Federal Advocacy Update: Week of July 16, 2019

American flags at sunset
American flags at sunset

In this issue:

Take Action!

Zachary Gossett, 202.465.2520 and Rohan Narayanan, 202.626.3029

The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. In order to influence federal policy, we constantly meet with members of Congress and the administration. 

But sometimes there is nothing more important for members of Congress than hearing the concerns of their constituents directly, which is why we need your help. By taking action, you help elevate the issues facing your city, town or village to the forefront of national priorities. 

You can make your voice heard and advocate for all municipalities by going to our new resource page https://www.nlc.org/TakeAction, where we post all active engagements for you to get involved. 

Right now, you can send letters to stop federal small cell preemption and tweet to ask your members of Congress to support municipal bond refinancing, EECBG reauthorization, Clean Water State Revolving Fund reauthorization, NPDES permit term extension, park access increase, workforce training grants, smart city grant expansion and digital equity.

Take action now!

Senate, House Pass PFAS Legislation

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

As concern about drinking water contamination from PFAS grows, both chambers of Congress have passed legislation to address the problem. The PFAS-related provisions are included as part of the fiscal year 2020 (FY20) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and will now head to conference, with some key differences to be resolved. 

On June 27, the Senate passed NDAA (S. 1790) by a vote of 86-8 that includes bipartisan PFAS legislation sponsored by the Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE). The Senate bill would: 

  • require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set nationwide drinking water standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS, two of the best studied chemicals in the class, and to take additional steps as more is learned about the roughly 5,000 other chemicals in the class;
  • urge the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to develop cooperative agreements to fund testing, monitoring, removal and remedial actions of PFAS from federal sites, and to issue grants to state and local governments to take action to address water contamination; and
  • provide $100 million per year for five years for drinking water grants to address PFAS contamination, including a 25% set aside for small and disadvantaged communities. 

The Senate legislation does not include language that would designate PFAS chemicals as a hazardous substance eligible for cleanup under EPA’s Superfund law.

Additionally, on July 12, the House passed its version of NDAA (H.R. 2500) by a vote of 220-197, including a number of PFAS-related amendments that would:

  • require EPA to designate all PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under Superfund,
  • require EPA to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Clean Water Act and set effluent limits and pre-treatment standards for industrial facilities that send their wastewater to municipal sewage treatment plants, 
  • require DOD to phase out of the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals by 2025, and
  • require DOD to work with states in mitigating PFAS contamination and require the department to share PFAS monitoring data with local governments. 

The House bill does not include language that would require EPA to set drinking water standards. Bipartisan legislation on this issue has been introduced in the House and could be part of a PFAS package that is being negotiated by leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The White House has issued a veto threat for H.R. 2500. 

NLC has not taken an official position on either bill. Earlier this year members of the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resource (EENR) Committee and the Military Communities Council formed a subcommittee to jointly develop a resolution outlining local government concerns and the need for congressional and administrative action. Last month, the EENR Committee approved a draft of the resolution, which will be presented for a vote at the upcoming City Summit in San Antonio, November 20-23.

NLC Advocates for Solutions to National Housing Crisis in New NLC Housing Task Force Report

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

On July 9, National League of Cities (NLC) hosted local officials from the NLC Housing Task Force for a panel discussion about NLC’s new report, “Homeward Bound: The Road to Affordable Housing.” The panelists included Task Force Chair Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., NLC President Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Indiana, Teresa Mosqueda, Councilmember, City of Seattle, Washington, and NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony. The event was recorded and can be viewed here

The report urges local and federal officials to adopt a federal/local platform for housing stability for all, as stable housing is a prerequisite for economic mobility, job security, and health and well-being. The task force developed five recommendations for national action and five recommendations for local action.

The five recommendations for national action are: 

  1. enact emergency funding to immediately stabilize and stem the loss of public and affordable housing across the country;
  2. follow emergency intervention with passage of a long-term, stand-alone federal housing bill that authorizes ten years of new funding for pilot programs that advance housing for all;
  3. support innovation and modernization of land-use and planning at the local and regional level;
  4. fix inequities in housing development and the housing finance system; and
  5. support scalable innovation and financing for cities, towns and villages.

The five recommendations for local action are: 
1.  establish local programs by combining funding and financing streams to support housing goals; 
2.  modernize local land use policies, including zoning and permitting, to rebalance housing supply and demand;
3.  identify and engage broadly with local stakeholders and coordinate across municipal boundaries to develop a plan to provide housing opportunities for all;
4.  support the needs of distinct sub-populations including the homeless, seniors and persons with conviction histories; and
5.  prioritize equitable outcomes in housing decision as it is an essential component for success.

This summer, NLC is promoting the report and its findings among local leaders and on Capitol Hill. If you are interested in a briefing for your city, contact Michael Wallace, NLC Legislative Director for Community and Economic Development, at wallace@nlc.org.

Cities Prepare for the 2020 Census as Final Answer Comes in Citizenship Question Debate

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107

Census coordinators from more than 30 cities joined the National League of Cities (NLC), President Karen Freeman-Wilson (pictured below) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center for a day and a half long seminar on preparing cities for the 2020 Census. Participants came for deep dive lessons and peer-to-peer best practice sharing. Key topics included “get out to count” management, solutions for ensuring historically undercounted residents are counted and other ways that local leaders can help ensure their communities are fairly and fully counted. Sessions were led by a host of experts from the Shorenstein Center, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, the Foundation for Civic Leadership and former Census Bureau employees and directors. 


Separate from the event, on July 11, the administration announced that it would be dropping its efforts to instate a question of citizenship on the 2020 Census questionnaire. The move came as a major victory for census advocates and local governments who feared the question’s inclusion would suppress self-reporting rates and jeopardize data accuracy. We have broken down what last week’s announcement means for the census and municipal governments as we head into next year. NLC is also continuing to develop and share resources to help you prepare your community to be counted in 2020 at www.nlc.org/census

EPA Finalizes Affordable Clean Energy Rule

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On June 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule establishing emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit carbon dioxide at their coal-fired power plants. This final ACE rule replaces the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. 

Under the ACE rule, EPA expects to see CO2 emissions from the electric sector fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels in 2030, including expected emissions reductions based on long-term industry trends.

Unlike the Clean Power Plan, the ACE rule does not set specific emissions targets for states, but rather allows each state to establish unit-specific “standards of performance” that reflect the emission limitation achievable through the application of best system of emissions reduction technologies. 

The ACE rule identifies heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction and provides states with a list of candidate technologies that can be applied at the specific sources for achieving emissions targets. This part also differs from the Clean Power Plan, which included shifting generation to other sources, such as natural gas and renewables, as part of the best system of emissions reduction. 

States will have three years to submit plans to EPA that establish standards of performance and include measures that provide for the implementation and enforcement of such standards. 

One change from the proposed rule issued last year is the agency’s omission of changes to the New Source Review program. EPA says changes to the program will be addressed in a future rulemaking. 

Last year, NLC submitted comments to EPA on a proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan, as well as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit input on a replacement

In the letters, NLC raised concerns with the process EPA used to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, urging EPA to move forward in a more deliberative and subsequent manner, rather than concurrently. 

In rulemaking and litigation, NLC supported 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 continues to urge the administration to support and partner with cities in addressing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

In Indianapolis, Reviving a Sleepy Neighborhood

Zachary Gossett, 202.465.2520

Don’t sleep on Naptown.

Indianapolis was once known for its quiet evenings and small-town aura in a big city, hence the city’s nickname—Naptown. While it was once considered an insult, today the nickname “Naptown” has reclaimed some of it’s original flare (the name originated from the 1920’s jazz “Naptown sound”), as the city has transformed from what critics called a sleepy city into a lively cultural center.

Some of these transformations are happening in the oddest of places: Indianapolis is currently developing Central State, a mixed-use village on the lands of the decommissioned Central State Hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Central State presented massive challenges for developers. There was little access to roads, water and sewage. The land was covered in old and ominous patient dormitories, gymnasiums and treatment facilities. And, under the surface, there were tunnels connecting these buildings. Some citizens even feared the area to be haunted.

Yet, Indianapolis saw an opportunity.

To keep reading, click here to go to the blog on CitiesSpeak

Read NLC's Latest Issue Brief on Mental Illness, Substance Use, and Homelessness

Rohan Narayanan, 202.626.3029

Mental illness, substance use disorder, and homelessness affect millions of people across the nation and pose significant, interconnected challenges for cities. Local leaders play a key role in ensuring individuals receive appropriate and timely treatment and services. 

With support from Arnold Ventures, NLC is exploring city-level approaches and practices surrounding emergency response and crisis stabilization for individuals suffering from mental illness, substance use disorder, and/or homelessness. Read the first in a series of issue briefs examining city-level approaches to emergency response and crisis stabilization here.

Take Action on the BUILDS Act!

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098 and Zachary Gossett, 202.465.2520

The Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills Act (BUILDS Act)—H.R. 2831 and S. 1517—is a critical component of any infrastructure package that aims to rebuild and reimagine America’s road, bridges, water and broadband. By creating a pipeline for skilled, trained labor, our workforce can meet the growing labor demand in the infrastructure industry and any increase inspired by a federal infrastructure investment.

NLC sent this letter to endorse the act and thank the original cosponsors for their leadership. Then, we asked you for help. Many engaged local leaders helped make America’s cities, towns and villages heard. 

Thank you for your help. Join these leaders! Take Action on the BUILDS Act!

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