Federal Advocacy Update

May 23, 2014

In this issue:

NLC Announces Support for Mayor Castro to Lead HUD

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Today, the President announced the nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as the next Secretary for Housing and Urban Development. NLC offers its full support to Mayor Castro's nomination, and endorses current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan's move to become the new director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In San Antonio, Mayor Castro has been a strong leader in creating economic opportunities for all his residents and a leading advocate for affordable housing. He is also a former member of the National League of Cities' Board of Directors who has participated in a variety of national initiatives led by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. During Mayor Castro's tenure, San Antonio has developed innovative policies and programs in areas ranging from college access to early learning/preschool opportunities and family economic success that other cities have examined and sought to replicate.

"Mayor Castro has demonstrated excellent leadership in San Antonio. His perspective as a mayor will serve the nation well and assist the Department in its work with cities across the country," said Mayor Chris Coleman, Saint Paul, Minnesota and President of the National League of Cities.

Water Infrastructure Bill Finally Clears Congress

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, with large bipartisan majorities, the House and Senate passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) that will provide resources to upgrade the nation's aging water infrastructure. The bill authorizes $12.3 billion for 34 new lock, dam, levee, port and ecosystem restoration projects and includes a new pilot program that makes loans available to local governments building large water and wastewater-related infrastructure projects and activities. NLC had advocated for the bill, which now awaits the President's signature.

The five year, $350 million pilot program, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, (WIFIA, modeled after the successful TIFIA program), provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees for large water and wastewater-related infrastructure projects and activities (projects of at least $20 million or $5 million for communities serving less than 25,000 people). While there are limitations on the use of the program, including a cap on the percentage of a project that can be funded through the program and a provision that tax-exempt municipal bonds cannot be used for the non-federal share of the project, this is a good first step to providing communities with more financing options to upgrade our nation's aging infrastructure.

The bill includes several other provisions important to local governments:

  • Sets target expenditures for a gradual increase in the percentage of user fees that are spent through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for harbor and port maintenance, reaching 100 percent by 2025.
  • Amends the Clean Water Act to ensure that projects funded with State Revolving Loan Funds maximize the potential for efficient water use, reuse, recapture and conservation; adds language that States may provide additional subsidization to local governments in the form of principal forgiveness and negative interest loans; includes a Buy American requirement for iron and steel and requires EPA to conduct a review of the SRF State allotment formula.
  • Allows local project sponsors to submit proposals to the Army Corps, which in turn would submit a list to Congress for project authorization.
  • Allows local project sponsors to contribute their own funds to the Army Corps to carry out studies and move projects forward via the processing of permits.
  • Sets a hard deadline of three years for Army Corps feasibility studies and requires concurrent reviews of feasibility studies and environmental reviews.

Sign the Letter Now: Support Transportation Alternatives

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

As Congress considers options for a new federal highway program, NLC is asking local officials to sign on to a letter from the National League of Cities and the United States Conference of Mayors to Senator Boxer, the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in support of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

TAP provides cities with funding for important transportation options, such as bike paths and pedestrian walkways, which help to manage local congestion and keep communities healthy. TAP funds are sent directly to local and regional governments, so that local leaders can decide how best to provide communities with active transportation alternatives.

Sign your name to the joint letter now, and tell Congress to protect the Transportation Alternatives Program.

New Transportation Advocacy Resources Now Available

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

As part of its ongoing advocacy efforts for a new federal highway program that supports local priorities, NLC has created a toolkit for city officials to use when engaging with their members of Congress. The toolkit, which includes talking points, provides local officials with the information needed to advocate on behalf of city transportation needs, whether in a personal meeting with a federal official, or via local media outlets.

Your congressional delegation needs to hear from you now on the value that a strong and modern transportation system has on economic growth, job creation, and quality of life in your community. There are several ways you can show them the impact:

Visit NLC's website to download the toolkit now.

Senate Takes Up Bipartisan Workforce Investment Bill

Neil Bomberg, 202.626.3042

This week, the Senate announced it will begin work on long-overdue legislation to renew and update the Workforce Investment Act, the federal workforce development program. The bill, known as Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA), has widespread support in both chambers of Congress and from NLC. It is expected to pass the Senate within the next few weeks, and the House soon after. 

WOIA retains a number of aspects of the previous Workforce Investment Act that worked for local communities, while adding provisions to modernize existing programs and to make training for currently in-demand jobs within targeted labor markets and regions a priority.

Among other provisions, WOIA preserves the local delivery system of workforce investment, and enhances the role of local elected officials and business leaders in planning, developing, and implementing local programs - provisions key to NLC's support of the bill.

FCC Announces "Net Neutrality" Proposed Rulemaking

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) signaled its intention to craft a new set of network neutrality rules to protect and promote the Open Internet by approving a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This decision comes in the wake of a January 2014 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court that the FCC's existing net neutrality rules exceeded the agency's legal authority.

While the FCC does not regulate Internet content or applications, it has been seeking to develop and implement high-level, flexible rules of the road for broadband to ensure that Internet usage is not restricted in any way.

NLC has long called for network neutrality to ensure that the public receives the maximum diversity of information and the maximum competition among providers of services, equipment, content, and Internet access.

In the NPRM, the Commission is seeking comments on a number of questions designed to:

  • Develop a strong legal framework for enforceable rules of the road.
  • Ensure choices for consumers and opportunity for innovators.
  • Prevent practices that can threaten the Open Internet.
  • Expand the definition of transparency.
  • Protect consumers, innovators and startups through new rules and effective enforcement.
  • Consider the impact on the digital divide and ensuring access for all communities.

NLC will be filing comments in the proceeding, which are due July 15, 2014.

For additional information on the NPRM, click here. For more information on network neutrality, see the Commission's Open Internet resource page.

Energy Efficiency Bill Fails to Advance Again in the Senate

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

With a dispute over amendments, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 2262) once again failed to advance on the Senate floor. Last week, the popular bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Rob Portman (OH), along with six other Democrats and Republicans, could not muster the 60 votes needed to end debate and take a vote on the bill. Last September, Senate floor action on the bill ground to a halt because of an amendment dispute and to make time for deficit and appropriations issues.

The bill would improve energy efficiency across a variety of sectors, including residential and commercial buildings, schools, and federal buildings. NLC supports the bill as a key opportunity for the federal government to support local action on climate adaptation.

In March, the House overwhelming passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R 2126), sponsored by Reps. David McKinley (WV) and Peter Welch (VT), by a vote of 375-36. Every provision in the House bill is included in the more-comprehensive Senate bill, including a "Tenant Star" program to encourage efficiency in leased buildings, directing the federal government to reduce energy use in data centers, adjusting standards for grid-connected water heaters and establishing efficiency benchmarking standards for buildings.

FEMA Accepting Applications for Preparedness Awards

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

FEMA is now accepting applications for the 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. The awards recognize individuals and organizations in local communities that have made outstanding contributions toward making their communities safer, stronger, better prepared, and more resilient. Submissions are due on May 30, 2014. For more information about the awards and instructions on submitting an application, please visit www.ready.gov/citizen-corps/citizen-corps-awards.