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Capitol to Capitol | March 21, 2023

March 21, 2023

Questions? Please use the email icon at left to contact NCSL's State/Federal Division.

NCSL Updates

NCSL Analysis of President’s FY 2024 Budget

The $6.9 trillion proposal includes measures on affordable health care, taxes and deficit reduction, energy initiatives, and food insecurity. Obtaining congressional approval for the budget’s highest priority items will be tough in a divided Congress with thin majorities. Visit NCSL's webpage.

USDA Briefs NCSL on Proposed School Nutrition Standards

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long and her staff explained the proposed rule, which includes new standards on added sugars and reduced sodium limits, and offers options for long-term standards for milk and whole grain. Requirements would be phased in over several school years starting in 2024. Comments on the proposed rule are due by April 10. Listen to a recording of the briefing. Watch here.

Administration Updates

EPA Proposes New Levels for Certain PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new drinking water regulations to establish legally enforceable levels--also known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL)—for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances chemicals, collectively known as PFAS. The chemicals include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), GenX chemicals, PFHxS and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals that have emerged as an issue of increasing interest within the last decade. They are extremely stable and persistent in the environment and in the human body, meaning they do not break down and can accumulate over time—thus acquiring the moniker “forever chemicals.” PFAS are often found in soil and water near sites where they are manufactured, used or discarded. The chemical chains can travel long distances, move through the soil, seep into groundwater, or be carried through the air, making them especially difficult to contain.

The EPA’s proposed regulation sets the MCL for PFOA and PFOS at 4.0 parts per trillion, and a “group” MCL for PFHxS, PFNA, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals at 1.0 (unitless.) It would require public water systems to monitor PFAS levels in drinking water, notify the public of those levels and reduce the levels if they exceed the standards. While no action is required until the rulemaking is finalized, the regulations would preempt previously established state drinking water regulations or guidance values for some PFAS. When the final regulations go into effect, states will be required to set their standards to at least those levels—as the Safe Drinking Water Act requires. For more information on PFAS, visit NCSL’s Webpage.

Biden Issues Executive Order Expanding Gun Control Measures

President Biden issued an executive order last week that aims to reduce gun violence and directs his cabinet to assist in the effort. The order moves the U.S. toward universal background checks by directing the U.S. attorney general to clarify the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms under the recently enacted Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The goal of the clarification is to ensure that all background checks required by law are conducted before a firearm can be purchased. The order promotes the use of red flag laws by increasing public awareness of when they can be used and partnering with law enforcement to increase their use, and it seeks to reduce the number of firearms lost or stolen during shipment by tightening reporting requirements. Red flag laws permit state courts to order a temporary removal of a firearm from individuals believed to present a danger to others or themselves.

The order also seeks to increase gun industry accountability by requiring the release of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms records of firearms dealers cited for violation of federal firearm laws and directing the secretary of defense to further firearms and safety practices. Additionally, the order encourages the Federal Trade Commission to report on the ways gun manufacturers market firearms to minors and how these manufacturers market firearms to all civilians, including through the use of military imagery.

Further, the order mandates more timely submission of ballistics data from federal, state and local law enforcement to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, and it increases federal support for gun violence survivors and their families and for communities affected by gun violence. Finally, it urges Congress to address the issue of firearms that are not detectable via metal detectors by updating the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 and making it permanent. This law expires at the end of the year. The fact sheet is available here.

Congressional Updates

House Freedom Caucus Releases Debt Ceiling Demands

The House Freedom Caucus listed a series of spending cuts they say must be included in any measure to increase the U.S. debt ceiling. The measures include eliminating the Student Loan Forgiveness Program, recouping funding provided for expansion of the Internal Revenue Service and cutting portions of the Inflation Reduction Act. The caucus calls for reinstatement of budget spending caps, which Congress last enacted under the 2011 Budget Control Act. The caucus also calls for rescinding all unobligated, unspent COVID-19 funds. This would eliminate funding, such as that provided under American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, still held by federal agencies that has not been dedicated for specific state and local government programming. To read the caucus’ release, please click here.

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