Federal Advocacy Update

April 11, 2014

In this issue:

NLC Continues to Oppose Permanent Ban on Internet Tax

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Last year, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). The measure seeks to permanently extend the ban on taxing Internet access that has been in place since the ITFA was first passed in 1998. The moratorium imposed by the ITFA was extended several times by Congress and is currently set to expire November 1, 2014.

ITFA was originally intended to help promote and preserve the commercial, education and informational potential of the Internet in its infancy during the late 90's. The growth of the Internet since then, however, has been exponential and a ban can no longer be justified on that basis.

NLC is aware of recent suggestions that ITFA might be packaged with remote sales tax collection legislation, the Marketplace Fairness Act. While NLC fully supports MFA, we strongly oppose the permanent ITFA. As more services transition from telecommunications and cable to broadband, the scope of what the ITFA covers will greatly expand, even if the ITFA's current language remains unchanged. To protect the tax bases and fiscal strength of state and local governments, NLC supports no more than another short-term extension of the ITFA, which would provide more time for the full scope of the transition from telecommunications/cable to broadband to occur, and a better sense of the costs that the ITFA preemption would impose.

NLC will continue to monitor activity on H.R. 3086 and to seek introduction of an alternative to a permanent moratorium.

Members of Congress Urge Funding Increase for CDBG

Mike Wallace, 202.626.3025

Last week, 39 senators and 130 representatives listened to NLC's call and signed a letter urging their respective Appropriations Committees to prioritize funding for the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) in the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees take letters such as these under advisement as they allocate funding for specific programs in ways that can achieve majority support for the overall spending bills by their August 1 deadline.

Both the Senate and House letter request $3.3 billion in formula funding for CDBG grants to cities and towns which, if enacted, would increase funding for CDBG above the current level of roughly $3 billion. Since 2012, funding for CDBG has fallen by 25 percent, or approximately $1 billion.

Representatives Robert Brady (PA), Lou Barletta (PA), James McGovern (MA), Peter King (NY), Chaka Fattah (PA), and Chris Gibson (PA), called CDBG co-authored the House letter and referred to CDBG as "one of the most effective federal programs for growing the local economy and creating and maintaining much needed jobs in our communities". Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) spearheaded the Senate letter in which he called CDBG "the centerpiece of the Federal government's efforts to help cities, counties and States meet the needs of low- and moderate-income communities."

View the Senate and House letters. If your senator or representative's signature appears on the letters, please consider sending a short note of thanks for supporting a program that makes a difference in your community.

New PACE Bill Allows Local Residential Energy Efficiency Programs

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

The recently-introduced Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Assessment Protection Act (H.R. 4285) would allow state and local governments to develop and implement residential PACE programs to finance the purchase and installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits.

Sponsored by Reps. Mike Thompson (CA), Peter King (NY) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), the bill would direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to rescind its 2010 policy guidance that objected to local governments holding the first lien on PACE homes to ensure repayment of public funds if the home goes into foreclosure, calling this a significant risk to the mortgage financier. This policy guidance effectively halted residential PACE programs across the country.

NLC applauds the introduction of H.R. 4285 and continues to support local authority to implement residential PACE programs, contending that participation in the PACE program does not affect the safety and soundness of mortgages. PACE programs allow local governments to provide funds to participating homeowners or businesses to install energy efficiency upgrades, which are paid back over time in the form of a special assessment. Payments are typically secured by a lien on the property that gives local governments priority of repayment if the home goes into foreclosure.

Despite an effective ban on residential PACE programs, states continue to enact laws enabling commercial PACE programs, and many communities across the country have implemented such programs. Thirty one states plus the District of Columbia have passed legislation enabling cities and counties to pursue PACE programs.

When implemented in a community, the PACE program removes many of the barriers of energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits that otherwise exist for homeowners and businesses, particularly the high upfront cost of making such an investment and the long-term ability to reap the benefits of cost savings.

Read more about the bill »

Reminder: TIGER Grant Deadline April 28

Leslie Wollack, 202.626.3029

The application deadline for the latest round of federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants totaling $600 million is April 28, 2014. Cities could begin applying for the TIGER grants on April 3. Up to $35 million of the program may be awarded for planning grants.

TIGER grants allow cities and towns across the nation to leverage federal government seed money and pair it with local resources to transform their communities. Initially created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the previous five rounds of the program have funded 270 projects across all 50 states.

Read more about the current round of funding and upcoming informational webinars on the Department of Transportation's website »

Free Webinar: How to Make Transportation Data Work for You

Leslie Wollack, 202.626.3029

NLC will host a webinar with the American Society of Civil Engineers to help cities translate valuable national transportation data into digestible points and stories. On the webinar, city leaders will learn about new data surrounding the overall economic impact of continued underinvestment in infrastructure - what does this mean for jobs, household income, and GDP? Webinar participants will also learn about potential untapped sources of expertise at the local level and how to foster meaningful lines of communication with them to develop a transportation system that meets your community's needs.

How to Make Transportation Data Work for You
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
2:00 to 3:00 pm EDT

Speakers:

  • Brian Pallasch, Managing Director for Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives, American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Larry Frevert, member of ASCE's 2013 Report Card Committee and Past President of APWA

To register for the webinar, click here  »

Take NLC's Climate Adaptation Survey

Raksha Vasudevan, 202.626.3024

The National League of Cities, in collaboration with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, and researchers with the Kresge Foundation, are collaborating on a survey to assess the current state of the local climate adaptation field. The survey seeks to understand where local governments are in their efforts to build more resilient communities, what resources they are using, what resources they would like, and what barriers they face to enhancing the resilience of their local communities. The National League of Cities and our collaborators will use results from the survey to ensure we are providing the more relevant, timely, and usable resources to help you advance municipal climate efforts.

This survey is designed for representatives of local government, including staff and elected officials. Given the important role you play in your local community, we sincerely hope you will take approximately 25 minutes to complete the survey. The survey will close on May 2nd, 2014.

For your time, your name will be entered into a drawing to win free registration and a 3 night hotel stay to support your attendance at the 2015 National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis, MO or the 2015 Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn, Germany. Three winners will be selected.

Take the survey now »