Senate Committee Approves the Just and Reasonable Telephone Bill to Keep Incarcerated People Connected
On March 22, the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act (S 1541) moved through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation with favorable amendments. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine and enforce “just and reasonable” rates for telecommunications in prisons, jails and detention centers across the country. The bill is named after the late Martha Wright-Reed of Washington, D.C., who advocated for just calling rates for incarcerated people after having to choose between purchasing her medication and communicating with her then-incarcerated grandson. Many studies have shown that increasing access to familial contact can reduce recidivism; however, states in many cases need to use fees and commissions gathered from prison telecommunications to pay for the costs associated with incarceration. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is currently the only Republican co-sponsor. Ohio is a leader on this issue, being one of the first states to cap costs for intrastate communications. A companion bill (HR 2489) has been introduced in the House. Read more.
For more information on criminal justice budgeting, visit NCSL’s Criminal Justice Budgeting Series webpage.
President’s FY 2023 Budget Released
The president requested $5.8 trillion to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2023. This includes a reported 9% increase for discretionary spending and 4% increase to defense programs. While the president’s budget does not contain any binding language, it is still regarded as a powerful directive for the executive branch to showcase its policy vision. The NCSL staff analysis can be found here. White House documents on the president’s FY 2023 budget can be found here.
Biden Administration’s Interim Final Rule on Procedures for Credible Fear Screening and Consideration of Asylum
On March 29, the Biden administration will publish a new interim final rule changing the procedure for screening and reviewing asylum cases. Under the new rule, individuals seeking asylum who can show a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries will be referred to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service asylum officers for a timely interview. After the interview, the immigration service will determine whether to grant the individual asylum or withhold removal from the country, or both. This is a departure from the current process, which requires asylum seekers who pass the credible fear screening to wait for an immigration court date for a final disposition. The goal of the new rule is to reduce the average asylum process time from five years to six months. The new rule will go into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. During those 60 days, the administration will accept new public comments. NCSL supports federal efforts to assist individuals and families forced to flee their native lands in fear of their safety. For more information on NCSL's immigration positions, click here.
TSA Begins Accepting Mobile IDs at Airport Security
The Transportation Security Administration launched its mobile driver’s license program beginning with Arizona’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Arizona residents enrolled in TSA PreCheck will have access to the program, which will allow their mobile ID to verify their identity when going through airport security. Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah are also partnering with Apple on digital IDs that will be accepted by TSA. Read more.
Department of Labor to Offer Virtual Prevailing Wage Seminars
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will offer compliance seminars for contracting agencies, contractors, unions, workers and other stakeholders to provide information on the requirements that govern payment of prevailing wages on federally funded construction and service contracts. The trainings are designed to increase awareness and improve compliance with federal requirements.
The seminars will include video trainings on a variety of Davis-Bacon Act and Service Contract Act topics that participants can watch at their convenience. In addition, the division will hold virtual question-and-answer sessions, offered live on multiple dates, throughout 2022. Attendance is free, registration is required.
Click here for more information and to register
Health and Human Services Funding Announcements
Below are some recent announcements from the department.
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
The department announced the availability of an estimated $312 million over four years to expand and increase access to evidence-based mental health and substance use services through two Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic programs.
The two grant programs are:
Provider Relief Fund Payments
The department announced more than $413 million in Phase 4 Provider Relief Fund payments to more than 3,600 providers across the country.
View a state-by-state breakdown of all Phase 4 payments disbursed to date.
View a state-by-state breakdown of all American Rescue Plan Rural payments disbursed to date.
In Every Edition
Read the March 21 Capitol to Capitol.
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 policy 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 | Budget and Revenue | Health and Human Services
- Patrick Lawler | 202-624-8697 | Budget and Revenue
- Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
- Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Kristen Hildreth | 202-624-3597 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
- Jon Jukuri | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education
- Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Commerce and Financial Services
- Tres York | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services