Federal Relations Update

February 8, 2013
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February 8, 2013

NLC Tells Congress To Just Say No to Automatic Spending Cuts
Michael Wallace, wallace@nlc.org, 202.626.3025

On New Year's Day Congress and the President approved legislation that prevented or delayed the worst consequences of the “fiscal cliff” from taking effect. Among other things, the legislation prevented the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits for one year and allowed a tax increase for high income earners. However, the legislation fell short of the “grand-bargain” sought by local leaders by merely delaying, rather than repealing, sequestration – the billions in automatic spending cuts split between federal defense and non-defense programs in order to reduce the federal deficit- and by failing to finalize funding levels for federal programs for the current fiscal year, setting up yet another “fiscal cliff” showdown that could shutter the federal government. If Congress takes no action to avoid the sequester, the cuts will be in effect on March 1. If Congress fails to agree to an extension of funding for federal programs, the federal government will shut down when the temporary spending resolution expires on March 27.

Earlier this week, NLC hosted a webinar for city leaders warning of the threat of the cuts and urging city leaders to contact their members of Congress to tell them to find a bipartisan and balanced solution to reducing the deficit, not one like sequestration that will undermine the economy. To view an archived version of the webinar, click here.



New Marketplace Fairness Bills to Be Introduced
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173 and Stephanie Crandallcrandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3030

This week, NLC met with Senate and House offices who announced plans to introduce bipartisan bills on Thursday, February 14, to allow local and state governments to collect billions of dollars in sales taxes owed on remote online sales. Passage of the legislation is a top legislative priority for NLC this year. Succeeding in their efforts since the start of the New Year, House and Senate leaders resolved the differences that existed in previous versions of the bill, known as the Market Place Fairness Act; thus, identical ones – which NLC strongly supports – will hopefully see action in both chambers of Congress. 

While the bills will enjoy bipartisan support, city officials still need to contact their congressional delegations to urge them to co-sponsor and support passage of the legislation. 



Immigration Reform Gets Hearings in Congress
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

In late January, comprehensive immigration reform took a giant step forward with the introduction in the Senate of a bipartisan framework and the release of a reform proposal by President Obama. Both closely match NLC's comprehensive immigration reform policy, and NLC applauded these important first moves in what is expected to be a lengthy and difficult process.

A hearing last week by the House Judiciary Committee represents the latest step in efforts to move comprehensive immigration reform this year. However, while there is support from Republicans and Democrats for the reform, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) indicated his skepticism about the pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key tenet of the proposal offered by the Senate "Gang of 8" and President Obama late last month.

In the Senate, where leaders hope to pass a move a reform bill to the Senate floor in the summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week, inching the process along.



NTIA Announces FirstNet Planning Grants
Stephanie Crandallcrandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3030

This week, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced the availability of funding for $121.5 million in grants for states to prepare for the creation of a nationwide public safety broadband network. Established in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the First Responder Network Authority will set up a wireless network to improve communications among first responders. The formula-based, matching grants will provide resources for states to collaborate with regional, tribal and local jurisdictions in planning for the interoperable network. States and territories must apply by March 19, 2013. More information on the grants is available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/press-release/2013/ntia-announces-availability-1215-million-state-grants-assist-firstnet-planning.

NLC will be hosting a webinar later this month to help city officials learn ways to engage with their states on the grant process and FirstNet implementation.




NLC Calls on Congress to Reauthorize Federal Education Program
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

This week, the National League of Cities (NLC) and eight other state and local government and education groups joined together to urge congressional action to complete the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Act was originally authorized in 2001 and was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007. In a letter to Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chair and ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Congressmen John Kline (R-MN) and George Miller (D-CA) the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the groups called on Congress to craft a bi-partisan reauthorization bill immediately so that states and localities can address the challenges they face in educating America’s youth. While Congress will likely not be able to complete reauthorization of ESEA legislation this year, we do expect the Senate to begin work on a bill that both chambers will consider in 2014.



NLC Releases 2013 Fact Sheet on Municipal Bankruptcies, Bonds and Pensions Municipal

Earlier this week, NLC, along with other state and local government and finance groups released updated information to help city officials and the public separate fact from fiction when it comes to state and municipal bankruptcies, municipal bonds, and state and local pensions. The fact sheet, Facts You Should Know was first introduced last year as part of an ongoing effort to clarify the misinformation and common misunderstandings regarding fiscal issues facing states and local governments. To view a copy of the fact sheet, click here.



Hatch Act Modernized (Finally)
Carolyn Colemancrandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3023

As a result of a little known bill that passed just before Christmas, most state and local government employees may now run for partisan political office. Prior to the enactment of the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (the Act), state and local government employees were prohibited from running for partisan office if they worked in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants. With the change, the federal Hatch Act no longer prohibits state and local government employees from running for partisan office unless the employee’s salary is paid for completely by federal loans or grants. According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, “This change will allow hundreds of thousands of state and local government employees to participate more actively in the democratic process in their communities.” To view a summary of the changes and guidance for employees, click here
In This Issue


NLC Tells Congress To Just Say No to Automatic Spending Cuts

New Marketplace Fairness Bills to Be Introduced

Immigration Reform Gets Hearings in Congress

NTIA Announces FirstNet Planning Grants

NLC Calls on Congress to Reauthorize Federal Education Program

NLC Releases 2013 Fact Sheet on Municipal Bankruptcies, Bonds and Pensions Municipal

Hatch Act Modernized (Finally)


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