Federal Advocacy Update

House Passes Bipartisan Water Resources Bill
Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (H.R. 3080)by a vote of 417-3. The $8.2 billion bill authorizes flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects, deauthorizes $12 billion worth of inactive projects that were authorized prior to 2007, and institutes reforms of the Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) processes.

The bill will now move to conference with the Senate versionto work out several key differences, primarily regarding how projects get authorized and the overall authorization level.

Three amendments that NLC advocated for were included in the final bill:

  • #1 - Would establish a multiagency program to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River Basins and tributaries, supporting state and local activities.
  • #18 - Directs the Corps to calculate the national benefits of proposed flood protection projects, including benefits from a reduction in national and regional economic losses.
  • #44 - Requires the Corps to consult with key state and local stakeholders as part of a study for flood and storm damage reduction related to natural disasters.

Comparison of Key Provisions in the House and Senate Bills

  House Bill (H.R. 3080) Senate Bill (S. 601)
Project Authorization Initially authorizes 23 projects at $8.2 billion.Creates a new authorization process for later projects whereby new project ideas could originate locally and be subject to congressional approval. Initially authorizes 18 projects at $12.5 billion.Automatically authorizes later projects that meet a set of criteria.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Increases spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund at a rate of 2 percent per year up to 2020, with a cap at 80 percent, and includes expanded uses for the fund. Would require full proceeds of the Harbor Maintenance Tax to be spent on dredging and channel maintenance by 2020.
Pilot Financing Program Creates a water infrastructure public-private partnership pilot program to finance the construction of at least 15 already authorized water resources development projects. Creates a five year pilot program known as Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.Authorizes $50 million annually for loans and loan guarantees for water resources projects.

Read NLC's statement on the bill's passage »

President Ramps Up Immigration Reform Push

Leslie Wollack, 202.626.3029

This week, the President stepped up efforts to reenergize the House immigration reform debate, even as House leadership expressed doubts that comprehensive immigration reform would be passed this year. On Thursday, President Obama called supporters, including NLC, to the White House urging action. "It's good for our economy, it's good for our national security, it's good for our people, and we should do it this year," he told immigration advocates. The White House also continues to meet with business groups to rekindle the momentum for reform that carried Senate passage of a bipartisan comprehensive bill (S. 744) this June. NLC has joined other organizations in calling on the House to move on comprehensive immigration reform.

With the bitterness of the budget and debt ceiling debate lingering in the House, leadership continues to press for a consensus on immigration among the Republican membership. House leaders are certain that a comprehensive bill would not get House support, and instead plan to continue a "piecemeal" approach to immigration reform using multiple individual bills and ultimately pulling them together during House debate process. Currently, the House Judiciary Committee is considering four different bills; the House Homeland Security Committee has adopted a bipartisan border security bill; and work is underway on a "KIDS" bill to legalize the so-called DREAMERs and deal with other issues impacting children.

Not to be left out, a majority of House Democrats recently introduced their owncomprehensive measure that incorporates provisions from the Senate and House Homeland Security Committee bills, as a way to get the discussion moving again. However, with only 19 legislative days left in the session, House Republican leaders are betting on 2014 to bring up immigration reform. Read more about NLC's position »

While Congress Delays, State Courts Take Up Internet Sales Tax

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

As the House continues to drag its feet in addressing the online sales tax "break", states have picked up the slack, passing laws requiring online retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made by their residents. However, not all of these laws are receiving a warm reception. This month, the Illinois state supreme court struck down a state law requiring collection of online sales tax as unconstitutional. In reaching its decision, the court cited the 1992 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting states from requiring retailers with no physical presence in the state to collect state and local taxes.

The increasing number of states attempting to recoup lost sales tax revenue from online retailers highlights the need for a federal solution. Last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte released a set of principles he believes should guide any marketplace fairness legislation. However, he has yet to introduce a bill encompassing these principles, to hold a hearing on the Senate-passed Marketplace Fairness Act, or to hold a hearing on H.R. 684, which Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) introduced earlier this year. NLC continues to urge the Chairman to hold a hearing and to seek other legislative alternatives to getting the bill through the House. Learn more about the House principles for marketplace fairness »

Budget Talks Set to Begin Next Week

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

A little over one week ago, the President signed legislation (H.R. 2775) that ended the 16 day government shutdown and averted a catastrophic default on the nation's debt obligations. The Senate passed the bill 81-18, followed by a House vote of 285-144. According to Standard and Poor's, the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion (the equivalent of six times the annual appropriation for the Community Development Block Grant program).

While the nation avoided going over these latest fiscals cliffs, the relief may be temporary. The law only funds the federal government through January 15, 2014, and extends the federal borrowing authority only through February 7, 2014. Before then, and by December 13, 2013, House and Senate budget conferees will meet to try to negotiate a longer term budget plan over fiscal year 2014 spending. The differences between the two chambers are significant. The spending gap between the House and Senate is about $19 billion. The House majority wants to keep in place the $967 billion cap set by the 2011 debt deal), and the Senate majority wants to raise it to $986 billion, which matches fiscal year 2013 funding. (H.Con.Res. 25 and S.Con.Res. 8). The negotiations get underway next Wednesday.

With cities only now beginning to show signs of economic recovery from the Great Recession, as the negotiations get underway, NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthonycalled on Congress to do no harm to cities. "Cities are the economic engines of our country. We support Congress and the Administration getting its fiscal house in order but not on the backs of our communities," he said. "That means a balanced approach to managing the deficit. It also means preserving essential investments in America's hometowns and the municipal bond tax exemption."  Learn more about the cost of the federal government shutdown »