NCSL On the Hill | July 2020

July 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

D.C. Fly-Ins

As the voice of state legislatures in Washington, D.C., NCSL conducts Fly-Ins, bringing legislators to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, the administration and other players involved in crucial state-federal issues. Here’s a look at two recent visits.

Virtual Briefing: COVID-19 and Fiscal Conditions

NCSL hosted its first virtual Capitol Hill briefing June 5 to educate select staff on the dire fiscal conditions states are facing due to the pandemic.  Senator W. Briggs Hopson III (R), chair of the Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee, and NCSL Executive Committee member Representative Marvin L. Abney (D), chair of the Rhode Island House Committee on Finance discussed the revenue shortfalls in their states and the need for additional, flexible aid to states in the next federal stimulus package. View a recording. —Erlinda Doherty and Susan Frederick

On the Radar

Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Committees in both houses of Congress have now passed reauthorization bills. A deal is unlikely, however, by Sept. 30, when the current authorization expires, making a short-term extension a probable outcome. Read NCSL’s summaries of the House and Senate bills. —Ben Husch

NCSL Working to Restore Advanced Refunding Bonds: The Senate introduced NCSL-supported legislation that would restore the ability of state and local governments to use advance refunding to manage bond debt to reduce borrowing costs for public projects. The bill, Lifting Our Communities Through Advance Liquidity for Infrastructure, would save states billions of dollars by allowing state and local governments to refinance outstanding municipal bonds to more favorable borrowing rates before the end of the initial bond term on a tax-exempt basis. Unavailable since the 2017 tax reform act, it would offer states another financial tool as they manage the catastrophic effects of the pandemic on budgets. —Erlinda Doherty 

The Latest From D.C.

Over 170 Groups Join NCSL in Urging Senate Leadership to Provide Flexible Assistance to States

As Congress deliberates on the next phase of pandemic response legislation, NCSL continues to advocate for flexible assistance for states. NCSL recently joined the other “Big 7” associations representing state and local officials (the National Governors Association, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors) and dozens of local municipal associations, trade associations, labor unions and other organizations in signing a letter to U.S. Senate leadership urging them to act immediately to support state and local governments.

—Erlinda Doherty and Susan Frederick

Federal Police Reforms Bills Stall in Congress

NCSL is working with other organizations representing state and local officials to raise concerns with the bills introduced in both chambers that rely entirely on penalties to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant and COPS Hiring programs to spur state and local government action. Read more on what’s in the House and Senate proposals. View the state legislative responses in NCSL’s new bill tracking database.

—Susan Frederick and Lucia Bragg

Autonomous Vehicles Preemption Update

Missing from the House Democrats’ $1.5 trillion infrastructure package is language that would have preempted state regulation of autonomous vehicles. NCSL has been working for close to a year to preserve state authority over these vehicles. Read our latest letter.

—Ben Husch

NCSL Urges Census Bureau, Congress to Support States

NCSL has been actively engaging with the U.S. Census Bureau and Congress regarding two issues: the impact of census delays on state redistricting, and the bureau’s use of differential privacy as its statistical method for protecting individual data. Read NCSL’s letters to the bureau and Congress.

—Susan Frederick