Federal Advocacy Update

In this issue:

Legislation to Address Opioid Epidemic Passes the Senate

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

In 2015, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015” (CARA, S. 524).  The legislation would:

  • Broaden prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery;
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives;
  • Allocate more resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment;
  • Increase disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents;
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program. While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country; and
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

With NLC’s support, earlier today, the Senate passed CARA, 94-1.  To see how your Senator voted, click here.  The legislation now heads to the House for consideration. 

NLC and NACo Name Members of Task Force to Address Opioid Epidemic

Yucel Ors, 202.636.6124

At NLC’s Congressional City Conference, in addition to passing a resolution supporting federal efforts to combat heroin and opioid abuse, NLC and the National Association of Counties announced the members of a joint national task force to address this growing crisis.  The Task Force is comprised of city and county leaders from across the country who will aim to enhance awareness, facilitate peer exchanges and identify sound policy and partnership solutions.
To view the list of committee members, click here.

NLC Supports Water Infrastructure Funding in Flint and Nationwide

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, NLC passed a resolution calling for federal support for Flint, Michigan, and for investment in water infrastructure nationwide. The resolution urges Congress to provide direct assistance to Flint, asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve the drinking water crisis, and calls on the entire federal government to support economic recovery in the city.

Recognizing the consequences of disinvestment in water infrastructure nationwide, in the resolution, NLC is also calling on Congress and the Administration to support robust funding for all water infrastructure mechanisms, including the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SFR) programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

In addition to the resolution, NLC sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators requesting robust funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 spending bills. While some members of Congress have proposed to dramatically boost water infrastructure spending next year, and NLC supports these efforts, we recognize that the budgetary situation faced by Congress may prevent total SRF appropriations from reaching the proposed levels.

At a minimum, NLC is calling on Congress to maintain the Clean Water SRF in FY17 at the FY16 level of  $1.4 billion and to bring the Drinking Water SRF to that same level.  The President’s FY17 budget included $979.5 million for the Clean Water SRF (a cut of over $414 million from FY16) and $1.020 billion for the Drinking Water SRF (an increase of over $157 million from FY16).

City Leaders Sound Off on Infrastructure at Hill Briefing

 Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

City leaders sound off on infrastructure at Capitol Hill briefing.

On the final day of NLC’s Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., over 100 congressional staff, local officials, and members of the media gathered in the U.S. Capitol to hear local leaders’ perspectives on the role of local governments - and benefits of local control - in infrastructure projects, including clean water, transit, and broadband internet. Following opening remarks from D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, a long-time champion of local control in Congress, NLC Executive Director & CEO Clarence Anthony started the briefing by announcing NLC’s support for federal assistance to the City of Flint, Michigan, to address the ongoing lead contaminated water crisis. Panelist Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director & CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, also focused his remarks on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and its meaning for federal-state-local government relations nationwide.  In addition, Gilmartin described the ongoing disinvestment in localities by states and the federal government, which means cities are having to “go it alone” in areas where there was once robust intergovernmental cooperation. 
Council Members Greg Evans of Eugene, Oregon, and Andy Huckaba of Lenexa, Kansas, also participated as panelists in the briefing.  Council Member Evans, a Vice-Chair of NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Advocacy Committee, contrasted state and local perspectives on accountability in the transit funding process. Council Member Huckaba, a longtime leader on NLC’s Information Technology and Communications Advocacy Committee, spoke about competing public and private interests in the broadband market.
To close the discussion, NLC 2nd Vice-President, Mark Stodola, mayor, Little Rock, AR, underscored the local perspective on infrastructure finance, telling the assembled crowd, “Our message is clear: we must protect the tax exemption on municipal bonds.” 

In addition to those in the audience in Washington, the briefing was live-streamed over the internet and is still available for viewing on Facebook.

Municipal Finance Caucus Launched to Help Save Tax Exemption

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Last week, Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) announced the creation of the Municipal Finance Caucus to fight for state and local governments’ ability to independently finance projects to keep their communities strong, including protecting the tax exempt status of municipal bonds, a top legislative priority for NLC.  

Last year, Reps. Hultgren and Ruppersberger sent a bipartisan letter to House leadership in support of municipal finance. Joined by 122 of their colleagues (63 Democrats, 61 Republicans in total), the letter asked leadership to reject any proposal to cap or eliminate the deduction on tax-exempt municipal bonds used to finance the vast majority of infrastructure projects in America’s communities. They led a similar letter in the 113th Congress.

Please encourage your House member to show their support for the tax exemption by joining the Caucus.  To join the Caucus, they should contact Bill Hulse with Rep. Hultgren’s office  or Walt Gonzalez with Rep. Ruppersberger’s office.

NLC Joins National Initiative to Expand Broadband Access

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

NLC has joined a national effort to expand access to broadband internet through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Connected Communities Initiative. During the course of 2016, NTIA and its partnering communities will develop and test a tool for local governments to use to assess and improve the level of broadband access, adoption, and digital literacy in their communities. Participating cities will be able to use the tool to assess their community’s current level of connectivity, identify opportunities for advancement, and leverage federal technical assistance to improve their residents’ access and adoption of in-home broadband.

The Connected Communities Initiative is part of a broader federal effort announced this week to connect an additional 20 million Americans to the Internet by 2020. This effort was announced in conjunction with the latest report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors assessing the persistent digital divide between low- and high-income households.

A number of NLC member cities have already pledged to be part of the pilot to develop this tool. If your community is interested in participating, or you would like to learn more, contact NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program at BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov. NTIA has also committed to hosting a series of regional workshops on this topic, the next on March 22 in Seattle.

FCC to Take On Lifeline Modernization

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

The Federal Communications Commission has announced plans to take up modernization of the Lifeline program during its upcoming March Open Commission Meeting. NLC called for this modernization last year, in the wake of similar updates to the E-Rate program to provide affordable Internet connections to libraries and schools. Lifeline, which provides in-home telephone and cell phone subsidies to qualifying low-income residents, must be updated to address advances in technology and the role that broadband internet plays in providing access to education and job opportunities. In its message to FCC last year, NLC said that “local governments know that universal access to fast, reliable, and – most importantly – affordable broadband is a requisite for a vibrant economy, social and civic engagement, equal educational opportunities, and more.”

The proposal is expected to incorporate many of the elements for which NLC advocated, including plans to combat waste, fraud, and abuse, provide flexibility for participants, and minimum service levels for participants. NLC plans to comment on the proposal after its anticipated approval at the March meeting.

FCC Wants Feedback on How Your Community Handles Wireless Facilities Siting

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

As a follow-up to a 2014 Report and Order on the Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has asked its Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC), which includes two NLC city leaders, to prepare a report on current practices in local government review of wireless facilities siting. The FCC and the IAC hope the report will serve as a resource for local jurisdictions and the industry with respect to applications to site wireless communications facilities.

To assist in its preparation of the report, the IAC needs further information from local governments on their communities’ experiences in the wireless facilities siting process. In particular, IAC members are interested in hearing about effective and efficient siting ordinances, rights-of-way agreements for deployment of small cells, creative processes and agreements between government and industry that further deployment, and other siting-related information from municipalities and industry.  The IAC also values examples of “lessons learned” – that is, what has worked, and what has not.

If you have feedback for the IAC on this issue, you can submit it by email to iacwirelessreport@gmail.com. Materials sent will only be shared with the IAC. If the Committee uses your feedback in its report, you will be contacted directly by the IAC.

NLC has also developed resources for cities to assist them in compliance with the Order, including model ordinances and a checklist for compliance.

NLC Releases City Officials Guide on Policing in the 21st Century

Yucel Ors, 202.636.6124

The National League of Cities (NLC) this week announced the release of its newest guide for city officials, Policing in the 21st Century. The guide will inform local officials about the recommendations from President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, providing guidance on how city leaders can work together with their city’s law enforcement officials to implement the principles of community policing.

The guide helps city officials tackle six areas that the President’s Task Force declared necessary for successful community policing:

  • Building Trust and Legitimacy
  • Policy and Oversight
  •  Technology and Social Media
  • Community Policing and Crime Reduction
  • Officer Training and Education
  • Officer Safety and Wellness

The guide also provides sample community policing strategies that cities can use in tandem with a broad municipal commitment to the community policing effort, along with additional resources that city leaders can utilize to secure assistance and funding opportunities. The guide can be found here.

 10 Years of Roberts Court for State and Local Government Webinar

Angelina Panettieri , 202.626.3196

In cases big and small, on issues ranging from race to religion, federalism to free speech, many, if not most, Roberts Court decisions have affected states and local governments. As NLC and the rest of the country anticipate a new Supreme Court appointment, now is the ideal time to reflect on the impact of the Roberts Court on state and local government over the last 10 years.

Join Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog and Goldstein & Russell, Adam Liptak of the New York Times, and David Savage of the Los Angeles Times, in a discussion about the decade-long history of the Robert Court and what might lie in store for states and local governments. To register for the webinar, click here.

When: Wednesday, March 16th
Time: 2 PM EST
Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7704599405402321922
*The webinar is FREE.  Continuing legal education (CLE) credit is not offered.