Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending September 23, 2016

Congressional building
Congressional building

In this issue:

Congress to Push Deadline for Spending Bills to December

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Congressional leaders continue to negotiate over what to include in a short term extension of federal funding that must be approved by September 30 to prevent a government shutdown. Among the issues under negotiation, NLC supports the emergency funding to provide relief to flood-ravaged Louisiana; funding to assist with lead decontamination in Flint, Michigan; and funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

Congress is widely expected to approve a stop-gap measure that will keep the government funded through December 9. If passed, discretionary grant programs important to cities and towns, like CDBG, will continue to operate at existing funding levels until after the election. Congress would then need to return for a lame duck session to complete deliberations over FY 2017 appropriations bills before the new deadline.

States Challenge New Overtime Rule in Court

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

This week, 21 states filed a lawsuit challenging the administration's new overtime rule, which applies to public and private sector employers. The new rule, set to go into effect on December 1, would double the minimum salary threshold under which an employee is entitled to overtime pay to $47,500. In the first year of the new rule alone, the Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that over 4 million additional workers would be entitled to overtime pay. The current threshold is $23,660.

In the lawsuit, the states are seeking to block the rule from going into effect on December 1. In its complaint the states make five arguments for why the Texas federal district court should grant their injunction. Its first and most ambitious argument is that the Court overturn Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985), where the Court held that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to the states and localities.

The states also argue that DOL has exceed its authority under the FLSA in issuing these rules by ignoring the duties an employee performs and making salary a litmus test. By automatically increasing the salary basis test, the states argue that DOL is violating the FLSA's requirement to "define and delimit from time to time" the white collar exception.

As in almost any lawsuit objecting to federal rules, the states argue the rules are "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." Finally, the states claim that Congress improperly delegated congressional legislative power by conferring "unlimited legislative authority on DOL" in the FLSA.

In addition to the lawsuits, there is also a legislative effort underway to block the rule from going into effect. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced H.R. 5813, the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act, several months ago, and it is awaiting action in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill would implement a three-year phase-in of the new salary threshold and also eliminate the automatic increases. NLC supports the legislation and is considering filing an amicus brief in support of the litigation.

Senate Passes Water Resources Bill, NLC Urges House Action

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848, WRDA) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 95-3. NLC and a coalition of partners issued a statement congratulating the Senate and urging the House to bring their bill up to the floor for a vote. NLC supports both the House and Senate versions of WRDA.

The $9 billion Senate WRDA bill (textsection-by-section summary) authorizes 30 flood protection, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). Additionally, the bill contains significant provisions for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. For additional details on these provisions, click here.

While action on the House version of WRDA has been stalled since May, it is expected to be brought up on the floor for a vote next week. The House bill, H.R. 5303, authorizes 28 flood protection, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects under the Army Corps, but does not include the additional water infrastructure provisions that are included in the Senate bill.

Juvenile Justice Reform Gets House Support

Yucel Ors, 202.636.6124

Yesterday, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and to reform the juvenile justice system to give local authorities more flexibility to deal with juvenile justice issues. H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016, looks to help young people transition from the juvenile justice system by giving them access to education and other support services.

The Senate is also considering a similar bill (S. 1169, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015) and may take it up after the election.

NLC has long supported the reauthorization of JJDPA and reforms to give local authorities more flexibility to deal with juvenile justice issues, including status offenses such as truancy. NLC will continue to urge House and Senate leadership to reauthorize this program by the end of the year.

Florida and Colorado Local Leaders Advocate for Cities in Washington

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

City officials from Florida and Colorado traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with members of Congress and advocate for city priorities during this pre-election congressional work period.

The Florida League of Cities, led by FLC President Mayor Susan Haynie, Boca Raton and FAST Chair Mayor Joe Durso, Longwood, brought 15 members of the Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) to meet with members of the Florida congressional delegation. The advocates first received a briefing from NLC's Federal Advocacy team and toured NLC's new office. Then they traveled to Capitol Hill to press for passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), e-fairness legislation and federal funding to combat Zika virus.

September Fly-Ins
Florida League of Cities FAST Committee members visit NLC for an advocacy strategy session before their Hill meetings; Alex Zeitz-Moskin, Associate Director, Outreach, It's On Us, Fort Collins Councilmember Gino Campana, and Tyler Marr, Policy and Project Analyst for the City of Fort Collins tour NLC's new office (top to bottom)


In addition, we welcomed officials from the City of Fort Collins, Colo., to our offices. Councilmember Gino Campana, Tyler Marr, Policy and Project Analyst for the City of Fort Collins, and Alex Zeitz-Moskin, Associate Director, Outreach, for the It's On Us campaign, met with members of our Federal Advocacy team following meetings with the Colorado congressional delegation.

Want to get the inside scoop on all the visits and events happening at NLC this fall? Make sure you follow NLC on Twitter and Facebook.

Driverless Vehicles Get Some Guidance

Matthew Colvin, 202.626.3176

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which includes safety guidance for manufacturers deploying vehicles with a range of automated technologies on board. With more than 35,000 deaths attributed to car crashes on U.S. roadways in 2015 alone, 94 percent of which are caused by human factors, this technology has the potential to help eliminate one of the leading causes of preventable injuries and death in America.

NHTSA is seeking public comment on the policy in anticipation of forthcoming regulations. NLC plans to submit comments, which are due by November 22, 2016, and will continue to follow this process to ensure that federal policy makers do not interfere with city efforts to remain at the forefront of innovation in new transportation technologies.

Comment Period Extended on MPO Reform

Matthew Colvin, 202.626.3176

As reported in the last Federal Advocacy Update, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is proposing a significant overhaul of the Metropolitan Planning Organization system. In response to the proposal, NLC joined a number of other organizations, including AMPO, NARC, and NADO, in opposing this rule. Altogether, 86 percent of all submitted comments stood in opposition to the rule on various grounds; yet this week, USDOT reopened the rule for 30 additional days of comment.

To view NLC's comment on the NPRM, click here. If your city has not done so already, we encourage you to take advantage of the extended comment period and urge USDOT to rethink this rule.

Is Your City Investing in Electric Vehicles?

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, the White House launched an effort to gather commitments from state and local government leaders to procure electric vehicles as part of their government fleet.

The call for state and local fleet electrification commitments builds on the federal government's fleet electrification target, requiring 20 percent of new passenger vehicles to be zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025.

As part of a kick-off call last week, three cities shared their electric vehicle commitments:

  • The City of Atlanta will reach its goal of becoming a 100 percent alternative fuel fleet through the deployment of 60 electric vehicles, 5 neighborhood electric vehicles in addition to the use of CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles, and will install charging stations in 100 dedicated electric vehicle (EV) parking spaces at the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 
  • The City of Los Angeles has committed to having 50 percent of all new light duty vehicle procurement be battery electric vehicles (BEV) by 2017 (achieved in 2016) and 80 percent by 2025. In addition, the Los Angeles Police Department deployed 100 electric vehicles, 100 Level 2 charging stations and four DC-fast charging stations for use by their police force in June. Overall, Los Angeles is expecting to take delivery of around 300 more light duty BEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles this fiscal year.
  • The City of Columbus, Ohio, has committed to procuring an additional 200 electric vehicles to add to their current fleet of 6,400 vehicles and installing the appropriate corresponding charging infrastructure within the next three years. An additional 100 electric vehicles will be added to City of Columbus Partner fleets.

Will your city be procuring electric vehicles? The White House wants to know. Submissions and questions should be sent to Sarah Olexsak at solexsak@ceq.eop.gov and Dee Siegel at Dee_S_Siegel@ceq.eop.gov.

To learn more about electric vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy, has a number of resources including information on benefits of electric vehiclesavailable modelscharging stationsincentives and laws, and best practices for incorporating electric vehicles into your government fleet.

NLC Pushes for Accountability, Transparency in Broadband Outage Reporting

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In comments on a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal, NLC called on the FCC to require providers of broadband services to disclose disruptions in service to local governments in a complete and timely fashion, similar to the requirements currently imposed on telephone providers.

As more Americans rely on broadband as their primary communications service for business, civil engagement, access to education and health services, the need to monitor and respond to broadband outages at a local level increases. In addition, city residents are increasingly using broadband to connect to 911 services, as more residents use Wi-Fi-enabled or VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services to contact 911, rather than traditional voice lines.

NLC urged the FCC to make outage reporting by broadband providers mandatory, rather than voluntary, and to make the required outage information available in a timely fashion to local governments.

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

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Are you interested in making 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 October 14 and applications for Committee membership are due November 23. Click here to apply today.

Want to learn more about the Federal Advocacy Committees 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 and Communications Committee, and Commissioner Gil Ziffer, Tallahassee, Fla. and NLC Human Development Committee member.

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