Senate Passes Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill
Last week, the Senate passed 89-2, the “Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021,” which would authorize increases in funding for the nation’s drinking water and sewer systems to $35 billion, with a focus on disadvantaged communities. Among other actions, the bill would reauthorize funding through fiscal year 2026 for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act project financing program. It also authorizes grants from the Environmental Protection Agency to improve drinking water and wastewater systems, including projects to replace lead drinking water pipes. Additionally, the bill would authorize $35 million for the EPA’s technical assistance grants to states and publicly owned water systems to respond to emergency situations that put public health at risk. The bill will now go to the House, where members are currently working on their own measure, which could be brought to conference.
Prior to the bill’s passage, the Senate voted down an amendment, 81-14, from Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would have changed the formula for the disbursement of Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRF), an integral state-federal partnership that provides low-cost financing for a variety of critical infrastructure projects. NCSL led state and local groups in a letter raising concerns about the amendment and encouraged leadership to ensure state and local elected officials had the opportunity to weigh in, in an open and transparent process, on any changes to the SRF formula. Since the bill was considered on the floor outside of normal order, stakeholders did not have an opportunity to weigh in on changes to the formula. Read more.
Senate Passes Resolution to Undo Methane Rule Reversal
The Senate used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn, 52-42, the previous administration’s reversal of the 2016 methane rule on new oil and gas wells. Lawmakers had an April 4 deadline to introduce the CRA resolutions using a fast-track procedure to overturn recent regulatory actions, allowing the Senate to act with a simple, filibuster-proof majority. The joint resolution to disapprove of the rule—titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed and Modified Sources Review”—will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass. For more details on the Congressional Review Act, visit NCSL’s website here.
Senate Republicans Say ‘No’ to Restoring Earmarks
Republicans in the Senate decided to keep their 2019 permanent ban on earmarks, despite their House counterparts voting to lift their ban last month. There are no firm rules, however, precluding senators from earmarking, regardless of a party ban, and several Senate Republicans have already indicated their plans to propose earmarks. Read more.
NCSL Outlines Infrastructure Priorities
Transportation, water infrastructure, broadband and preserving tax-exempt financing are on the list. Read more.
REAL ID Enforcement Deadline Extended, DHS Seeking Public Comment on Digital REAL ID Cards
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months—from Oct. 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has “significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL-ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity,” according to an announcement. Even though all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and four of five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with REAL ID security standards—issuing REAL-ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards—only 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently compliant.
In addition, the DHS also published a request for information to “solicit input regarding technical approaches, applicable industry standards and best practices to ensure that mobile driver’s licenses can be issued and authenticated with features that ensure security, privacy and identity fraud detection.” Comments will be accepted through June 18, 2021.
Read more about the REAL ID extension and the REAL ID cards.
Biden Issues Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
On April 27, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour for federal contractors starting in 2022. Federal agencies will be required to integrate a $15 minimum wage in new contract solicitations starting Jan. 30, 2022, and the new wage must be included in all federal contracts by March 30, 2022. Currently, the minimum wage for workers under federal contract is $10.95 per hour. Congressional efforts to raise the overall federal minimum wage of $7.25 remain stalled. Read more.
In Every Edition
Read the April 26 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 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
- Margaret Wile | 202-624-8171 | Human Services
- Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education