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Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 5, 2024

February 5, 2024

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NCSL Update

NCSL’s Letter to the EPA Concerning Proposed Drinking Water Rule

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) submitted comments on Feb. 1 to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding a proposed rule, the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper: Improvements (LCRI). In the comments, NCSL applauds the EPA’s efforts to address lead in drinking water and asks the agency to continue state consultation on this issue. Additionally, NCSL calls attention to the proposed rule’s unfunded mandates and asks the EPA to avoid creating such requirements. NCSL also asks the EPA to request funds from Congress to fund all proposed requirements, and calls on the agency to consider state statutory timelines and revise the LCRI compliance deadlines to accommodate state needs. The EPA’s public comment period for the LCRI closes on Feb. 5. Read NCSL’s letter here.

Congressional Updates

House Passes Tax Bill

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act passed the House on Jan. 31 in a bipartisan vote of 357-70. The $78 billion bill seeks to increase and extend the child tax credit and would change research and development deduction rules for business, among other measures.

The American Rescue Plan increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 and over and to $3,600 per child for children under 6 through the end of 2021. The proposed measure would increase the current level of $1,600 per child to $1,800 for tax year 2023; $1,900 for tax year 2024; $2,000 for tax year 2025; and then tie additional increases to inflation for tax years beyond 2025. 

The measure also would allow businesses to deduct research and development costs annually, rather than in five-year increments, which current law requires. In addition, the bill would change bonus depreciation, the computation of adjusted taxable income and increase limits on expensing of depreciable business assets. The bill also proposes increasing low-income housing tax credits by 12.5% through 2025.

However, the bill also garnered bipartisan opposition, notably concerning the omission of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction. A bipartisan group of members introduced a stand-alone SALT bill that would raise the cap to $20,000 for joint filers earning up to $500,000, but only for the 2023 tax year. The SALT bill is expected to be considered this week after moving through the House Rules Committee last week.

The next step for the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act is consideration by the Senate, but a timeline for passage is unclear. Possible consideration is not expected until March, which would have adverse impacts for beneficiaries of an updated child tax credit. Early filers for 2024 would have submitted tax returns prior to the change and the IRS would have to return that money.

Read more:

Congress Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Bolster Cybersecurity Protections in the Food and Agriculture Industry

Reps. Brad Finstad (R-Minn.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have introduced the Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act. The legislation would require the secretary of agriculture to study cybersecurity threats and weaknesses in the food and agriculture sectors every two years and deliver the findings to Congress. 

The bill also would require the secretaries of agriculture, homeland security, and health and human services as well as the director of national intelligence to collaborate on yearly simulation exercises to prepare for and respond to food-related cyber disruptions and emergencies. Read more.

Administration Updates

New Grant Opportunity for States to Improve Medicaid Billing for School-Based Services

The Department of Education and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced $50 million for state Medicaid programs to make the reimbursement process for school-based services to Medicaid-enrolled students easier for schools and districts. Up to 20 states will receive three-year grants to help state education and Medicaid agencies change state Medicaid plans.

The grants are part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2021, which included new funding for youth mental health and required additional guidance to improve the Medicaid reimbursement process for schools. As required by the act, CMS and the Education Department released guidance on Medicaid services and claiming in school settings and launched a Medicaid and School-Based Services Technical Assistance Center. Read more

Federal Communications Commission Proposes Rule Targeting AI Voice-Generated Robocalls

Continuing its efforts to curtail robocalls, the FCC plans to propose a rule clarifying that AI-generated robocall calls are illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The rule would also give state attorneys general new tools to crack down on these frauds and protect consumers. Read more

FAFSA Application Processing Delayed Two Months

The Department of Education announced that Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information will not be transmitted to schools and state agencies until at least the “first half of March.” The FAFSA was released nearly three months behind schedule on Dec. 30. More than 3.1 million students have submitted a FAFSA this application cycle. Read more

New Model Targets Sickle Cell Disease Therapies, Increased Access and Medicaid Savings

Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting over 100,000 people, many of whom are Black and at least half of whom are Medicaid enrollees. People with the disease experience severe pain and a lifetime of treatment and symptom management, including many long-term health complications. Annual health care system costs are $3 billion.

To improve health outcomes for Medicaid enrollees who are living with sickle cell disease, the CMS announced that the disease will be the initial focus of the Cell and Gene Therapy Access Model. The model aims to increase access to cell and gene therapies and reduce health care utilization and expenditures.

The CMS will negotiate agreements with pharmaceutical manufacturers on behalf of states with pricing tied to health outcomes for Medicaid enrollees. States will have the option to enter into an agreement with manufacturers based on the negotiated terms. The model will begin in January 2025 and states have until January 2026 to decide whether to participate.

According to the CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, “Increasing access to these promising therapies will not only help keep people healthy, but it can also lead to savings for states and taxpayers as the long-term costs of treating sickle cell disease may be avoided.”

More information about the gene therapy model may be found here and an infographic here.

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