Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending March 24, 2017

Capitol Building
Capitol Building

In this issue: 


In a Victory for Cities, House Cancels Vote on the American Health Care Act

This afternoon, Speaker Paul Ryan canceled the previously-delayed vote on the American Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1628; AHCA), the GOP replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. President Trump and Speaker Ryan have been hard at work this week negotiating with members of the House Freedom Caucus to amass the needed votes to advance the legislation to the Senate but were unable to amass the needed votes for passage. The rejection of this legislation was due to dissatisfaction from both sides of the aisle – those who believe it goes too far and those who believe it doesn’t go far enough. President Trump has signaled that he will now turn his attention to tax reform and an infrastructure package.
Leading up to today’s decision, the Congressional Budget Office released two estimates on the impact of the bill, including an update yesterday that incorporates the four recent manager’s amendments to the bill. This updated estimate projected that the legislation will increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million in 2026, increase premiums and reduce the federal deficit by $150 billion, which is a decrease from the original bill.
The National League of Cities applauds the members of Congress who stood with cities and rejected this bill, which is an insufficient replacement plan for cities and local governments nationwide and does not support our basic principles for reform. Thank you to city leaders who took action through NLC's action alert on Wednesday, and those who took targeted actions, calling on Members of Congress to vote against AHCA.  As Congress sets its sights on other priorities, now’s the time to call on Congress to develop a budget plan focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity, and investing in the future of cities.

Trump Budget Proposal an Attack on Vital City Programs

Michael Wallace, 202-626-3025
Last week, the White House released a budget proposal that slashes funding for crucial programs that cities and their residents rely on by cutting more than $54 billion in domestic spending across the board. The President’s budget proposal not only asks cities and towns to do a lot more with a lot less, it represents a vision of unprecedented withdrawal of federal investment in America’s neighborhoods and communities and an abandonment of the role the federal government traditionally plays as a stakeholder in cities.
A quick scan of programs proposed for elimination reveals what is at stake for all American cities, large and small:
  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program for Affordable Housing

  • Economic Development Administration Grants (EDA)

  • Transit New Starts for Public Transportation

  • TIGER Grants for Public Transportation Projects

  • Minority Business Development Agency

  • Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Grants

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)

  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

  • Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants

  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Grants

  • Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

  • Weatherization Assistance Program

  • The Clean Power Plan

Trump Budget

In response, NLC President Matt Zone called on Congress to throw out the President’s proposal and come up with a real plan for prosperity. Additionally, more than 650 city leaders signed NLC’s action letter - published in the Roll Call newspaper- urging Congress to stand with cities and #FightTheCuts. And on March 15, hundreds of local leaders traveled to Capitol Hill to deliver this message in person.   
NLC leaders urge Congress to stand with cities during NLC’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.
NLC leaders urge Congress to stand with cities during NLC’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.
NLC continues to call on Congress to throw out the White House’s budget proposal and develop a new plan focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity, and investing in our future. 

City Officials to Congress: It Takes Cities to Move America Forward

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094
During this year’s Congressional City Conference, more than 2,400 city leaders from across the country met with Congress and Trump Administration officials, shared best practices in city governance and worked together to develop a National Municipal Policy advocacy platform.
On Sunday, March 12, NLC’s seven Federal Advocacy Committees met to learn about the current federal political landscape, deliberate policy positions and review action plans in support of NLC’s advocacy priorities. With applications still being accepted for committee membership, conference delegates packed the rooms to learn more about the work of the Committees. For more information on each Committee or to submit an application, click here.
Committee Collage
NLC's seven Federal Advocacy Committees meeting during the 2017 Congressional City Conference.
Throughout the conference, attendees advocated for city priorities in several ways. In an effort to preempt what were then early reports of the President’s budget and explain the dire impact the potential cuts will have on cities, more than 650 city officials signed a letter urging Congress to fight the cuts to city programs. This letter was sent a letter to Congress and published in the Roll Call newspaper on March 15. In addition, dozens city leaders gathered for a picture and added their names to a letter to the White House demanding real climate action.  
Finally, on March 15 over 600 city officials descended on Capitol Hill and met with over 250 members of Congress and their staffs during NLC’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. Together, local leaders raised their voices about the importance of federal investment in cities and the need for a strong local-federal partnership. 
Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
NLC's Executive Committee and city leaders meet with members of Congress during an advocacy day on Capitol Hill.
Want to continue making a difference for cities from home? Help NLC #FightTheCuts and join the fight to protect federal funding for cities by: 

Add Your Support: Stand with Cities to Act on Climate

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101
With President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal cutting or eliminating federal programs that support local energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, as well as climate research, mitigation and adaptation programs, and an executive order aimed at rolling back climate policy expected in the near term, city leaders are coming together to send a strong message that the local commitment to acting on climate change is as strong as ever. 
During NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, Ohio and Mayor Chris Coleman, Saint Paul, Minn., cosigned a letter asking President Trump to protect our nation's environment by encouraging continued strong national leadership and commitment to taking action on climate change. Click here to read the letter and add your name to help preserve environmental goals that have directly improved the health, safety and welfare of our residents and communities.
Climate picture

NLC Supports House and Senate Integrated Planning Bills

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101
This week, NLC lent its support to House and Senate legislation that would codify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Planning and Financial Capability policies as useful tools for local governments to comprehensively deal with wastewater and stormwater investments, as well as unfunded mandates.
In the Senate, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), was introduced this week and is identical to language that was included in the Senate-passed version the water resources bill, but not included in the final bill that President Obama signed late last year. Similar to the Senate bill, the Water Quality Improvement Act is sponsored by Representatives Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and was introduced earlier this year.
Both bills would allow local governments to work with their state and EPA to prioritize investment in wet weather overflows and flooding collectively, rather than individually, by codifying EPA’s memorandums on green infrastructure, integrated planning and affordability, and allow for consideration of other service costs including drinking water. Together these provisions will help reduce costs for fixed- and low-income citizens who spend a significant portion of their income on water and wastewater bills. The legislation would also allow local governments who undertake integrated planning to incorporate green infrastructure components into municipal stormwater, combined sewer overflow (CSO) and other water plans in a more cost effective way. 

DeVos, Pruitt Address Local Officials at CCC

At NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference, Administrator Scott Pruitt of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Secretary Betsy DeVos of the U.S. Department of Education spoke with conference delegates about the Trump Administration’s priorities for the environment and education. 
During at the Tuesday afternoon general session, Administrator Pruitt spoke about his willingness to work closely with local elected officials on environmental issues and to be a partner to cities to protect the environment and our natural resources, as well as grow jobs at the local level. Specifically, he spoke about importance of the superfund and brownfields programs in helping to clean up communities and create jobs; his commitment to working with Congress and the White House to ensure that water infrastructure grants are effectively used to help local officials provide clean and safe drinking water; and improving attainment levels for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards at the local level through cooperation and partnership and assistance, rather than punishment.
On March 13, Secretary DeVos joined the Mayor’s Education Task Force to hear directly from mayors representing large and medium-sized cities about ways in which cities and the Department of Education can continue to partner together over the next four years.  The close to 20 mayors who attended the meeting shared their first-hand experiences on the programs and services impacting youth, schools and families in their communities.  Secretary DeVos shared her excitement about continuing to work with city leaders and NLC as she begins her work with cities, schools and communities across the country.  

More than 150 Representatives Signify Support for Muni Bonds

Brett Bolton, 202-626-3183
Earlier this month, a Dear Colleague effort, spearheaded by Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus co-founders Representatives Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Dutch Ruppersburger (D-MD), concluded after amassing support from 154 members of Congress. The letter, which was sent to House Ways & Means Committee leadership, expressed support for municipal bonds as a key financing tool for states and local governments. The letter also urged the Committee to recognize the vital role of tax-exempt municipal bonds in any tax reform discussions. 
Thanks to the advocacy of local officials across the country on this important issue, support for the tax exemption on municipal bonds is at an all-time high in the halls of Congress. As of today, 40 members of Congress have joined the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus since its founding in March 2016. In addition, this year’s “Dear Colleague” letter effort exceeded previous efforts by 36 signatures. 
While this bipartisan letter draws a line in the sand by informing House leadership that altering the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds is not an option to fill federal coffers, the fight to maintain the tax-exemption on municipal bonds is still in front of us. Despite their enormous success as a financing tool that drives development while saving local governments interest costs, several federal proposals have emerged over the last few years that would modify or eliminate the tax exemption. 
As Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, we must stand strong in defense of municipal bonds and we need your help. Send a letter to your member of Congress urging them to join the Congressional Municipal-Finance Caucus and protect the tax exemption for municipal bonds.
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