Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending October 7, 2016

Washington D.C. buildings
Washington D.C. buildings

In this issue:

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Over the last year, hundreds of city leaders across the country have signed on in support of NLC's Cities Lead 2016 Agenda, encouraging the presidential candidates to make city priorities - the economy, infrastructure, and public safety - their priorities. We took our message to the primary states and traveled to Cleveland and Philadelphia for the national political conventions to ensure that the voices of city leaders were heard loud and clear. And with the last weeks of the 2016 election season upon us, now more than ever, we need your help to make sure that the next president-elect is ready to partner with local officials and make city issues a priority on day one of their administration.

To help local officials make a difference for cities this Election Day, NLC launched our Cities Lead 2016 Playbook yesterday. Along with our Cities Lead blog, the playbook is a resource for local leaders to engage the candidates on city issues during these critical remaining days of the general election.

Kicking off this final month of general election advocacy activity, NLC's Presidential Election Task Force Co-Chairs, Mayor Betsey Price, Forth Worth, Texas, and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, Ind., sent NLC's Cities Lead 2016 Agenda to the candidates urging them to address city priorities and partner with local officials to create a brighter, more successful future for all Americans once in office.

To add your voice, click here to take action and urge the candidates to #StandWithCities. By standing together and taking action today, we can ensure that the next president is ready, willing and able to address the major challenges facing our cities and our nation.

Congress Avoids Government Shutdown

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Last week, Congress passed a short-term spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through the presidential election and 10 weeks into the new fiscal year beginning October 1st. The stopgap measure, agreed to after rounds of contentious negotiations over funding to address lead-contaminated water systems in cities such as Flint, Mich., provides funding for agencies and programs at Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 levels and includes funding for NLC priorities, including $1.1 billion in emergency spending to respond to the Zika virus and $500 million to assist Louisiana and other states ravaged by recent floods. The legislation also provides $37 million to fight the nation's opioid crisis.

Following the election, Congress will need to convene a lame-duck session to complete deliberations over FY 2017 appropriations bills before the new December 9 deadline.

House Passes Water Resources Bill, Moves to Conference Committee

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

With NLC's support, the House passed the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 5303, WRDA) by a bipartisan vote of 399-25 last week. The vote comes on the heels of passage of a similar bill in the Senate, S. 2848, and sets up a conference committee on the legislation with the hopes of getting a bill to the President's desk by the end of the year. NLC applauded the House action and urged swift action by the conference committee.

The $5 billion House WRDA bill authorizes 28 flood protection, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Additionally, in a last minute agreement between House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders, the House bill now includes $170 million to address the ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. While the Flint aid package became tangled up with the negotiations to keep the government operating beyond September 30, the agreement for the House to vote on the package in conjunction with WRDA allowed the spending measure to advance in the Senate and House. The Flint aid amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), passed by a vote of 284-141. House leaders also removed a provision in their bill that would have guaranteed that money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is used for its designated purpose of harbor maintenance.

Among the likely hurdles for WRDA as the bill moves to conference committee are the additional provisions for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure that were included in the Senate bill, such as funding for WIFIA; grants for lead service line replacement, testing, planning, corrosion control and education; addressing integrated planning approaches and affordability issues; and grants for addressing sewer overflows and to assist small and disadvantaged communities in complying with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Clean Power Plan Has Its Day in Court

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case of West Virginia et. al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the legal challenge to the Administration's Clean Power Plan. The case will decide whether EPA violated the law when it finalized its rule to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector under the Clean Air Act. The rule is currently under a nationwide stay while under legal review.

In an unexpected decision announced in May, the court bypassed review of the case by a panel of three judges in favor of consideration en banc - by the full court. A 10-judge panel (Chief Judge Merrick Garland, whom President Obama has nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court recused himself) will consider several legal questions, primarily 1) whether EPA has overstepped its jurisdictional bounds and 2) whether, if EPA is acting within its authority, the Clean Power Plan is an impermissible interpretation of the Clean Air Act and/or is arbitrary and capricious.

In April, NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, more than 50 city and county governments from 28 states, and the mayors of Dallas, Knoxville, and Orlando, filed an amicus brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals explaining why the Clean Power Plan is critical to the safety and economic security of local communities across the United States. The local government brief recognizes and builds on strong demand for climate action by cities and counties, which view the Clean Power Plan as a "legally necessary step toward addressing the extraordinary threat posed by climate change."

Ahead of oral argument, NLC reaffirmed our support for the Clean Power Plan, and in particular the Clean Energy Incentive Program, a voluntary early-action program of the Clean Power Plan designed to encourage early investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In particular, it focuses these investments in low-income communities, where families carry a higher than average energy burden and are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Although it will likely be several months before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issues its ruling, the ultimate fate of the Clean Power Plan will largely depend on which candidate wins the presidential election this November.

For more on the local government brief, click here to read an exclusive article in The Atlantic.

Senate Introduces Legislation to Classify Muni Bonds as High Quality

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, with NLC support, bipartisan legislation (S. 3404) was introduced in the Senate that requires federal regulators to classify all investment grade municipal securities as High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA).

The legislation is in response to a 2014 Federal Reserve Board rule and subsequent amendments to the rule that established a minimum liquidity requirement for large banking organizations and identified acceptable investments - deemed High Quality Liquid Assets - to meet this requirement. Unfortunately, the regulators failed to include municipal securities in any of the acceptable investment categories. In doing so, regulators overlooked core features of these securities that are consistent with all of the criteria proposed by regulators to be characterized as HQLA, including limited price volatility, high trading volumes, and deep and stable funding markets.

Since the rule was issued, NLC has been pursuing a legislative fix. In February, the House passed H.R. 2209, which requires federal regulators to classify all investment grade municipal securities as High Quality Liquid Assets. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) is similar to the House-passed legislation.

Not classifying municipal securities as HQLA will increase borrowing costs for state and local governments to finance public infrastructure projects, as banks will likely demand higher interest rates on yields on the purchase of municipal bonds during times of national economic stress, or even forgo the purchase of municipal securities. The resulting cost impacts for state and local governments could be significant, with bank holdings of municipal securities and loans having increased by 86 percent since 2009.

Federal Advocacy Committees Meet in the Lone Star State

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Three of NLC's Federal Advocacy Committees gathered in north Texas this September to discuss the organization's federal action priorities and to finalize federal policy resolutions and recommendations that will be presented to members at NLC's City Summit this November.

Hosted by Arlington, Texas Councilmember Lana Wolff, the Community & Economic Development Committee met with local entrepreneurs, small business owners, and community bankers. In addition, the Committee approved a "Resolution Supporting a Federal Agenda for Local Economic Development and Entrepreneurship" that makes recommendations to the next President and Congress in four areas: empowering community banks and local entrepreneurs; continuing regulatory reforms; reinvigorating direct federal investment in local economic development; and helping local workforce planning and development.

Later in month, Dallas Councilmember Tiffinni Young hosted the Public Safety & Crime Prevention Committee meeting. The Committee focused on their work to improve community policing, reduce gun violence, support local efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and reform the criminal justice system, including mental health and juvenile justice reforms. The Committee also worked on developing policy to protect local government interests as Congress considers legislation to reauthorize and reform the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA. Following these discussions, Committee members met with officers from the Dallas Police Department and presented them with a plaque in honor of the officers that were killed during the shootings on July 7, 2016.

Finally, the Information Technology & Communications Committee met in late September to explore innovative public and private uses of technology. Hosted by Arlington, Texas Mayor Pro Tempore Sheri Capehart, the Committee toured City Hall and the Emergency Operations Center for an inside view of city telecommunications activities.
 

Committee Fall Meetings
Public Safety & Crime Prevention Committee members meet in Dallas; Information Technology & Communications Committee and Community & Economic Development Committee members meet in Arlington, Texas (left-to-right from top)

 

Become A Federal Advocacy Committee Member and Make a Difference for Cities

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Want to make even more of a difference for cities? Serving on one of NLC's seven Federal Advocacy Committees is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a local leader to bring your expertise to the service of cities and towns at the national level. By representing your city or town and contributing your voice, you have the opportunity to shape the efforts of the National League of Cities to proactively drive federal policy on issues that matter the most to cities. Applications for Committee leadership positions are due next Friday, October 14. Applications for Committee membership are due November 23. Click here to apply today.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of joining a Federal Advocacy Committee before completing your application? Click here to view a recording of NLC's recent webinar about the committees, featuring a special message from incoming NLC President Matt Zone, council member, Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Pro Tem Sheri Capehart, Arlington, Texas, and Chair of NLC's Information Technology & Communications Committee, and Commissioner Gil Ziffer, Tallahassee, Fla. and NLC Human Development Committee member.

FCC Plans 'Smart City' Focus for Next Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

After urging from the National League of Cities, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans for a new term of its Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. Comprised of officials from local, state, and tribal governments, the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) provides the FCC with input and feedback on telecommunications issues that impact state and local government. It serves as a vital channel for conversation between the federal government and its governmental telecommunications partners.

Most recently, the latest IAC, which concluded its two-year term in June, developed a report and commentary on the current state of local wireless facilities siting processes. The IAC highlighted the successes and challenges faced by communities working with industry to develop and improve wireless infrastructure, on both rights-of-way and privately owned property. Under the leadership of Mayor Gary Resnick of Wilton Manors, Fla., the IAC also made recommendations to the FCC on a range of issues, including the Lifeline program, the use of "burner" cell phones for criminal activity, consumer protection, and net neutrality.

Other local officials serving on the last term of the IAC were Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, Councilmember Andy Huckaba of Lenexa, Kan., Councilmember Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta. Mayor Resnick, Councilmember Huckaba, and Councilmember Nirenberg also serve on NLC's Federal Advocacy committees.

The FCC recently opened the application period for the next two-year term of the IAC, and is particularly interested in candidates with experience in ""Smart City" and infrastructure-related initiatives, state and local government consumer complaints processes and data trends, and public safety and homeland security matters." The FCC plans to appoint four elected municipal officials and one elected or appointed local attorney to the fifteen-member commission. All applications must be submitted by December 5, 2016. To learn more about the application process, click here.

New Report on Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement Released

Yucel Ors, 202.636.6124

This week, the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a new comprehensive report that examines barriers and promising practices - in recruitment, hiring and retention - for advancing diversity in law enforcement. The report, developed with support from the Center for Policing Equity, aims to provide law enforcement agencies, especially small and mid-size agencies, with a resource to enhance the diversity of their workforce by highlighting specific strategies and efforts in place in police departments around the country. The report highlights law enforcement best practices from the Worcester, Mass., the Sacramento, Calif., the Miami-Dade, Fla., the Madison, Wis., and the Wichita, Kan. Police Departments, as well many other police departments across the country.

The report demonstrates that successful diversity-building efforts by law enforcement agencies share several common themes, including:

  • Ensuring that the agency's organizational culture is guided by community policing, procedural justice and cultural inclusivity;
  • Engaging stakeholders - both from within and outside the law enforcement agency - to help create a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community; and 
  • Being willing to re-evaluate employment criteria, standards and benchmarks to ensure that they are tailored to the skills needed to perform job functions and consequently attract, select and retain the most qualified and desirable sworn officers.

For more information and to view the full report, click here.

Supreme Court Preview for Local Governments

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Despite being down a Justice, the Supreme Court has already agreed to decide many cases of interest to state and local government during its 2016-2017 term. Join Misha Tseytlin, Wisconsin Solicitor General, who will argue a takings case this term, Deepak Gupta, Gupta Wessler, who will write an amicus brief for the State and Local Legal Center in a fair housing case, and Amy Howe, reporter, SCOTUSblog in a discussion of the most interesting and important cases for state and local government granted so far.

Date: October 13, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Register for the webinar here.

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