Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending January 13, 2017

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In this issue:

NLC Tells Congress: Repeal of ACA Must Include Simultaneous Replacement

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

This week, the Senate and House passed S. Con. Res. 3, a budget resolution which includes language instructing the committees of jurisdiction over health care to author a repeal package to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by January 27, 2017. This is the first step in the process to repeal the landmark health care legislation that millions of Americans rely on. While the overall timeline for repeal legislation and potential replacement remains in debate, there is consensus amongst the President-elect and members of the GOP that repeal of this legislation is an immediate priority for the 115th Congress.

In response to this action, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, released a statement calling on Congress "to ensure that any proposal to amend or repeal the ACA sustains and builds upon the nation's progress toward the goal of health insurance coverage for all Americans. Attempts to repeal without replacing ACA threaten to disrupt health insurance markets and increase the number of uninsured individuals in our communities."

Local officials have directly felt the impact of this legislation on our cities and NLC will continue to advocate for Congressional action that protects the 20 million Americans who have gained access to health care coverage through ACA. To add your voice and advocate for continued health care coverage for your citizens, send your story of how the repeal of this legislation would impact your community to advocacy@nlc.org.

Georgia Local Leaders Fly-In to Washington to Advocate for Cities

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

This week, city officials from Georgia traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for city priorities. Following a legislative briefing at NLC's headquarters, Georgia Municipal Association Second Vice President Linda Blechinger, mayor, Auburn, Ga., and Becky Taylor, Director of Federal Relations at the Georgia Municipal Association, met with several members of the Georgia congressional delegation to advocate for closing the online sales tax loophole by passing e-fairness legislation, preserving the federal tax exemption for municipal bonds, supporting long term comprehensive national infrastructure investment, and supporting a balanced approach to telecommunications policy that perserves local regulatory authority.

Mayor Linda Blechinger and Becky Taylor meet with newly-elected Representative and former local elected official Drew Ferguson (R-GA)

Mayor Linda Blechinger and Becky Taylor meet with newly-elected Representative and former local elected official Drew Ferguson (R-GA)

Is your city or state municipal league planning an advocacy visit to Washington, D.C.? NLC is here to help. Email advocacy@nlc.org for assistance and to coordinate your advocacy efforts.

Cabinet Nominees Show Trump Administration Focused on City Priorities 

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Nominees to lead federal agencies in Washington are appearing before the Senate to interview for the job of Secretary in the Trump cabinet.  NLC lobbyists are at the Hearings, parsing testimony and looking for signs on how city priorities are likely to fare after the Inauguration.  Below is what we've learned from each nominee during hearings this week:

  • U.S. Department of State nominee for Secretary Rex Tillerson, Former CEO, Exxon Mobil Corp.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobile Corp., to head the U.S. Department of State. During the hearing, when asked about his belief in climate change, Tillerson said, "The risk of climate change does exist," but avoided saying whether it is man-made and maintained that the science is "inconclusive" in connecting a particular event to climate change. Concerning the international U.N. Climate Agreement, Tillerson said, "I think it's important that the United States maintain its seat at the table in conversations around how to address the threat of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country can solve this alone." It remains unclear how the Paris climate agreement will fare under President-Elect Trump. 

  • U.S. Department of Transportation nominee for Secretary Elaine Chao, Former Labor Secretary

Nominee Chao gave the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee assurances that restoring the Highway Trust Fund - a key priority for NLC - would be a top priority at USDOT.  Chao also indicated that a federal infrastructure investment package may contain direct funding in addition to the questionable investment tax credit proposal put forward during President-elect Trump's campaign.  Following that, Chao pledged to establish an infrastructure task force that would help the president identify what constitutes infrastructure and which projects to prioritize in a potential federal spending package.  NLC will ask Nominee Chao to put city leaders on the task force.

  • U.S Department of Justice nominee for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Senator 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held two days of hearings on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the Attorney General of the United States.  NLC has called on Senator Sessions, if he is confirmed, to commit to working closely with all local government officials and local law enforcement agencies to uphold local decision-making authority, our laws, and the Constitution of the United States.  City leaders will hold Senator Sessions to his stated commitment to ensure the Department of Justice is a unifying force for improving relations between the police in this country and the communities they serve, particularly minority communities.

  • U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development nominee for Secretary Ben Carson, former candidate for Republican Presidential Nomination

Nominee Carson sought to reassure the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs that, despite his lack of prior experience with housing policy, he had developed a compelling vision for HUD and the role of the federal government in housing policy.  Carson voiced direct support for city priorities including rental assistance programs, Community Development Block Grants, and the Choice Neighborhoods program.  He also spoke meaningfully about the connection between housing and health, and the importance of programs such as lead abatement.  Still, Carson is unlikely to be an advocate for greater HUD funding, given his agreement with President-elect Trump's goal of trimming the federal budget across domestic discretionary programs.    

FCC Threatens to Limit Local Land Use Authority on Wireless Siting

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice seeking comment on two topics that could shape the future of city control over their rights-of-way. The FCC's Wireless Bureau requested public comment on how to streamline the deployment of small wireless facilities, primarily through potential changes to local land-use ordinances, and comment generally on a petition filed by infrastructure company Mobilitie regarding local government rules and procedures.

The public notice raises several major concerns for cities. The first is that the FCC wishes to use this proceeding to reexamine the facts of the decisions made in its 2009 and 2014 rulemakings on local wireless facilities siting, questioning whether the evidence presented by local governments during those proceedings is still valid. Specifically, the notice questions the amount of time needed by local governments to process wireless siting applications for small-cell facilities, particularly when submitted in large quantities. The notice requests feedback on streamlining local regulations when similar applications are submitted as batches. The notice also questions the amount and structure of fees charged by local governments for applications and access to rights-of-way.

This week, NLC successfully filed a joint motion for an extension of the comment period. The revised comment deadline is now March 8, 2017, with a reply comment deadline of April 7, 2017.

NLC will comment on this notice, in collaboration with other local government groups and state municipal leagues, and we're calling on cities nationwide to help craft our response. Click here to provide important data on your city's wireless facility siting process by January 27 and to receive a comment template for your city to use in providing your own comment.

EPA Announces WIFIA Funding Opportunity

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of funds for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). WIFIA provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees for large water infrastructure projects of national or regional significance, which includes projects of at least $20 million or $5 million for communities serving less than 25,000 people.

The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) solicits letters of interest from prospective borrowers, outlines the process that prospective borrowers must follow to be considered for WIFIA credit assistance, and establishes relative weights for the selection criteria. Letters of interest from prospective borrowers seeking funding will be accepted through midnight on April 10, 2017.

Funded through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act last year, WIFIA provides assistance for:

  • projects eligible under the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs; 
  • projects for enhanced energy efficiency in the operation of a public water system or a publicly owned treatment works; 
  • projects for repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of a treatment works, community water system, or aging water distribution or waste collection facility (including a facility that serves a population or community of an Indian reservation); 
  • brackish or sea water desalination projects, including chloride control, managed aquifer recharge projects, a water recycling projects, or a projects to provide alternative water supplies to reduce aquifer depletion; 
  • projects to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the effects of drought, including projects that enhance the resilience of drought-stricken watersheds;
  • acquisition of real property or an interest in real property if the acquisition is integral to an already eligible project or pursuant to an existing plan that, in the judgment of the Administrator, would mitigate the environmental impacts of water resources infrastructure projects otherwise eligible for assistance; and
  • a combination of projects submitted to the EPA by an SRF program under a single application or secured by a common security pledge for which there is a single application.

EPA is hosting two webinars on Thursday, February 9 at 2:00-3:30 pm ET and Tuesday, March 7, 2016 at 1:00-2:30 pm ET for prospective borrowers that will provide a short overview of the WIFIA program and explain the process for submitting and evaluating WIFIA letters of interest. Click here to register for the February 9 webinar or here to register for the March 7 webinar.

NLC Leaders Appointed to FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In one of his last actions as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Tom Wheeler appointed four city officials to a new term of the FCC's Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) provides input and recommendations to the FCC on a wide variety of issues as they pertain to state, local, and tribal governments. Last year, under the chairmanship of NLC Information Technology and Communications (ITC) Committee Vice Chair and Wilton Manors, Fla., Mayor Gary Resnick, the IAC published a comprehensive report on local practices in wireless siting.

The new municipal appointees to the IAC are past NLC ITC Committee Chair Andy Huckaba, councilmember, Lenexa, Kan., past NLC ITC Committee Vice Chair Bob Fifer, mayor pro tempore Arvada, Colo., NLC Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force Chair Kasim Reed, mayor, Atlanta, Ga., and Baltimore, Md., Mayor Catherine Pugh. Councilmember Andy Huckaba was also appointed Vice Chair of the IAC.

The IAC's first meeting of 2017 will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 16 and 17, following NLC's Congressional City Conference. For a full list of IAC members, click here.

NLC Recommendations Included in Final USDOT Performance Measure Rule

Matthew Colvin, 202.626.3176

In August 2016, NLC called on cities to weigh in on a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that aimed to create performance measures for congestion, freight movement, and environmental sustainability. These performance measures, once implemented, would help to more effectively tie federal dollars to specific, achievable outcomes. NLC is pleased that USDOT listened to the voices of city leaders across the country and that the final rule, issued this week, took into account many of NLC's recommendations.

As originally proposed the rule completely missed the mark by measuring single occupancy vehicle speed seven different ways without expressing the extent to which alternative forms of transportation, such as transit, walking, or biking alleviate congestion on our roads. What's more, it would have punished cities that place value on slowing traffic through main street corridors, even though many city leaders and residents alike place value on vibrant, multi-modal main street corridors that bring more foot traffic through the doors of small businesses. Finally, the proposed rule did not include clear measures or set targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

The final performance management rule includes the following, as recommended by NLC's Transportation Infrastructure and Services (TIS) and Energy Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Committees:

  • A congestion performance measure that accounts for people hours of delay and the movement of transit and bus riders, pedestrians, bicyclists and can and van pool users, rather than just single-occupancy vehicles.
  • A climate metric to measure and report the greenhouse gas emissions of projects receiving federal funding. 

Unfortunately, the rule is not considered final until it is published in the Federal Register and a date for publication has yet to be set. This makes the rule, and many of these positive changes, particularly with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, susceptible to being withdrawn by the incoming Administration. NLC will monitor the progress of this rule and continue to advocate for finalization in the months ahead.

Join Us For the Inauguration

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

The National League of Cities is welcoming city leaders to Washington for the Inauguration of President-Elect Donald J. Trump. On January 20, 2017, NLC will host an open house at our new headquarters - located just blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Members and partners in Washington for the festivities are cordially invited and welcomed to join us for light refreshments and a warm place to watch the day's events. RSVP here!

WHAT: Inauguration Day Open House

WHO: Members and Partners of the National League of Cities

WHEN: January 20, 2017 from 8:30am - 4:30pm

WHERE: The National City-County Leadership Center, 660 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Save the Date: 2017 Congressional City Conference

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

This March, join city leaders from across the country as we advocate together for city priorities in Washington, D.C. Don't miss this opportunity to contribute your voice and speak up for cities, especially at this important time of change. Register before January 31 to receive the best rate and to join in NLC's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.

Visit ccc.nlc.org for more information about the conference, including the preliminary schedule, and to register today.

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