Capitol to Capitol | March 9, 2020


Last week Congress passed, and the president signed, an $8.3 billion emergency funding package to help combat COVID-19. NCSL issued a statement in opposition to any federal preemption in states’ ability to collect remote sales taxes. Focus resumes this week on regular appropriations as House and Senate appropriators hear testimony from agencies on their requests for fiscal year 2021 funds.

NCSL in D.C. 

NCSL Blogs


COVID-19 Funding

Of the $8.3 billion appropriated last week, at least $1.05 billion, primarily from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will go to state, local and tribal efforts. The bill allows the CDC to provide grants or enter into cooperative agreements with state, local and tribal governments to dispense these funds. An added provision in the bill allows the federal government to reimburse states for expenses they incurred, dating back to January, to combat COVID-19. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the CDC, on March 4, announced the availability of funding and resources, in addition to the $8.3 billion. The funding is going to a limited number of state and local jurisdictions who have experienced the largest burden of response and preparedness activities. The initial funding will award a $25 million cooperative agreement for immediate assistance for activities such as monitoring travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, infection control and surge staffing. An initial $10 million cooperative agreement will be awarded to begin the implementation of coronavirus surveillance across the U.S. Once this initial supplemental funding is provided to a limited number of state and local jurisdictions, additional funding will be given to all state and local jurisdictions to enhance testing and surveillance. The CDC will reach out to state and local jurisdictions to provide access to this funding.  

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile ( D.C.) and Tahra Johnson (Denver)

NCSL Voices Opposition to Federal Involvement at House Hearing on Post-Wayfair Small Business Concerns

Last week, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access heard small business concerns in the wake of the post-Wayfair decision and examined the need for federal uniform standards. Witnesses representing businesses from New Jersey, Colorado and Arizona expressed frustrations regarding tax compliance and argued in favor of legislation that they argued would “level the playing field” for online-only versus brick and mortar enterprises.

While NCSL was disappointed by not being asked to provide witnesses to testify, nor consulted to provide a balanced viewpoint, staff seized the opportunity to attend the hearing and provided a statement for the record on the 20-year compendium of work NCSL’s State and Local Taxation (SALT) Task Force has spearheaded on this issue to include the most recent adoption of marketplace facilitator model legislation. While the subcommittee has no jurisdiction on the creation of legislation that would preempt states with uniform standards—that authority rests in the Judiciary Committees—NCSL is adamant about being on the record for expressing vehement opposition to any federal preemption in states’ ability to collect remote sales taxes, or any other tax policy area as it relates to fiscal federalism. NCSL staff will visit members and staff in the coming weeks to allay any remaining concerns, offer meetings with state legislators as resources and submit further testimony if necessary. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Senator Calls for Real ID Extension

Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) issued a letter calling for a one-year extension of the Oct. 1, 2020 enforcement date of Real ID phase 4, which includes the requirement that all persons have a compliant ID when going through airport security. Currently, only 35% of the public has compliant state-issued drivers licenses, according to the DHS. There is no data on the percentage of the public that has at least one form of an acceptable ID, such as a license, passport or other federal ID. For more information on Real ID, read NCSL’s Countdown to Real ID.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth 

President Now Supports Full Funding of LWCF

The president announced his support for full and permanent funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which would equate to more than $900 million per year without annual congressional approval. The announcement came less than a month after his FY 2021 budget proposed the LWCF funding at a reduced $14 million. With the change in the president’s support, it is widely expected that the Senate will soon consider a LWCF bill alongside a separate measure to provide $6.5 billion to fund a backlog in national park maintenance projects. Both bills have previously been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

COVID-19 Leading to Potential Drug, Medical Device Shortages

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the first shortage of a prescription drug as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The agency is using this shortage, which is “due to an issue with manufacturing of an active pharmaceutical ingredient used in the drug,” as an opportunity to push legislative proposals that would help prevent or mitigate medical product shortages. The FDA is asking Congress for authority to focus on reporting requirements for medical device makers, timely supply chain monitoring, expiration dates and periodic risk assessments. The proposals are also included in FDA’s 2021 budget justification document outlining the authorities and capabilities the agency could have concerning shortages now and in the future. The announcement on shortages has also increased pressure on Congress to take up the Mitigating Emergency Drug Shortages (MEDS) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in 2019 by Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

EPA Releases List of Disinfectants for Coronavirus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The EPA’s emerging viral pathogen program allows product manufacturers to provide the EPA with data, even in advance of an outbreak, that shows their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Department of Education Delays Changes to Rural School Funding Formula

Education Secretary Betsy Devos this week delayed previously announced changes to the allocation formula for the Rural and Low-Income School Program that would have resulted in funding reductions to approximately 800 rural schools across the country. The changes were announced in February via a letter to state chiefs’ school officers, but received bipartisan pushback from Congress that resulted in the reversal. Under the formula changes, districts must determine student poverty using census data, rather than the number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals. While this measure has been allowed since 2003, the Department of Education has determined census data must be used to comply with federal law. DeVos stated the formula changes would be delayed for a year to give time for Congress to fix language in the law.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

NCSL 2020 Legislative Summit

Mark your calendar for the next NCSL Legislative Summit Aug. 10-13, 2020, in Indianapolis. Join your colleagues at this annual gathering of state lawmakers to explore innovative policy solutions, network and add to your legislative toolbox.

The Reading Room

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