Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending January 31, 2014

NLC Responds to State of the Union

Angelina Panettieri, panettieri@nlc.org, 202.626.3196

In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama discussed many issues important to cities, including immigration reform, transportation infrastructure investment, and expanded access to educational services such as early childhood education, college, and workforce training. Prior to the speech, NLC President Chris Coleman, mayor, Saint Paul, Minnesota, called on President Obama and Congress to think local and partner with cities to do the common sense things that can improve people's lives.

"We applaud the President's commitment to work with local officials around the country to make 2014 a ‘year of action,'" said Coleman after the State of the Union. "Action is what we need most; cities need a federal partner that works proactively to support the needs of our residents and communities. We are pleased to hear the president's commitment to working with local elected officials to solve these challenges and restore opportunity for all in our nation's cities."

Read NLC's full response to the State of the Union »

Housing, Education Cabinet Secretaries to Address Congressional City Conference

Angelina Panettieri, panettieri@nlc.org, 202.626.3196

Secretary Shaun Donovan of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education recently confirmed their plans to speak at NLC's Congressional City Conference in March. Secretaries Donovan and Duncan are expected to discuss local-federal partnership and activity on sustainable communities, improving education, and other topics important to local governments.

In addition to these speakers, the Congressional City Conference offers the latest news about federal programs, funding opportunities and resources available to implement the most innovative practices at the local level. The event will include informative workshops, training sessions and opportunities to engage with federal policy makers.

Confirm your attendance at the Congressional City Conference now »

Farm Bill Set to Become Law

Michael Wallace, wallace@nlc.org, 202.626.3025

The President is expected to sign a new $1 trillion five - year farm bill that reauthorizes most rural development and nutrition assistance programs important to cities and towns through FY 2018. The bill passed the House last week on a vote of 251-166; the Senate is expected to approve the bill this week. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will increase spending by $228 million through FY2023 on rural community development and infrastructure programs, as well as programs to improve access to credit for small business.

Among other programs, the bill provides $150 million in spending for the Water and Waste Water Program for drinking and waste water infrastructure; authorizes $15 million for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program (RMAP) for grants to assist rural entrepreneurs in establishing microenterprises in rural areas; and reauthorizes the Rural Broadband program, with funding to be determined by appropriations. The bill also establishes a new Healthy Food Financing Initiative within USDA to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance for projects in severely distressed communities that improve access to healthy, regional and locally sourced foods; and authorizes funding for states to establish pilot jobs programs for food stamp recipients.

Significantly, the measure, a compromise negotiated by a bipartisan group of House and Senate members, ensures that every household currently receiving food stamps may continue to do so, so long as they meet income eligibility requirements. This contrasts greatly to an earlier proposal under which 3.8 million people would have lost their benefits. Nonetheless, because the compromise includes $8.6 billion in cuts over ten years, the actual benefits for a small number of households (approximately 4 percent) will be reduced each month by up to $90, thereby making it more difficult for them to obtain adequate nutrition. 

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

Senate Votes to Delay Flood Insurance Rate Increases

Yucel Ors, ors@nlc.org, 202.626.3124

In response to ongoing advocacy by NLC and other stakeholders, the Senate this week passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 by a vote of 67-32. The bill calls for a delay in skyrocketing flood insurance premium rate increases for some properties called for by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 (BW-12), a law aimed at reforming and financially stabilizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by adjusting premiums to reflect true flood risks in communities.

The Senate bill calls for an up to four year delay in rate increases on all homes and businesses that are currently grandfathered under the NFIP, properties that purchased a new flood insurance policy after July 6, 2012, and properties sold after July 6, 2012. The bill will not delay rate increases for secondary and vacation properties. The delay will give the Federal Emergency Management Administration time to complete the required affordability study and to propose an affordability framework for Congress to consider.

As the Senate took action to delay rate increase, the White House expressed concern that the delay called for in the legislation would further erode the financial stability of the program. There are a number of proposals in the House that would delay the rate increases, but no date has been set for action on them yet.

NLC continues to support changes to BW-12 that will keep the Flood Insurance Program affordable while balancing the fiscal solvency of it. 

Transportation Reauthorization Heats Up in 2014

Leslie Wollack, wollack@nlc.org, 202.626.3029

As Congress prepares to debate transportation reauthorization, the U.S. Department of Transportation is raising awareness over the impending funding shortfall for highway, bridge, and transit programs in 2014 with its online Highway Trust Fund Ticker. As the ticker shows, the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund is expected to encounter a shortfall before the end of FY2014, coinciding with the expiration of the current transportation spending program, known as MAP-21. NLC has named transportation funding as a key legislative priority this year, calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive surface transportation bill that gives cities a greater role in decision-making for transportation projects.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, emphasized the need for a long term national transportation policy that addresses the shortfall and treats rail, transit, ports and roads as an interconnected system in a recent meeting of mayors in Washington, D.C . He warned that delay in solving the shortfall will be particularly harmful to local communities and their ability to use transportation as a way to attract private investment. At the same meeting, Secretary Foxx applauded House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster  for his bipartisan work on recent water resources legislation, and called for a similar effort on transportation reauthorization. Chairman Shuster, who also attended the meeting, called for a stronger partnership between local governments and the federal government on transportation issues.

Secretary Foxx has called on local officials to let Congress know what transportation means to their communities. Foxx told local leaders to "show [congressional representatives] what you are doing, what you want to do, and why it is not happening." NLC's upcoming Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. will feature more information on the upcoming transportation debate, how local officials can play a strong role, and key messages for Congress in enacting a new bill.

New in the Cities Speak Blog

Angelina Panettieri, panettieri@nlc.org, 202.626.3196

Visit NLC's blog at citiesspeak.org for recent updates on these hot policy topics and more:

Read more in the Cities Speak blog »

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