Capitol to Capitol | May 18, 2020


House Passes $3 Trillion Relief Package

The House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) bill last week despite some dissent within its own chamber, strong opposition from the Senate and little chance for overall enactment. Dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (HR 6800), the bill would provide additional direct aid to states, make more payments to individuals and extend unemployment insurance. The bill would also amend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to allow states to use funds in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to address revenue shortfalls. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) forged ahead on passage of the bill with the expectation that key provisions would serve as markers for near-future deal making. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders have announced a need to pause on any additional relief packages to observe how the previous three measures have countered the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the economy. White House advisers have also recommended that the president veto the bill in its current form.

Please read NCSL’s detailed summary of HR 6800 for key provisions affecting states here.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Senate HELP Committee Reopening Hearing

Last week the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a virtual hearing on recommendations for states and localities on reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel had several federal agency staff testify, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

USDOT Issues New National Rule for Commercial Truck Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a new final Hours of Service rule for commercial truck drivers. The rule will allow, in certain circumstances, additional hours of service. Drivers who drive short distances will now be allowed to drive up to 14 hours instead of 12, while time spent loading and unloading a truck will be counted as breaks from driving. One of the primary changes is requiring drivers to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving. The new rules require a 30-minute break after eight hours of consecutive driving, rather than on duty time.

NCSL Contact:  Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

PHMSA says Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Law Preempts State Requirements

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced the Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Law preempts the state of Washington's vapor pressure requirement for the transportation of crude oil by rail. The decision comes shortly after the release of a study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories that concluded imposing vapor pressure limits would not reduce the risks of transporting crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail.

NCSL Contact:  Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Mental Health Awareness Month and National Prevention Week

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and last week marked National Prevention Week. During this time, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and its partners have worked together to ensure that those with substance use disorder and the new stressors they may be encountering during the pandemic have the support and resources they need for prevention and treatment. The agency has worked to share resources that can be provided while observing social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

NCSL Contact:  Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

USDOT Provides New Information for Airline Passengers for Requesting Refunds

In response to a surge of more than 25,000 consumer complaints, the USDOT issued new FAQs for passengers and airlines regarding refund and voucher policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The notice emphasizes that passengers must be given a refund if airlines cancel or significantly change the passenger’s flight, and the passenger chooses not to accept an alternative offered by the carrier.

NCSL Contact:  Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

In Every Edition

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