Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending March 10, 2017

US Capitol
US Capitol

In this issue:

Mark Your Calendar: 2017 CCC Highlights

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

With NLC's 2017 Congressional City Conference right around the corner, be sure to mark these activities on your calendars to get the most out of the conference:

  • Federal Advocacy Committee Meetings: Start your conference experience by attending NLC’s Federal Advocacy Committee meetings on March 12 to learn more about our policy development process and how the Committees are leading NLC’s advocacy efforts.
  • Conference General Sessions: With speakers ranging from MSNBC political analyst Nicolle Wallace to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and bestselling author J.D. Vance, the conference general sessions will be full of political insight and analysis on America today.
  • Federal Agency Round Robin: This is your opportunity to make connections in Washington and hear directly from federal agencies. You’ll engage in facilitated small group discussions with Administration officials and other local elected leaders through a series of 20-minute rotations
  • Advocacy Central: Before or after your workshops, visit the Advocacy Central desk to get the latest advocacy materials, pick up your schedule for our Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, or get answers to your advocacy questions.

Visit the Congressional City Conference website to get the latest updates on conference programming, speakers, and schedules.

Local Officials to Tell Congress: It Takes Cities to Move America Forward

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

The first federal budget proposal of the Trump Administration is due to arrive next week.  It may arrive on the very same day as NLC’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, following the Congressional City Conference.  Local officials won’t have to wait until advocacy day to get on message thanks to media reports on early drafts that show potential cuts in the following areas for FY2018:

  • A proposed $54 billion defense spending increase to be offset by an equal reduction in domestic discretionary funding.
  • A HUD budget that may be cut by $6 billion, eliminating programs including CDBG and HOME.
  • An EPA budget that may be cut 25 percent, eliminating programs including brownfields redevelopment, Clean Power Plan implementation, and Energy Star grants.
  • A FEMA budget that may be cut by 11 percent, amounting to a $370 million reduction for disaster assistance
  • A Commerce budget that may be cut by 18 percent, virtually eliminating the Economic Development Administration. 
  • An Interior Department budget that may be cut by 10 percent.

If the early reports are accurate, the Trump Administration FY18 Budget will represent a significant across the board reduction of federal investments in the nation’s cities.  On Thursday, NLC, NACo, and USCM responded directly to reports that Community Development Block Grants might be proposed for elimination, saying in a joint statement, “The National Association of Counties and The United States Conference of Mayors visited Congress last week and solidified support for CDBG. The National League of Cities will follow next week. Together, strongly united with the full force of our organizations, we will demand from Congress, representing the people that sent them to Washington, that they take action to speak and vote against any proposal to cut or eliminate this vital and successful federal program.”

For NLC's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, local officials will be taking a pocket guide to show Members of Congress why it takes cities to move America forward.  Among other things, the guide points out that federal grants to cities compose 0.28% of the federal budget, a small investment that yields big returns.  That guide is available on the NLC website and in the conference app.

NLC Urges Congress to Protect America’s Health Insurance

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On Tuesday, the National League of Cities released a new issue brief detailing the top five provisions that local leaders hope will be protected as legislators in Washington consider reforms to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This one-pager will serve as the key talking points for local leaders on this issue as they come to Washington in the coming week to meet with their congressional representatives during the 2017 Congressional City Conference.  

In addition to the one-pager, NLC released a statement in response to the House Republican’s plan to replace the ACA earlier this week, which seeks to remove the mandate for health insurance coverage and creates a new system of tax credits focused on the open market. NLC will continue to advocate for the inclusion of a replacement plan that provides the same level of health insurance coverage in any repeal of the ACA and is working to ensure that the repeal does not place the burden on cities.

Executive Order Calls for EPA Review of ‘Waters of the U.S’ Rule

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United Status” Rule. Subsequently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) submitted a Notice of Intention to Review and Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule to the Federal Register. 

Under the Executive Order, EPA and the Army Corps will begin the lengthy process of reviewing the 2015 Clean Water Rule (also known as ‘Waters of the U.S.’ or WOTUS) and then either “rescinding or revising” the rule. The Executive Order directs the agencies to consider relying on the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s narrower plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States, rather than Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in that case that waters must have a “significant nexus” to actual navigable waters. Justice Scalia argued that the Clean Water Act strictly applies to “navigable waters,” and only applies to non-navigable waters if the waters are “relatively permanent, standing, or flowing bodies of water,” such as streams, rivers, lakes, and bodies of water forming geographical features. 

While implementation of WOTUS has been under a nationwide stay since October 2015, NLC continues to have concerns about the practical and financial implications of the rule, as well as the process used (not used) in developing the rule. Specifically, NLC is concerned that the broad definitions in the 2015 rule could lead to an expansion of federal jurisdiction and continued confusion for communities over what is and is not a “waters of the U.S.” and that the exclusions will not provide complete coverage for communities.

As EPA goes back to the drawing board on WOTUS to provide greater clarity and regulatory certainty concerning which waters fall under Federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, the Agency will have to conduct a rulemaking process to withdraw the current rule as well as a rulemaking process to propose a new rule, both of which are probably subject to eventual legal challenges.

In a CitiesSpeak blog this week, Lisa Soronen, Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center, explains the impact that the Executive Order might have on the legal challenges to the WOTUS rule, as well as the options that President Trump has for undoing various federal regulations. 

NLC Urges FCC to Protect Local Authority in Wireless Siting Proceeding

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In comments filed jointly with five local government organizations, the National League of Cities urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to avoid a one-size-fits-all mandate in its efforts to speed up the deployment of small-cell wireless networks. NLC fought federal perceptions of cities as roadblocks to wireless development, arguing that city governments are already working hard with wireless industry actors to negotiate mutually agreeable fee structures, appearances, and locations for wireless infrastructure. NLC also highlighted the important reasons cities actively manage their rights of way for the benefit of the public.

The comments also maintain that existing interpretations of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are sufficient, and that further FCC rulemaking is not needed to limit local fees for access to rights of way or other public property, or to direct local governments how to calculate those fees.

The FCC will accept reply comments on this matter until April 8, 2017 and NLC will continue to advocate for local authority in wireless siting.

House Cybersecurity Bill to Provide Dedicated Funding to Local Governments

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
A new bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) this week, would offer state and local governments the opportunity for additional federal funding to support their local cybersecurity preparedness efforts. The State Cyber Resiliency Act creates a competitive grant program through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that distributes funding to state and local governments in states that have met certain cybersecurity planning standards. The grants can be used to provide training, fund targeted workforce development, or support information sharing efforts.

NLC applauded the introduction of the bill. “Cities manage substantial amounts of sensitive data, including data on vital infrastructure and public safety systems. It should come as no surprise that cities are increasingly targets for cyberattacks from sophisticated hackers,” said NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, Ohio. “Cities need federal support to provide local governments with the tools and resources needed to protect their citizens and serve them best.”

To encourage your congressional delegation to cosponsor these bills, click here.

Additional Cabinet Nominees Confirmed by Senate

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week and with bipartisan support, the Senate confirmed four more Cabinet nominees by President Trump – U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. 

The Senate voted 72-27 to confirm Ross, who will oversee an agency that governs federal economic development programs, broadband promotion, economic data gathering and analysis, and the U.S. Census, among other activities to promote business, manufacturing and trade. Ross comes to the position after decades of investment in the manufacturing and energy industries, where he specialized in the buyout and restructuring of distressed businesses.  

Former Montana Representative Zinke was confirmed by the Senate in a 68-31 vote. Having voiced strong support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps cities create parks and open space in their communities, during his confirmation hearing, as well as in his address to Department of Interior employees, he called for addressing the reducing the backlog of maintenance in the National Park Service.

Former Texas Governor Perry was confirmed by the Senate in a 62-37 vote. During his confirmation hearing and shortly after being sworn into office, Perry expressed support for an all-of-the-above energy strategy. The Department of Energy oversees important energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, as well as that nation’s national laboratories that provide valuable data and research for cities. 

Finally, the Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Carson as the 16th secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Cities need federal housing policies that encourage affordable homeownership, promote affordable rental housing, and provide special needs housing and transitional housing for the homeless,” said NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland.

All but two of President Trump’s cabinet nominees are now confirmed. Awaiting confirmation are former Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Alexander Acosta to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. 

NLC Calls for Elevation of Local Officials in Federal Smart Cities Planning

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Last week, NLC provided feedback to the Smart Cities and Communities Task Force, a federal interagency group managed through the National Science Foundation, on its draft Smart Cities and Communities Federal Strategic Plan. The plan is intended to coordinate federal agency activity to support smart city initiatives, prioritize federal research on smart cities, and promote the sharing and deployment of best practices.

NLC applauded the plan’s focus on individual city needs and priorities, and encouraged the Task Force to incorporate collaboration with NLC and other stakeholders in its implementation. NLC also highlighted the plan’s inclusion of data sharing and standardization, which were among the recommendations it made in its recent smart cities report. In addition, NLC called on the Task Force to create a larger role for local officials in the planning and implementation process, because of their critical role in planning for, funding, and deploying smart cities initiatives.

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