Federal Advocacy Update

June 6, 2014

In this issue:

NLC Urges Support for Modern Workforce Development Program

Neil Bomberg, 202.626.3042

As the House and Senate prepared to consider a new workforce development bill, NLC President Chris Coleman, mayor, Saint Paul, MN, called on members of Congress to support the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (H.R. 803). The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, modernizes the existing federal workforce development program, while maintaining the local governance structure and delivery system that were crucial to the bill earning NLC's support. Specifically, the bill includes:

  • a strong partnership between local elected officials, local business leaders and the local workforce development system;
  • regional workforce development areas that reflect local labor markets and economic development areas, rather than political jurisdictions;
  • program consolidation that preserves those programs that address the needs of unique populations;
  • funding for disadvantaged adults, youth and dislocated workers;
  • significant flexibility, allowing service providers to meet the range of employment and training needs individuals might need without following prescribed steps or requirements; and
  • a strengthened role for local businesses.

The bill is currently being considered by the Senate where a vote next week is possible. House action would follow.

EPA Announces Proposed Rule to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Power Plants

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule that would result in an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA's proposed Carbon Pollution Standards sets an overall national emissions reduction goal as well as state-specific goals for emissions reductions. Using 2012 as a baseline for emissions, the state-specific goals are based on a standard formula that takes into account current sources of power generation, energy efficiency measures, and expected fossil fuel plant retirements in each state. The proposal does not set emissions goals for Vermont or Washington, D.C., as neither have a fossil fuel-fired power plant.

Under the proposed rule, states will have broad flexibilities to develop the strategies and solutions for meeting the state goals, including making fossil fuel power plants more efficient, increasing renewable energy generation, increasing low carbon power sources, and reducing demand for energy by improving energy efficiency. Among the implementation options for states is the ability to develop multi-state implementation plans and to establish market-based trading programs, such as those already underway in California and New England/Mid-Atlantic.

In reaction to EPA's announcement, NLC President Coleman encouraged cities and towns to support the goal of reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. "Each city, community and state has different strategies to mitigate carbon pollution," said Coleman. "We urge the Administration to continue giving local governments the flexibility needed to tailor solutions that best fit the needs of their residents and businesses as they work to reach or exceed the 30 percent reduction goal."

EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 120 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. EPA plans to finalize the rule by June 2015, with State Implementation Plans due by June 2016. NLC supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but in its comments to the agency will seek assurances that a final rule will not infringe upon local authority and flexibility.

GASB Proposes Major Changes to Municipal Retiree Benefit Reporting

Neil Bomberg, 202.626.3042

Last week, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) announced proposed changes to the way state and local governments report their "other postemployment benefits" (OPEB), such as retiree health insurance. The changes are intended to provide government financial statement users "with a more comprehensive understanding of these significant OPEB promises than is currently available" by requiring governments to recognize net OPEB liabilities on the face of their financial statements. GASB believes these new rules will be necessary because OPEB, particularly healthcare benefits, represent a very significant liability for many state and local governments. GASB also announced planned new requirements for public pensions and pension plans that are outside the scope of standards GASB released in 2012.

Comments on the proposed changes are due August 29, 2014. NLC is currently reviewing the proposals to assess their impact on local governments.

Senate Advances Terrorism Risk Insurance Legislation

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Following NLC's calls for action, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee this week unanimously approved a bill to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) for seven years. NLC calls on Senate leadership to swiftly bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and urges the House to pass similar legislation as soon as possible.

Terrorism risk insurance protects cities against loss or liability that could significantly affect personnel, property, finances and the ability of the local government to continue to fulfill its responsibilities to the public it serves. While TRIA is not set to expire until the end of the year, the renewal period for risk insurance for many cities is fast approaching. If TRIA is not extended, cities that have terrorism risk policies with terms extending past TRIA's December 31, 2014 sunset date could see may see conditional exclusions in their policy renewals, which could result in significant gaps in coverage.

FY 2015 Appropriations Process Inches Forward

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025, Leslie Wollack, 202.626.3029, and Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Both chambers of Congress made progress this week on FY 2015 federal spending bills important to local governments. Following House action last week on a similar measure, yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill that funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice. Also, yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2015 spending bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD). The House has scheduled a vote next week on the THUD bill, which could become a vehicle to attach a temporary fix for the looming highway Trust Fund shortfall.

  • Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development -The bill provides additional funding for public transportation new starts for a total of $2.163 billion, $470 million more than the House bill. It also provides $550 million for the popular TIGER grant program, while the House bill only provided $100 million, stipulating that it must be used for highway programs. The Senate version maintains current Amtrak funding levels and provides a minor increase in funding for the Airport Improvement Program that funds local airport programs.

    For housing, the Senate bill largely maintains existing funding levels for key city programs. It funds the Community Development Block Grant program at $3.02 billion, roughly the same as last year and in-line with the House proposal. The HOME Investment Partnership program is funded at $950 million, a $50 million cut from FY 2014, but $650 million more than the House bill. Homeless assistance grants would be maintained at $2.1 billion under the Senate bill, and funding for Housing Choice Vouchers would be increased slightly to $19.6 billion, enough to renew all existing housing vouchers which number over 2 million, but not enough to restore all of the 70,000 vouchers lost in 2013 as a result of sequestration.
  • Department of Justice - Both the House and Senate bills call for slight increases over FY 2014 spending levels. The House bill calls for $2.2 billion for state and local law enforcement and crime prevention programs and includes $358 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants Program and $180 million for the COPS Hiring grant program. The Senate bill calls for $2.3 billion for state and local law enforcement and crime prevention programs and includes $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and $181 million for the COPS Hiring program.

Local Officials Named to FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Commission

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Today, Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler announced members of the FCC's Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) for 2014-2016. The IAC provides policy guidance, expertise, and recommendations to the Commission on a range of communications issues for which local, state, and Tribal governments share responsibility or administration with the Commission. IAC membership is comprised of representatives of local, state, and Tribal governments with expertise in communications policy.

Congratulations to all of the local officials who were appointed and to NLC Information Technology and Communications Steering Committee member, Mayor Gary Resnick, Wilton Manors, FL, who was named Chair.

  • Bill de Blasio, Mayor, New York City, New York
    • Designees: Bruce Regal, Senior Counsel, New York City Law Department; Tanessa Cabe, Telecommunications Counsel, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
  • Andy Huckaba, City Councilmember, Lenexa, Kansas
  • Ron Nirenberg, City Councilmember, San Antonio, Texas
  • Kasim Reed, Mayor, Atlanta, Georgia
    • Designees: Jim Beard, Chief Financial Officer, City of Atlanta;
      Cathy Hampton, City Attorney, City of Atlanta
  • Gary I. Resnick, Mayor, Wilton Manors, Florida
  • Dow Constantine, County Executive, King County, Washington
    • Designee: Marlin Blizinsky, Government Relations Officer, King County, WA
  • Mayor Edwin M. Lee, City and County of San Francisco, California
    • Designees: Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer, San Francisco;
      Marc Touitou, Chief Information Officer, San Francisco;
      Brian Roberts, Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Technology, San Francisco
  • Kenneth S. Fellman, City Attorney, Littleton, Colorado