Capitol to Capitol | Nov. 23, 2020

11/23/2020

Stimulus Negotiations Remain Stalled

With a $1 trillion gap remaining between House and Senate proposals negotiated pre-election, lawmakers do not appear any closer in agreement on the size of another stimulus relief bill. Though both sides are calling for compromise, neither seems willing to negotiate further, prolonging the uncertainty of any new legislation being passed. President-elect Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass the $2.2 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act the House originally passed in May. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is advocating for a smaller $500 billion bill.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

Progress Made on $1.4T Spending Measure for FY 2021

Since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, the federal government has been relying on a stopgap spending bill that is set to expire Dec. 11. Senate and House leadership are close to an agreement on a $1.4 trillion spending bill for FY 2021 to avert a government shutdown. The Senate released its FY 2021 spending bills earlier this month, while the House passed its spending bills over the summer.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Jocelyn Salguero

House Passes Increased FEMA Assistance to States

The House passed HR 8266, the “FEMA Assistance Relief Act of 2020,” last Tuesday. The bipartisan bill would adjust the federal cost share for the FEMA COVID-19 assistance from 75% to 90% for all emergency and major disaster declarations in 2020, reducing the state cost share to 10%. In September, NCSL and several other state and local associations issued a letter in support of the bill. It remains unclear whether the bill will have support in the Senate. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

HHS Releases Billions in FY 2021 LIHEAP Funding for States

Funding for these initial awards, totaling $3.4 billion and accounting for approximately 90% of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program’s (LIHEAP) annualized funding, were made available under the stopgap spending bill signed into law Oct. 1. LIHEAP provides funds to states to help low-income families pay their home energy bills. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile (health and human services) and Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth (natural resources and energy)

HHS Announces Pharmacy Partnerships

These partnerships with large chain pharmacies—networks covering 60% of pharmacies throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—will work with network administrators and independent pharmacies as part of a federal program to increase access to vaccines across the country. Pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians can also provide vaccinations in retail and grocery stores. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

New Federal Railroad Administration Rule Seeks to Address Amtrak Train Delays

The final rule creates new standards to measure Amtrak’s on-time performance and train delays. Performance will be based on certified schedules agreed to by Amtrak and the freight railroads that own a majority of the track on which Amtrak trains operate. The rule is in response to years of complaints from Amtrak that its poor performance is due to its lack of control because it does not own the tracks, even though federal law requires Amtrak trains be given preference. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Department of Interior Provides New Conservation Authorities to States

The secretarial order provides state and local governments significant authority to veto how funds provided for federal land acquisition are used as part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The order states “a written expression of support by both the affected governor and local county or county government-equivalent (e.g., parish, borough) is required for the acquisition of land, water or an interest in land or water under the federal LWCF program.” The order is very similar to an unsuccessful amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act, offered by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), that called for state legislatures to approve any new land acquisitions in their respective states. However, the order is expected to be reversed once President-elect Biden takes office in January. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

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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