Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
At NLC's 2013 Congress of Cities and Exposition in Seattle last week, the membership elected new officers and board members for 2014. Voting delegates chose Mayor Chris Coleman of Saint Paul, MN, to lead the organization as president for 2014 president; Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, UT, as first vice president; and Mayor Melodee Colbert Kean of Joplin, MO, as second vice president. Outgoing NLC president Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers of Avondale, AZ, will serve as the organization's immediate past president. The officers will serve a one year term.
NLC also elected 18 new members during the Congress of Cities to serve a two-year term (2014 – 2015):
Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
As the Seattle Conference drew to a close, NLC's voting delegates, representing more than 1,000 credentialed votes, also ratified changes to the organization's National Policy that will be used to guide the organization's federal advocacy for 2014. The policy changes call for federal action to support the local government perspective in a variety of areas including infrastructure financing, federal deficit reduction efforts, communications tax reform, sustainable development, comprehensive immigration reform, transportation infrastructure, climate change, and broadband deployment to name a few.
Before voting on the policy positions, the delegates heard reports from the leadership of NLC's seven Policy and Advocacy Committees on the important work the Committees accomplished over the year, which served as the basis for the policy positions.
Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124
At last week's Seattle Conference, NLC members joined the chorus of voices called for changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. In a resolution titled "In Support of an Affordable and Sustainable National Flood Insurance Program," NLC is urging Congress to support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 (S. 1610/H.R. 3370). The bill will delay the implementation of flood insurance rate increases to millions of property owners until after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes the affordability study mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (PL No. 112-141). The bill will also allow Congress sufficient time to consider amendments to the Biggert-Waters Act that would keep flood insurance rates affordable for primary, non-primary and business properties while balancing the fiscal solvency of the program.
During a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance hearing this week, some members of the Subcommittee expressed reservation in delaying the rate increases. In addition, Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator, who testified at the hearing said, "while he supports having a means-tested affordability program for homeowners; he is not finding any leeway in the law to make the rates affordable for homeowners." Fugate also said that he "cannot delay parts of this program" without Congressional action. To view the video archive of the meeting go to financialservices.house.gov and click on Hearings.
While there is significant bipartisan support for S. 1610/H.R. 3370, the bill faces major road blocks in the Senate and the House due to the fiscal impact of delaying the implementation and the fact that there is little time left on the legislative calendar in 2013. NLC continues to monitor the status of the legislation and to urge members of the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees to consider it.
Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101
This week, NLC supported two new financing mechanisms for water infrastructure. In the first, NLC, along with a coalition of organizations, asked Congress to include the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) in its final Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill. In the second, NLC voiced its support of the newly introduced Water Trust Fund Act of 2013.
As the House and Senate prepare for a conference committee on the WRDA, NLC urged conferees and House and Senate leadership to ensure that the final bill includes WIFIA, which will provide loans and loan guarantees for water infrastructure projects.
In its letter, NLC urges the House to support action on WIFIA this year as part of the WRDA conference committee. The House and Senate had their first conference committee meeting this week, with a goal of negotiating a final bill before the end of the year.
The Senate WRDA bill (S. 601), which passed the Senate in May by a vote of 83-14, includes a five year pilot program to provide additional water infrastructure financing opportunities for local governments. The WIFIA provision authorizes $50 million annually to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, water supply and wastewater projects. The program would allow local governments to receive loans and loan guarantees at U.S. Treasury rates for projects such as pipe replacement or rehabilitation, new or upgraded treatment plants, combined sewer overflow and wastewater projects, reuse, desalination, capital projects to improve energy efficiency, and new water supply projects over $20 million. Such a provision was not included in the House Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA, H.R. 3080), which passed the House in October by a vote of 417-3. House Water Resources Subcommittee Chair Bob Gibbs (R-OH) has developed draft WIFIA legislation that he is preparing to introduce.
A bipartisan group of representatives, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Duncan (R-TN), Richard Hanna (R-NY), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), introduced the Water Protection and Reinvestment Trust Fund Act (H.R. 3582). The legislation is intended to provide a small, deficit-neutral, protected source of revenue to help local governments replace, repair, and rehabilitate critical wastewater treatment facilities. NLC President Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, MN, applauded the group's effort.
"By establishing a clean water trust fund, communities will be able to unlock potentially millions of dollars through the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund program and a new federal loan program for water infrastructure projects critical to our economy, the environment and the health and welfare of our communities. While municipal bonds help fund three-quarters of infrastructure projects built in the U.S., local governments continue to seek additional financing mechanisms," said Coleman.
The Water Protection and Reinvestment Trust Fund Act would create a voluntary labeling and contributory system to which businesses that rely on a clean water source could opt-in. Businesses could choose to place a small label on their products indicating their commitment to protecting America's clean water. For each unit that displayed such a label, companies would contribute $0.03 to the Water Trust Fund. Eighty-five percent of the funds collected would be distributed to states via the existing Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund program, with 15 percent of the funds collected set aside for a new "WIFIA-like" program.
Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
During this year's holiday season, many communities support their local businesses through Small Business Saturday, held November 30, 2013. The event is intended to help small businesses gain exposure during the biggest shopping weekend of the year. NLC, along with organizations, businesses, and local governments around the United States, is encouraging shoppers to support local brick and mortar businesses by doing holiday purchasing in local stores, rather than online. NLC President Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, MN, has called upon local leaders to participate.
Whether or not your locality is hosting a Small Business Saturday event, you can support your town's Main Street businesses with timely advocacy in support of marketplace fairness. Take two minutes to sign and send a pre-written letter to your congressional representative, urging them to level the playing field between Main Street and online retailers. As the first year of the current Congress draws to a close, it is imperative that NLC's member cities raise their voices to the call for a hearing and action on marketplace fairness legislation within the House Judiciary Committee. During NLC's Congress of Cities, members representing over twenty states sent letters to their congressional delegations in support of marketplace fairness legislation.