Federal Relations Update

May 25, 2012
Federal Relations Update is a member service from the National League of Cities.
Period Ending May 25, 2012

Transportation Authorization Negotiations Continue

NLC Urges Congress Not to Undermine Local/Federal Partnership

Race to the Top Grants Announced for Local School Districts

NLC Weighs in on Clean Energy Standard Proposal

WEBINAR: Building a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

WEBINAR: Major Supreme Court Cases Affecting State and Local Governments

Transportation Authorization Negotiations Continue
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

A nearly 50 member House and Senate Conference Committee continues to work to try to iron out differences on a two-year surface transportation bill before the current extension expires on June 30. Organized into 10 working groups, Committee members are charged with finding middle ground between the Senate-passed bill, MAP-21 (S. 1813) and a House-passed measure that extends the current program through September 30.

NLC continues to track the progress of the Committee and its working groups and to post updates on the negotiations, including those regarding key issues for local governments, on our website.

NLC Urges Congress Not to Undermine Local/Federal Partnership
Carolyn Coleman, coleman@nlc.org, 202.626.3023

Last week, NLC warned congressional leadership that provisions in two measures that passed the House and Senate would inhibit collaboration and communication between the federal government and its state and local government partners.

The provisions, included in the DATA Act (H.R. 2146) and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789), are a direct response to the recent General Services Administration spending scandal but would severely restrict the participation of federal agency personnel at conventions, conferences, and meetings hosted by federal agencies and non-governmental organizations like NLC.

In a letter to House and Senate leadership, NLC and the largest national associations representing state and local governments acknowledged the importance of reducing spending and promoting transparency but argued that the well-intentioned provisions would have unintended consequences that would harm the intergovernmental dialogue.

As associations who regularly convene hundreds of events each year to help state and local government officials implement and oversee federal programs and monitor federal activity, the groups urged Congress “to oppose the provisions like those in H.R. 2146 and S. 1789 that would undermine the intergovernmental relationship between federal, state, and local governments.”

Race to the Top Grants Announced for Local School Districts
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

This week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that local school districts will soon be able to compete for Race to the Top District Grants. A total of $400 million will be available for 20 grants to local school districts (or a consortium of districts) that have developed innovative education programs to improve learning in schools where 40 percent or more of students qualify for federally subsidized school lunches. Districts seeking a grant must demonstrate specifically how they will dedicate resources to preparing “students facing significant challenges, such as students with disabilities, English learners, and students affected by the impacts of poverty or family instability” for college. Grants will range from $15 to 25 million over four years.

Before finalizing the grant application, ED is soliciting comments on a draft executive summary. The comments are due by June 8 at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

NLC Weighs in on Clean Energy Standard Proposal
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Clean Energy Standard Act (S. 2146), sponsored by Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). The bill would create a market-based credit trading program to reduce the amount of carbon emissions from the electricity sector through the use of renewable and clean energy sources. In a letter to the Chairman regarding the bill, NLC called for a “national energy policy that relies on renewable and clean energy sources, promotes energy efficiency, and provides economic and environmental benefits.” NLC also called for energy efficiency measures to be a key component of a new national energy policy.

Beginning in 2015, the bill would require large utilities to obtain 24 percent of the electricity they sell from clean energy sources, including renewable energy, qualified renewable biomass, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power, qualified waste-to-energy, qualified combined heat and power, and coal with carbon capture and storage. The percentage of electricity required from clean energy sources would then increase gradually to 84 percent by 2035. Initially, utilities that sell less than 2 million megawatt hours of electricity will be exempt, with the exemption threshold decreasing gradually to 1 million megawatt hours after 2025.

While S. 2146 is unlikely to become law in the remainder of this session, it is an important marker for future legislation that NLC will continue to monitor.

WEBINAR: Building a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network
Mitchel Herckis, herckis@nlc.org, 202.626.3124

In February, Congress and the Administration seized an opportunity to take a major step forward by replacing the current patchwork of voice-only first responder communications with a modern nationwide 4G wireless network that will ensure our first responders receive the information they need when disaster strikes. Now it is up to federal, state and local leaders to work together to build and operate the network.

On June 6 at 2:00 PM (EDT), NLC will host a webinar, “Building a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network: What Local Leaders Need to Know,” to help local leaders understand their role in building this network. Anna Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the U.S. Department of Commerce, will provide an overview of the path to creating the network and the role state and local governments will play in making the network a reality. As local first responders will be the primary users of this network, municipalities have a key role to play in the network's planning and construction.

In addition to NLC, the National Association of Counties, International City-County Managers Association, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors are co-hosting the webinar. Click here to register for the webinar. To learn more about the network, click here.

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

Legal experts are calling the current U.S. Supreme Court term one of the most important in terms of federalism, with the Court addressing questions of where does state and local authority end and federal power begin, and who allocates that division.

To help city leaders make sense of what's at stake, on July 19 from 1:00 to 2:15 PM (EDT), the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) is offering a FREE webinar covering the major cases from the Supreme Court’s current term affecting states and local governments. The webinar speakers are 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 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.

Space is limited, so reserve your spot now.