Capitol to Capitol | Oct. 28, 2019
















This week the Senate will continue to try and move fiscal year 2020 appropriations. The House, in addition to hearing more impeachment testimony, is scheduled to hold votes on several bills including reauthorizing funding and programs under the Older Americans Act, regulating the sale of online e-cigarettes and making full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (read NCSL’s letter of support).


Candy corn—the tri-colored confection, which has maintained the same recipe since its invention in the 1880s—was designed to resemble chicken feed. At the time of its invention, farmers made up half of America’s labor force, and candy corn was packed in boxes with a rooster on the front to appeal to America's agricultural roots. Oct. 30 is National Candy Corn Day.

NCSL State and Local Cybersecurity Day on the Hill

Last week NCSL organized and participated in a congressional briefing titled "State and Local Cybersecurity Day on the Hill.” Senator Thomas Alexander (R-S.C.) represented NCSL, along with officials from the National Governors Association and the National Association of Chief Information Officers. Alexander’s remarks addressed cybersecurity as a nonpartisan issue, the need for increased coordination between federal, state and local governments, and reiterated NCSL’s support for federal legislation, S 1846, that supports the goal of federal, state, and local collaboration on cybersecurity issues.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick (law, criminal justice and public safety) and Abbie Gruwell (commerce and finance)

Longer-Term Continuing Resolution Becoming More Likely 

The Senate was expected to pass a “minibus” last week—a package of noncontroversial bills funding the departments of Agriculture, Transportation-HUD, Interior-Environment and Commerce-Justice-State—but debate regarding amendments halted that progress. While Senate leadership maintains that passage is still possible this week, both chambers remain nearly at an impasse on funding for the border wall, making a longer-term continuing resolution seem more likely.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Ways and Means Approves First Federal E-Cigarette Tax

The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation last week creating a tax on e-cigarettes with the expectation that the measure would lower usage rates in minors and young adults, while generating an estimated $10 billion in revenue. HR 4742 would apply a $1-per-pack federal tax rate on nicotine-based vapes, which is about the same rate currently enforced on traditional cigarettes. While the bill was approved along mostly partisan lines, there has been discussion that a bill taxing a wider array of vaporized products could get more widespread support. The House has already drafted a bipartisan version of this broader bill and the Senate Finance Committee has two versions of its own. There has been momentum in recent weeks to pass legislation aimed at banning flavored vaping products due to reported harmful effects, but the already large list of tax measures lingering in both chambers presents a challenge for this issue to take priority. Meanwhile, the president, who originally supported an across-the-board ban of flavored vaping products, has recently backpedaled on that pledge. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

EPA Sues California for Cap and Trade Program


New Hampshire’s Keene Pumpkin Festival holds the annual record for most lit jack-o’-lanterns on display (30,581) at one event, a tradition that broke the Guinness World Record in 2013.

The Department of Justice sued the state of California for participating in a cap-and-trade greenhouse emissions reduction program with Quebec. The lawsuit alleges that the program, which California and Quebec first agreed to in 2014, is illegal because it puts the state in the position of conducting foreign policy, a power reserved for the federal government. Another joint auction is scheduled for Nov. 19.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Supreme Court Declines to Halt State Court Climate Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court denied, without explanation, a request from several oil companies to move a court case brought by the city of Baltimore regarding the impacts of climate change from Maryland State Court into the federal court system. The court has already ruled that “common law” lawsuits over greenhouse gas pollution are preempted by the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. However, claims under public nuisance or product liability laws might be successful at the state level.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Treasury Reports FY 2019 Deficit

The Treasury Department reported that the federal deficit totaled $984 billion for fiscal year 2019, or 4.7% of the GDP. The level is the highest recorded deficit since 2012, marking an increase of $205 billion—or 26%—over the previous fiscal year.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Roadway Fatalities Continue Decline, but Pedestrian and Bicycle Deaths Increase

New data released by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show there was a decrease in overall highway traffic fatalities in 2018, but deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists increased. Overall, 36,560 people died on the roads in 2018, down 2.4% from the year before. However, despite the decrease in overall deaths, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities continued to rise, with deaths of those on foot climbing 3.4% to 6,283 last year, more than in any year since 1990. Deaths of pedestrians have jumped by 42% in the last decade, even as the combined number of all other traffic deaths has fallen by 8%. NHTSA's initial estimates for the first half of 2019 also show the positive trends may continue, with a 3.4% decrease in total fatalities compared to the same period in 2018.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

NCSL’s 2019 Capitol Forum

Prepare for 2020: From disaster spending to the Electoral College and everything in between, we’ve got you covered. Join colleagues and experts from across the country in sunny Phoenix to roll up your sleeves and dig into the issues states will be discussing next year.

NCSL’s 2019 Capitol Forum will take place Dec. 10- 12 in Phoenix, at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa. 

Upcoming Capitol Forum Dates:

  • Nov. 19: Hotel reservations must be completed to take advantage of NCSL’s discount room rates ($199/night plus tax and discounted Resort Fee of $20/night).
  • Nov. 19: Final day to access the advanced registration rate of $400 for legislators and legislative staff.

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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