Federal Relations Update

May 10, 2013
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May 10, 2013

Marketplace Fairness Passes the Senate; Action Moves to the House
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

Earlier this week and with votes that NLC helped deliver, the Senate finally passed the Marketplace Fairness Act with a commanding 69 to 27 vote. The action moves now to the House Judiciary Committee, where NLC is calling upon Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to schedule a hearing on the House measure, H.R. 684, which Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) introduced and which has 65 co-sponsors. The President has already indicated that he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. Be sure to contact your House members and urge their support for this important legislation.

The Marketplace Fairness Act allows state and local governments to require retailers to collect taxes on online sales. It does not create any new tax or increase any existing tax; it levels the playing field between Main Street and online retailers and provides resources to local governments to help support the delivery of services in their communities.



Ask Your House Member to Join in Celebrating the History of Municipal Bonds
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

As we continue to mobilize support to preserve the tax exempt status of municipal bonds, please remember to ask your House members to sign on as a co-sponsor of H. Res. 112, which “celebrates the history of municipal bonds, the 100-year precedent of the Federal tax exemption for municipal bond interest, and the important contribution municipal bonds have made to economic growth and wellbeing in each State and municipality in our great Nation.” So far, 54 House members have signed on – let’s be sure to thank them.

While the resolution is non-substantive, it is being seen as a barometer of support for traditional muni bonds by those on all sides of the issue. The more support we can demonstrate for municipal bonds the harder it becomes for those looking to change the most important tool in the U.S. for financing investment in schools, roads, water and sewer systems, airports, bridges and other vital infrastructure as a part of a deficit reduction plan, a push for comprehensive tax reform, or as an offset for new spending.



Immigration Reform Debate Underway in the Senate
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

This week, Senators began the arduous pathway to comprehensive immigration reform as the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first markup on S 744, the bipartisan bill introduced by the so-called “Gang of 8” earlier this month. With over 300 amendments proposed to the bill, and over seven hours spent on border security and control amendments alone, it is expected that the process will take weeks before the bill can advance out of Committee.

In meetings on Capitol Hill this week with local officials representing NLC’s Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO) and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials (GLBTLO), lawmakers were cautiously optimistic that the Senate bill would pass. The pathway to reform is less clear in the House where a bipartisan group of House members has been working for years to produce a bill.

NLC continues to call on city officials to contact their legislators and urge them to support common sense reform to boost local economies, bring millions of unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and into the national economy to boost productivity, increase wages and contribute to vibrant local economies and provide support for local government services to maintain public safety and the costs of health care and education services necessary to support aspiring citizens.

As part of any reform measure, NLC will continue to oppose unfunded mandates or provisions that would preempt local government authority. NLC’s policy can be found here.



Water Resources Development Act Bill on Senate Floor
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

This week, the Senate continued consideration of S 601, the Water Resources Development Act, with debate expected to continue next week. The bill would authorize 18 new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects while instituting a number of reforms to the process. Congress has not passed a WRDA bill in five years, and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leaders have been working to maintain a bipartisan effort to gain Senate passage. 

The legislation, which NLC supports, contains a provision that would increase flexibility for non-federal sponsors of Corps projects, including a pilot program aimed at improving the quality and speed of projects by allowing local and state governments to take over as project manager for Corps projects. It also includes a five-year pilot program to provide additional water infrastructure financing opportunities for local governments. Known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA, modeled after the successful TIFIA program), the bill authorizes $50 million annually to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Corps for flood control, water supply and wastewater projects. Based on the TIFIA model, this level of authorization is estimated to support at least $500 million annually in low interest loans for each EPA and the Corps. The bill also provides that all of the proceeds from the Harbor Maintenance Tax be used for port maintenance.

In the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) has indicated that the House will develop its own bill rather than starting with the Senate bill; no timetable for introduction or consideration has been set.



2,422 Organizations join NLC’s call for More Investment in Housing and Transportation
Mike Wallace, wallace@nlc.org, 202.626.3025

For the second year in a row, the nation’s largest housing and transportation advocates joined NLC and other local government groups to spearhead a letter to Congress urging increased funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in the federal budget. In the letter, 188 national groups and 2,234 state and local groups, including many cities and towns, urged congressional appropriators to “increase the 302(b) allocation to the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) to the highest possible level in fiscal year (FY) 2014.” The language of the request reflects the federal budgeting process of allocating all federal funding through 12 categories which are represented by the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees. Although each subcommittee funds programs important to cities and towns, the funding available for many of our highest priority programs, such as CDBG and public transit grants, and popular programs like sustainable development and TIGER grants, is determined by the 302b funding allocation for the Departments of Transportation and Housing.

Many credited last year’s letter, which was signed by 700 fewer organizations, with helping Senate THUD Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) hold the line against steeper cuts sought by the House. This year’s signers hope the letter will similarly influence lawmakers, including the new Chair of the full Senate Appropriation Committee Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) by arguing "Even before sequestration, the FY 2013 302(b) allocation ($51.8 billion in budget authority) was 24 percent less than the FY 2010 enacted level ($67.9 billion). Because of these cuts, more than 140,000 road, bridge, and transit projects have been put in jeopardy at the cost of hundreds of thousands of jobs; federal support for the production and preservation of affordable housing has been slashed, which is likely to result in more than 100,000 low-income families losing rental assistance and recent progress in reducing chronic homelessness being reversed."

The letter and full list of signers can be viewed here.



Senators Announce Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization Framework
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

Earlier this week and in a meeting with NLC, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson's (R-GA) offices announced the framework for the Senate WIA reauthorization bill. NLC welcomed the good news that the bipartisan measure will likely retain the current state and local governance structures, including a strong role for local elected officials and business leaders with local workforce development areas based on local labor markets or economic regions rather than political boundaries. The Senators’ offices also indicated there will be an effort to move forward with “smart consolidation,” which means taking a measured and evidence-based approach to program elimination and consolidation, and to avoid consolidating programs simply for the sake of consolidation. Finally, the offices indicated an interest in basing workforce development funding on a percentage of the overall gross domestic product (GDP) with expenditures increasing during economic downturns expenditures so that unemployed workers are able to receive the assistance they need.



Another Round of TIGER Grants Announced
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

The Department of Transportation has announced the fifth round of TIGER grant funds. Applications are due June 3, 2013 and all funds must be obligated by September 30, 2014. Projects eligible for TIGER grants include highways and bridges, public transportation, passenger and freight rail transportation and marine port infrastructure investments. Grants may range in size from $10 million to $200 million. Grants to rural areas may be for less than $10 million, but must be more than $1 million. No less than $120 million must be awarded to projects in rural areas.

The four previous rounds of TIGER provided $3.1 billion to support 218 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than 100 of the TIGER grants were awarded directly to city or county governments that are otherwise unable to directly access traditional sources of Federal funding for their projects. Similarly, more than 19 TIGER grants were awarded directly to port authorities, and eight to tribal governments. TIGER has also contributed to 11 multi-state projects, which would have been difficult to fund through Federal formula programs.

Information on project eligibility and application requirements is available here

Additional resources are available at the DOT TIGER website: http://www.dot.gov/tiger/application-resources.



FEMA Releases Three National Planning Frameworks
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

On May 6, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) released three of the five National Planning Frameworks that President Obama ordered as part of the federal government’s efforts to better coordinate disaster and emergency preparedness. The first one, which was released in September 2011, addressed national disaster recovery. The three released on May 6, address prevention, mitigation, and response. (A fifth one dealing with protection is expected to be released later this year.) To obtain copies of and view the tutorials related to the National Planning Frameworks released thus far, please go to: http://www.fema.gov/national-planning-frameworks.

According to FEMA, these National Planning Frameworks are designed to “document the roles and responsibilities of the whole community in all facets of national preparedness and illustrate how we work together to support one another before, during, and after an emergency. The benefit of this unified effort is a more informed, shared understanding of risks, needs, and capabilities across the whole community; and, in the end, a more secure and resilient nation.” For more information please contact FEMA’s Intergovernmental Affairs Division at (202) 646-3444 or at FEMA-IGA@fema.dhs.gov.

Trucks Are the Topic
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold a public meeting on the Truck Size and Weight Limits Study authorized by Congress last year during the contentious debate on proposed increases in truck size and weight during consideration of federal surface transportation legislation. The meeting will take place on May 29, from 12:30 to 4:30 pm (EDT) in Washington, D.C.

Section 32801 of MAP-21 requires the Secretary to complete a “Comprehensive Truck Size & Weight Limits Study.” The Study, which is to be conducted as an objective, data driven initiative using the most current, best-suited analytical methods, tools, and models, will evaluate and compare the differences between trucks loaded at or below current federal truck size and weight limits to those operating in excess of those limits.

The Study will produce findings on highway safety and truck crash frequency and severity, pavement and bridge infrastructure service life impacts, the cost and effectiveness of enforcement and implications for the national transportation system including the modal share of freight movements that would result if federal truck size and weight limits were to change.

Webinar access is available for those unable to attend in person. Three additional Public Outreach Sessions will be held over the next year and a half. Register for the webinar here.

FirstNet Announces Regional Consultation Workshops with Local Governments
Stephanie Crandall, crandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3030

This summer, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will be holding regional workshops across the country to meet with state, local and tribal governments to gather input on the design of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. Congress created FirstNet as an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration and directed it to establish the wireless network.

During the workshops, participants will discuss the needs and challenges of providing communications to and among first responders through the network. Invitations have been sent for the first workshop, which will be in May in Washington, D.C. Those interested in attending these consultations should contact their governors’ and/or state chief information/technology officer or Julia Pulidindi, pulidindi@nlc.org, for more information. For more information on the workshop schedule, click here.

Tomorrow, May 11, is AMTRAK National Train Day
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

Saturday, May 11 is Amtrak National Train Day, which is designed to help cities promote the importance of passenger rail service for their contributions to the economy and providing travel options for citizens. More than 200 communities are expected to host events at local train stations, railroad museums and other locations commemorating this year’s theme “Trains Matter.” Amtrak continues to set ridership records throughout the country with growth in ridership outpacing all other modes of domestic transportation since 1997 and with Amtrak breaking its own ridership record in nine of the last ten years.

Additional information on National Train Day and its events is available at NationalTrainDay.com. If you hold a National Train Day event in your city, send your stories and pictures to NLC. Congress will consider legislation to reauthorize federal Amtrak programs and funding this year.

In This Issue


Marketplace Fairness Passes the Senate; Action Moves to the House

Ask Your House Member to Join in Celebrating the History of Municipal Bonds

Immigration Reform Debate Underway in the Senate

Water Resources Development Act Bill on Senate Floor

2,422 Organizations join NLC’s call for More Investment in Housing and Transportation

Senators Announce Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization Framework

Another Round of TIGER Grants Announced

FEMA Releases Three National Planning Frameworks

Trucks Are the Topic

FirstNet Announces Regional Consultation Workshops with Local Governments

Tomorrow, May 11, is AMTRAK National Train Day


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