Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending September 9, 2016

In this issue:

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 NLC's Federal Advocacy Committees before completing your application? Join us for a webinar on September 13 at 2:00 PM EDT, 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. During the webinar, you'll learn about the work of each committee and the benefits of membership. Click here to register for the webinar.

Cities Still Seeking a Fair e-Fairness Solution

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

With the national political conventions and August recess behind them, members of Congress returned to Washington, D.C. this week for a short pre-election work session. The Senate is scheduled to be in session for 23 days in September and October; the House is only in for 17 days, leaving at the end of September. While Congress must pass a spending measure by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown, NLC and cities are also urging Congress to pass e-fairness legislation.

Since the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the Quill case, cities and states have been calling on Congress to close the $23 billion online sales tax loophole and to level the playing field between brick and mortar retailers and remote online sellers. NLC is advocating for a federal solution that:

  1. Ensures tax parity between brick and mortar stores and remote online sellers;
  2. Does not raise taxes or impose new taxes on buyers; and that
  3. Preserves state and local authority for state and local taxation.

Last week, House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte released a legislative draft of the Online Sales Simplification Act (OSSA) to address the issue. OSSA establishes a hybrid-origin based approach to tax collection, which means the seller's state chooses what goods will be taxed, and the buyer's state controls the tax rate. The taxes collected by the seller would be remitted to a clearinghouse that would transmit the taxes to the destination state(s).

The draft legislation also limits audits of a seller's remote sales to the origin state and limits the destination-state's rate for remote sales to a single statewide rate (The statewide rate is the sum of the state rate and the weighted average rate of all the locals). It also establishes a separate taxing scheme for the five states that do not levy a sales tax (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, typically called the NOMAD states).

Unfortunately, the current OSSA framework does not meet NLC's basic principles for a solution. We understand the Chairman is willing to consider other proposals that improve the legislation before it is formally introduced and stand willing and able to work with his office to find a solution consistent with our principles.

Senate Begins Consideration of Water Resources Bill; House Action Stalled

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, the Senate began debate on the Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848, WRDA). With an amendment deadline of September 8, debate on the bill will likely carry over into next week, with the bill's sponsors, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA), developing a manager's amendment on the bill over the weekend.

The Senate WRDA bill authorizes 25 flood protection, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) in 17 states. Additionally, the Senate bill supports clean water and drinking water infrastructure for Flint and other communities, including provisions that would provide relief to communities struggling to comply with unfunded federal mandates, help cities and towns reduce public health risks posed by lead, offer aid to schools seeking to improve the quality of their drinking water, increase assistance for rural water and wastewater utilities, advance research to improve water treatment, reaffirm the value of the state revolving funds and jumpstart a new financing program for major water infrastructure projects. The $9 billion bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in May with overwhelming bipartisan support.

On the House side, the timeframe for bringing their version of WRDA to the floor for a vote remains unclear. The 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.

NLC supports both the House and Senate versions of WRDA and urges Congress to send a final bill to the President for signature.

NLC Pushes for Solutions and Funding to Fight Opioid Abuse

Yucel Ors, 202.636.6124

Before the summer recess, Congress completed work on legislation to combat the rise in opioid abuse, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (PL 114-198). The bill, which the President signed, establishes grant programs in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve and expand drug treatment and recovery programs. While NLC applauded this action, cities now call on Congress to finish the job and appropriate the necessary funds this year to implement these much-needed programs.

In addition to pursuing congressional action to address the epidemic, NLC's and the National Association of Counties' National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic convened its second meeting in Covington, Ky., last month. During its meeting, the task force saw first-hand the impacts of the opioid crisis on Northern Kentucky by visiting facilities involved in the treatment of individuals struggling with addiction and engaged with those who operate these facilities to hear about the hurdles they face in providing needed services. Also during the meeting, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli briefed the group on recent federal actions to address the opioid issue. For more information on the Task Force's efforts, visit www.nlc.org/OpioidTaskForce.

Cities Continue the Call for Resources to Fight Zika

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

As Congress works to negotiate a continuing resolution package that must pass by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown, a key piece of these negotiations is the Zika funding package. As you may have read in CitiesSpeaklast month, with the rise in the number of reported Zika cases in the continental United States, there has been additional pressure on Congress to approve a $1.9 billion funding request by the administration directed towards the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to assist cities with mosquito control, testing and vaccine deployment and development.

The $1.1 billion House-passed Zika aid package was blocked in the Senate on Tuesday for the third time because of language relating to Planned Parenthood and other controversial provisions. House and Senate leadership are currently negotiating over these provisions and hope to include this funding in a spending package before the end of the month. While the CDC and NIH await additional congressional funding, the administration has re-purposed $670 million for Zika response and preparedness.

This week, in an effort lead by Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix, Ariz., and Mayor Phillip Levine, Miami Beach, Fla., nearly seventy mayors signed a letter to congressional leadership urging support for this funding. NLC will continue to echo their call -to-action and ask Congress to appropriate funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

NLC Fights for Cities in Transportation Rulemakings

Matthew Colvin, 202.626.3176

While Congress was away in August, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) continued their work to implement the last two long-term transportation reauthorizations, MAP-21 and the FAST Act. In particular, the public comment period for a long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on congestion, freight, and air quality performance concluded on August 20.

Unfortunately, as written, the proposed rule completely missed the mark by measuring single occupancy vehicle speed 7 different ways, without expressing the extent to which alternative forms of transportation, such as transit, walking, or biking, alleviate congestion on our roads. Additionally, the proposed rule may penalize cities that are intentionally decreasing vehicular speed along main streets with the goal of bringing more foot traffic into local businesses and creating safer streets for our families. NLC commented on the proposed rule asking USDOT to consider all road users in their measure of congestion, and to ensure that transportation is effectively servings its user's needs across all modes.

USDOT also reopened a rule for public comment this summer on minimum crew sizes for passenger and freight rail. NLC's comment, as well as a comment from the Louisiana Municipal Association, strongly endorsed the proposed rule that will ensure the safe movement of trains through America's cities.

Finally, USDOT recently proposed a significant overhaul of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) system. NLC opposes this overhaul as it has no basis in legislation and was written without the consultation of MPOs or cities.

BroadbandUSA Releases New Broadband Planning Tool to Help Cities

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

BroadbandUSA, a program of the Department of Commerce, has released a new tool to assist city leaders in stakeholder outreach when planning projects to improve broadband access and adoption in their communities. The tool was developed with input on best practices from community leaders, particularly those who received federal broadband grants as part of the 2009 stimulus.

The Introduction to Stakeholder Outreach toolkit details strategies for community leaders to identify key constituencies for broadband projects, and how to open a dialog and gain buy-in from those groups. It outlines a five-step process to effectively engage with stakeholders, which may include existing broadband providers, community organizations, such as the local chambers of commerce or nonprofits that serve local residents, government officials, and potential funders of a project.

For communities who need further technical assistance in their broadband efforts, additional toolkits are available from BroadbandUSA, including Planning a Community Broadband RoadmapGuide to Federal Funding of Broadband Projects,Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships and a Broadband Adoption Toolkit.

Supreme Court Updates for Local Government Officials

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

The State and Local Legal Center will hold two upcoming events focused on current trends in the Supreme Court that matter to local governments:

Signs and Speech One Year After Reed

Last summer the Supreme Court declared part of the Town of Gilbert's sign code unconstitutional ruling that content-based regulations are subject to strict scrutiny. John M. Baker, Greene Espel, will discuss how local governments have been modifying their sign codes to come into compliance with Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona and how courts have interpreted the Reed decision in and out of the sign context during this webinar hosted by NLC.

Date: September 14, 2016 
Time: 1:00 PM EDT
Register for the webinar here.

SLLC Supreme Court Preview

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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