Capitol to Capitol | May 16, 2022


State Lawmakers Brief Federal Officials on Responses to Mental Health Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a decadelong mental health crisis in the United States. Drug overdose deaths reached record highs in 2021, sales of alcohol surged and nearly half of all U.S. students reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless. Moreover, pandemic-related isolation reduced access to traditional care settings, leaving many people in crisis. The patchwork of community mental health crisis services burdens health care systems and state budgets and drives involvement in the justice system. Lack of care has traditionally resulted in arrest or admission to hospital emergency departments, which doesn’t always result in appropriate care and has made local jails the biggest mental health institutions in the country.

In this briefing, state lawmakers shared their priorities and ideas for collaboratively tackling the mental health crisis. Ideas for changing the status quo range from leveraging the new 988 suicide and behavioral health crisis call number to crafting alternatives to arrest. 

Moderator: Tammy Jo Hill, senior policy specialist, NCSL Health Program
Panelist: Dr. Ralph Alvarado, chair, Health and Welfare Committee, Kentucky Senate
Panelist: Carol A. Murphy, majority whip, New Jersey General Assembly
Panelist: Steve Eliason, Health and Human Services Committee, Utah House of Representatives

Panelist: Charlie Severance-Medaris, senior policy specialist, NCSL Health Program

Watch the recording here.  

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

NCSL Analysis on How Schools Are Spending Education Relief Funding

The federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund has provided nearly $190 billion to help states respond to the educational challenges caused by the pandemic. This is how it’s being spent. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Patrick Lawler

Bipartisan LIFELINE Act Introduced in Senate

On May 12, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the bipartisan LIFELINE Act, or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Financing Enabling Long-Term Investment in Neighborhood Excellence Act (S. 4181). This follows the House companion legislation (HR. 7076) introduced in March by Representatives Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.), which was drafted in consultation with the Treasury Department, authorizing committees for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and housing stakeholders.

Currently, dollars made available through the American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026. The LIFELINE Act would allow the fiscal relief funds used for housing credit development to be considered “expended” as required for compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

NCSL joined other national organizations representing state and local governments as well as close to 80 housing stakeholders to support the LIFELINE Act, or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Financing Enabling Long-Term Investment in Neighborhood Excellence Act (HR 7078).

Press Release (Senate)

Press Release (House)

NCSHA Fact Sheet update

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Deanna Ross

White House Releases Guidance on Infrastructure Permitting and Fraud Reduction

The White House released updated guidance for federal agencies covering both improved infrastructure permitting practices and the reduction of waste, fraud and abuse for projects funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Department of the Interior Disburses $250M in Royalties to Gulf Coast States

The Department of the Interior disbursed fiscal year 2021 revenue totaling more than $252 million to the four offshore oil- and gas-producing states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) and their coastal localities included in the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. Louisiana and several parishes received nearly half, at $112 million, while Texas and its coastal local governments received about $69 million, Mississippi received $37 million, and Alabama received $35 million. The 2006 law created a revenue-sharing program between the federal government and the states, which can use the funds for coastal conservation and resiliency projects. Read more

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Agreement to Limit Flow of Water Reached

The Department of the Interior is reducing the amount of water that will flow to California, Arizona and Nevada via the Colorado River to protect the Lake Powell reservoir in Utah and its hydropower production. The amount of water being withheld, 480,000 acre-feet, represents a 6.4% cut. The river provides water to more than 40 million people across the Southwest. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Department of Education Seeks Comment on Rules Covering Students With Disabilities

The department’s Office for Civil Rights will collect public comments on possible amendments to the regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination because of disability status by programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as schools or higher education institutions. Comments can be submitted to the department here or during an upcoming listening tour. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Patrick Lawler

In Every Edition

Read the May 2 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 | Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce