Federal Advocacy Update

In this issue:

Congress Moving on Continuing Resolution; Would Defer Debate Over FY15 Appropriations to Post-Election Session

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

The House and Senate returned to Washington after a five week recess for an abbreviated session in which they will need to pass a temporary spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), in order to avoid a government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends on September 30. Action on a CR is necessary because, in a pattern familiar to local officials, Congress was unable to approve any of the FY15 Appropriations bills under regular order before the September 30 deadline. The CR will likely authorize funding at current levels until the middle of December, which will allow Congress to defer debates and votes on the FY15 spending bills until after the November mid-term elections. If the CR is approved, as widely expected, cities and towns will experience no disruption in federal funding.

NLC Calls for Renewed Partnership to Reinvest in Our Water Infrastructure

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony speaks on Capitol Hill

NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony speaks at a Capitol Hill briefing

This week, NLC joined local governments and water utility and industry leaders to call attention to the state of our nation's aging infrastructure, the staggering need for water infrastructure investments, and the impact that such investment would have on local, regional and national economies.

A report released this week by the Water Research Foundation and the Water Environment Research Foundation, National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector, is the first in the industry that looks at the job creation, labor market, and economic benefits of 30 of the largest water and wastewater agencies based on actual capital programs and operating budgets.

The report found that these 30 utilities contribute $52 billion in economic output annually and support more than 289,000 permanent jobs annually. Over the next decade, these the utilities will put $233 billion into the economy - $145 billion in operating spending and $88 billion in capital spending.

While these investments are substantial, they "represent only a modest proportion of the nation's unfunded water infrastructure needs," the report states. "The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the nation's capital need over the next 20 years to be approximately $720 billion in total: $20 billion annually for drinking water infrastructure and an additional $16 billion per year for wastewater infrastructure."

In a congressional briefing, moderated by NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony, a panel that featured public and private sector representatives highlighted the report's findings and underscored the need for and impacts of investments in water infrastructure. Although the EPA estimates are substantial, Anthony said, "[O]ther estimates put the cost at more than $4 trillion to maintain and build a 21st Century water system. Clearly, the time is now to renew federal-local partnerships and reinvest in our water infrastructure."

To read more about the report and the event, click here.

Florida City Leaders Advocate for Hometown Priorities in Washington

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Florida city advocates visit Washington, DC

Florida city leaders prepare to visit federal policymakers in Washington, D.C.

This week, city leaders from throughout the state of Florida, joined staff from the Florida League of Cities in Washington, D.C. to lobby federal policy makers on a variety of city priorities. Following a briefing at NLC's offices hosted by NLC's executive director Clarence Anthony and the Federal Advocacy team, the group met with members of the Florida congressional delegation and the Administration to push for passage of marketplace fairness legislation, preservation of the tax exemption for municipal bonds, and other priorities.

Florida city leaders meet with White House and federal agency staff

City leaders meet with White House and federal agency officials

The group also met with the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives to discuss improvements to FEMA's processes for auditing spending and recovering federal funds from local governments after extreme weather events.

"Having face to face meetings with our congressional delegation in D.C. has provided an opportunity for city officials to strengthen their relationships with members of Congress," said Scott Dudley, Florida League of Cities Legislative Director. "This gives our membership a chance to provide real world examples of how the decisions made in Washington affect their cities back home and ensures that Members of Congress know that their city officials are paying attention to what is going on in our nation's capital."

City leaders traveling to Washington to meet with federal officials are invited to visit NLC's office and discuss their advocacy priorities and activities with NLC staff. For more information or to schedule a visit, contact Carolyn Coleman, NLC's director of federal advocacy.

NLC Highlights Value of Municipal Broadband for FCC

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

In comments filed with the FCC last week, the National League of Cities highlighted the importance of the availability of municipal broadband networks as catalysts to stimulate businesses development, foster work force retraining, and boost employment in economically underachieving areas. NLC filed the comments in response to petitions from the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, TN, and the City of Wilson, NC, asking the FCC to act pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt portions of Tennessee and North Carolina state statutes that restrict their local ability to provide broadband services.

This proceeding comes at a time when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is paying special attention to the issue of municipal broadband networks. On July 10, Chairman Wheeler noted the value of these local networks and specifically pointed out the economic impact of Chattanooga's network. Chairman Wheeler wrote "If the people, acting through their elected local governments, want to pursue competitive community broadband, they shouldn't be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don't want that competition."

NLC will continue to monitor this proceeding and advocate for local control and authority on issues relating to municipal broadband networks.

Fed's New Liquidity Standards Fail to Include Municipal Bonds

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015

Last week, 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.

NLC's concerns with the new standards center around the fact that this failure to classify municipal securities as High Quality Liquid Asset (HQLA) not only overlooks an investment category that contributes to greater market stability, but that this oversight will 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.

In a statement released following the federal regulators actions, NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony applauded the efforts by the regulators to strengthen the banking system and warned of cities on-going concerns with the new standards. "Cities remain concerned that unless changed, the new rules will reduce the appeal of municipal securities for banks to underwrite them, thus increasing borrowing costs for state and local governments for desperately needed infrastructure projects," he said. "The cost impacts on governments could be significant, as bank holdings of municipal securities and loans have increased by 86 percent since 2009. We hope that regulators will work with us to address these concerns as they explore improvements to the new rules."

NLC's 2015 Leadership and Steering Committee Appointments Process Gets Underway

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

The process for leadership and membership appointments to NLC's Committees and Councils is now officially underway.

"Achieving the goals of NLC's bold strategic plan and ensuring that local governments collectively have a powerful advocacy voice in Washington, can only be realized with the strong leadership of the chairs and vice chairs of NLC's committees and councils, along with committee membership, and NLC's five constituency groups," said NLC Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony.

Leadership Positions Open

The incoming NLC President will appoint chairs and vice chairs to NLC's Policy and Advocacy Committees; the Council on Youth, Education, and Families; the International Council; the Large Cities Council; the Military Communities Council; the First Tier Suburbs Council; the Small Cities Council; and the University Communities Council.

City officials from NLC member cities who are interested in serving as Chairs and Vice Chairs should complete and submit online applications and biographical statements by October 3. Committee chairs and vice chairs will be notified of their selection in late October or early November.

Steering Committee Membership Positions Open

In addition, the incoming President will appoint city officials to be members of the Policy and Advocacy Steering Committees, the University Communities Council Steering Committee; and the Small Cities Council Steering Committee.

City officials from NLC member cities who are interested in serving as members on one of these Committees should complete and submit online applications by November 24. The Steering Committee appointments will be announced in December.

All appointments will be for a one year term.

"2015 will be an important year as we continue to implement the strategic plan and transform NLC into the most relevant, powerful force for cities that it can be. Now is the time to get active in NLC by leading or joining a committee. If you have a passion for advocacy and public policy and want to engage with federal policy decision makers about the effects of federal legislation on your city, then you should be a part of NLC's Committees and Councils. The leadership and membership of these groups will be essential to our success in Washington and our communities next year," said Anthony.

To learn more about these committees and councils and to complete the online application, visit the NLC website. All committees and councils will meet for the first time at the Congressional City Conference, which will be held March 7-11, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

Congress of Cities to Feature Prominent Political Journalist

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Former White House correspondent and political journalist David Gregory is set to be the keynote speaker for the closing general session during NLC's Congress of Cities in Austin. Gregory will cap off a conference dedicated to helping city leaders explore the future of cities by sharing his perspective and insights on politics, current affairs, and the role of mass media in society. Gregory, known for his sharp observations and accounts of being one of the president's most necessary challengers and litmus testers, is sure to close the Congress of Cities with thought-provoking stories, insights, and challenges for city leaders to take into the future.

Visit the conference website for the full event program, and register today to ensure your opportunity to hear David Gregory this November in Austin! The early bird registration deadline is September 30th.