Capitol to Capitol | Sept. 11, 2017

Military service members render honors as fire and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon during rescue and recovery efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”

—President George W. Bush at the Pentagon in 2008

Surprise Deal Shifts September Strategy in Washington

On Friday evening, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 601 into law, legislation that suspended the debt ceiling until December, extends the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and will keep the government funded through Dec. 8, and provided the first of what is expected to be several installments of financial aid for disaster recovery for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

DYK?

Since the early 1800s, Kentucky had a problem with dueling. In fact, Henry Clay, who served in Congress from the state, fought in (and won) two duels. So, when the state’s constitution was ratified in 1891, it included a provision that to this day requires every legislator, public officer and member of the bar to take an oath stating that, among other things, “[I] have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this state nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

-Courtesy of NCSL Staff Chair Chuck Truesdell, Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

Have any trivia about your state? Let us know here and we might include it in a future edition of Capitol to Capitol!

While the deal will clear policy obstacles for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to focus on other priorities as a possible government shutdown or government default has been delayed, they were not cheering the legislation the president signed into law. The legislation, which the president believed had more merits than the alternatives, was proposed by Democratic leaders Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, not Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The deal caught Republicans off guard and has, for at least the time being, emboldened Democrats who, for the first time in the Trump presidency, see room to work with the president on key policy initiatives and spending priorities.

Deal aside, only 44 legislative days remain on the House calendar in 2017, which means that Republican leaders cannot afford to waste precious time if they want to accomplish major policy initiatives, such as tax reform, this year. However, the deal that Trump struck with the Democrats last week over the objections of the Republican leaders means Congress will have to reserve time the first week of December, if not sooner, to pass a new spending package to keep the government open. And, the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Irma will force Congress to consider spending even more on disaster relief this year.

Delaying the budget fight until December poses two key problems for tax reform this year: 1) the inevitable budget fight will lead to legislation that will almost certainly require Democratic votes for passage, giving the minority party enormous leverage and bargaining power on Capitol Hill, and 2) the tax legislation would be considered at the same time as the nation’s borrowing limit will be reinstated, meaning  Republicans will be trying to enact their tax cuts at the same time they need to approve more federal borrowing, a contradiction that will not be lost on many fiscal conservatives. Moreover, Congress has yet to pass a FY 2018 budget resolution, which is necessary if Republicans want to be able to pass tax reform through the Senate without the votes of at least eight Democrats. Given these obstacles, enacting comprehensive tax reform this year will be no small feat. If it is delayed until 2018, the chances of passage will continue to dwindle as the midterm elections near and congressional campaigns ramp up.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock, Ethan Wilson (NFIP)

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes 2018 Education Spending Legislation

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 29-to 2-to pass SB 1771, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill for FY 2018.

DYK?

On this day in 1941, ground was broken for the construction of the Pentagon. On Sept. 11, 2001, exactly 60 years after the building's construction began, American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and flown into the western side of the building. #NeverForget

The bill would increase overall spending for the Department of Education by $29 million over FY 2017 levels for a total of $68.3 billion. The legislation differs in some ways from both the version that passed the House Appropriations Committee in July (HR 3358) and the administration’s 2018 budget request. The House version allocates $66 billion for the department while the administration’s proposal provides $59 billion. The administration’s request sought an additional $1 billion in Title I funds that would be used specifically for the creation or expansion of public school choice programs as well as an allocation of $400 million to expand charter schools and private school vouchers. The Senate bill does provide a $25 million increase to charter schools, and also provides an additional $25 million to Title I funds, but does not designate the money for school choice initiatives. Both the House’s 2018 spending legislation and the administration’s budget request would eliminate a $2.4 billion teacher training program under Title II-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Senate version would continue the program with a budget of $2.1 billion. The bill will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Lucia Bragg

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. On this day, educational institutions receiving federal funds are required to hold an educational program about the U.S. Constitution for their students. The Department of Education offers schools a number of resources for use in developing such programs. For additional information on civic education, visit NCSL’s blog archives for highlights on NCSL’s Legislators Back to School Program

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Lucia Bragg

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes 2018 DOL Spending Legislation

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 29-to-2 to pass SB 1771, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill. The bill would decrease overall spending for the Department of Labor by $61.5 million below FY 2017, for a total of $12 billion.

In part, the bill would:

  • Increase funding for Veterans Employment and Training by $5 million, for a total of $284 million.
  • Decrease funding for federal unemployment benefits and allowances by $59 million, for a total of $790 million.
  • Decrease funding for Job Corps by $5 million, for a total of $1.7 billion.
  • Decrease funding for state unemployment insurance and employment service by $61 million, for a total of $3.4 billion.

The House Appropriations Committee passed HR 3358, its version of the 2018 budget for the Department of Labor, in July. The Senate version passed the Appropriations Committee without the policy riders found in the House version. SB1771 now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri, Lucia Bragg

House Passes Autonomous Vehicle Bill Expanding Federal Pre-emption

On Sept. 6, the House passed the SELF Drive Act (H.R. 3388) that aims to make several changes to federal law affecting autonomous vehicles. NCSL, along with a number of state groups including the National Governors Association (NGA), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued letters on July 26 and on Sept. 5 as the bill made its way through the House.

The bill includes four main sections: expansion of federal pre-emption, updates to federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), exemptions from FMVSS and a federal automated vehicles advisory council. Read more in NCSL’s Information Alert.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate is expected to introduce a bill in the near future, although it is likely to include a number of differences from the House bill. Additionally, NHTSA is likely to release an updated version of the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy later this month.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

NCSL Welcomes New Education Federal Affairs Counsel

Joan Wodiska has joined NCSL as a senior federal affairs counsel and will be heading up NCSL’s work on education policy in Washington, D.C. Wodiska brings with her more than 20 years of education policy experience at the federal, state and local levels. She served three terms as a local school board member, held four gubernatorial statewide appointed positions—two Republican and two Democratic—and numerous statewide and local education leadership positions. Most recently, Wodiska completed a four-year term as the vice president and member of the Virginia State Board of Education and continues to serve as a commissioner with the Education Commission of the States.

DYK?

The architect of the U.S. Supreme Court building, Cass Gilbert, was one of America’s first celebrity architects. In addition to designing the Woolworth Building in New York City, which held the title as world’s tallest building for almost two decades, Gilbert also designed the Minnesota State Capitol, the Arkansas State Capitol and the West Virginia State Capitol. 

Before joining NCSL, Wodiska was founder and CEO of Pioneer Management Consulting, led federal education and workforce policy at the National Governors Association, and worked at the American Council on Education, U.S. Senate, National School Boards Association and American Counseling Asociation. Wodiska joins Michelle Exstrom and Lucia Bragg in staffing NCSL’s Education Committee. She can be reached at 202-624-3558 or joan.wodiska@ncsl.org

Have any factoids or trivia about your state? Let us know here and we may include it in a future edition of Capitol to Capitol! 

Read the Sept. 5, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol.

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.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services 
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure