Federal Relations Update

January 25, 2013

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January 25, 2013

Tax Exemption Still Vulnerable; Action Needed
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

Earlier this week, leadership of NLC, the National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors met in Washington, D.C. and pledged that their organizations will work together to convince Congress and the Administration not to limit the tax exemption for municipal bonds in any tax reform or deficit reduction efforts this year. The meeting was timely in that the House and Senate reached agreement this week on legislation to allow the U.S. Treasury Department to continue borrowing to meet the nation’s financial obligations and to avoid any potential default on the nation’s debt until the summer and will now turn their attention back to deficit reduction efforts. 

This coordinated effort is needed now more than ever based on meetings NLC’s lobbyists have had over the last several weeks with numerous congressional offices. It is clear from these meetings that members of Congress continue to view limiting the tax exemption as a viable option for reducing the deficit and are misinformed or not aware of the harm doing so will have on local tax payers and communities. It also is clear that, if the exemption is important to local officials, they need to contact their congressional delegations to let them know. To view copies of letters that members of Congress have received from local officials and the state municipal leagues, click here. When you send your letter to Congress, be sure to send a copy to NLC, so we can add it to our website.


Feds Take Action in Response to Gun Violence Tragedies
Neil Bomberg, bomberg@nlc.org, 202.626.3042

A week after President Obama introduced his plan aimed at reducing gun violence by calling for universal background checks, increasing access to mental health services, and making schools safer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to ban assault weapons. To view a summary of Senator’s bill, click here. NLC is supporting both the President’s and the Senator’s efforts, which are consistent with NLC’s National Municipal Policy on firearms and ammunition that can be viewed here.


Immigration Debate Ramping Up
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

As a source of innovation and economic growth throughout the nation's history and in our cities, NLC has been calling on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform for years. It’s beginning to look like that may happen this year. The push for comprehensive immigration reform is heating up as the President, members of Congress, and the business community have all identified it as a key legislative priority. Taking the first step on his campaign promise and following his call for it in last week’s inaugural address, the White House announced earlier today that President Obama will release a legislative proposal next week that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and an employment verification system.

In the Senate, with both political parties acknowledging the impact reform supporters had on the 2012 elections and the nation’s changing demographics, a bipartisan group is working to develop a framework for comprehensive immigration reform. The Gang of Eight, which includes Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer (NY), Dick Durbin (IL), Michael Bennet (CO), Bob Menendez (NJ) and Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mike Lee (UT) and Jeff Flake (AZ), is quietly putting together a comprehensive legislative proposal. Independently, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has offered his own outline of a proposal.

Support for action also is coming from business and labor organizations, which are not often on the same side of an issue, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO joining together to demand legislation that includes a path to citizenship, as well.

In the days ahead and as the outlines of legislation begin to take shape, we’ll be encouraging local officials to get engaged in this debate, helping members of Congress see the economic impact of inaction and the need to take action to fix the broken immigration system.


Legislation Introduced To Permanently Preempt Internet Access Taxes
Lars Etzkorn, etzkorn@nlc.org, 202.626.3173

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced legislation this week to permanently extend the existing moratorium on internet access taxes (S. 31). Under current law, state and local governments cannot (1) impose new taxes on internet access or (2) impose any multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. These prohibitions were imposed originally by the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 for three years. They were extended subsequently several times, with the latest set to expire on November 1, 2014. The bill with no cosponsors was referred to Senate Finance Committee, with no hearing or other action scheduled. As we did when the latest extension became law in 2007, NLC will oppose this effort to preempt local taxing authority.


DOT Rolls Out Map-21
Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

As the Department of Transportation rolls out rules for implementing the new and current surface transportation bill, MAP-21, House and Senate transportation leaders have begun mapping out future plans for the next bill. MAP-21 expires in 2014. A big obstacle to a new program is finding an alternative source of revenue to fund it. With the authorized spending levels for the program continuing to exceed the gas tax revenues being taken in, the Highway Trust Fund that supports federal surface transportation programs is running a deficit.

The new House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer have made surface transportation funding and reauthorization among their top priorities and plan to meet in the coming weeks to talk about funding. As those talks get under way, NLC will be at the table to ensure federal policy makers understand the important role of transportation in communities and the need for local input in transportation decision-making. City officials can be a part of this effort by meeting with members of Congress in their districts to share the same message with them.

More information on MAP-21 can be found from the US Department of Transportation at: www.dot.gov/map21. In addition, the Transportation for America Coalition will sponsor a MAP-21 webinar on Thursday, January 31st at 2:00 PM EST. You can register at this link: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=lgb4dpxm5610


EPA Allows for Electronic Delivery of Drinking Water Reports
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a memorandum, “Safe Drinking Water Act - Consumer Confidence Report Delivery Options,” clarifying options for delivering Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs). The memorandum clarifies that water suppliers may use electronic delivery options for CCRs, including delivery of the report’s URL, to comply with the requirement to “directly deliver” the CCR. NLC supports this decision.

The purpose of the CCR is to raise customers’ awareness of where their drinking water comes from, the quality of their drinking water, what it takes to deliver water to their home, and the importance of protecting drinking water sources. The CCR Rule, as established in the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and finalized in 1998, requires each community water system serving more than 10,000 people to mail or otherwise directly deliver a copy of its CCR to each customer annually.

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NLC Applauds EPA Memorandum Assessing Local Government Financial Capability
Carolyn Berndt, berndt@nlc.org, 202.626.3101

Last week, in a memorandum to the Regional Offices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new dialogue with local governments to clarify how the financial capability of a community will be considered when developing schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet Clean Water Act (CWA) obligations. The memorandum, “Assessing Financial Capability for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements” is the result of numerous conversations with and input from communities across the country on the fiscal impact that regulatory compliance has on communities.

Over the course of the year, EPA and local government representatives will discuss the use of 2 percent of median household income (MHI) as a financial indicator of community affordability; how to expand the use of benchmark indicators of household, community and utility affordability; how to meet the obligation of the CWA by utilizing flexibilities in the statute and implementing regulations to prioritize necessary investments; how rate structures present both limitations and opportunities; how innovative financing tools, including public private partnerships, are related to affordability; how to facilitate consistent policy implementation at EPA Regional offices; and how other community specific factors, including obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, should be considered in developing appropriate compliance schedules.

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In This Issue

Tax Exemption Still Vulnerable; Action Needed

Feds Take Action in Response to Gun Violence Tragedies

Immigration Debate Ramping Up

Legislation Introduced To Permanently Preempt Internet Access Taxes

DOT Rolls Out Map-21

EPA Allows for Electronic Delivery of Drinking Water Reports

NLC Applauds EPA Memorandum Assessing Local Government Financial Capability


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