Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Veterans Day was first called Armistice Day and was established in 1919 as the one-year anniversary of the ending of World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation to change the title to Veterans Day to honor all of America’s veterans.
While talks of what’s to come in the divided 116th U.S. Congress have dominated the news this past week, the 115th Congress still has its work cut out for the remainder of 2018. The House and the Senate returned to Washington yesterday for the first time since the elections and several issues must be addressed before the lame-duck session ends. Both chambers have just four weeks to negotiate a multitude of important matters while also evading several contentious issues that will most likely lead to high-profile policy fights and plenty of drama. Here are some of the issues to watch:
NCSL Contact: Jake Lestock
While many analysts predict a divided Congress will diminish the chances of any major legislative accomplishments in 2019 and beyond, it may help to push some major policy legislation across the finish line before the end of 2018. Two bills that may get a needed boost are the 2018 Farm Bill and federal autonomous vehicle legislation.
So far, both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of a 2018 Farm Bill. However, the two versions are quite different in certain key areas (e.g., food stamps, conservation, commodities) which has led to a protracted stalemate. The loss of the majority in the 116th may provide a window for negotiations to be completed in December. Likewise, both chambers have been very active in enacting their own bill on autonomous vehicles.
The House passed its version, the SELF DRIVE Act, in 2017 while the Senate passed its version, the AV START Act, out of committee later that year, but has not been able to bring it to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. With the possibility of having to start fresh in 2019 with a Democratic House now a reality for both Republican-controlled chambers, the odds of reaching a negotiated compromise before the end of 2018 has risen although is still not guaranteed.
NCSL Contact: Ben Husch
Before the late Stan Lee began writing and creating the stories of infamous super heroes, Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He said that he eventually quit the job because it was too “depressing.” Lee also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and worked as a playwright to write film scripts for Army training movies alongside other famous writers including Frank Copra and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).
On Nov. 8, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice issued a joint statement and interim final rule on asylum regulation. The interim final rule would bar potential asylum seekers at the southern border who do not enter the United States through a legal port of entry from making an asylum claim. The interim final rule can be found here. In response, civil rights groups filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Nov. 9. The complaint alleges that the Trump administration is violating immigration law as well as the federal statute that governs the way administrative agencies can issue rules.
NCSL Contact: Susan Frederick
On Nov. 11, NCSL sent a letter to congressional leaders expressing strong concerns surrounding the pre-emption of state authority contained in the revised version of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). The Clean Water Act, through sections 510 and 401, explicitly provides states the opportunity not only to adopt standards or discharge limitations that are equal to, or more stringent than federal standards, but also the ability to certify, or condition “any activity,” which “may result in any discharge into the [Nation’s] navigable waters.” This ensures that decisions made in Washington will not negatively impact water quality across the nation. Unfortunately, current text of VIDA states that “no State, political subdivision of a State or interstate agency may adopt or enforce any law, regulation, or other requirement of the State, political subdivision, or interstate agency,” which ignores the importance of taking a state’s unique environmental and biological nature into account and instead imposes a one-size-fits-all approach.
NCSL Contact: Kristen Hildreth
Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for Montana ordered the administration and TransCanada to stop any work on the Keystone XL pipeline because the pipeline’s approval last year violated several key environmental and administrative laws by ignoring facts about climate change. The judge noted in his ruling that "The (State) Department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.” The judge also blocked the federal government and TransCanada "from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities until the Department has completed a supplement to the 2014 [Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] that complies with the requirements of" the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is not the only pipeline that has been delayed by judicial rulings. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas 300 miles from West Virginia to southern Virginia, has been delayed after being approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2017. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018 ruled that the Interior and Agriculture Departments had violated environmental laws when approving its path across federal lands. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was also forced to stop construction following approval by FERC, after the Fourth Circuit ruled that permits to cross National Park Service land were not correct. However, construction resumed in September after the NPS issued a new permit.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth
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Looking for more detailed information about federal issues that could affect states? NCSL’s committee newsletters released every month give you up-to-date insight on:
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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.