Federal Advocacy Update

With both the House and the Senate adjourning for the August recess, the next issue of the Federal Advocacy Update will be published on Friday, September 11. When Congress reconvenes on September 8, they will face deadlines to pass spending bills to avoid a government shutdown on October 1, raise the debt-ceiling to avoid a government default, and to reach agreement on a long-term transportation bill before the current extension expires. It promise to be a busy fall with issues important to cities and towns front and center. 

In this issue: 

Cities Disappointed Congress Passes Yet Another Short-Term Extension to Fund Transportation Programs - But Senate DRIVE Act Offers Hope

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Congress approved another short-term extension of transportation programs to last until October 29. The extension ensures that transportation projects will be funded through the summer and gives the Senate and House three months to find agreement on a long-term bill. At the same time, NLC supported and the Senate approved the DRIVE Act, a six-year transportation bill that represents an improvement over the status quo.

In a statement on the short term extension, NLC President Ralph Becker expressed disappointment, saying, "Today, for the 35th time in the past decade, Congress has passed a short-term extension to fund the nation's transportation systems. While Congress has promised further consideration of a long-term bill in the fall, it's far too long overdue to have a real and robust, long-term plan that would allow greater certainty in the planning process necessary for good projects that contribute to local economies."

On the DRIVE Act, President Becker commended the Senate for listening to local officials, and urged the House to make the bill even better, saying "The Drive Act affirms that the Senate is hearing the message from local officials' that cities and towns need a long-term federal transportation bill that that respects local decision-making, and that is oriented toward a future of metropolitan growth...but there is much more that could - and should - be done."

In NLC's analysis of the DRIVE Act, the bill generally provides greater local control over federal transportation projects, but in some cases the trade-off is reduced funding for those projects. Specifically, the Act calls for a decrease in funding for the Surface Transportation Program and, as a result, the bill would not completely eliminate the possibility of future disruptions for local transportation projects.

Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced an amendment to increase the percentage of funds allocated to local jurisdictions under the Surface Transportation Program, and during debate NLC made the Wicker-Booker amendment a top advocacy priority. NLC created this chart to show how the DRIVE Act - and the Wicker-Booker amendment - would impact metro areas in each state. Despite a great effort from local officials, the amendment did not get a vote.

With work on a Senate bill complete, the pressure is now on the House to approve a long-term transportation bill before the current short-term extension expires. Among other things, NLC's advocacy strategy for the House will include pursuing a Wicker/Booker-like fix for funding under the Surface Transportation Program.

Do One Thing This Summer to Help Your City

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015, and Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Last month, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA, HR 2775) that will finally give states and local governments the flexibility to require remote online retailers to collect the sales taxes that are already owed on remote purchases. Closing this online sales tax loophole is critical to leveling the playing field for Main Street brick and mortar retailers. Additionally, it would also mean resources for local governments to fund much needed local services like infrastructure and public safety.

Since the bill's introduction, a bipartisan group of nearly 40 additional representatives have signed on as cosponsors. However, to move this legislation and the Senate bill, we need your help getting more representatives to sign on in support. Many cities and state municipal leagues have already sent official letters of support to their representatives.

During the August recess, meet with your members of Congress and ask them to cosponsor e-fairness legislation.

Your congressional delegation is at home until Labor Day, and this is your chance to lobby them in support of S. 698, the Marketplace Fairness Act, and H.R. 2775, the Remote Transactions Parity Act. Legislators need to understand how closing the online sales tax loophole will help your residents and local businesses, and August is a great time to educate them.

It's easy to take action! Download our one-stop guide to meeting with your legislators at home to get started. Once you've gotten your meeting planned, download our one-page fact sheets on the Marketplace Fairness Act if you are meeting with a senator, or the Remote Transactions Parity Act if you are meeting with a representative.

Have a great meeting! Don't forget to share what you do - email us at advocacy@nlc.org with the details, take photos, and tweet using the hashtag #efairness.

Feds Move to Include Municipal Securities As High Quality Liquid Assets

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015

Last year, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation agreed to new liquidity standards designed to strengthen the banking system through clarifying credit and liquidity standards for banks' capital requirements. However, despite the advocacy of a broad coalition of groups representing municipal issuers that included NLC, the new standards failed to include a very strong and stable investment category with deep funding markets - municipal securities. Following the release of the new standards, NLC called upon the regulators to work with us to address our concerns.

NLC's concerns with the new standards centered around the fact that this failure to classify municipal securities as High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLAs) not only overlooks an investment category that contributes to greater market stability, but that this oversight would have negative effects on the municipal securities market and communities across the country by significantly reducing the appeal of municipal securities, resulting in increased borrowing costs for state and local governments to finance desperately needed infrastructure projects.

Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve heeded our call and sought comments on a proposed rule that would amend the 2014 Liquidity Coverage Ratio rule to include some U.S. municipal securities as HQLAs. In its proposal, the Federal Reserve acknowledged the liquidity features of municipal securities, and the need to ensure that investment grade municipal securities are included as HQLAs under the LCR rule. NLC submitted comments that support the inclusion of an even greater number of municipal securities than called for in the proposed rule.

NLC Supports Modernizing Brownfields Program

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101 and Jordan Wilson, 202.626.3029

At a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment last week, NLC submitted a letter for the record applauding the development of legislation that would reauthorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program and asked Congress to include reforms that strengthen the program to support brownfields redevelopment efforts in cities and towns across the county.

Authorization for the program, which provides grants and technical assistance to support the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of Brownfield sites, expired in 2006. NLC supports provisions that will allow the EPA Brownfields program to have a greater impact on communities such as increasing the cap on the assessment grant amount, increasing the technical assistance offered to communities, and authorizing funding for multipurpose grants to provide greater financing certainty for large, complex projects. Additionally, NLC urged Congress to clarify and expand liability protections for public entities that acquire contaminated brownfields sites where the public entity had no involvement in the contamination.

As the House works to write a bill, last month a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act (S. 1479) that would reauthorize the EPA Brownfields program through 2018. The Senate legislation includes many of NLC's recommendations for strengthening the program, but does not address liability concerns.

Bipartisan Consensus Grows for Criminal Justice Reform

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Across the political spectrum, there is a growing consensus on Capitol Hill to make substantive reforms to the juvenile and criminal justice systems to ensure that criminal laws are enforced more fairly and efficiently. NLC is working with Congress and the Administration to promote reforms that support local efforts to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in state and local jails, create alternatives to incarceration and reduce recidivism rates. To complement local initiatives to reform juvenile justice systems already underway, NLC is supporting the several initiatives that would reform the federal criminal justice system. These bills include:

  • S. 1169, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015. This legislation would extend support for a continuum of programs (such as delinquency prevention, intervention, mental health and substance abuse treatment) to respond to at-risk youth or juvenile offenders; phases out "status" offenses-such as running away, skipping school, or underage tobacco use; and authorizes at least $159 million each year to implement the bill in fiscal years 2016-2020.
  • S.993, Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015. This legislation reauthorizes the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) that provides support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams, authorizes investments in veterans' treatment courts.

In addition, last week, the President laid out his case for juvenile and criminal justice reform that looks to make the system fairer, smarter and more cost-effective while keeping the American people safe and secure. Click here for more information about the President's proposal. 

Proposed NLC Policy Resolutions and Amendments Due August 14

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

As part of its annual policy development process, NLC invites all member cities to submit National Municipal Policy (NMP) amendments and resolutions for consideration. The deadline for submissions is Friday, August 14.

Each proposed policy amendment or resolution should also include a document that provides background on the issue, as well as a discussion of its applicability to local governments nationwide.

The NMP is a permanent statement of NLC's position on federal policy matters that directly affect local governments. Resolutions address timely issues or specific pieces of federal legislation and are annual statements of position. Unless action is taken to renew a resolution or incorporate it into the NMP, each resolution expires at the Congress of Cities Conference following its adoption.

All proposals submitted by the deadline will be forwarded to the appropriate policy and advocacy steering committee for review. Upon further action, voting delegates will consider the committees' work at the Annual Business Meeting during NLC's Congress of Cities Conference in Nashville, Tenn., in November.

Proposed policy amendments and resolutions should be submitted in writing to Avery Peters via email at peters@nlc.org or mailed to him at the National League of Cities, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 550, Washington, DC 20004.

August 3: FCC State and Local Government Webinar

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

The FCC will be conducting their State and Local Government Webinar on Monday, August 3 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm ET. The agenda will include Lifeline Reform and Modernization, the Effective Competition Order, and the Consumer Protections order Against Unwanted Calls and Texts. Just for your information, NLC will be filing comments in the Lifeline Reform and Modernization proceeding.

There are a few ways you can access this webinar:

  1. If you would like to register ahead of time, click here. Once registered you will receive a confirmation email message containing instructions for joining the event, the password, and the link for the meeting.
  2. Or, at the time of the webinar, you can click here for their webcast.

Questions can be submitted via email to livequestions@fcc.gov or via Twitter using the hashtag #FCCLive. FCC speakers will respond to questions during the webinar as time permits.

Register Now: Upcoming Free Supreme Court Webinars for Local Governments

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

The Supreme Court issued a plethora of decisions big and small which require local governments to make changes to stay in compliance with the law. A sign code case requires virtually all local governments to rewrite their sign ordinances. The Court's same-sex marriage case also impacts local governments as does a hotel registry ordinance case, a cell phone tower case, a fair housing case, a number of jail cases, and many others. Discuss what you need to know about these case and what you need to do to comply with them with Lisa Soronen, State and Local Legal Center.

Supreme Court Compliance for Local Governments Webinar
Wednesday, September 2, 1:00PM - 2:15PM EDT
Register Online Now

Join John M. Baker, Greene Espel for a more in-depth look at the practical sign code implications of Reed v. Town of Gilbert. In Reed, the Supreme Court ruled that Gilbert's sign code violates the First Amendment. Many, if not most, communities must now revise their sign codes. Most sign codes apply different rules to different categories of signs based on content, which the Supreme Court now generally prohibits. Discuss the practical implications of this case for local governments during this webinar.

Revising Sign Ordinances After Reed v. Town of Gilbert
Wednesday August 19, 1:00PM - 2:15 PM EDT
Register Online Now