Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending January 27, 2017

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In this issue:

Congratulations President Trump - Now Let's Work Together

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Last week, NLC Board Member Mayor Craig Thurmond, Broken Arrow, Okla., traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the inauguration of our 45th President. In a guest post for NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak, he welcomed President Trump and noted that, regardless of party affiliation and policy disagreements, the model of local input in the federal process over the recent years should be replicated, not rejected. To read more about Mayor Thurmond's experience at this historic event and his thoughts on how city leaders can partner with the Administration click here.

President Trump's Executive Order: ‘Sanctuary Cities' Order Overly Broad, Does Little to Fix Nation's Broken Immigration System

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order intended to prohibit federal funding to so-called "sanctuary jurisdictions." The order ambiguously defines sanctuary jurisdiction and empowers the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to choose which jurisdictions would fall into that category. In response to the executive order, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," National League of Cities (NLC) President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, released the following statement:

"There appears to be a false assumption that ‘sanctuary cities' prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from enforcing immigration laws. This could not be further from the truth. In practice, federal programs intended to partner with cities and towns on immigration enforcement are broken.

"The reality is that in cities across the nation, police departments are routinely cooperating with ICE's immigration enforcement efforts, while at the same time building constructive relationships with their communities to improve public safety. The order signed by President Trump does not clearly define sanctuary jurisdictions, so it is difficult to foresee how and which cities will be impacted by the order.

"Legislative efforts in 2016 to define and penalize sanctuary cities were defeated in Congress, which could have cost cities up to $137 million or more in COPS hiring grants. We call on President Trump to open a dialogue with city leaders, and work with local governments to enact real, comprehensive immigration reform that respects the principles of local control."

NLC's long standing position is that such measures are unfunded mandates that impose additional disproportionate responsibilities on local law enforcement, increase financial liability on local governments, and ultimately move us further from our foundational principles of federalism.

At a time when local governments are working to strengthen police community relations, build trust, and advance initiatives to increase economic mobility, executive orders and legislative proposals to withhold funding from cities are particularly troubling and counterproductive. Attempts to shift the federal responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws to local governments diverts critical resources from local government programs, compromises public safety, and hinders local efforts to work with immigrant communities.

NLC's policy states that the solution for immigration reform must respect the principles of local control and create a process whereby undocumented immigrants currently living in our cities may earn legalized status through payment of appropriate fees and back taxes, background checks, the absence of criminal or gang activity, consistent work history, and meeting civics requirements.

For additional information, please see the below resources:

NLC Weighs in on Unfunded Mandates, Regulatory Reform

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

At the request of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, (R-UT), NLC submitted a list of unfunded mandates on local governments and regulatory reform proposals to ease the burden that these unfunded mandates place on local communities. Within the framework of an intergovernmental partnership, imposing unfunded mandates on local governments has implications for on our core principle of federalism. NLC calls on the federal government to continue to work within the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and subsequent Executive Order 13132: Federalism to ensure that local elected officials have direct input early and often into the rulemaking process.

Regulatory reform is a top priority for President Trump and Congressional Republicans. Earlier this month, the House passed legislation that would significantly overhaul the federal rulemaking process. The Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act, H.R. 26) would require congressional approval of federal regulations with an estimated annual economic impact of more than $100 million. Two amendments added to the bill would require each agency promulgating a new rule to identify and repeal an existing rule and would create a process for Congress to review all rules currently in effect for over a 10-year period.

Additionally, the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21), which passed the House earlier this month, would authorize Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn a several existing regulations with a single vote. Currently, the Congressional Review Act can be used to immediately block any single regulation finalized within the past 60 legislative days. The House is expected to begin taking up so-called "disapproval resolutions" next week on recently-finalized regulations.

With companion legislation for both pieces of legislation introduced in the Senate, S. 21 and S. 34 respectively, NLC continues to advocate for a strong intergovernmental partnership that maintains the voice of cities and local elected officials in the rulemaking process.

Upon taking office, President Trump issued a memorandum calling for a freeze on all pending rulemakings until further review. A recent article on NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak, takes a look at the options for the new Administration in rolling back three high-profile rules that are of interest to local governments: the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule (WOTUS) and the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime regulations.

NLC Continues the Fight to Preserve the Muni Bond Tax Exemption

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

As the 115th Congress kicked into full gear, NLC took the campaign to preserve the tax exemption for municipal bonds national. In a joint effort with the Municipal Bonds for America Coalition, NLC and over 300 cities, public utilities and associations sent a letter to U.S. House and Senate Leadership, House Ways & Means`CommIttde Members, and Senate Finance Committee Members that underscores the importance the financing tool represents for cities.

The timeliness of this effort cannot be understated. As the GOP is slated to retreat in Philadelphia, Pa., this week for a policy summit, it is believed that conversations on tax-reform will be front and center. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) on Tuesday said, "Tax reform is truly one of those once-in-a-generation opportunities. We are committed to seizing it in a bold way."

Tax-exempt municipal bonds are the backbone of state and local government finance and are key to a vibrant national economy. NLC is committed to continue the fight to preserve the ability to finance in a cost-effective manor while supporting the idea of a comprehensive tax reform package that works to benefit cities.

We ask that you join us in this effort by urging your member of Congress to join the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). This growing bi-partisan coalition is actively pushing back against efforts to dismantle the tax-exempt status of the municipal bonds. Click here to send a letter to your Representative today and ask them to join our fight to support municipal bonds.

Cabinet Nominees Talk Infrastructure, Climate at Hearings

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Senators continued to hold hearings on President Trump's nominees for cabinet secretaries over the last two weeks. NLC lobbyists are attending the hearings, parsing testimony and looking for signs on how city priorities are likely to fare after the Inauguration. Below is what we've learned from each nominee during recent hearings.

  • U.S. Department of the Interior nominee for Secretary Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT)

On January 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. Having voiced strong support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps cities create parks and open space in their communities, Zinke said that President Trump's infrastructure plan should "prioritize the estimated $12.5 billion in backlog of maintenance and repair" in our national parks. On climate change, Zinke said it is "indisputable" that the climate is changing and that humans are having influence, but that there is debate on "what that influence is and what we can do about it."

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nominee for Administrator Scott Pruitt, Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma

On January 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Climate change and climate science figured prominently in the hearing, with Pruitt saying, "science tells us that climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change." He also said that EPA has "a very important role to perform in regulating CO2," but left open the question of ‘how' "as it relates to cooperative federalism and the role of the states[.]"

  • U.S. Department of Treasury nominee for Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Former CEO and hedge-fund manager

On January 19, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to lead the U.S. Department of Treasury. When asked about the use of municipal bonds, Mnuchin said, "The President is committed to rebuilding America's infrastructure. If confirmed I will work with Congress to determine the role of tax exempt financing vehicles under that plan and as part of broader tax reform." And on a broad infrastructure package, "A significant element of President Trump's campaign was a promise to focus on new options for enhanced infrastructure spending, including direct spending. As Treasury Secretary, I will help the Administration consider all options for increasing investments in infrastructure and ensuring the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund."

  • U.S. Department of Energy nominee for Secretary Former Texas Governor Rick Perry

On January 19, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Rick Perry to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. During the hearing he expressed support for an all-of-the-above energy strategy, including renewables. On the question of climate change, he said, "I believe the climate has changed. I believe some of it is naturally occurring. I believe some of it is caused by man-made activity" and that he is committed "to making decisions based on sound science."

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nominee for Secretary Tom Price, U.S. Congressman

Nominee Price testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week and this week before the Senate Finance Committee. When asked about his stance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and coverage for all Americans, Rep. Price committed to ensuring "every American has access to affordable coverage." NLC has called upon Congress to ensure that any proposal to amend or repeal the ACA sustains and builds upon the nation's progress toward the goal of health insurance coverage for all Americans and remains concerned about the resulting shift in health care costs to local budgets should there not be a replacement. Rep. Price was also specifically asked this week about President Trump's executive order that relives agencies with authority from enforcing regulations of the ACA that impose a financial burden on a state, company or individual and was declined to provide specific details on this subject.

  • U.S. Department of Education nominee for Secretary Betsy DeVos

Nominee DeVos testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week and fielded questions spanning K-12 education including charter schools, federal financial aid as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and its implementation. NLC has supported all efforts to create effective and comprehensive early childhood development programs' citywide postsecondary access, persistence, and success strategies; as well as high quality K-12 programs that ultimately provide skills needs to secure meaningful employment and lifelong skills. NLC has asked Nominee DeVos to make meaningful connections with our Mayors Education Task Force and Economic Mobility and Opportunity Taskforce.

NIST Requests Comment on Smart City Framework

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) within the U.S. Department of Commerce has requested comment from cities and other interested stakeholders on its draft Smart Cities and Communities Federal Strategic Plan. The plan is intended to guide and coordinate federal initiatives that support smart city efforts, including smart grids, citizen services, connected transportation, and more. The plan also includes central goals for a federal smart cities initiative and proposed next steps for the federal government. NLC plans to comment on the draft plan in concert with its recent report on Trends in Smart City Development and the best practices and principles identified in that research. Comments on the draft plan are due February 28, and may be submitted to SCCTF@nitrd.gov.

Ajit Pai Named New FCC Chair

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

On Monday, President Trump announced the elevation of senior Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai to Chairman of the FCC. Pai was originally nominated to the FCC in 2012 by President Barack Obama and was confirmed unanimously. Prior to his appointment to the FCC, Pai served as counsel to the FCC, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Verizon Communications, Inc. Chairman Pai has been outspoken on closing the digital divide, an infrastructure priority for cities. However, Pai has also cast votes against Lifeline and E-Rate modernization measures to expand broadband availability to schools, libraries, and low income families, and has singled out local land use regulations as a barrier to broadband deployment. NLC will ask Chairman Pai to work with, rather than against, city leaders to get all Americans online.

Federal Advocacy in 2017: In a Year of Transition, Cities Seek Certainty and Opportunity

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

In the nation's capital, the remarkable success of the Republican Party in the 2016 election surprised many and started a fresh debate over the message voters wanted to deliver to Washington. Outside the Capital Beltway, Americans remain deeply divided in ways that could impact the division of power and authority within the intergovernmental partnership.

For a non-partisan organization like the National League of Cities (NLC), representing 19,000 cities of every size, such divisions are a concern for sure. Fortunately, NLC was not caught off guard by the election outcome because our 2017 Advocacy Agenda began taking shape two years ago, when our bipartisan leadership first started thinking about what a presidential transition would mean for cities.

To learn more about NLC's 2017 Advocacy Agenda and how city leaders can help NLC in our mission of promoting a positive narrative around cities to the Administration and new lawmakers in Congress this year, click here.

New White House Intergovernmental Affairs Team Coming Together

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Within the White House, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs traditionally serves as a point of contact for local and state elected officials. For NLC, it's also an office that can communicate city leaders point of view during internal policy deliberations among senior White House leadership. NLC is pleased to welcome the following newly appointed members of the White House Intergovernmental Affairs team:

  • Rick Dearborn, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental and Cabinet Affairs
  • Justin Clark, Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
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