefits, hours of work, hiring, discharge, discipline, supervision and direction—of another employer’s employees. The final rule will be effective April 27, 2020.

Read the final NLRB joint employer rule.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

Mobile Carriers Fined for Location Data Disclosure

Four major mobile carriers are now facing fines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for disclosing consumers’ real-time location data. The FCC began investigating third-party use of location data in 2018 and concluded that the carriers had violated federal law. Several states have proposed bills to regulate the third-party use of location data and some have included it in comprehensive consumer data privacy bills.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

The Reading Room

Read the Feb. 24 Capitol to Capitol.

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
  • 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