Federal Relations Update

August 3, 2012
Federal Relations Update is a member service from the National League of Cities.
Period Ending August 3, 2012

Boehner and Reid Agree to Avoid Government Shutdown

NLC Urges Senate to Pass Market Place Fairness Act

NLC, NACo Recommend Improvements to House WIA Reauthorization Bill

DOT Announces Notice of TIFIA Financing

Senate Fails to Agree on Cybersecurity Bill

NLC to Congress: Affordability, Flexibility Key to Water Quality Protection

NLC Prepares to Head to the National Political Conventions

NLC Policy Amendments and Resolutions Due August 10

WEBINAR: Major Supreme Court Cases Affecting State and Local Governments (Transcript)


Today marks the last day in session before the annual congressional summer recess; both the House and Senate will be at home for the remainder of August, returning to Washington after the Labor Day holiday. As such, the Federal Relations Update will take a break as well—the next edition will be published on Friday, September 14.



Boehner and Reid Agree to Avoid Government Shutdown
Carolyn Coleman, coleman@nlc.org, 202.626.3023

As Congress prepared to head into the August recess, and with work incomplete on spending bills for FY 2013 (which begins October 1), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends on September 30. According to the Speaker’s office, “[d]uring the August district work period, committee members and their staff will write legislation that can be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law.”

While the agreement delays final resolution on FY 2013 spending bills until next year and after a new Congress convenes, it will maintain funding at $1.047 trillion as called for in last fall’s deficit reduction package. The House had been pushing for reducing the overall spending level for FY 2013 to $1.028 trillion.

NLC Urges Senate to Pass Market Place Fairness Act
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

Last week, as part of a Senate Committee hearing examining why many online retailers are currently exempt from state sales tax laws, NLC urged the Senate to level the playing field between local and online retailers by passing the Market Place Fairness Act (S. 1832). In his opening remarks, during the hearing, Senate Commerce Committee Chair John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV) supported NLC’s position and called for treating all purchases the same, whether made on-line, by catalogue or in person. “I’ve always thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Legislation is pending in both chambers to do this. S. 1832, a bipartisan bill, was introduced by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Its counterpart in the House, the Marketplace Equity Act (H.R. 3179), was introduced by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AK). Both bills would provide states with the ability to enforce existing state and local sales and use tax laws in a manner that does not unduly burden e-commerce. NLC supports both bills but would prefer that the House version is amended to mirror the Senate bill to prevent the possibility of a single or blended rate and to recognize the efficiencies of the Streamline agreement for member states.

Congressional action is required as a result of a 1992 Supreme Court decision, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which held that states are prohibited from collecting sales tax from online retailers who do not have a physical presence in the state.

Without a change in the law, local retailers who compete with online sellers are at a 6 to 10 percent price disadvantage, and state and local governments are losing over $23 billion annually in revenue at a time when they continue to face declining revenues (with further declines projected in FY 2013) and cutbacks in federal aid.

Neither the House or Senate bill has been scheduled for markup, but NLC will continue to push for action following the August recess.

NLC, NACo Recommend Improvements to House WIA Reauthorization Bill
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042


On Thursday, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), NLC and the National Association of Counties (NACo) outlined changes to improve legislation for local communities that is designed to modernize the federal workforce development program, H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act. Earlier this year, the House Committee on Education and Workforce adopted the bill, and it may be scheduled for a vote on the House floor after the August recess.

As drafted, NLC and NACo argued that H.R. 4297 would harm local workforce development programs in several key ways, including governance structures, program consolidation, and funding. In the letter, NLC and NACo call for amendments to the legislation that would avoid these consequences.

While H.R. 4297 is expected to pass if it reaches the House floor, for the reasons outlined in the letter, there is little chance that Senate would pass the bill in its current form.

DOT Announces Notice of TIFIA Financing
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029


Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the availability of up to $17 billion in loans for critical infrastructure projects across the country as a result of the recently enacted surface transportation bill (MAP-21). The funding will be awarded via the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to major infrastructure projects with the potential to create jobs and spur economic development and growth.

To date, the TIFIA program has used $9.2 billion in funding to leverage more than $36.4 billion in private and other capital to help build major transportation projects around the country. A wide range of projects are eligible for the funding, anything from highway and passenger rail projects to public transit and international bridges and tunnels.

Cities are encouraged to submit letters of interest for the program. More information can be found in the Notice of Funding Availability, as well as on the Federal Highway Administration’s TIFIA Guidance and Applications site.

Senate Fails to Agree on Cybersecurity Bill
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124


On Thursday, the Senate failed to pass the Revised Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 3414) on a procedural vote of 52 to 46; 60 votes were needed to proceed with the bill. The bill would have created voluntary, technology-neutral standards for critical infrastructure whose failure due to cyber-attack could cause mass casualty events, catastrophic economic damage, or severe degradation of national security.

Back in May, NLC, along with national state and local governments associations, sent a letter to key members in both chambers of Congress with principles for any final legislation. NLC supports the creation of voluntary standards, as well as a number of other provisions in the bill that would provide resources to bolster local governments’ cyber-defenses, but opposes language that would allow some federal agencies to require local governments to comply with the voluntary standards without providing the resources to do so.

The House has passed a number of smaller, more targeted cybersecurity bills that could potentially be conferenced with any comprehensive bill that is passed through the Senate. Cybersecurity remains a critical national security issue for our nation and our cities, and NLC hopes that the Senate can, after the August recess, find a means to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation without unfunded mandates on local governments.

NLC to Congress: Affordability, Flexibility Key to Water Quality Protection
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101


Last week, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker testified on behalf of NLC before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on the important role of clean water infrastructure investment in our communities and how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress can partner more effectively with local governments to make smart investments to protect water quality.

The hearing focused on the Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework (Framework) released by EPA in June, which gives communities the flexibility to prioritize capital investments and water infrastructure projects in order to meet the water quality objectives of the Clean Water Act in an efficient and cost effective manner.

In his testimony, Mayor Becker called on EPA to implement the Framework in an affordable, flexible manner and through the use of permits rather than consent decrees to help communities pursue the best solutions for the environment and our nation's cities and towns. He also brought attention to the nation's aging water infrastructure systems and the need for a reliable, long-term source of substantial capital to help close the gap between current expenditures and anticipated needs.

This was the subcommittee's second hearing on the EPA integrated planning approach. Click here to read more about the hearing and view Mayor Becker’s full testimony.

NLC Prepares to Head to the National Political Conventions
Carolyn Coleman, coleman@nlc.org, 202.626.3023


With 96 days remaining until the presidential election, planning is underway to send NLC delegations to both conventions: RNC (Tampa Bay) from August 27 to 30, and DNC (Charlotte), September 3 to 5. NLC President Ted Ellis will lead both delegations.

City officials that are planning to be in Tampa Bay or Charlotte and who would like to receive convention communications from NLC are encouraged to contact us, so we can make sure you’re on our list to receive convention updates. Contact Stacey Levitt, Senior Outreach Associate, at levitt@nlc.org to begin receiving updates from NLC.

Continue to follow www.nlc.org to learn more about the candidates' positions on issues affecting cities and towns as the election draws near.

NLC Policy Amendments and Resolutions Due August 10
Emma Lieberth, lieberth@nlc.org, 202.626.3075


NLC invites all member cities to submit National Municipal Policy (NMP) amendments and resolutions for consideration as part of NLC’s annual policy development process. The deadline for submissions is Friday, August 10. For more information, go to http://www.nlc.org/influence-federal-policy/resources/national-municipal-policy.

WEBINAR: Major Supreme Court Cases Affecting State and Local Governments (Transcript)
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

On July 19, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) hosted a webinar covering the major cases from the U.S. Supreme Court’s current term that affect states and local governments. The webinar speakers were Paul Clement, who argued the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform law) and the Arizona immigration cases before the Court, and Patricia Millet, who argued three cases impacting states or local governments before the Court this term. The webinar transcript can be found here. (Registration is required to access the transcript.)

The SLLC files amicus curiae briefs in support of states and local governments in the U.S. Supreme Court, conducts moot courts for attorneys arguing before the Supreme Court, and provides other assistance to States and local governments in connection with Supreme Court litigation.