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Capitol to Capitol | May 6, 2024

May 6, 2024

Questions? Please use the email icon at left to contact NCSL’s State-Federal Affairs Division.

NCSL Updates

NCSL Supports Rescheduling of Cannabis

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram, NCSL urges the attorney general and the DEA to remove cannabis from Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that the DEA reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III substance. The letter requests the DEA to quickly finish its review of the HHS report and reschedule cannabis. Read more

Administration Updates

President Signs Bill That Could Ban TikTok

The new law would prohibit the distribution and maintenance of apps controlled by foreign adversaries that pose a clear threat to national security and would require app owners to stop their operations or divest themselves of their U.S.-based operations. In the case of Beijing-based ByteDance, owner of TikTok, it would need to divest itself of control of the app within the year or be banned from U.S. app stores and hosting services.

Congress approved the law as part of a broader foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The TikTok provisions moved quickly through Congress, garnering significant support from policymakers on both sides of the aisle, despite concerns from First Amendment advocates, social media influencers and digital rights groups that argue the bill violates free speech rights. Lawmakers and the Biden administration disagree with that claim and believe the new law will pass constitutional muster because of viable threats from the Chinese government. They argue that the Chinese government can access U.S. user data from ByteDance under the Chinese national security law and that China used TikTok to influence the 2022 midterm elections. Read more

Federal Communications Commission Reinstates Net Neutrality Rules

The reinstated rules reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under the Communications Act of 1934, rather than an information service, expanding the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to regulate broadband as a public utility like phone service, water and power. The rules also prevent internet service providers from blocking legal content, throttling speeds and creating fast access for users who can pay.

In 2015, during the Obama administration, the commission issued its original network neutrality rules establishing the FCC’s oversight over broadband and preventing internet service providers from blocking, throttling or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content. The rules were repealed in 2017 during the Trump administration, which maintained they gave government too much control over the internet.

The reinstated rules do not create a blanket preemption of the handful of existing state laws addressing net neutrality. Instead, they would allow the commission to override contrary or inconsistent state laws, which the commission would consider on a case-by-case basis. Read more

HHS Releases National Suicide Prevention Strategy and Federal Action Plan

Against the backdrop of 49,000 deaths by suicide in the U.S. in 2022 and the increasing numbers of high school youth who consider, attempt or die by suicide, HHS has released a comprehensive strategy to address suicide prevention. The new approach outlines concrete recommendations to address gaps and meet the needs of at-risk populations at the national, state, tribal, local and territorial levels. The strategy includes four pillars:

  • Community-based suicide prevention.
  • Treatment and crisis services.
  • Surveillance, quality improvement and research.
  • Health equity in suicide prevention.

Accompanying the strategy is a federal action plan identifying over 200 actions to be taken over the next three years, including:

  • Expanding funding to states for comprehensive suicide prevention.
  • Training educators in suicide prevention.
  • Evaluating promising community-based suicide prevention strategies.
  • Identifying ways to address substance use/overdose and suicide risk together in the clinical setting.
  • Funding a mobile crisis locator for use by 988 crisis centers.
  • Increasing support for survivors of suicide loss and others whose lives have been impacted by suicide.

Additionally, the plan encourages states, tribes, local communities and territories to use the federal strategies to create their own actions. Read more

CEQ Unveils National Environmental Policy Act, Phase 2

The Council on Environmental Quality has issued a final rule on permitting reform, the second phase of updates to the National Environmental Policy Act. The rule builds on NEPA revisions issued in 2022. Changes outlined in the final rule are intended to help improve permitting processes and approval times, while protecting nearby communities from pollution. The revisions are intended to help achieve certain administration goals, including energy transition efforts, the development of a domestic critical mineral supply chain, construction of energy manufacturing facilities, and more.

Specifically, the revisions include mandating upper limits on the page length of final reports and the duration of federal environmental reviews. Additionally, the rule:

  • Charges a lead agency to handle evaluations.
  • Enables the establishment of broader categorical exclusions.
  • Calls for the assessment of climate change and environmental justice in reviews.
  • Improves community involvement in the review process.
  • Removes the requirement for an environmental impact statement, the most stringent review level, for those projects with long-lasting environmental benefits.

The final rule will go into effect for all projects beginning the environmental review process on or after July 1, 2024. Legal challenges are expected, and lawsuits have been filed against the rule’s proposed version. Members of Congress, including U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), have indicated a desire to address permitting reform this year, with draft legislation expected in the next few months. Industry representatives have also issued criticism of the rule. Read more

Protecting Tribal Water Rights

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a final rule requiring states to consider and protect tribal rights when establishing water quality standards under the Clean Water Act and when designating a water body’s use. The state criteria must be stringent enough to ensure equitable water quality protections with the public. The rule is intended to protect the health and well-being of tribes and their natural and cultural resources. Under the rule, the EPA will help states and tribes identify the scope of tribal rights and assist with tribal consultation processes. The rule does not affect tribal water quantity rights. Read more

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