Capitol to Capitol | Oct. 21, 2019

10/21/2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NCSL in D.C.

NCSL will host a briefing on Capitol Hill this week to educate congressional staff on the importance of state cyber proficiency and funding. In addition to South Carolina Senator Tom Alexander (R), co-chair of NCSL’s Executive Committee Task Force on Cybersecurity, other participants include New Jersey Office of Homeland Security Director and Preparedness Jared Maples; Maj. Gen. Timothy Williams, adjutant general, Virginia; and Delaware Chief Information Officer James Collins, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ past-president. Senator Gary Peters, a chief co-sponsor of the NCSL supported S. 1846, the “State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2019” is also expected to speak on the importance of federal-state-local collaboration on cybersecurity issues.

Last week, NCSL participated in an event with U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) where he unveiled legislation to provide significant new authority to state and local governments to regulate drone operations. The bill, which NCSL supports, would allow state and local governments (when not preempted by states) to set reasonable restrictions on drone operations—something states are generally preempted from doing now.

NCSL’s recent correspondence with the Hill and the administration:

State-Federal Blogs:

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Considered baseball’s national anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written by composer Albert von Tilzer and lyricist Jack Norworth, both of whom had never attended a professional baseball game prior to writing the song.

After Recess, Senate Appropriators May Drive “Mini-Bus”  

Upon returning from October recess, lawmakers made little progress in advancing fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills, but Senate leadership expressed it may attempt to move a cluster of less controversial bills this week. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) hopes to pass a “mini-bus” of bills first procedurally, then to the actual Senate floor.

The package is expected to include funding for Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture-FDA, Interior-Environment, Transportation-HUD and MILCON-VA. House and Senate staffers attempted to craft allocations over the October recess that would be amenable to both chambers but funding over the president’s border wall continued to be an obstacle for any substantive reconciliation. While the House passed 10 of its 12 annual spending bills before the August recess, the Senate has yet to pass any of the bills required to fund the FY that began Oct. 1. The continuing resolution (PL 116-59), which has kept the federal government operating into this new FY based on FY 2019 levels, is set to expire Nov. 21.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Senate Considers Pension Plan Relief

Senate activity to help failing pension plans for coal miners and other union workers is gaining bipartisan momentum as more than 1 million retirees would be affected by a $66 billion looming shortfall, according to reports. While the strategy for advancing measures is still unclear, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said his committee is working on a plan he hopes can be used to engage in substantive discussions with the House, which proposed its own version of legislation that would extend loans to struggling plans. The Congressional Budget Office ultimately found the House bill would have had very little impact on addressing the crisis, but the Senate has expressed interest in proposing a comprehensive plan that would include low-interest loans and grants.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Vaping Tax, Extenders Legislation Gain Momentum

The House Ways and Means Committee plans to consider legislation this week that would place a federal tax on electronic cigarettes. While the actual vehicle for moving this measure forward is still unclear, a bipartisan measure from Representative Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Representative Pete King (R-N.Y.) that would tax e-cigarettes at $3 a pack, is being considered. Bipartisan momentum on tax extender legislation is also forming as Grassley has expressed support in working with Minority Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to potentially adopt the House Ways and Means version of an extenders package that has already gained ground in that chamber. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

EPA Proposes Major Changes to Renewable Fuel Standard

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The Washington Nationals, recently clinching the National League pennant, will advance to their first World Series, facing the Houston Astros this week. They will be the 29th of 30 baseball franchises to play in at least one World Series (the Seattle Mariners are now the only team to never have made a World Series appearance). The Washington Senators—named in tribute to Senator Arthur Gorman, who represented Maryland from 1881 to 1899 and from 1903 to his death in 1906, and was an avid baseball player—was the last Washington, D.C., baseball team to play in a World Series game. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a major update to the Renewable Fuel standard for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The proposed rule is centered around ensuring a set amount of biofuels is blended into the nation’s fuel supply, based upon the amount determined by the EPA regardless of the hardship waivers it issues.

Specifically, the EPA will continue to grant economic hardship waivers to small refiners when warranted, but will require large refineries to blend extra gallons equal to a three-year rolling average of the number of exempted gallons, which for the upcoming 2020 compliance year is expected to be about a billion gallons. The intent is to ensure that refiners must blend close to the 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol required by the EPA's annual rule. The administration also announced it will begin a process to make it easier for gas stations to sell gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15), as it will permit gas stations to use the same tanks they use for 10% ethanol fuel—the standard gasoline used in most cars—for 15% ethanol (E15). Previously, the administration acted to legalize the year-round sales of E15.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Trump Administration Announces Future Changes to Medicare Reform

A federal D.C. district court judge ruled last year that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) lacked authority to reduce reimbursements for Medicare Part B drugs, which are purchased through the 340B program by certain hospitals. Despite the court’s decision, the CMS has defended the reductions during the appeals process, with

Earlier this month, the administration announced an executive order (EO) regarding future changes to the Medicare program with a focus on Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Several of the EO’s recommendations include: reducing barriers for enrollees to get Medicare Medical Savings Accounts, ensuring fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare is not promoted over MA; a report submitted by the secretary of Health and Human Services and other White House officials identifying approaches that would modify Medicare FFS payments to more closely reflect prices paid for MA and commercial health insurance plans services; providing beneficiaries with improved access to providers; emphasizing time spent with patients over Medicare payments received; and the elimination of unnecessary regulatory billing requirements and benefit definitions among others. The announcement included a response regarding Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals to reform America’s health care system into a universal health care model, with some including Medicare for All. 

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

POTUS Issues New EO on Federal Guidance

The president issued two EOs. One EO requires agencies to post all guidance documents on a searchable website, and anything not posted is considered rescinded. The other EO is aimed at preventing opaque or unlawful interpretations of regulations. Requiring federal agencies to make all agency guidance publicly available, as well as conducting educational outreach to industries when policy changes are made, is intended to reduce the legal weight of federal agency guidance. In addition, "significant" guidance documents will go through a public comment process, although this process is already standard practice at certain agencies.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth (natural resources and infrastructure) and Lucia Bragg (law, criminal justice and public safety)

State and Local Legal CenterUpcoming Webinars

May Statutory Annotations by Copyrighted?

In Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the deceptively simple question of whether statutory annotations may be copyrighted. Numerous state legislatures, including Georgia, work with an outside publisher that updates statutory annotations each year. Webinar speakers will cover the implications of this case for state and local governments more generally, the policy and legal arguments each side is making before the Supreme Court, and how this case may impact the legal publishing industry.

Date:  Nov. 13  

Time: 1 p.m. ET/ Noon CT/ 11 a.m. MT/ 10 a.m. PT

Register here.

ADA Compliant Websites

Local governments and many other entities across the country have been sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because their websites are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Minh Vu and Seyfarth Shaw will discuss the laws that require accessible websites, why government entities have been targeted for lawsuits, and what state and local government officials can do to avoid being sued.    

Date:  Dec. 9  

Time: 1 p.m. ET 

Register here.

The Reading Room 

Read the Oct. 7 Capitol to Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

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.

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