Federal Advocacy Update

In this issue:

NLC President Calls for Increased Transportation Funding for Local Priorities

Mike Wallace, 202.626.3025

NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah testifies before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah testifies before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that increased investment in local transportation priorities was a critical pathway to economic vitality. In a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Becker urged Congress to find a sustainable funding source for a new federal transportation program that would give more control to local and regional authorities.

"By necessity, locals are stretching the value of every dollar to invest in small- and large-scale projects of practical design," said Becker. "We are making existing corridors more efficient and multimodal; and doing so in ways that increase capacity at less cost to the taxpayer. These locally-driven solutions are offering more travel options to the public, helping shippers and businesses keep goods and products moving, and delivering a bigger boost to investors, developers and our economies overall."

However, Becker also highlighted the need for federal partnership in these local transportation solutions. "Every link in the movement of goods - from ports, agricultural centers, and manufacturing plants to their destination - should be strong. But our first and last miles are falling behind. The federal government is devoting significant investment to the modernization of U.S. ports to accommodate super-max containerships and ensure America's global economic leadership. Investments in the roads between our ports and highways should be made in conjunction with ports modernization, but unfortunately these municipally owned stretches of road are among our most neglected."

To read the full testimony, visit NLC's website.

NLC Asks EPA to Delay New Ozone Standards

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, NLC submitted comments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed rule on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. Under the proposed rule, EPA solicited comments on reducing both the primary and secondary standard to within a range of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb) over an 8-hour average. EPA also took comments on setting the standard at a level as low as 60 ppb. The current standard is 75 ppb, which was set in 2008.

Because of the financial and administrative burden that would come with a more stringent NAAQS for ozone, NLC asked EPA to delay implementation of a new standard until the 2008 standard is fully implemented. The 1997 standard of 80 ppb is still generally used by regions and it will take several additional years to fully implement the more stringent 2008 standard.

A more stringent NAAQS for ozone will dramatically increase the number of regions classified as non-attainment. By EPA's own estimates, under a 70 ppb standard, 358 counties and their cities would be in violation; under a 65 ppb standard, an additional 558 counties and their cities would be in violation. According to EPA, under this proposed rule a 70 ppb standard would cost approximately $3.9 billion per year; a 65 ppb standard would cost approximately $15.2 billion annually to implement. (The cost to California is not included in these calculations, since a number of California counties would be given a longer timeframe to meet the standards.)

As required by the Clean Air Act, EPA would make attainment/nonattainment designations for any revised standards by October 2017; those designations likely would be based on 2014-2016 air quality data. States with nonattainment areas would have until 2020 to 2037 to meet the primary standard, with attainment dates varying based on the ozone level in the area.

EPA plans to issue final ozone standards by October 1, 2015.

Show Your Support for Executive Action on Immigration

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

In January, the mayors of 33 cities, the National League of Cities (NLC), and U.S. Conference of Mayors filed a joint amicus brief in the U.S. District Court opposing a motion by 25 governors seeking a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of President Obama's immigration executive actions. This effort was led by city leaders, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The District Court judge granted the governors' preliminary injunction and implementation of the executive actions has been halted. The U.S. Department of Justice is now appealing the District Court judge's decision in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. I write to invite your city to sign onto an amicus brief to be submitted to the Court that is being drafted by the City of New York in support of the President's Executive Action. NLC has joined this brief, along with individual cities and mayors, including Mayor Becker.

The timetable is quite short: If you are interested in joining the brief, a copy of it will be sent to you for review. You are being asked to sign on as quickly as possible and no later than Thursday, April 2 at noon, as the brief must be filed with the Court by April 6, 2015. NLC is working in partnership with the Cities of New York and Los Angeles on this effort. To receive a copy and sign on to the brief, please email Jeremy Shweder at the New York City Law Department at jshweder@law.nyc.gov, listing the signature block, with an attorney for the mayor or city as signatory, to be included in the brief. Even if you joined the district court amicus brief, please still send an email to affirm your sign-on to the Fifth Circuit brief.

The brief will focus on the fourth element of the preliminary injunction standard: whether the injunction will disserve the public interest. The district court purported to balance the public interest and found that the interest that "weighs the heaviest" was ensuring that actions of the executive branch comply with the law. Although the cities filed an amicus brief explaining why granting a preliminary injunction would be strongly contrary to the public interest, the district court failed to consider the cities' asserted interests and gave only cursory consideration of the public's interest in general.

If you have any questions, please contact Carolyn Coleman at the National League of Cities at coleman@nlc.org or 202-626-3023 or Geraldine McIntyre with NYC Federal Affairs, at gmcintyre@cityhall.nyc.gov or 202-624-5922.

Letter to Protect Muni Bonds: Did Your Representative Sign?

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015

Yesterday, over 100 representatives signed on to a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter authored by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) urging House leadership to support the preservation of the tax exemption on municipal bond interest.

The traditional tax exempt status of municipal bonds is now regularly under threat whether it be as a part of a deficit reduction plan, a push for comprehensive tax reform or as an offset for new spending. Municipal bonds are the primary way state and local governments finance the public infrastructure yet several federal proposals have emerged over the last few years, including the President's FY'16 budget proposal, that would modify the tax exemption or eliminate it entirely.

Participation in Dear Colleague letters is an important way for members of Congress to show support for legislative priorities and influence debate. If your representative is on the list of signatories, please thank him or her. If your representative is not, please urge them to protect municipal bonds in future tax reform and budget efforts.

In Case You Missed It: NLC's Wireless Siting Webinar

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

This week, NLC hosted a webinar to help local government officials and staff better understand how they can prepare for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wireless Siting Order. The FCC unanimously adopted the order to promote the deployment of infrastructure that is necessary to provide the public with advanced wireless broadband services, consistent with governing law and the public interest. Earlier this year, these rules were published in the Federal Register with an effective date of April 8, 2015.

Following the announcement of the Order, NLC partnered with other local government associations, as well as wireless industry associations, to develop a model chapter (ordinance) designed to assist local governments in complying with these rules.

Panelists on this week's webinar discussed the importance of wireless broadband for their communities and how local governments are getting ready to respond to the new FCC rules. You can view a recording of the webinar online, or click below to see each panelist's individual slide deck:

Internet Tax Ban Amendment Thwarted

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

Yesterday, Sens. Thune and Wyden introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution to make the ban on taxing Internet access permanent. While the budget resolution eventually passed, the Senate did not take a vote on this amendment, which would essentially have acted as a test vote on the level of support for their Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act (S. 431.) While no vote is a win, local governments are not completely out of the woods yet on this issue. Both the House and the Senate have introduced legislation to make the ban permanent (H.R. 235 and S. 431), which have not been scheduled for consideration.

ITFA would make permanent the existing moratorium on state/local taxation of Internet access service. It also would eliminate the grandfather provision that protects existing taxes in 7 states (HI, NM, ND, OH, SD, TX, WI). NLC opposes any measure to preempt local taxing authority and will continue to advocate against this legislation.

While not timeframe has been set for action on H.R. 235/S. 431, it is still important to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to vote against any measure to make the ban on taxing Internet access permanent. If you are from a state that was grandfathered into the current Internet Tax Freedom Act's exemption from the moratorium, your voice is particularly important in this debate.

Tell NLC How Your City is Recovering

Emily Robbins, 202.626.3131

The national perspective and dialogue about current economic recovery masks the varied experiences of cities and towns across the country. To better understand the nature of local recovery, the National League of Cities is conducting the Local Economic Conditions Survey. With your participation, this survey will provide a unique window into the local factors shaping economic recovery, emerging issues taking hold in cities and the responses and priorities of local governments. Please complete the survey by Friday, April 10, 2015. The survey should take about 10-15 minutes to complete. All survey participants will receive a copy of the final survey report from NLC.