Federal Advocacy Update: Week of July 10, 2018

Interior shot of Capitol Building Dome
Interior shot of Capitol Building Dome

In this issue:

Supreme Court Finally Kills Quill

Brian Egan, 202.623.3107

On June 21, the Supreme Court ruled in the highly anticipated South Dakota v. Wayfair case that called into question a state law requiring out-of-state sellers shipping a certain amount of transactions into the state to collect and remit South Dakota sales taxes. The Court overturned its decisions from two early cases (National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue of Illinois in 1967 and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota in 1992), which contended that a state could only require such collections if the retailer had a “physical presence” within the state. The case came after 26 years of inaction from Congress to establish legislation that would permit such collection processes. 

All eyes now turn to state governments that will now likely pass laws similar to that of South Dakota. City governments can work with their state municipal leagues and state legislatures to ensure they have a seat at the table and that streamlined collection methods for local option rates are included in these discussions. For more information on what local leaders need to know about the case visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak

In addition, NLC and the State and Local Legal Center are hosting a webinar on July 12 at 1 PM EDT to discuss what’s next for internet sales tax. Join Tillman Breckenridge, Bailey Glasser, who wrote the State and Local Legal Center amicus brief in this case, in a discussion about what the Court's opinion says; Craig Johnson, Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, will discuss what states and local governments may do to implement the Court's decision; and Emily Swenson Brock, Government Finance Officers Association, will discuss how Congress and state and local government Chief Financial Officers are reacting to the decision and lobbying strategy for states and local governments. Click here to register.

NLC Board and Federal Advocacy Committees Convene in Little Rock

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Last month, more than 300 local leaders from across the country convened in Little Rock, Ark. for the National League of Cities (NLC) Summer Board and Leadership Meeting. Hosted by President Mark Stodola, the meeting provided a platform for NLC’s board of directors, federal advocacy committees and member networking councils to discuss the organization’s advocacy priorities and policy positions. 

To welcome city leaders, Mayor Stodola unveiled a new smart city initiative for Little Rock at a press event in front of the Statehouse Convention Center. The digital citizen engagement kiosks will provide residents with wayfinding, transit and other information, as well as provide free wi-fi hotspots.

Smart City Kiosk Little Rock.jpg

During their meeting on June 26, NLC’s board of directors voted to approve a resolution calling on Congress and the administration to ensure that federal funding disbursed to states for opioid prevention and treatment makes its way to local programs. Following the meeting, NLC’s Human Development (HD) and Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Federal Advocacy Committees held a joint session to put into action the approved changes to the opioids resolution. 

Federal Advocacy Committee members focused their time in Little Rock on the organization's National Municipal Policy and learning about inventive local practices. NLC’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee had the opportunity to visit the Murray Lock and Dam, which is essential to navigation and commerce along the Arkansas River and NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Services Federal Advocacy Committee received a demonstration of a bridge inspection by drone with Unmanned Ariel Solution of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Transportation bridge inspection team. 

EENR Little Rock Dam Tour.jpg

Alongside substantive policy discussions, NLC also unveiled a new report, “Assessing the Future of Our Work: Automation and the Role of Cities,” at a June 27 press event at the Little Rock Technology Park and Venture Center, a coworking, incubator, office and meeting space that opened in 2017. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel spoke alongside Mayor Stodola at the event, discussing the local leadership needed to support the nationwide deployment of next-generation broadband technologies.

Rosenworcl Little Rock.jpg

For a full look at the committee's activity while in Little Rock, click here

Farm Bills Move Toward Conference

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On June 21, the House passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act by a vote of 213-211, and on June 29, the Senate passed the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act by a vote of 86-11. However, with the bills far apart on policy issues, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) revisions, and funding, Congress still has a lot of work to do to reconcile the two bills before the current Farm Bill authorization expires on September 30. 

The Farm Bill is wide-ranging legislation that establishes federal farm, food, and rural policy. Important to cities and towns are the portions of the bill pertaining to rural development, water infrastructure and conservation, and food and nutrition. 

Aside from differences between the House and Senate bills within the rural development, conservation, and nutrition titles, the House bill includes a provision that would preempt state and local control to set regulations on agricultural products shipped to their state, which NLC opposes. 

Senate Marks Up Long-Awaited Career and Technical Education Bill

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On June 26, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions marked up a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The bill would direct approximately $1.2 billion in investment by the federal government to vocational and technical education across the country, with an increased focus on academic achievement and strengthening the connections between secondary and postsecondary education. The Senate bill calls for increased investment in career and technical programs with the authorization of increased funding over five years – starting with $1.22 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and increasing to $1.32 billion in FY 2024.  

NLC has long advocated for federal support of this bill through our National Municipal Policy. Strengthening connections to career and technical education through the Perkins Act is also one of the key recommendations of our workforce provisions for infrastructure investment. NLC is encouraged by this movement in the Senate and looks forward to continuing to work with members as they finalize the bill.

Senate Approves Six Month Extension of NFIP

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

With less than a month to go before the expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Senators Kennedy (R-LA) and Cassidy (R-LA) successfully secured an amendment to extend the NFIP for six months as part of the Farm Bill. While this is a victory, it is unclear whether the House and Senate can work out the differences between the House and Senate passed Farm Bills before the NFIP’s July 31 expiration date. Senators Kennedy and Cassidy also introduced a standalone bill that extends the program for six months and members are looking at other legislation that must be passed before July 31 to attach an amendment extending the NFIP. 

NLC encourages city officials to contact their Members of Congress to urge them to reauthorize the NFIP before July 31 without a lapse. 

Senators Introduce Preemptive Small Cell Deployment Bill

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

On June 29, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance (STREAMLINE) Small Cell Deployment Act (S. 3157). The bill is focused, much like the recent FCC rulemaking efforts, on limiting the actions local governments can take on small cell wireless facility siting in an effort to make deployments cheaper, faster, and more consistent across jurisdictions. 

However, while the FCC’s statutory authority to take these actions is debatable and can be more easily challenged in court, congressional action to limit local authority would be permanently damaging. The bill would severely limit the ability of local governments in states without preemptive state small cell laws to govern wireless siting and would complicate implementation of new small cell laws in states that have passed them. 

Despite urging from NLC and other local government advocates during the bill’s drafting phase, many preemptive provisions remain in the bill. Senator Thune said that he intends to hold a hearing on this bill by the end of the month. We need local leaders to send your Members of Congress a letter today urging opposition to this harmful legislation.

In addition to preempting local authority, the bill would make some major changes to current federal requirements for small cell siting by carving out a new category of “small personal wireless facilities” with new requirements, separate from existing wireless siting law: 

  • It would limit local consideration of small personal wireless facilities (defined as “a personal wireless service facility in which each antenna is not more than 3 cubic feet in volume; and does not include a wireline backhaul facility”) to “objective and reasonable” “structural engineering standards based on generally applicable codes; safety requirements; or aesthetic or concealment requirements.” 
  • Modifies the application shot clock to be 60 days for collocations, and 90 days for new sites. Cities would have ten days to notify applicants in writing if their application is incomplete. The bill also explicitly prohibits moratoria/tolling to lengthen these shot clocks.
  • Special shot clock carveouts for small cities, defined as fewer than 50,000 residents: 
  1. 90 days for collocations if the provider has filed 50 or fewer applications in a 30-day period, or 120 days if the provider has filed more than 50 applications in 30 days. 
  2. 120 days for new sites if the provider has filed 50 or fewer applications in a 30-day period, or 150 days if the provider has filed more than 50 applications in 30 days.
  • Allows local governments to request a one-time 30-day waiver from the FCC.
  • Includes a deemed granted provision for applications not acted upon by the local government in the stated period.
  • Limits “fees,” which the bill defines as “a fee to consider an application for the placement, construction, or modification of a small personal wireless facility, or to use a right-of-way or a facility in a right-of-way owned or managed by the State or local government for the placement, construction, or modification of a small personal wireless facility.” This would include not only application fees but also recurring rents for usage of public property.
  • Fees must be “competitively neutral, technology neutral, and nondiscriminatory; publicly disclosed; and based on actual and direct costs.” This would eliminate market-based rents for small cell facility installations.
  • Finally, the bill orders a GAO study on broadband deployment on tribal land.

The bill does not provide for the grandfathering of any extant agreements between cities and providers or tower companies, and it would appear to preclude agreements such as those recently struck by the City of San Jose, Calif. with AT&T and Verizon lauded by Commissioner Rosenworcel as an example other local governments could use. 

Cities should contact their Members of Congress, particularly those who sit on the Senate Commerce Committee, and urge opposition to the bill. 

President Proposes Government Reform and Reorganization Plan

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On June 21, President Trump released Delivering Government Solutions for the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations, which provides a plan for the reorganization of the Executive Branch though program consolidations, department mergers and streamlining for both programs and regulations. Proposals in the recommendation of interest to cities include:

  • Consolidating federal economic development resources at the Department of Commerce, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is currently administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Merging the Departments of Labor and Education into a new single Cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce;
  • Reorganizing safety net programs into the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare;
  • Moving the Army Corps of Engineers out of the Department of Defense and split the Corp’s responsibilities, with navigation management assigned to the Department of Transportation and flood control, wetland permitting and management of inland waterway falling under the purview of the Department of Interior;
  • Creating a government-wide office of public-private partnership; and 
  • Relocating more staff and offices outside of Washington, D.C.

Following the release of the proposal, Senator Johnson (R-WI), chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Senator Lankford (R-OK), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, introduced the Reforming Government Act of 2018 (S. 3137), which would provide a path forward for Congress to consider the proposal. The bill provides the president two years to officially send his plan to Congress at which time Congress would have 90 days to approve the plan or, with no action, the plan would not move forward. In addition, on June 27 the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Administration’s plan.

DOJ Announces New Immigration Compliance Requirements for FY 2018 Grants

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On June 28, the Department of Justice (DOJ) posted solicitations for four public safety grants. These grants are part of DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program. Similar to the requirements set for the FY 2017 and FY 2018 Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, applicants for the FY 2018 PSN grants will be required to certify compliance with new conditions set by DOJ to require local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The new conditions require recipient jurisdictions to certify that they: 

  1. Comply with 8 USC 1373 and 1644, which prohibits local governments from restricting information sharing between local law enforcement agent’s officials and federal immigration authorities; 
  2. When “practicable,” provide advance notice before releasing a criminal alien from a state or local detention center; 
  3. Permit Department of Homeland Security personnel to access criminal detention facilities in order to conduct interviews of criminal aliens in state or local custody; and 
  4. Comply with federal criminal laws related to the harboring of illegal aliens.

DOJ will give preference to grant applications where the applicant plans to use immigration-cooperation tactics to address public safety in their jurisdiction. 

NLC continues to oppose the DOJ’s effort to establish additional requirements for law enforcement grants that are aimed at coopting local law enforcement to do the work of federal immigration enforcement agents. NLC has joined amicus in several cases where cities have challenged the legitimacy of the DOJ’s new “notification” and “access” requirements for federal law enforcement grants, which the courts have found to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.  

In announcing the grant solicitations, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions said, “As part of accomplishing the Department of Justice's top priority of reducing violent crime, we must encourage these 'sanctuary' jurisdictions to change their policies that undermine public safety, and to partner with federal law enforcement to remove criminals.” Unfortunately, the AG’s efforts are counterproductive to a long-standing tradition of a close working relationship between federal law enforcement agents and local law enforcement agents.  

City leaders know that federal law enforcement grants are essential to helping local law enforcement officers keep their citizens safe, prevent crime and victimization, and provide lifesaving tools to their officers. These grants touch nearly every city and town in America through projects funded and investments made in the state and local criminal justice system. However, contrary to the desired outcome by the AG, the new requirements could do more to harm local law enforcement’s ability to build trust with immigrant communities, maintain law and order, and do their jobs effectively.

NLC would like to work with the DOJ to support local law enforcement officers and ensure they have the resources needed to keep everyone in the community safe — but we strongly believe the current state of affairs at the DOJ continues to be very problematic for cities. Instead of dictating federal policies that are contrary to local public safety programs, the DOJ should work with city leaders to make their neighborhoods safer. 

Local Leader Selected for FAA Drone Advisory Committee

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

On June 28, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation selected Mayor Wade Troxell of the City of Fort Collins, Colo., to serve on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Drone Advisory Committee (DAC). The DAC is led by the FAA and represents a cross-section of drone stakeholders with a wide variety of interests, including technology leaders like Amazon Prime Air, Google X, CNN, Garmin and aviation associations, such as Air Traffic Controllers Association, Helicopter Association International and Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. 

As an active member of NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Services (TIS) Federal Advocacy Committee, Mayor Troxell joined NLC in raising the local viewpoint on how drones will integrate into cities’ transportation network. As the sole elected official to be included on the newly chartered DAC, NLC is very pleased to have Mayor Troxell continue to be a passionate, capable voice for cities at these national dialogues to provide FAA insight into how cities want to partner to safely allow drones to take flight over cities.  

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