Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending December 2, 2016

Washington D.C. building
Washington D.C. building

In this issue:

  • Trump Cabinet Begins to Take Shape
  • Playing Offense in Support of Muni Bonds
  • NLC Weighs in on Federal Automated Vehicle Policy
  • City-County Task Force on Opioid Epidemic Provides Strategies for Local Leaders
  • Voice of Cities Represented on Drone Advisory Subcommittee
  • NLC Supports Inclusion of Vets Issues in Lame-Duck

Trump Cabinet Begins to Take Shape

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Three weeks have passed since the presidential election, and the orderly transition of power from President Obama to President-elect Trump is moving ahead. The transition team for President-elect Trump is responsible for filling hundreds of appointed positions throughout the federal government, beginning with the important Cabinet-level nominees who will oversee the allocation of billions in federal program funds to cities and towns. Among the recently announced nominees are the Secretaries of Commerce, Treasury, Transportation, and Health and Human Services.

NLC is requesting meetings with the nominees and their staff during the transition to highlight the priorities of America's cities and towns, and the important role local officials have in the development and implementation of policies enacted at the federal level. This week, NLC delivered meeting requests to Nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Elaine Chao and Nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury Steven Mnuchin. In the coming days and weeks, NLC will work to meet with every nominee and appointee important to cities and towns.

Playing Offense in Support of Muni Bonds

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

As the lame-duck session of Congress entered its second week, NLC cohosted a briefing for congressional staff focused on preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Moderated by NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony, this was the first in a series of intergovernmental policy briefings focused on educating congressional staff about the intricate and important partnership between the federal, state, and local levels of government.

Bond Briefing
State and local budgets and bonds briefing on Capitol Hill (L-R): Timothy L. Firestine, Chief Administrative Officer, Montgomery County, Md.; Matt Chase, Executive Director, National Association of Counties; Scott Pattison, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, National Governors Association; Clarence Anthony, CEO & Executive Director, National League of Cities.

During the briefing on Tuesday, the message from the panel came through loud and clear: tax-exempt bonds that fund a majority of local infrastructure cannot be capped, diminished or dismantled as a pay-for as a part of a tax reform package likely coming in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. In addition, the panel addressed other fiscal challenges expected in the 115th Congress and reaffirmed that localities need to have a federal partner in Congress.

One effort underway in the House to address these challenges is the ongoing work of the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus. Since its founding in March 2016, NLC has been one of the biggest proponents of the Caucus, Co-Chaired by Representatives Randy Hultgren (IL-14) and Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), and it's efforts to present a united front against any effort to alter the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. The Caucus believes in equipping and empowering local government with the tools to thrive - a goal that mirrors NLC's mission.

To help increase the number of municipal bond champions in Congress, today NLC launched an action focused on growing the membership of the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus and we need your help. Click here to send a letter your member of Congress urging them to join the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus and protect the tax exemption for municipal bonds. The next Congress has an opportunity to work with local officials to ensure that cities can continue leading the country to a brighter, more successful future for all Americans. By becoming a member of the Caucus, your representative can join our fight to protect this critical tool for local governments to rebuild and improve America's infrastructure.

NLC Weighs in on Federal Automated Vehicle Policy

Matthew Colvin, 202.626.3176

Last week, the National League of Cities, along with The U.S. Conference of Mayors, submitted a response to the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, issued last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The guidance is a first step from NHTSA, and is largely voluntary for states and manufacturers, but additional rulemakings are expected to be forthcoming.

The comment calls on NHTSA to:

  • Ensure adequate coordination with local governments;
  • Continue funding for automated vehicle planning and pilot projects;
  • Ensure the burden of funding infrastructure needs to facilitate automated vehicles is not placed on local governments;
  • Ensure local control needs are preserved concerning the placement of future infrastructure;
  • Ensure robust cybersecurity and privacy requirements for automated vehicles; and 
  • Coordinate and share data with law enforcement and local transportation officials.

Following the public comment period, NHTSA intends to revise and refine the policy within one year. NLC will continue to follow this process to ensure that federal policy makers do not interfere with city efforts to remain at the forefront of innovation in new transportation technologies.

City-County Task Force on Opioid Epidemic Provides Strategies for Local Leaders

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

During NLC's City Summit, the City-County National Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic released a new report that provides recommendations for how local officials can respond to the growing opioid epidemic through strong leadership, a focus on education and prevention, expansion of treatment and reassessing public safety and law enforcement approaches. The report, A Prescription for Action: Local Resolve in Ending the Opioid Crisis, is the result of the task force's work to identify local policies and practices that reduce opioid abuse and related fatalities.

The task force comes from a joint initiative between the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) in response to the rapid escalation and deadly impact of prescription drug abuse and heroin use in cities and counties. NLC and NACo assembled the 22-member task force, which met twice, in Washington D.C., and in northern Kentucky. These meetings, coupled with countless conversations with local officials from across the country, including public health directors, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and substance abuse directors, enabled the task force to produce this report and its recommendations. The full report and additional resources can be found at: www.opioidaction.org.

Coming on the heels of the report's release, on Wednesday the House overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill aims to speed up the approval for drugs and medical devices through a variety of tweaks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and also encompasses several other big initiatives, including $1 billion to tackle the opioid epidemic. NLC supports this bill and encourages local officials to call their Senators to urge passage of this legislation when it comes up for a vote early next week.

Voice of Cities Represented on Drone Advisory Subcommittee

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Matthew Colvin, Principal Associate for Transportation Policy at NLC, was recently appointed to represent the voice of cities on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Drone Advisory Committee Subcommittee (DACSC). The DACSC was formed to support the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) in its goal of providing an open venue for the FAA and key decision-makers supporting the safe introduction of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System. As the DAC identifies issues and actions to be explored, the DACSC will be tasked with providing the depth and details necessary for the DAC to provide sound advice to the FAA.

Earlier this year, lawmakers considered passing a provision that would prevent local lawmakers from passing regulations that put reasonable time, place, and purpose restrictions on the operation of drones just feet above our heads on both public and private property. NLC led the effort to successfully strip this provision from the FAA reauthorization bill, but preemption remains a key priority for drone manufacturers. Through the DACSC, NLC will continue to fight to ensure local control for local airspace.

NLC Supports Inclusion of Vets Issues in Lame-Duck

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

The issue of homelessness is present in cities and towns across the country. While each individual who is without shelter has a different story and challenge, the underlying characteristic that unites them all is the need for housing. As cities connect resources to those in need in their communities, it is important that Congress work to streamline programming and appropriate funds to support these efforts.

During the Annual Business Meeting at last month's City Summit, NLC membership approved the inclusion of NLC Resolution #16: Supporting Efforts to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness into the 2017 National Municipal Policy. This resolution reflects the importance of aligning federal programming and resources to the work of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the federal strategic plan and the continued work and leadership of NLC through the Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness working with 880 elected officials across the country, the White House, federal agencies, and key partners.

To advance some of the priorities outlined in the resolution regarding appropriations and statutory changes for programs supporting affordable housing, homeless veterans and the chronically homeless, NLC urged the leadership of the House and Senate Veteran Affairs committees to enact critical pieces of pending legislation during the lame-duck session in order to help communities end veteran homelessness across the country.

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