Federal Relations Update

March 30, 2012
Federal Relations Update is a member service from the National League of Cities.
Period Ending March 30, 2012

Congress Passes 90-Day Transportation Extension

NLC Supports Introduction of the Rebuild America Act

NLC Joins Brief in Major Immigration Case before Supreme Court

Application Period for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants Opens April 2

NLC Calls for Creation of National Commission on Crime

NLC, Key Stakeholders State Concerns on FEMA Block Grant Proposal

NLC Objects to GASB Expanding Authority


Congress Passes 90-Day Transportation Extension
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029


On Thursday, House members voted 266-158 to adopt a 90-day extension of the current transportation program, SAFETEA-LU, after days of falling short of the votes needed to pass the bill under expedited rules that would have required a 60 percent vote.

In the Senate, after trying but failing to attach its own two-year transportation bill—Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (S. 1813), passed last week by a bipartisan majority— members voted to approve the House extension, the ninth since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. The White House is expected to sign whatever extension Congress sends them to keep the programs running.

Partisan differences flared as lawmakers in both chambers rushed to extend transportation programs before the March 31 deadline.  If an agreement had not been reached, the federal tax on gasoline would have expired, potentially costing $110 million per day in federal revenues for transportation programs, which are already falling far short of national transportation needs.

NLC continues to support passage of a long-term transportation bill that rebuilds America’s roads and bridges, modernizes transit systems, and creates or saves good-paying jobs. We will continue to provide updates over the next three months as a new debate begins over reauthorization.

NLC Supports Introduction of the Rebuild America Act
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

On Thursday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a comprehensive bill designed to help put Americans back to work. The bill, entitled “The Rebuild America Act,” would provide $300 billion over ten years for roads, bridges, and infrastructure; $20 billion to modernize the nation’s public schools; $79 billion over two to three years to help local governments and school districts pay for teachers, first responders, and other critical personnel; $50 billion over ten years for job training programs through public/private partnerships; and would extend for five years the Work Opportunity Tax Credits that employers receive for hiring persons with barriers to employment, including persons with disabilities. The bill would be entirely paid for through adjustments to the tax code. NLC applauded the introduction of this legislation in a statement issued yesterday.

While the prospects are slim that the bill will be considered this legislative session in its current form, before adjournment, Sen. Harkin, as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, and member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, is committed to bringing up for consideration relevant sections of the bill in those Committees and to working with other Committee chairs to try and advance other portions of the bill.

NLC Joins Brief in Major Immigration Case Before Supreme Court
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

Last week, NLC joined an amicus brief filed in Arizona v. United States supporting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to halt implementation of Arizona’s recently enacted immigration law, S.B. 1070. The brief argues that involving local law enforcement agencies in enforcing federal immigration law directly harms public safety by diverting resources away from the agencies’ core responsibilities. Furthermore, it contends that such involvement undermines the trust between local law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities, making it more difficult for local governments to investigate and prosecute crimes effectively.

The brief, filed by Santa Clara County, California, was signed by 41 cities and counties, NLC, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 25th.

Application Period for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants Opens April 2
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124


On April 2, FEMA will begin to accept applications for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, which support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. The grants’ primary goal is to target high-risk populations, reduce injury, and prevent death. The funds can be utilized for education and awareness, code enforcement, fire and arson investigation, research, or other study. Visit http://www.fema.gov/firegrants/fpsgrants/index.shtm to learn more and apply.

NLC Calls for Creation of National Commission on Crime
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124


As it continues to seek passage of a S. 305, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act to create a national criminal justice system, last week, NLC and a broad coalition of criminal justice, government, religious, and citizens’ organizations also urged President Obama in a letter to use his executive authority to create such a system.


Similar to the legislation, a Presidential commission would be tasked with conducting a comprehensive examination of all aspects of the criminal justice.  The commission would mirror the 1965 Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, which also was established by way of executive order. That commission produced 200 recommendations, marking the beginning of a sea change in the methods for dealing with crime and the public and building the framework for many of the highly effective law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice initiatives that have been in place for the last 45 years.

NLC, Key Stakeholders State Concerns on FEMA Block Grant Proposal
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124


This month, NLC and a coalition of 11 national organizations representing local elected officials and first responders submitted a series of letters to key Congressional Chairs and Ranking Members to express concerns over the proposed consolidation of 16 homeland security grant programs into one state grant program known as the National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP). Currently, the vast majority of these programs fund efforts to prepare local governments for terrorist and all-hazard threats.  It remains unclear whether the new NPGP will require any funds to be utilized at the local level.

The letters were introduced into the record at a series of Congressional hearings regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) FY 2013 budget.  Without consulting the local government first responder community, DHS included this significant overhaul in the appropriations request for FY 2013 rather than urging Congress to overhaul the program through the normal authorization process.

NLC Objects to GASB Expanding Authority
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3029


NLC recently joined with several local organizations in objecting to a Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) proposal to mandate that state and local government financial statements be accompanied by five-year projections of cash inflows, cash outflows, and financial obligations that would accompany their financial statements as supplemental information. According to GASB, its proposal will enable taxpayers, bond holders, and other interested parties to assess a government’s financial health and its fiscal sustainability. In comments submitted on March 16, NLC argued the proposed mandate is unnecessary, confusing, and beyond the legitimate scope of GASB’s jurisdiction to set accounting standards. Click here to view the comments.