Federal Advocacy Update: Week of February 27, 2018

Sun setting through the American flag.
Sun setting through the American flag.

In this issue:

 

Mark Your Calendar: 2018 CCC Highlights

Ashley Smith, 202-626-3094

With NLC's 2018 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 11 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 Emmy-Winning Political Journalist Bob Schieffer to Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta and Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the conference general sessions will be full of political insight and analysis on today’s top issues.
  • 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 or get answers to your advocacy questions.

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

NLC Members Tell Congress: Rebuild and Reimagine America’s Infrastructure

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101, and Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On February 20, NLC hosted a congressional briefing to highlight our guiding principles for infrastructure investment and called on Congress to work with cities to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill that addresses the challenges local governments face and supports the innovative solutions that local leaders are investing in to build better communities. The local challenges discussed in the briefing panels included water, transportation, workforce development, and broadband infrastructure.

Pictures of panelists and moderators from Hill Briefing.

Panelists included Councilmember LaWana Mayfield of Charlotte, N.C., Councilmember James McDonald of Pinecrest, Flo., Councilmember Ana Sandoval of San Antonio, Tex., Councilmember Michael Sesma of Gaithersburg, M.D. and Mike Lynch, Director of Broadband and Cable for Boston, Mass. and President of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.

During the first panel, which focused on transportation, water and workforce development, Councilmembers Mayfield, McDonald and Sandoval spoke about how population growth in their cities is sparking the need to rethink how they develop transportation corridors. The Councilmembers also discussed alternatives that will not only accommodate more people, but also considers equity in presenting opportunities for low-income and minority neighborhoods.

The day’s second panel focused on preemption of local authority and the financial barriers that cities face to funding and financing infrastructure. During this panel, Councilmember Sesma and Mr. Lynch shared their cities’ desire to work as partners with the federal government to ensure that high-quality, affordable broadband is available to all residents and businesses.

To learn more about this event, visit NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak.

Opportunity Zones: What Cities Need to Know

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107

While NLC ultimately opposed the final tax reform bill (H.R. 1), the legislation did contain a new community development tool that is generating interest among state and local leaders. The Opportunity Zones program will encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide by offering place-based tax advantages on certain qualified investments. Governors have until March 21 to designate 25% of the Census tracts in their respective states as opportunity zones. Investments made in these new zones will receive generous tax deferments and advantages, depending on how long the investor keeps money in the zone.

Governors’ offices may reach out to cities and state municipal leagues for guidance on selecting tracts. All states should apply for a submission extension to April 21 to allow for more time to deliberate on the designations and consult with stakeholders, including investors and local governments. If cities are interested in submitting Census tracks for designation, visit the helpful resources below:

NLC will also discuss Opportunity Zones during our upcoming tax reform workshop at the Congressional City Conference on Tuesday, March 13. To learn more about Opportunity Zones, read more on NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

NLC Weighs in on Clean Power Plan Next Steps

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On Monday, February 26, NLC submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit input as it considers proposing a future rule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

EPA is also accepting comments through April 26 on a proposed rule to repeal the “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Unites (EGUs),” commonly referred to as the Clean Power Plan (CPP), as promulgated on October 23, 2015. Last week, mayors from 236 cities submitted comments to EPA opposing the proposed repeal.

NLC supports the Clean Power Plan as a means of nationally reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the growing negative impacts of climate change on cities. NLC urges the Administration to support and partner with cities in addressing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, on February 21, the EPA held a public listening session in Kansas City, Mo. where Councilmember Jermaine Reed testified on the role of the Clean Power Plan in helping the city “move forward with clean energy plans and create new jobs, driving economic growth in clean energy and related industries.”

Additional listening sessions are planned in San Francisco on February 28 and Gillette, Wyo. on March 27. Registration information and more details are available on the EPA website.

NLC plans to also submit comments on the CPP repeal and encourages local governments to consider doing so as well. Please forward a copy of any comments you or your city submits to Carolyn Berndt at berndt@nlc.org.

In the Senate, Immigration Reform Hits a Wall

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

Prior to their February recess, the Senate took up debate on immigration reform. On the table were several politically charged issues, including both the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and President Trump’s proposed border wall. Following a week of debate and a series of votes on February 15, the Senate failed to make progress on any immigration measures.

To learn more about what transpired earlier this month, and what lies ahead in March as Congress faces key deadlines, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

Cities tell FCC to Protect Low-Income Broadband Subsidy

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), NLC and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers (NATOA) called on the FCC to preserve its Lifeline subsidy program, which provides qualified, low-income households with monthly assistance for mobile broadband. The FCC has proposed changes to the Lifeline program that would limit the number of mobile providers who are eligible to participate, and eliminate a requirement that eligible phones have wi-fi hot spot capabilities without additional tethering charges. NLC and NATOA opposed that proposal, arguing that it would result in many low-income families losing their only affordable way to access broadband at home.

The FCC has argued that these changes will incentivize investment by wireless providers in more broadband infrastructure. In comments, NLC and NATOA told the agency that “a program aimed at affordability for consumers is not the appropriate vehicle to achieve that goal. Millions of Lifeline consumers will lose access to their selected service provider, and perhaps their only means of making phone calls and accessing the Internet, in exchange for the hope that someday new facilities will be made available to them.”

The FCC will accept reply comments until March 23. If your city intends to file reply comments in this proceeding, you can do so using Docket Numbers WC 17-287, 11-42, and 09-197 in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Please forward a copy of any comments you or your city submits to Angelina Panettieri at panettieri@nlc.org.

Appropriations Request Forms Available for Local Projects

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

As Congress begins consideration of the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills, some Members of Congress are reaching out to city officials to solicit appropriations request for local projects. In the past, these requests were used to “earmark” federal spending, however, due to changes in the House and Senate rules, Members of Congress are now barred from requesting earmarks. Instead of earmark requests, Members of Congress can now submit funding requests to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to help justify programmatic levels of funding for specific federal agencies.

In light of the White House’s recent infrastructure proposal, and the two-year budget agreement that was reached by Congress this month, city leaders may want to take advantage of the appropriations request process by identifying specific infrastructure projects in their cities that are in need of federal funding. If your Members of Congress accepts appropriations requests, they can use the information you submit to support funding levels for specific agencies during the appropriations process.

To submit an appropriations request, go to your Member of Congress’ webpage and search for “appropriations request,” which should bring up information and the form (online or downloadable) to submit a federal funding request. If you are not able to find an appropriations request form on their website, you can contact their Washington, D.C. office and ask if your Representative or Senator accepts appropriations requests for FY19. Please Note: Not all Members of Congress solicit or accept appropriations requests.

Your submissions could go a long way in justifying the need for additional federal investments in local infrastructure projects. If you submit an appropriations request, please send a copy of your request(s) or your questions to Yucel (u-jel) Ors at ors@nlc.org.

SLLC Supreme Court Midterm Webinar

Ashley Smith, 202-626-3094

States and local governments anxiously await the Supreme Court's decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case the Court may allow states and local governments to require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Since last fall the Court has also agreed to rule on the third travel ban, another partisan gerrymandering case, and a number of First Amendment free speech cases. And the Court has already decided two cases where the District of Columbia was a party.

Join us for a webinar to discuss these and other cases of interest to states and local governments with Loren L. AliKhan, Acting Solicitor General of the District of Columbia, who argued one of the cases involving D.C., Charles Rothfeld, Mayer Brown, who wrote the SLLC amicus brief in one of the free speech cases, and Kenneth Jost, author of Supreme Court Yearbook and Jost on Justice.

Date: March 15, 2018

Time: 1:00 PM Eastern

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