Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
This week the Senate continues work on appropriations and has scheduled votes on judicial nominations. House members have a district work week, except for those who sit on committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry; they are scheduled to hear more testimony.
Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands stay on standard time year-round. Several bills have been introduced in Congress that would allow states to determine how they want to operate—the current system or year-round under either daylight saving time (DST) or the standard time. There are also proposals in Congress to make daylight saving time the new, permanent standard time and to not restrict a state’s ability to opt out of DST. For more on the issue, read the NCSL Blog.
NCSL will address state activity on daylight saving time in a session entitled “More Daylight? States Examine Changes to the Biannual Time Switch” on Dec. 11 at the NCSL Capitol Forum in Phoenix.
NCSL comments on the White House National Drug Control Strategy (Nov. 1, 2019).
NCSL Information Alert on USDA Rules on National Hemp Program (Oct. 1, 2019).
The Senate managed to pass a group of non-controversial fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills last week, including bills covering the departments of Transportation, Interior, Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, disagreements still loom regarding overall spending allocations for the larger Defense and Health and Human Services bills, as well as border wall funding. The current stopgap measure expires Nov. 21 and without agreement, lawmakers will have to decide how long to continue to fund the government at current levels to avoid a government shutdown. Some House Democrats have supported a continuing resolution (CR) that runs through mid-January 2020, while Senate Republicans favor a CR extending to early spring. The House is not in session this week.
NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty
With significant bipartisan support, Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill last week that would retain the annual appropriations process but replace the current annual budget resolution with a two-year resolution cycle. While the budget resolution does not go to the president for signature, it outlines the overall tax and spending plan for the appropriations process. Other elements of the bill include requiring the resolution to contain a target for the level of government debt as a share of the economy, conforming the debt limit to the debt levels assumed in the resolution, and establishing more bipartisan procedures to reduce the deficit. Enzi, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, has been championing budget reform this session based on the work of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform. While the Senate’s legislative docket is full of other must-pass bills, budget reform has increasingly gained traction as many influential lawmakers are frustrated by what is viewed as a broken process.
The House passed HR 4334, “Assistance for Older Americans” (OAA). The bill would authorize OAA programs through fiscal year 2024 with $10.1 billion for Health and Human Services and $2.4 billion for the Department of Labor. The legislation included a 7% increase in funding for programs in the first year and 6% annual increases for each subsequent year. The legislation was also modified from its original markup in the House Education and Labor Committee, to include grants to states and independent living communities for older individuals. While the OAA authorization expired Sept.30, it is temporarily funded for 2019 through the recent omnibus spending package. Now the bill moves to the Senate for consideration and a potential vote.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile
After nearly four months of inner-party debate, House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for 10 years, through Sept. 30, 2029. In addition to the reauthorization, HR 4863 renames the bank to the United States Export Finance Agency, increases the bank’s statutory lending authority from $135 billion to $175 billion over the next seven years, and more narrowly defines the restrictions on the financing of sales to include the Chinese Army and Intelligence Services, as well any “bad actors” that the U.S. government has labeled in its lists. Previous legislation was tabled after Democrats staunchly objected to several new disclosure requirements that targeted major manufacturers and restricted the bank’s efforts in providing financial support for deals with Chinese state-owned businesses. The bill passed the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 31 by a vote of 30-27.
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen
Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill, co-sponsored by 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans, would provide a path to legalization for agricultural laborers and would expand the H-2A foreign guest-worker program. Specifically, it would also establish a mandatory E-Verify system nationwide for farm employers; simplify the H-2A application process; cap wages for farmworkers; and increase funding for USDA programs that support housing for laborers. The bill is supported by several agriculture organizations, including the National Farmers Union, California Farm Bureau, Western Growers Association, United Farm Workers, Farm Credit and National Milk Producers Federation.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
To better organize train schedules in 1883, North American railroads began using a synchronized time system—Standard Railway Time (SRT)—which involved standardizing time into four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Prior to 1883, time of day was a local matter, and most cities and towns used a local solar time system, maintained by a known clock on a church steeple or a jeweler's window clock. The standardized time system didn’t become officially adopted across the U.S. until Congress passed the Standard Time Act of 1918.
A bipartisan bill to address transparency in search engine algorithms was introduced in the Senate. Under the legislation sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), certain search engine operators would be required to notify users if they use algorithms based on data not expressly provided to the operator. The Filter Bubble Transparency Act also gives the Federal Trade Commission the authority to bring enforcement actions if operators violate the requirements. Several states have been exploring similar legislation to regulate the information that goes into algorithms.
NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York
The Federal Communications Commission issued new performance testing measures for carriers that receive money from the Connect America Fund, a program designed to deploy fixed broadband networks to rural areas. The move will help ensure accountability for carriers receiving monetary support and that they are providing high quality performance for users.
A new program offering investors reductions in capital gains taxes for infusing funds into economically disadvantaged areas called Opportunity Zones will now be subject to new reporting requirements by the Treasury Department. Created as part of the 2017 tax overhaul, this step is intended to address a gap when certain provisions establishing reporting requirements for the program were removed by the Senate’s parliamentary procedures. This resulted in removing any method in which the program could be evaluated and caused controversy that it would overwhelmingly benefit wealthy investors rather than those the initiative was created to serve. Some critics feel this issuance by the Treasury Department is still not detailed enough, while investors believe the requirements to be onerous. Developers will now have to report employer identification numbers and census tract locations of tangible business property.
Open enrollment for 2020 health insurance marketplace coverage started Nov. 1, and will end Dec. 15. Plans purchased during this period will start Jan. 1, 2020. Those enrolling or re-enrolling will need to answer questions on household income and current health care coverage status, and may need documents such as W-2s or tax returns to verify. To learn more about what is needed for enrollment, click here.
Read the Oct. 28 Capitol to Capitol.
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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.