Federal Advocacy Update: Week Ending September 25, 2015

In this issue: 

  • NLC Launches #CitiesLead2016 for the Presidential Election 
  • Will the Federal Government Be Open For Business on October 1? 
  • Deadline October 14: Apply to Serve on a Federal Advocacy Committee Now 
  • Transportation Advocates Turn Attention to the House 
  • Moratorium on Internet Access Taxation Extended in Continuing Resolution
  • City Leaders Continue to Press for E-Fairness 
  • EPA Solicits Comments on Procedural Updates to MS4 General Permits 
  • White House Releases Plan to Expand Broadband 

NLC Launches #CitiesLead2016 for the Presidential Election

Carolyn Coleman, 202.626.3023

Colbert Kean Iowa

This week, NLC launched its campaign to make city issues a focus in the 2016 presidential election, #CitiesLead2016. Lead by NLC First Vice President Melodee Colbert Kean, council member, Joplin, Mo., city leaders gathered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the center of early presidential campaigning, to announce NLC's plans and issue a call to action for presidential candidates.

"Today we launch Cities Lead 2016: our call to presidential candidates to address the issues that matter to cities," said First Vice President Colbert Kean, council member, Joplin, Mo. "Candidates from both parties must recognize that city issues are America's issues."

At the core of #CitiesLead2016 is its issue platform for America's cities. NLC has asked presidential candidates to focus on the three issues highlighted as most important to city leaders in this year's State of the Cities study: the economy, investment in infrastructure, and public safety.

Over the next 13 months of campaigning, city leaders will have many opportunities to meet and speak with presidential candidates from both parties as they travel the nation. NLC hopes to use those conversations to focus candidates on the issues that matter most to the 80 percent of American voters living in cities and towns.

To get involved and lend your support to the campaign, read our campaign platform online and sign on as a supporter. Together, we can make a difference for America in 2016!

Will the Federal Government Be Open for Business on October 1? 

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

With October 1 quickly approaching, Congress and the White House have only a few days left to take action on a spending bill that would avert a federal government shutdown. On Thursday, a short term continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government open until December 11 and defund Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate. The first vote on a clean CR that does not target Planned Parenthood is expected in the Senate on Saturday with a final vote next Tuesday. With the surprise announcement that Speaker Boehner will step down on October 30, House Republicans have now said they too have an agreement to pass a clean CR to avert a government shutdown.

While local governments may be able to withstand any impact from a shut down in the short term due to prudent fiscal management, the longer a shutdown, the greater the potential impact on not only federal resources available to local governments, but also on the broader economy. This could mean less tax revenue for all levels of government to spend on infrastructure and other services. 
Our message to Congress: Pass a clean continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through fiscal year 2016.

Deadline October 14: Apply to Serve on a Federal Advocacy Committee Now

Avery Peters, 202.626.3196

Are you interested in making even more of a difference for cities?

Serving on one of NLC's federal advocacy committees is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a local leader to bring your expertise to the service of cities and towns at the national level. By representing your city or town and contributing your voice, you have the opportunity to shape the efforts of the National League of Cities to proactively drive federal policy on issues that matter the most to cities. Depending on your availability and the level of commitment you seek, there is a spot for you to get involved with NLC.

Applications are available now to serve on the seven Federal Advocacy Committees. All applications are due October 14, 2015.

Want to learn more about the work of each committee? Click here to find out which committee is the best fit for you.

NLC's in-coming president appoints the leadership and members for the seven federal advocacy committees for the upcoming year. Leadership and members serve a one-year term and are eligible annually for reappointment. Committee chairs also serve as members on NLC's Board of Directors.

Appointment to a Committee requires:

  • Attendance at all meetings
  • Commitment to actively advocate on NLC's organizational priorities, as well as meaningfully contribute to the Committee you are serving on
  • Your city to be a member of the National League of Cities

You may submit a Federal Advocacy Committee Member Application here. The application is due by Wednesday, October 14, 2015.

Transportation Advocates Turn Attention to the House

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

The House was caught by surprise in July when the Senate introduced and approved the DRIVE Act, a bipartisan, six-year transportation bill. Up until that point, the House was focused on additional short-term extensions to keep transportation funds flowing. With no long-term proposal to consider, Senate leaders sensed an opportunity and urged the House to quickly approve the DRIVE Act before the August recess. House leaders resisted the gambit, and instead pushed through another two-month extension for transportation funding. That extension ends on October 29, and House leaders are on the hook to deliver their own long-term proposal before time runs out. The House bill may represent the final opportunity for city advocates to have an impact on federal surface transportation programs over the next six years. 

Although NLC supported the Drive Act as an improvement over the status quo, some shortcomings remained. The DRIVE Act would enact policy changes sought by cities to restore certainty in the planning and financing of transportation projects and to improve local control; however, the DRIVE Act would also perpetuate funding cuts to local areas that were enacted three years ago under the previous transportation bill, MAP-21. Under this law, local areas share of Surface Transportation Funds was reduced by 20 percent.

NLC is urging the House to introduce a bill that restores Surface Transportation Funds to local areas. To kick-off our efforts, Mayor Becker joined with the leaders of other local government groups including USCM and NACo to deliver a message to the House encouraging it to increase funding and authority for local decision-makers and to place a renewed emphasis on locally-owned infrastructure.

During the month of October, NLC is calling on local leaders to share this message with their House congressional delegation. Do your part and deliver a copy of Mayor Becker's letter, along with your support, to your Representative!

Moratorium on Internet Access Taxation Extended in Continuing Resolution

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

Legislation to avert a federal government shut down (see above) also includes a provision that would extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) moratorium, until December 11, 2015. The current moratorium is set to expire on October 1. If passed, this would mean local governments would once again escape the possibility of a permanent ban on collecting internet access taxes.

But that relief may not last for long. The House has already passed legislation (H.R. 235) that would permanently ban local authority to collect taxes on internet access, and legislation is pending in the Senate (S. 431). Besides extending the moratorium permanently, both versions also repeal a grandfather clause, which today enables several states to collect the tax. Repeal of that clause would mean the loss of almost $500 million annually in the seven states (Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin) that collect the tax.

NLC opposes this legislation and will continue the fight to block its passage.

City Leaders Continue to Press for E-Fairness

Priya Ghosh Ahola, 202.626.3015

Joplin, MO
Advocates and congressional staff at a meeting in Joplin, Mo.

NLC continues to work with city leaders in urging Congress to take action in support of e-fairness and closing the online sales tax loophole. Hundreds of city leaders, state municipal leagues, business owners, and other allies have reached out to their U.S. representatives in support of the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA, HR 2775). As many did during the August recess, NLC 1st Vice President Melodee Colbert Kean, councilmember, Joplin, Mo., and local business leaders also met with her congressional delegation to highlight the impact of inaction on their city.

So far, as a result of your efforts, more than 150 House members have been contacted about supporting RTPA. The number ofco-sponsors on the bill has multiplied from the original eight to 50. Despite this momentum, more co-sponsors are needed to move the legislation this year.

If you haven't already, please contact your House members and thank them for their support if they are already a co-sponsor, or urge them to cosponsor the bill if they have not. If you would like to send your representative an official letter from your city, you can download sample letter language to use. You can also view a current list of organizations who have endorsed the bill online. Do your part to get e-fairness legislation passed this year.

EPA Solicits Comments on Updates to Stormwater Regulations

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Stemming from a 2003 court decision, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a timeline for updating its Phase II stormwater regulations regarding the procedures to be used for providing coverage to small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) under general permits.

The purpose of this rulemaking is to fix certain deficiencies that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in the permitting process for small MS4s covered under general permits, namely the lack of permitting authority review and the lack of public participation in the permitting process. This rulemaking applies to operators of a "regulated small MS4," of which 94 percent are permitted under a state general permit. There are 6380 small MS4s covered by general permits nationwide.

Under the recently negotiated timeline, EPA will published a proposed rule by Dec. 17, 2015 and a final rule by Nov. 17, 2016. In the forthcoming proposed rule, EPA will solicit comments on one of the three options currently under consideration, however, communities are invited to provide feedback by early October on the options ahead of the proposed rule.

The options that EPA is considering are:

  1. A traditional General Permit approach whereby the General Permit includes clear, specific and measurable provisions and the permittee is required to submit a Notice of Intent that the requirements will be met (current examples include Western Washington Small MS4 General Permit and California Small MS4 General Permit and EPA Region 6 Middle Rio Grande MS4 General Permit);
  2. A procedural approach whereby the permit authority establishes a mechanism to approve individual MS4 programs (current examples include Minnesota and Texas); or
  3. A state choice approach whereby the permit authority can chose to follow either option one or two or a hybrid of the two.

Additionally, seven states do not issue general permits, but rather individually permit their small MS4s and would therefore not be affected by this rulemaking: Delaware, North Carolina, Michigan, Iowa, Alaska, Idaho (EPA is the permitting authority), and Oregon.

Click here to view EPA's recent presentation on the rulemaking

White House Releases Plan to Expand Broadband

Julia Pulidindi, 202.626.3176

The White House released the Broadband Opportunity Council Report that describes concrete steps that 25 federal agencies will take over the next 18 months to eliminate barriers and promote broadband investment and adoption. These actions make an additional $10 billion in federal funding available for broadband projects. NLC, along with our local government partners, provided input to NTIA during the development of this report.

As part of the Council's recommendations, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, under its BroadbandUSA program, will create a main access portal to link federal broadband resources, policies, and grant guidance. It is also charged with collaborating with members of the Council to determine how best to implement key recommendations to improve broadband access.

NLC will continue to provide input and feedback to the NTIA and the Council as the implementation plan is developed.

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