Federal Relations Update

June 22, 2012
Federal Relations Update is a member service from the National League of Cities.
Period Ending June 22, 2012

Deadline Nears for Transportation Bill

House Fast-Tracking Transportation and Housing Spending Bill

Senate Committee Approves FY 2013 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations

Senate Passes 2012 Farm Bill

EPA Releases Framework for Managing Stormwater and Wastewater

NLC Calls for Flexibility, Local Role in Public Safety Broadband Grants

FHFA Issues Proposed Rule on PACE Programs

Federal Agencies Continue Regulatory Reviews

WEBINAR: The Future of Water Infrastructure Funding

NLC Policy Amendments and Resolutions Due August 10


Deadline Nears for Transportation Bill
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029


With the latest extension of the transportation program set to expire on June 30, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. John Mica (R-FL) announced yesterday they had reached partial agreement on some of the most contentious issues and would work through the weekend to make sure a compromise bill is ready for a vote before the end of the month. To view real time updates on the status of the negotiations, go to the Influence Federal Policy section of NLC’s website.

House Fast-Tracking Transportation and Housing Spending Bill
Mike Wallace, wallace@nlc.org, 202.626.3025 and Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029


The House is placing H.R. 5972, the FY 2013 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) spending bill, on a fast track for consideration after the full Appropriations Committee approved it with little debate and significant bipartisan support last Tuesday.

Despite spending levels that are lower overall than in the Senate bill, the House bill proposes greater increases than the Senate for CDBG ($3.34 billion compared to $2.9 billion in 2012) and HOME ($1.2 billion compared to $1.0 billion in 2012). The House bill eliminates funding for the Sustainable Communities and Choice Neighborhoods grant programs.

On the transportation side, the bill preserves highway, bridge, and transit programs, funded by the federal fuel tax, at current levels, pending the outcome of the congressional debate on a new transportation program. The House bill also calls for level funding for airport programs, which also are funded by a separate revenue source. The bill calls for cuts to transit capital programs—funded out of general revenues—and high speed rail, which the Senate bill would increase. The House bill proposes to eliminate funding for the TIGER transportation grants, while the Senate bill preserves funding for these. Both the House and Senate bills call for increases in funding for Amtrak.

As with the other spending bills advancing in the House, the President has criticized certain cuts and has threatened to veto the House T-HUD bill for providing less overall funding than was authorized in the Budget Control Act of 2011. In a statement, the President did offer one point of agreement: "[T]he Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the CDBG program, which provides critical funding to state and local governments to address infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic development needs in their communities."

The T-HUD bill is expected to come to the House floor next week. NLC will continue to monitor the bill and take action in support of local government priorities.

Senate Committee Approves FY 2013 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042


Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 3295, a bill to fund the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED). The bill provides $158.8 billion in overall discretionary funding, including: $12.34 billion for DOL (a decrease of nearly $200 million over 2012 levels); $69.6 billion for HHS (a decrease of $1.5 billion); and $68.1 billion for ED (a decrease of $400 million).

In terms of DOL programs, the Workforce Investment Act is scheduled to take the brunt of the decrease with $200 million less in funding going to job training programs. Funding for programs that serve disadvantaged adults would remain at $771 million; disadvantaged youth at $824 million; and dislocated workers at $1.01 billion.

Among HHS programs, the bill calls for funding Head Start at $8.04 billion, a $70 million increase over FY 2012; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would remain at $3.47 billion; and Community Health Centers would receive $1.57 billion, an increase of $300 million.

Among education programs, Promise Neighborhoods would receive $80 million, an increase of more than $20 million; Special Education funding would increase by $100 million to $11.7 billion; Pell Grants would be level funded; Race to the Top would remain at $49.3 million; and Title I would increase by $100 million to $14.6 billion.

The bill is not expected to move to the Senate floor anytime soon, but will serve as a point of departure for negotiating a compromise with the House, which has yet to adopt its version of the bill.

Senate Passes 2012 Farm Bill
Stephanie Crandall, crandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3030 and Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101


After considering 74 amendments, yesterday, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240, or the “Farm Bill”), which reauthorizes agriculture programs through 2017, by a vote of 64 to 35. The legislation establishes federal farm, food, and rural policy that impacts rural communities, farming livelihoods, and food economies, which in turn, affect the environment, local economic growth, and public health. Current authorization of the legislation expires September 30.

As the Senate prepared to consider the bill, NLC sent a letter to Senators urging support for the Farm Bill and outlining NLC’s positions on seven amendments affecting rural development and access to healthy, local foods. The Senate voted consistent with NLC’s position on five of the seven amendments:

  • SA 2156 (Gillibrand)—SNAP Funding: NLC supported, the amendment failed by a vote of 33 to 66.

  • SA 2247 (Toomey)—Consumer Confidence Reports: NLC supported, the amendment failed by a vote of 58 to 41.

  • SA 2268 (DeMint)—Rural Development Loan Guarantees: NLC opposed, the amendment failed by a vote of 14 to 84.

  • SA 2295 (Udall, Colo.)—Healthy Forests: NLC supported, the amendment passed 77 to 22.

  • SA 2299 (Klobuchar)—Rural Transportation: NLC supported, the amendment passed by a voice vote.

  • SA 2388 (Wyden)—Farm-to-School: NLC supported, the amendment passed by a voice vote.

  • SA 2445 (Brown, Ohio)—Rural Development Funding: NLC supported, the amendment passed 55 to 44.

The House Agriculture Committee has yet to release its version of the Farm Bill but is expected to do so soon. NLC will continue to push for legislation that supports our nation’s local and regional economies and improves access to healthy, local food for American families.

EPA Releases Framework for Managing Stormwater and Wastewater
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101


Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework (Framework) to help local governments meet the water quality objectives of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and prioritize capital investments. While an overarching principle of the Framework is to maintain existing CWA regulatory standards, an integrated planning approach will allow local governments to meet those requirements in an efficient and cost effective manner through sequencing and scheduling of projects.

The Framework provides guidance for EPA regions, states, and local governments on how to develop and implement integrated plans under the CWA, and it identifies the operating principles and essential elements of an integrated plan. The integrated planning approach is voluntary, leaving the responsibility to develop an integrated plan with the local government and relevant utilities. Those interested in pursuing this approach can begin immediately by reaching out to local utilities, states, and regional EPA offices.

As they become available, EPA will provide practical examples on its website of how municipalities are implementing this integrated approach.

NLC Calls for Flexibility, Local Role in Public Safety Broadband Grants
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124


Last Friday, NLC submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in response to a Request for Information on the development of the State and Local Implementation Grant Program for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.

The comments—submitted jointly with the National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors—underscored the need for flexible uses of grants and the importance of local government’s role both as the primary employer of public safety personnel (the end-users of the network) and owner of infrastructure that may be leveraged in construction of the network.

In the comments, the organizations caution that any allowance to utilize the grants for advisory boards or committees “should condition such funding on the basis that the makeup of such boards or committees provides for equal state and local representation.” In addition, the comments urged NTIA to take advantage of state and national associations, like NLC, for member outreach and educational programs that may be leveraged to help educate local officials about the network and the consultation process.

FHFA Issues Proposed Rule on PACE Programs
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101


Last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a proposed rule concerning underwriting standards for the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) relating to mortgage assets affected by Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.

In the proposed rule, FHFA continues to maintain that first-lien PACE programs would increase the financial risks borne by mortgage holders, including the two mentioned above. The proposed rule would instruct these enterprises to take any necessary actions to remove first-lien PACE obligations from their portfolio, to not purchase any mortgage that is subject to a first-lien PACE obligation, and to not consent to the imposition of a first-lien PACE obligation on any mortgage. The proposed rule also outlines three alternatives that FHFA is considering, including adoption of key underwriting standards.

NLC supports local authority to implement PACE programs and contends that participation in the PACE program does not affect the safety and soundness of mortgages. Comments on the proposed rule are due to FHFA by July 30; NLC will submit comments to FHFA prior to the deadline and encourages cities and towns in the 28 states that allow PACE programs to submit comments as well and to share their comments with NLC.

Federal Agencies Continue Regulatory Reviews
Stephanie Crandall, crandall@nlc.org, 202.626.3030


Last month, President Obama signed an executive order calling for federal agencies to regularly report on their retrospective review plans developed as required in the January 2011 Executive Order 13563: Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review. Agencies must “promote an open exchange of information” with members of the public, including state and local governments. The goal of this order was “to modernize our regulatory system and to reduce unjustified regulatory burdens and costs.”

The President’s Council on Economic Advisers also issued a report about the progress of the retrospective review, noting that agencies had found more than 500 reforms, including the Department of Transportation’s decision to extend compliance dates on traffic control requirements, which would save millions of dollars for state and local governments.

In addition, the federal agencies recently presented their second updates. In those updates, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it would expand a pilot program nationwide that incentivizes local planning for debris removal by increasing the federal cost-share for localities that create a FEMA-approved debris management plan prior to a declared disaster. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency highlighted its work of reviewing alternative approaches to fulfilling the water quality reporting requirements under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act as a way to reduce burdens on state governments, an action that NLC and the Colorado Municipal League and the North Carolina League of Municipalities Executive Directors called for in a recent meeting with the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

WEBINAR: The Future of Water Infrastructure Funding
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101

Local governments construct, operate, and maintain the vast amount of the country’s water infrastructure networks, which are essential for economic development and quality of life in our communities. Cities and counties face a backlog of water infrastructure projects and the federal contribution to help meet those needs has declined over the past several decades.

On Wednesday, June 27 from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. EDT, NLC and the
National Association of Counties (NACo) will host a webinar to offer an overview of the problem, explain why alternative mechanisms of funding water infrastructure are needed, and examine specific proposals pending in Congress. In addition to speakers from NLC and NACo, participants will hear from Jon Pawlow, Majority Counsel for the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Tyler Frisbee, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

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 www.nlc.org/influence-federal-policy/resources/national-municipal-policy.