Federal Advocacy Update: Week of February 26, 2019

An external view of the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda.
An external view of the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda.


In this issue:

The Federal Government is Open

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Following the longest partial federal government shutdown in history, Congress and the president reached a last-minute deal to fully fund all remaining federal agencies for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. In addition to funding existing programs, the deal provided $1.375 billion to construct approximately 55 miles of new barriers along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. That amount is less than the $5.7 billion sought by the Administration before the partial government shutdown. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the 35-day partial government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion.

The legislation to enact the deal passed with large bipartisan support by a vote of 300-128 in the House and 83-16 in the Senate. It provided funding for seven appropriations bills including Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

NLC Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony made the following statement before the deal to avert another shutdown was reached:

“Our federal leaders must end the political brinksmanship that brings our nation yet again to the cliff of yet another federal shutdown. America’s cities, towns and villages call on our federal leaders to pursue every measure to avert another shutdown and spare our communities unnecessary economic pain. 

“The last shutdown cost our economy $11 billion — a loss that will almost certainly result in local leaders needing trim budgets and make hard choices about services their cities can provide. It’s time to move forward and focus on our shared priorities that will benefit the nation, such as rebuilding and reimagining the nation’s infrastructure.” 

For a full overview of the FY19 budget and appropriations process, including charts of city priority programs, click here.

White House Announces New American Broadband Initiative

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

The White House, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced the American Broadband Initiative, a coordinated federal interagency strategy to increase broadband access. The report’s recommendations fall into three major categories: streamlining federal permitting processes for broadband infrastructure, using federal property to lower the cost of broadband deployment, and maximizing the effectiveness of federal broadband funds.

The report and proposals are primarily focused on federal lands and rural areas, as the communities with the least access to broadband are largely in rural places, many of which are located in and around the approximately 30% of American lands owned by the federal government. However, the report does not include specific recommendations to improve affordability or adoption, especially in urban areas. The report announces plans to develop a standard interagency application form and “one-stop-shop” for broadband development on federal lands, regardless of jurisdiction. The report also provides updates on an ongoing interagency effort to identify, map, and make available federal assets that could be used for broadband, such as existing federally-owned telecommunications towers and dark fiber. 

Many of the report’s highlighted federal efforts and proposals could impact local governments, either through changes in private investment and data management or through the availability of funds to public projects. NTIA plans to provide improved and updated information on all federal funds that can be used for broadband projects in a single website and to provide more opportunities for projects to better coordinate multiple federal funding streams. It has also committed to improving mapping data about broadband availability, which has been repeatedly criticized for its inaccuracies and lack of detail. The report also acknowledges the lack of coordination between federal and state broadband programs and the need for more intergovernmental collaboration to ensure that public investments are maximized.

Several agencies are expected to initiate rulemakings during 2019 to fulfill the goals of the American Broadband Initiative. For a proposed timeline of federal actions and to review the recommendations and agency updates in more detail, read the full report.

NLC Hosts Hill Briefing on Local Innovations in Workforce Development

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On February 14, the National League of Cities (NLC) hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill, Love Your Workforce: Local Innovations in Workforce Development, which called attention to the innovative workforce development programs and services being provided at the local level. Local leaders across the country are working closely with their local workforce boards, community colleges, universities and local service providers to ensure that their residents are trained and prepared to meet the growing needs of employers.    

To provide the city perspective, Councilmember Robin Arredondo-Savage of Tempe, Arizona, and NLC’s Human Development Federal Advocacy Committee Chair discussed the ways in which Tempe is building their workforce pipeline. From their Career Ready Tempe program, which strategizes about how to connect youth to the workforce conversation, and Tempe Works, which engages the local homeless population, Tempe has successfully developed a locally-focused workforce strategy. 

Robin_Workforce Briefing.jpg
Councilmember Arredondo-Savage was joined by Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, California and The U.S. Conference of Mayors Jobs, Education and the Workforce Standing Committee Chair, Mayor Acquanetta Warren of Fontana, California and The U.S. Conference of Mayors Manufacturing and Career and Technical Education Task Force Chair, Supervisor Pamela E. Lancaster of Hall County, Nebraska and National Association of Counties Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee – Workforce Subcommittee Chair, Kirkland J. Murray, President & CEO, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, and David Remick, Executive Director, Alexandria/Arlington Regional Workforce Council.

The briefing came at a critical time as Congress begins to discuss the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a comprehensive investment in infrastructure. These two federal investments have significant local implications, and it is critical that leaders in Washington, D.C. understand the importance of a strategic investment. 

Councilmember Arredondo-Savage highlighted what local leaders know: in order to attract businesses and grow economic vitality in communities it takes a skilled workforce. The panelists highlighted the critical need to think about workforce as Congress considers a federal investment in infrastructure. Cities, towns and villages cannot rebuild and reimagine without a simultaneous investment in workforce services to ensure that they can continue to meet the needs of the sectors that will build and maintain our roads, bridges, water infrastructure and broadband networks into the future.

SCOTUS to Hear Citizenship Question Case

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107

In January, the Southern District of New York ruled that the Administration’s process to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which prohibits federal agencies from acting in a manner that is arbitrary and capricious or not in accordance with law. The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has agreed to hear the Administration’s appeal before the end of June, when the U.S. Census Bureau must start printing mailers for next year. 

Earlier this year, NLC joined a large group of bipartisan voices, including state and local governments, to express concerns about the way in which the question was added and its expected impacts on census participation. Many believe that the addition of the question will result in fewer people self-reporting, increasing the need for costly non-response follow-up (NRFU) and, ultimately, resulting in lower quality counts for our cities, towns and villages. Cities rely on accurate census counts for a host of applications, including allocation of political representation, infrastructure planning, socioeconomic research, and distribution of state and federal funds. 

Given the presence of two new justices, it is difficult to predict how the case will ultimately fare. The first ruling, however, documented a strong case against the question’s addition. To learn more about the court’s ruling visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak. In addition, local leaders can access NLC’s guide, Cities Count: Preparing for the 2020 Census, to learn more about our work on the Census.

SLLC SCOTUS Midterm Webinar

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

This term, many U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions have major implications for state and local governments. This term’s docket is now set, and it includes a case involving a religious display on public lands, partisan gerrymandering, and another employment case, following an employment case previously decided this term—notably, both involve local governments. Additionally, SCOTUS will decide a gun case next term.

Join Colleen Roh Sinzdak; Hogan Lovells, who will discuss three cases she and others in her firm have worked on this term; Richard A. Simpson; Wiley Rein, LLP, who co-wrote the State Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief in an alcohol regulation case; and Brian Cardile, an editor and producer at the Daily Journal. 

Date: March 20, 2019
Time: 1:00 PM EST


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