Capitol to Capitol | Oct. 19, 2020


If No Stimulus Deal Reached by Tuesday, Talks to Continue During Lame-Duck Session

The House set a deadline of Oct. 20 to resolve major differences with the administration on a COVID-19 relief stimulus package before the general election. While the Senate has signaled it will unlikely accept any deal before Tuesday, deliberations on a major relief measure will likely continue after the election. The Senate has since proposed and plans to vote on its own $500 billion Republican-only plan that would renew the small business loan program, provide expanded unemployment benefits and additional school and virus testing support. Contributing to negotiation complexities is President Donald Trump’s recent support for the House’s $2.2 trillion figure, or an even larger package despite Senate opposition to a measure of that magnitude.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Congress Approves Another Conservation Package

The America's Conservation Enhancement Act (S 3051) includes more than $1 billion in authorizations for federal wildlife and habitat conservation through fiscal year 2025. Additionally, it would reauthorize several programs focused on conservation in Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, create a program to provide federal funding to nonfederal fish habitat conservation projects and establish a joint federal-state task force to address chronic wasting disease. Further, the bill would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue permits to livestock producers, allowing them to kill black vultures or common ravens to prevent livestock losses during calving and lambing seasons. The president is expected to sign. This is the second major conservation package Congress has enacted this year, the first being the Great American Outdoors Act.

NCSL Contact: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

2020 Census Concludes

The Census Bureau announced that the 2020 census will end on Oct. 15. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resultant delay in field operations, the bureau announced in April that it needed extra time to conduct the census and would therefore extend its field operations until Oct. 31. In early August, the bureau changed course and stated that it would conclude the census on Sept. 30. Cities, counties and advocacy groups sued the Census Bureau and the issue reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to uphold a district court order to stay or freeze the bureau’s request for an accelerated timeline.

The Supreme Court has also been asked to rule on whether the secretary of commerce can provide to the president a census count that excludes undocumented persons. The Constitution and federal law require an “actual enumeration” and a report containing “the tabulation of total population by state.” The collection of the census data has led federal and state governments to rely on the data for broad-reaching policies. This reliance touches representation, infrastructure and the social safety net. In addition to congressional reapportionment, some of the largest programs the federal government administers rely on census data to allocate appropriate funding, including spending in areas such as health care, transportation and housing. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Susan Frederick and Wendy Underhill

FDA Holds Vaccines Meeting

On Oct. 22, the Food and Drug Administration will be holding a vaccines and related biological products advisory committee meeting with the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research’s and Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which will be streamed online and recorded. Both groups will meet to discuss the development, authorization and potential licensure of vaccines to prevent COVID-19 with no specific vaccine application being discussed at this meeting. Members of the public can watch the meeting’s live broadcast.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

CBO Estimates $3.1 Trillion Federal Budget Deficit for FY 2020

According to the Congressional Budget Office, “Relative to the size of the economy, the deficit—at an estimated 15.2% of gross domestic product (GDP)—was the largest since 1945, and 2020 was the fifth consecutive year in which the deficit increased as a percentage of GDP. The estimated deficit is more than triple the shortfall recorded in fiscal year 2019. Revenues were 1% lower and outlays were 47% higher in 2020 than they were in 2019. The deficit of $3.1 trillion is $180 billion smaller than the shortfall that CBO projected in September. Revenues were $123 billion more and outlays were $56 billion less than projected.” Final numbers will be available later this month. Read more.  

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

New Phase of Provider Relief Funding

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $20 billion in new funding for providers working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding is available under Phase 3 General Distribution allocation for providers already receiving Provider Relief Fund payments. Financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by COVID-19 will be considered when awarding funds. Providers previously ineligible, including those who began practicing in 2020 as well as an expanded group of behavioral health providers who are addressing the increased mental health and substance use disorder issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, can also apply. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

DOT Awards Emergency Funds to States for Damage From Natural Disasters

The Department of Transportation awarded $574 million in emergency funds to 39 states and Puerto Rico to repair roads and bridges damaged by storms and other natural disasters. Specifically, $64 million is allocated for California, some of which is for repair in the aftermath of the 2019 wildfires, while Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and North Carolina will also receive funds in response to recent hurricanes and flooding. The program is administered by the Federal Highway Administration. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Funding Announcements for Ryan White HIV/AIDS Grants and Services to Support Runaway and Homeless Shelters

The Health Resources and Services Administration announced $2.24 billion in grants were awarded to cities, counties, states and local community-based organizations to support HIV primary medical care, medication and support services to help improve the health quality of more than half a million people with HIV in the United States. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides care and treatment services to low-income people with HIV who are in the hardest to reach populations.

The Administration of Children and Families awarded $30 million in total to 158 community-based organizations to provide services and supports for runaway and homeless shelters and other services.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

College Enrollment Declines This Fall

Federal survey data shows undergraduate enrollment is down 4% overall, while first-time student enrollment is down 16.1% nationwide and 22.7% at community colleges. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero

SCOTUS Accepts Major State Case for Next Term

LThe U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear an appeal from certain companies in a case to determine whether state or federal court is the appropriate venue for a lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against those companies seeking compensation for damages from the companies for selling products that release greenhouse gases, citing Maryland public nuisance laws. Many other localities that filed their own suits similarly rely on their states’ common laws. Of the three cases that have received a ruling at the federal appellate level, all found the cases should be heard in state courts. However, in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Further, a subsequent 2011 ruling in American Electric Power v. Connecticut established states could not bring federal common law claims against fossil fuel companies because of the EPA’s authority over greenhouse gases. A ruling is not expected until 2021.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Supreme Court Preview Webinar for States and Local Governments

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 | 1 p.m. ET / Noon CT / 11 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. PT

Join in a discussion of the cases most interesting to states and local governments that the court has agreed to hear so far in its new term, which began Oct. 5.

Register here for this FREE webinar! 

State and Local Legal Center Contact: Lisa Soronen

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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 and Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education