Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Congress regrouped last week after a two-week recess. The Senate moved a number of nominees, mostly for judgeships, and appears to be one step closer to having a deal on disaster aid. The big action in the House was passage of a climate change bill (see below for more details). “Medicare for All” hearings also began last week in the House. This Wednesday the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on “Fixing a Broken Budget Process: Lessons from States.” You can watch it here.
The House passed the Climate Action Now Act, HR 9, 231-190, which would, if enacted, forbid the U.S. from withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement as well as require the administration to come up with a plan to meet U.S. greenhouse gas emissions targets within 120 days. While the bill has little to no chance of being enacted, it represents Congress’s first major stand-alone climate bill in almost 10 years. After the bill’s passage, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed that HR 9 won't get a vote in the Senate. Overall, three Republicans—Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Vern Buchanan (Fla.)—voted for the bill.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
Last week congressional Democrats on the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education subcommittee approved a 2020 Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The bill includes a $12 billion increase in funding for a total of $200 billion. Some of the proposed funding includes $100 million for a public health data modernization project at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Health Statistics and state and local health departments. The bill also includes a provision that would roll back a recent rule the administration made on Title X family planning, including a prohibition on referrals for abortion as a method for family planning.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson(health) and Margret Wile (health)
The House of the 14th Congress, feeling that the nation’s symbolic banner—the American flag—slipped out of date after Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana joined the Union, approved a committee to design a new flag. Three designs were presented, the “People’s Flag,” for general use, the “Government Flag,” for federal use and the “Standard of the Union,” for celebrations. The People’s Flag was chosen for its simplicity.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans met with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). They adamantly expressed their opposition to the new trade agreement unless Trump agrees to remove steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico. “I don’t think there are going to be 51 votes to pass it with the tariffs still outstanding,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) agreed that “retaliatory tariffs on goods vastly outweigh any benefits of USMCA.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have said the USMCA would not get a vote until concerns over enforcement, labor and environmental and pharmaceutical provisions are addressed. “Stronger enforcement language has to be a part of the agreement. It can’t be a sidebar or side letter, later legislation or anything like that,” she said.
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald
The president signed a new executive order on cybersecurity on May 2. The “Executive Order on America's Cybersecurity Workforce” directs the federal government to strengthen America’s cybersecurity workforce by focusing on skills development of current cybersecurity professionals, facilitating the mobility of cybersecurity practitioners as they move from private to public sectors (or vice versa), and increasing the number of cybersecurity professionals. The order also calls on the secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security and Education to consult with states, territories, localities and other stakeholders “to assess and make recommendations to address national cybersecurity workforce needs and to ensure greater mobility in the American cybersecurity workforce.”
NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Abbie Gruwell
Top Republican and Democrat lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the chief executive of Google requesting more information about a massive database that allegedly tracks location information of consumers using hundreds of millions of mobile devices.
NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York
The Trump administration recently released proposed 2020 rules for the Affordable Care Act. One of the notable changes would be allowing insurers to continue to “silver load” health insurance plans on the individual market. Silver loading was a method health insurers started using when the administration canceled cost-sharing reduction payments. To compensate for lost payments, insurers loaded health insurance premiums on silver-level exchange plans, increasing the amount of premium tax credits available to participants with incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level. This decision comes after months of deliberation by the administration on whether it would ban silver loading altogether.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile
Butter was once a protected product in the U.S., so much so that the development of Oleomargarine (margarine), which was considered its inferior substitute and cheaper to make, threatened the interests of the dairy industry. This challenge set into motion the beginning of an era of congressional regulation of the economy, with the passage of the Oleomargarine Act of 1866, which imposed a tax on margarine.
The Federal Aviation Administration awarded the first air carrier certification to a drone delivery company, Wing Aviation. The certification will allow Wing Aviation to begin commercial package delivery in Blacksburg, Va. As NCSL has previously written, designating a drone as an air carrier statutorily preempts a state or local government from enacting a rule or law relating the air carrier’s, route, rate or service.
Last month, Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended the Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. Both spoke about the administration’s ongoing work to address the opioid crisis, ending the supply of deadly products like fentanyl and coordinating federal agencies in expanding substance use disorder treatment.
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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.