Capitol to Capitol | Vol. 23, Issue 4


Capitol to CapitolSENATE EDUCATION CHAIRMAN CHAMPIONS NCSL LETTER. A letter to the Department of Education submitted by NCSL and a coalition of other organizations was referenced and praised by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, at a hearing last month. Signed in conjunction with the National Governors Association and the National Education Association, among others, the letter urged the Department of Education “to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine.” Alexander called recent proposed rules by the Department of Education as subverting the bipartisan education bill by going beyond the federal statute to create new requirements on states and local school districts. He also alluded to NCSL’s letter in his opening remarks directed at Department of Education Secretary John King. “I’m not the only one who can read the law,” said  Alexander. “You’re going to come against a coalition of groups who are tired of your department telling them so much about what to do about the 50 million children in the 100,000 public schools.” In related ESSA news, a negotiated rulemaking panel came to an agreement last month on assessment regulations, providing states with flexibility to set definitions for education standards. The panel was unable to reach consensus on the divisive “supplement-supplant” provision, allowing the Department of Education to write its own rules on how states and localities allocate Title I funding from the federal government to ensure that disadvantaged students get additional resources for their education. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey,Ben Schaefer

PRE-EMPTION IN AVIATION BILL ON STANDBY The Senate last month overwhelmingly approved H.R. 636, a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through FY 2017. The bill, however, includes language that would pre-empt states from enacting and enforcing legislation on unmanned aerial systems (UAS). NCSL opposed this provision as it would undo the work of 26 states that have already enacted legislation pertaining to the use of UAS and only serve to exacerbate the uncertainty of this technology. NCSL worked with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cali.) to introduce an amendment that would strike the pre-emption section. Unfortunately, the Senate was unable to get unanimous consent for its adoption, allowing the pre-emption language to remain in the final bill. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a six-year reauthorization in February that does not include the drone pre-emption language. It remains unclear when the full House will take up the bill. As elimination of the pre-emption has widespread support by lawmakers, the UAS language is likely to be omitted should the Senate and House form a conference committee. Congress passed a short-term extension in March, giving lawmakers until July 15 to deliberate. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon

FEDERAL BUDGET UPDATE. Initial optimism to approve all 12 appropriations bills and avoid a stopgap funding bill later this year has subsided. Appropriations committees in both chambers have begun consideration of spending bills, despite neither having passed a budget resolution. The House continues to attempt to find support for a budget framework, but thus far has been unable to reach an agreement on whether to abide by the topline discretionary spending limit of $1.07 trillion for FY 2017 included in last year’s bipartisan budget deal. With a limited number of session days left before the summer recess in mid-July, a continuing resolution in September appears to be all but inevitable. NCSL staff contact: Jeff Hurley

Capitol to Capitol is a publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the premier bipartisan organization representing the interest of states, territories and commonwealths. The conference operates from offices in Denver and Washington, D.C.