Federal Advocacy Update

In this issue:

President Obama to Cities: "You're Part of the Reason Why America is Coming Back"

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President Obama addresses delegates at the Congressional City Conference March 9, 2015

President Obama this week addressed city leaders gathered at NLC's Congressional City Conference in Washington to speak about the importance of local leadership and announce a new initiative to partner with cities, higher education and the private sector to expand access to tech jobs in communities across the country.

Addressing the more than 2,000 conference delegates, President Obama said, "You don't have a lot of time for gridlock. You've got to get the job done." He added, "People are expecting you to deliver. And you're part of the reason why America is coming back."

The new initiative, TechHire, is multi-sector effort and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy. The initiative includes universities and community colleges but also nontraditional approaches such as "coding bootcamps" and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job, often in just a few months.

"Success is going to rest on folks like you -- on mayors, councilmembers, local leaders -- because you've got the power to bring your communities together and seize this incredible economic development opportunity that could change the way we think about training and hiring the workers of tomorrow," said President Obama, referring to TechHire.

The nation's cities and towns are at the heart of the innovation economy, working with entrepreneurs and the education and business communities to create the environment for success and prepare and connect the workforce to high tech jobs. NLC recently announced that the Multi-City Innovation Campaign, a program that helps spur civic technology and innovation across the country, will expand to 25 communities under NLC's leadership in 2015.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015

This week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to close the online sales tax loophole: the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015. Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Corker (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Angus King (I-ME) are the original cosponsors of the bill, which mirrors legislation that passed the Senate in 2013.

"America's cities thank the bipartisan group of senators who introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act today in the U.S. Senate," said NLC President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah. "This legislation is about supporting communities and establishing a fair playing field that allows local businesses to compete with their online counterparts. The bill doesn't raise taxes, but enables city governments to collect the sales taxes that are already owed to them. We call on the Senate to swiftly pass the Marketplace Fairness Act and urge the U.S. House to introduce a companion bill and do the same. America's cities and our local businesses can't afford to wait."

Policy and Advocacy Committees Prepare for Packed 2015 Agenda

By Federal Advocacy Staff

Committee meeting
Discussion during a meeting of NLC's Policy and Advocacy Committees

NLC's Policy and Advocacy Committees advocate on NLC's priorities, provide expertise and insight on federal policy issues, and lead the development of NLC's policy positions that make up NLC's National Municipal Policy. At this year's Congressional City Conference, the committees met to finalize advocacy strategies for NLC's legislative priorities, provided input and feedback on federal programs that impact local governments to federal agency officials, and shared best practices with each other.

The Policy and Advocacy Committees met with a number of experts from federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations, including representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. They planned advocacy efforts in support of NLC's 2015 advocacy agenda, particularly ways to showcase local investment in infrastructure.

NLC's committees also dug into some of the most pressing issues facing cities. For example, the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee began a year-long deep-dive on the topic of water infrastructure in 2015, with an emphasis on financing infrastructure, the affordability of environmental requirements, and climate impacts on water and creating resilient infrastructure. The Information Technology and Communications Committee led a discussion of the impact of the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) recent decisions involving net neutrality and state preemption of municipal broadband and last year's FCC wireless siting order on cities. The Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee discussed programs to build strong police and community relations, reduce social tension, and improve juvenile justice outcomes in advance of the launch of NLC's Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) initiative during the conference.

All of NLC's committees will next meet in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June.

For more information on each committee:

City Leaders Hold Infrastructure Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, White House

Capitol Hill briefing
City leaders discuss transportation investment in a briefing on Capitol Hill

City leaders descended on Washington this week to attend NLC's Congressional City Conference and to advocate for passage of a long-term transportation bill and other city priorities on Capitol Hill and at the White House. At a morning transportation briefing to congressional staff and city leaders, NLC released a new research brief, "Cities, Towns and Common Ground", that outlined the need for federal support of local government decision-making to meet the needs of a 21stcentury transportation infrastructure. In the afternoon, city leaders gathered at the White House with senior Administration and Cabinet officials for a summit on infrastructure.

"Among local officials, no federal priority rates as consistently high as transportation infrastructure. That's because for cities, every transportation project is partnership - with other local and regional authorities, with the state, with the federal government and with the private sector," said National League of Cities President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Despite rapid change in technology and the transportation marketplace, federal policy has remained inert. Cities are leading the charge to modernize transportation infrastructure with innovative, creative solutions. We need support from federal partners that recognize the role of local government to make the best choices for our communities," Becker added.

Also this week, city leaders attended over 100 meetings on Capitol Hill with legislators and their staff to advocate for other city priorities, including preserving the federal tax exemption for municipal bonds and passing e-fairness legislation to close the online sales tax loophole.

New Initiative Focused on Race, Equity and City Leadership Launches with ‘REAL' Talk Town Hall

Following the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Ala., NLC this week announced the "Race, Equity and Leadership" (REAL) initiative to facilitate an honest discussion around race and equity and provide tools that strengthen the capacity of city leaders to drive structural inclusion for all groups. To launch the initiative, NLC held a town hall event at its Congressional City Conference moderated by FOX News political analyst Juan Williams.

The REAL initiative provides NLC with an opportunity to align the organization's unique strengths as a resource and convener of city officials to support their efforts to build communities where racial and ethnic diversity are seen as social and economic assets. REAL builds on a number of programs devoted to equity and inclusion that NLC leads or supports, including City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement, Cities United and My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge.

NLC Provides Resources to Help Communities Comply with the FCC's Wireless Siting Order

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

Last October, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted the Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies Report and 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) and checklist designed to assist local governments in complying with these rules.

As a resource to other cities, if yours has an ordinance or checklist implementing the new rules, please forward a copy to Julia Pulidindi

FCC Publishes Rules for New Open Internet Order

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

Quick on the heels of its February vote to regulate Internet service as a public utility, the Federal Communication Commission released its resulting Open Internet (also known as net neutrality) rules. Key provisions of the rules include reclassifying broadband internet as a public utility, providing the FCC with more enforcement authority, and prohibiting blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization of data.

These new rules l apply 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. NLC and the Information Technology and Communications Policy and Advocacy Committee are reviewing the rules to assess the impact they could have on local governments.

IRS Delays Clarification on State Municipal Leagues in Public Pension Plans

Neil Bomberg, 202.626.3042

Last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced guidance and transition relief for charter schools in public pension plans. Like many state municipal leagues, many charter schools received private letter rulings stating that they are a governmental entities and eligible to participate in state or local public pensions. In its guidance the IRS indicated that it would address the status of public pensions for other organizations claiming governmental entity status, including state municipal leagues, in the future.

Under the IRS's guidance, to be considered part of a governmental entity, charter schools must meet the following criteria:

  • Participates in a pension plan that will always remain a governmental retirement plan;
  • Is nonsectarian and provides a free public education;
  • Is established under state law authorizing the establishment of charter schools; and
  • Is required or has express permission under state law to participate in a state or local retirement plan.

In addition, the charter school must either:

  • Be controlled by a board or body that is controlled by a state or political subdivision, or agency or instrumentality of a state or political subdivision

or meet all of the following requirements:

  • Receive its primary funding from the state or a political subdivision;
  • Maintain the rights of employees to have access to their funds in the pension plan even if the charter school stops participating in the pension plan;
  • Be authorized by a public agency that has the power to approve, renew or revoke the charter school's charter;
  • Is part of a local education agency, or a local education agency itself;
  • Is required to comply with all health and safety standards as well as academic and financial accountability standards; and
  • Is owned by the state, a political subdivision of a state, or agency or instrumentality of a state or political subdivision.

At this time, the IRS has not indicated whether it will use a similar framework for other organizations claiming governmental entity status and therefore able to participate in public pension plans.