Federal Advocacy Update: Week of April 25, 2017

US Capitol
US Capitol

In this issue:


“Shutdown” Not a Negotiating Tactic for Cities

Michael Wallace; 202.626.3025

This week, the White House and Congress must agree to a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 spending package before the current stopgap funding expires on Friday to prevent a government shutdown.  The most immediate of the several possible obstacles to a deal is an eleventh-hour request from the White House to include a $1.4 billion down payment on construction of a border wall to deter illegal immigration. 

At this late date, more than half way through the fiscal year, any significant shift in funding priorities for FY 2017 could result in the clawback of federal funds already obligated in local budgets or spent out by local governments.  If border wall funding is included in the FY 2017 spending package, it could come at the expense of domestic discretionary funding, like CDBG. 

If a deal cannot be brokered before the Friday deadline, Administration and Congressional leaders are indicating that a short, one-week stopgap may be approved instead to buy more time to negotiate a larger bill to fund the government through September. 

NLC is urging Congress and the President to enact a clean spending bill that maintains funding for city priorities at existing levels for the remainder of FY 2017. To make your voice heard, call your members of Congress today and ask them to be a champion for cities.


Conversations Continue on Healthcare Reform – Rumblings of Another Deal

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

Last week, the President made public comments regarding his optimism that the House would once again take up healthcare reform this week as a result of ongoing negotiations with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NCD), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group.  Through these negotiations, an amendment has been discussed that would give states the option to apply for waivers to opt out of core Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements, including allowing insurers to charge higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions as long as the state also offers a high-risk pool and repealing ACA’s essential health benefits, which define minimum plan benefits, including those for mental health.

These amendments as discussed may draw more votes from conservative members, but would likely lose some of the more moderate members concerned with protecting those with pre-existing conditions.  The amendment also does not alter any of the proposed deep cuts to Medicaid that exist in the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Over the April recess, NLC met with the staff of many of the moderate members of the House Republican party that remain in-play on this bill to continue to advocate for our position. As Congress returns this week and turns its sights towards the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, it will be important to continue to voice our concerns to your members of Congress about the key provisions to health care reform that are essential to cities. 

NLC to Testify on Unfunded Mandates

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, Councilmember Jermaine Reed, Kansas City, Mo., will testify on behalf of NLC on how the federal government can reduce unfunded mandates and unnecessary regulatory burdens on local governments. At a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs, Councilmember Reed will call for improving the Federalism consultation process and the way in which local government input is considered.

Additionally, citing the difficult choices that local governments make to provide services to citizens, maintain local infrastructure and the concern about whether federal programs can be reduced or eliminated without shifting the costs to local governments in the form of unfunded mandates, Councilmember Reed will call on Congress to reject the proposed budget cuts put forth by the Trump Administration.

The hearing will be live streamed on the Committee website on April 26 at 10 am EDT.


During April Recess, Cities #FightTheCuts

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Over the last two weeks, city leaders across the country raised their voices to fight for federal investment in cities. While members of Congress were home during the April congressional recess they called on Congress to develop a budget focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity and investing in America’s cities. Below are a few highlights of how city leaders called on federal elected officials to stand with cities this budget season:

  • City leaders from Anchorage, Ala., to Aurora, Colo., and Brick, N.J., engaged their members of Congress and urged them to preserve funding for programs vital to cities through letters, calls and attendance at townhalls.
  • The impact of federal funding in communities was highlighted during community events and in-person meetings with members of Congress in cities across the country, including Fayetteville, Ark., and Decatur, Ga.
  • And our message was amplified through traditional media, like this op-ed authored by Mayor Randall Henderson, Ft. Myers, Fla., and on social media.
April recess activities
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) meets with the Mayors of Lithonia, Decatur, and Clarkston, officials from Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Rockdale Counties, and Becky Taylor, Georgia Municipal Association’s Director of Federal Relations and Research; Councilmember Tim Busse, Bloomington, Minn., tweets about meeting with Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN); Mayor Lioneld Jordan shows the impact of CDBG in Fayetteville, Ark. (from L-R

With Congress back in Washington, D.C. the fight continues. Click here to learn how to take action and join us as we advocate for federal investment in cities.


How Proposed Budget Cuts Will Halt Progress in Cities

Will Downie, 202-626-3139

As part of the National League of Cities’ #FightTheCuts April congressional recess efforts, NLC staff and local leaders from cities across the country highlighted how the Administration’s proposed budget will impact cities in a new series on NLC’s CitiesSpeak blog.

Kicking off the series, NLC Human Development Committee Chair Gil Ziffer, commissioner, Tallahassee, Fla., discussed the importance of National Service Programs slated for budget cuts, such as AmeriCorps, to cities across the country and NLC Federal Advocacy Director Irma Esparza Diggs outlined 5 ways local leaders can take action and urge Congress to invest in cities during the two-week April recess.

Next, NLC Early Childhood Associate Alana Eichner detailed how the budget cuts will affect urban youth, through cuts of the Child Care and Development Block grant and Head Start programs, and NLC Program Director for Public Safety and Crime Prevention Yucel Ors answered three main questions cities need to be aware of when dissecting the political rhetoric around sanctuary cities.

Rounding out the series, NLC Federal Advocacy Program Director Mike Wallace and Senior Communications Associate Sam Warlick discussed how the planned $499 billion cut to TIGER grants could halt transit improvements in their tracks and Central Falls, R.I. Mayor James Diossa, Director of Planning and Economic Development Peter Friedrichs and NLC Federal Advocacy Intern Will Downie explained how proposed cuts to the EPA, Department of the Interior and other agencies threaten cities’ ability to invest in water management, clean energy and revitalization efforts.


NLC Asks Appropriators for Robust Census Funding

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

Last week, NLC along with other members of the Big 7 state and local government coalition urged Congress to support robust Census funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and FY 2018. The vital information provided in the Census is critical to many municipal activities such as community planning, federal grant formulas and redistricting. 

While the decennial Census does not occur until 2020, planning is in full swing.  Next year approximately 700,000 households in Rhode Island, Washington State and West Virginia will be surveyed as a dry run to test new technologies that will save the federal government money over time.

Cities are concerned that the Census provide the most accurate information possible and for this to be achieved, robust funding is needed.  NLC supports this call for funding and will continue to engage congressional appropriators and the Administration about the importance of this constitutionally mandated program.

FCC Advances New Proposals to Restrict Local Infrastructure Review

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission advanced several proposals to “streamline” state and local reviews of telecommunications infrastructure, such as fiber broadband pole attachments or wireless structures. On April 20, the FCC approved opening a formal regulatory proceeding on two items, one focused on wireline infrastructure deployment and one on wireless infrastructure. The items seek comment on “local laws inhibiting broadband deployment,” as well as shortening the shot clock that applies to local government review of wireless facilities applications and restricting local fees levied on telecommunications infrastructure applications or sites.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted to concur with the proposals, noted during the FCC’s April meeting that she was troubled by “strong talk surrounding preemption that takes place even before we lay out a clear path to work with communities through other processes, such as the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee,” (BDAC) which has been tasked with providing recommendations for how state and local governments can reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment.

The BDAC held its first meeting on April 21, during which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tasked the group with developing state and municipal model codes to encourage broadband infrastructure deployment and make recommendations for promoting competitive access to infrastructure and rights of way. NLC urged the FCC at the announcement of the BDAC earlier this year to include a robust representation of local government in its membership. However, only one member of the 52-person committee is an elected official or local government representative – Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, Calif. The BDAC is expected to provide the FCC with model codes and recommendations in late 2017.

NLC plans to comment on these new regulatory proceedings. Comments will be due thirty days after the items’ publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred, and reply comments will be due sixty days after publication.


NLC Calls on Congress to Fund Local Cybersecurity Efforts

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

The National League of Cities, along with the National Association of Counties, National Governors Association, and National Association of State CIOs, called on Congress to support legislation that would provide local governments with cybersecurity grant funding. NLC urged Congress to support the State Cyber Resiliency Act (S. 516/H.R. 1344), which would establish a new grant program to support local and state cyber preparedness and workforce development. As NLC and its partners pointed out, cities and state governments face increasingly sophisticated cyber threats to their operations and data, but must stretch very limited technology and public safety budgets to tackle these challenges.

The State Cyber Resiliency Act was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA). To urge your members of Congress to support this bill, click here.


EPA Accepting Comments on “Waters of the U.S.” and Regulatory Reform

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3098

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated two public comment periods on regulatory proposals. NLC plans to submit comments on both proposals, and encourages cities to as well.

Last week, EPA held a Federalism consultation briefing to solicit input from state and local government officials and organizations on a forthcoming proposal to rescind and revise the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Within a short period of time and taking a two-step approach, the Agency will initiate a rulemaking to rescind the 2015 rule and reinstate the 1986 rule to maintain the status quo. Second, the Agency will promulgate a revised definition of “waters of the U.S.” consistent with the direction in the Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States" Rule (Feb. 28, 2017).

Second, under the direction of Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, EPA is soliciting public comments on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification. Comments are due on May 15 via docket EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190. More information is available on the EPA website.

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