Capitol to Capitol | Sept. 28, 2020


Congress Expected to Pass Stopgap Funding Bill to Avoid Shutdown

Congress is expected to pass tomorrow a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government at fiscal year 2020 levels through Dec. 11. Without H.R. 8337, which provides almost $8 billion in food assistance programs and relief to farmers, federal agency operations will cease on Oct. 1. The CR also includes provisions that would extend the surface transportation authorization (FAST Act) for one year, which had been set to expire at the end of the month, authorizes the transfer of nearly $14 billion to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust fund with $10.4 billion to the highway account and another $3.2 billion for the transit account. NCSL had strongly advocated for the inclusion of this extension in the CR, urging Congressional leadership to ensure the authorization did not lapse.

While there were early reports that the House version of the CR could contain some state and local aid funding, no additional aid was included. H.R. 8337 also extends flood insurance programs and several health provisions. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty (tax and revenue) and Ben Husch (natural resources and infrastructure) and Haley Nicholson (health)

House Passage of Energy Package Moves Congress Closer to Possible Lame Duck Agreement

The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (HR 4447) is a major piece of energy legislation that combines provisions for building codes, energy efficiency, workforce training, research and development, environmental justice, critical minerals and fighting climate change. In the Senate, the chamber is getting closer to considering its version, the American Energy Innovation Act, which is smaller in scope, following a bipartisan agreement on emissions of hydrofluorocarbons. However, it remains unclear if the two chambers can reach an agreement on a final energy package before the close of the 116th Congress at the end of the year.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Senate Pursues Progress on Privacy

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a blockbuster hearing on the need for federal privacy legislation. Witnesses, including California’s attorney general, discussed the current state of consumer data privacy and lessons learned from implementation of current laws. The hearing came soon after the introduction of a new bill from Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that would expand on the Senate Republicans’ proposal from late last year. The Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency and Accountability Act would preempt state privacy laws and raise requirements for data collection.  Last week, NCSL hosted a series of programs that examined policy issues surrounding consumer data policy, government data usage, and the intersections between data privacy and cybersecurity. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Abbie Gruwell and Tres York

Executive Order on Drug Pricing Released

The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to start the process of limiting what Medicare will pay for prescription drugs or biological products. It calls for Medicare to receive the “most-favored-nation” price for certain prescription drugs. The price would be defined as “the lowest price, after adjusting for volume and differences in national gross domestic product, for a prescription drug a manufacturer sells in a member country of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.” Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

CBO Debt Projection Increases Due to COVID Federal Relief Efforts

The Congressional Budget Office reports that the federal debt is expected to increase to 195% of gross domestic product by 2050. The ballooned projection mostly reflects the budgetary effects of legislation enacted to address the pandemic. Read more.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Department of Labor NPRM Addressing Independent Contractors Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

The department’s Wage and Hour Division announced a proposed rule offering clarity to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The proposed rule would adopt an “economic reality” test to determine a worker’s status. The test considers whether workers are in business for themselves (independent contractors) or economically dependent on a putative employer (employees). Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

FDA Issues New Food Safety Rule

The proposed rule, which outlines new traceability requirements for the food industry, stems from Section 204 of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. That law required the Food and Drug Administration to designate a list of “high-risk” foods and propose additional traceability requirements. The rule would mandate new recordkeeping requirements for entities manufacturing, packing or storing certain foods that have been tentatively deemed more likely to cause foodborne illness, including fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, leafy greens and melons, as well as shellfish, nut butters and shell eggs. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDA Issues Another Round of COVID-19 Aid for Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new round of coronavirus (COVID-19) aid to farmers and producers totaling $14 billion, through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2), which is slightly less than the approximately $19 billion in aid provided earlier this spring. The USDA revealed that this round of payments to farmers will be calculated by various methods, depending on the commodity. For instance, farmers of oats and peanuts will receive a flat rate while corn and soybean growers will be paid based on losses. Payments will be capped at $250,000 per person or entity, and producers will have to certify they meet the adjusted gross income limitation of $900,000, unless 75% or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Aid applications will be accepted through Dec. 11, 2020. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

CMS Withdraws Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule

After months of feedback from stakeholder groups, including state and local organizations and health care providers, the proposed rule has been withdrawn, for now. The rule would have re-evaluated how supplemental Medicaid payments are made for low-income health programs, which allowed states to respond to changing needs. The rule would have also required greater transparency and accountability, as states are responsible for reporting these payments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Stakeholders raised concerns that the rule could have reduced states’ ability to receive federal matching funds included in congressional COVID-19 relief packages. Read more

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Funding Announced for Vaccine Preparedness and the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program

The HHS announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $200 million to jurisdictions for COVID-19 vaccine preparedness. With funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the CDC will be awarding funding to 64 jurisdictions through existing cooperative agreements for immunizations and vaccines for children. These and other funds will help states prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine. Awards will be determined by a population-based formula. Read more.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that recipients across 36 states and two territories received $25 million in funding as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. The program is a multiyear HRSA initiative working to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of those with substance and opioid use disorders in high-risk rural communities. This brings the 2020 investment for the program to nearly $115 million. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

HUD Awards Over $500,000 in CARES Act Funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s additional funding through the Fair Housing Assistance Program to 15 state and local fair housing organizations is meant to support COVD-19-related activities. The funding is primarily used to enforce federal, state and local fair housing laws. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Michael Quillen

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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