By Carolyn Berndt
Just days before the automatic spending cuts were set to take effect last week, the Florida League of Cities brought its Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) to Washington last week to advocate for hometown priorities with members of the Florida congressional delegation and key Obama Administration officials.
A delegation of nearly 40 local leaders from across the state attended the League's annual FAST "Fly-In," a two-day advocacy mission to Washington where they lobbied for continued federal support for the programs that enable communities to grow their economies and create jobs for residents, preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds, allowing local governments to collect the taxes already owed to them on remote online purchases, and a balanced approach to federal debt reduction.
"It is so important for local officials to have face-to-face time with our legislators and the Administration, so they continue to hear firsthand from local leaders about the impact their decisions have on our residents and our communities back home," said Scott Dudley, Florida League of Cities, Director of Legislative Affairs.
Following a legislative briefing from NLC's Federal Relations team, the FAST group headed to the White House for a meeting on the federal budget and the economy with David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jay Williams, Deputy Director, and Aviva Aron-Dine, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.
Following the White House meeting, the group, led by Florida League of Cities President Manny Maroño, mayor of Sweetwater, met with several members of their congressional delegation or their representatives, including: Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) and Reps. Corrine Brown (D), Vern Buchanan (R), Ron DeSantis (R), Ted Deutch (D), Mario Diaz-Balart (R), Lois Frankel (D), Joe Garcia (D), Alcee Hastings (D), Jeff Miller (R), Bill Posey (R), Tom Rooney (R), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), Steve Southerland (R), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), Daniel Webster (R), Frederica Wilson (D), Ted Yoho (R) and C.W. Bill Young (R).
At all of their meetings, the Florida leaders underscored the importance of Washington moving beyond the gridlock but found little reason to believe that will happen any time soon. "We had hoped to hear optimistic plans for a compromise, but each congressional meeting left us with a more depressed outlook for this nation's economic future," said Councilmember Patrick M. Roff, Bradenton, FL.
But, while the Florida officials left with few answers, they did make a difference. "Now, because of our actions," said Councilman Roff, "the members of the 113th Congress will have to consider, among other things, the needs of the citizens of the 400 plus cities in the great state of Florida."
In addition to continuing to advocate for hometown priorities in Washington, D.C., look for Florida local officials to also step up their advocacy efforts back home. "It's important for us to be here in Washington, but we also heard from members of our delegation how important it is for local leaders to use their bully pulpits back home to hold Congress accountable. We plan to help Florida local leaders do that," said Allison Payne, Florida League of Cities, Manager of Advocacy Programs and Federal Affairs.