Federal Advocacy Update: Week of July 5, 2017

Flags in DC
Flags in DC

Welcome to a special holiday edition of the Federal Advocacy Update. With Congress in recess this week, we’re taking this opportunity to report on the latest federal issues affecting cities that have occurred over the last month. It promises to be a busy July as Congress rushes to wrap up their work before the August recess.

In this issue:

Federal Budget Cuts are Hometown Cuts: An Action Guide to #FightTheCuts

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

With summer in full swing and August recess right around the corner, now’s the time for cities across the country to come together and stand united to fight for federal investment in cities. Senators and Representatives will be home for five weeks in August to meet with constituents and learn what’s happening in their district. It’s the perfect opportunity for city leaders to come together and send a unified message to Congress that we need a partner who understands the impact of continued federal investment in cities.

NLC is prepared to fight every step of the way – but we’re going to need the help of city leaders. To help cities advocate for federal investment in cities, NLC recently released our Action Guide to #FightTheCuts.  This action guide will help local leaders learn how the proposed budget cuts could impact cities and how you can advocate for federal investment in cities. 

We need you to call on our federal elected officials to stand with cities this budget season. Click here to learn how to take action and join in our effort to #FightTheCuts.

NLC Board and Federal Advocacy Committees Convene in Cleveland

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Last month, more than 250 local leaders from across the country convened in Cleveland, Ohio, for the National League of Cities (NLC) Summer Board and Leadership Meeting. Hosted by NLC President Matt Zone, the meeting provided a platform for NLC’s board of directorsfederal advocacy committees and member networking councils to discuss the organization’s advocacy priorities and policy positions.

Kicking off the meeting, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) spoke to NLC’s Board Executive Committee about the current state of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process and her efforts to fight the proposed cuts to vital programs cities rely on.

Rep. Marcia Fudge

During NLC’s Board of Director’s meeting on Tuesday, June 20, NLC CEO Clarence Anthony and Irma Esparza Diggs, NLC Senior Executive and Federal Advocacy Director, discussed the need to “Do Something Different” and launched our summer action and mobilization effort to help city leaders raise their voice and fight for federal investments in cities. Following the Board meeting, NLC’s leadership team held a press conference to discuss shared city priorities and NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign.

Federal Advocacy Committee members focused their time in Cleveland on the organization's National Municipal Policy and learning about inventive local practices.

The Finance, Administration & Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) Federal Advocacy Committee took a walking tour of downtown Cleveland, guided by the Historic Gateway Neighborhood District Corporation (HGNC).  HGNC is a community development corporation that has offered a wide range of services over the years with the overall goal of improving, strengthening and revitalizing the neighborhood. By utilizing the Historic Tax Credit from both the federal and state levels, HGNC promoted the continuing re-development of a unique, historic district in downtown Cleveland into a vibrant commercial, entertainment, and residential neighborhood.

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In addition, the Information Technology & Communications (ITC) Federal Advocacy Committee and the Transportation & Infrastructure Services (TIS) Federal Advocacy Committee met jointly for a mobile workshop focused on how the City of Cleveland collaborated with infrastructure providers to improve the city’s wireless network and create space for public art in advance of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

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Finally, the Human Development (HD) Federal Advocacy Committee spent the morning of Wednesday, June 21 traveling to President Matt Zone’s district to visit a permanent supportive housing site.  While there, the committee learned about the coordinated response the City of Cleveland, along with Cuyahoga County, has championed to address the issue of homelessness in their community.  The committee heard from President Zone as well as representatives addressing the populations of chronically homeless adults, family, youth and veterans.  The committee also met one of the residents of The Commons at West Village and toured the site.

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For a full look at the committee's activity while in Cleveland, click here. For additional photos and highlights from NLC's summer board and leadership meeting, follow NLC on Twitter or view our post on NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

Senate Postpones Health Care Vote Until After July 4 Recess

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

Last week, prior to the July 4th recess, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would postpone a previously anticipated vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, the Senate’s draft version to reform the Affordable Care Act that was released on June 22nd and updated on the 26th.  The proposal contains the following provisions that were of concern to NLC as highlighted in our one-pager on health care reform:

  • Coverage Expansion for Medicaid:
    • Phases out enhanced matching funds rate for Medicaid expansion to states that adopted expansion from 90% in 2020 to traditional state match by 2024.
    • Converts federal Medicaid funding to a per capita allotment and limit growth in federal Medicaid spending beginning in 2020.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage:
    • Appropriates $2 billion for FY18 in grants to states to support substance use disorder treatment and recovery support services. 
    • Eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
    • Provides supplemental funding for community health centers of $422 million for FY 17.
  • Cadillac Tax Delayed to 2026.
  • Insurance Standards and Consumer Protections:
    • Individuals up to the age of 26 could still gain health insurance through their parents.
    • Allows states to apply for waivers that allow insurers to charge more for some pre-existing conditions.  States would have access to a State Stability and Innovation Fund to provide stability for at-risk individuals.
    • Bans on lifetime and annual limits could be jeopardized by changes to 1332 waivers, which allows for State Innovation Waivers permitting states to waive a wide variety of major ACA provisions.

After releasing draft legislation early last week, the Congressional Budget Office released their score of the draft legislation that projected loss in health care to an additional 22 million Americans by 2026, reduce the cumulative federal deficit over ten years by $321 billion and, according to the CBO, “would impose intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by preempting state laws. Although the preemptions would limit the application of state laws, they would impose no duty on states that would result in additional spending or a loss of revenues.”

Cities Condemn Passage of Bill to Punish So-Called “Sanctuary” Cities

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed H.R. 3003 — the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act.” The legislation broadly attempts to undermine local authority over public safety by coercing local governments into executing immigration duties of the federal government, or risk losing multiple sources of federal funding. In response, National League of Cities (NLC) President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, released the following statement:

“Congress’ attempt to make America safer, while stripping local governments of funding for law enforcement, is counterproductive at best and a potential threat to the safety of our local law enforcement. We are very troubled by the fact that this bill jeopardizes vital funding that protects and aids local public safety officers, while exposing local governments to potential litigation and liability.

“Some leaders in Washington have spread a false assumption that ‘sanctuary cities’ prevent federal immigration officers from enforcing immigration laws. In reality, many local police departments in cities across the nation routinely cooperate with voluntary requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while also focusing on developing constructive relationships within the communities they serve.

“Cities should not be burdened and endangered by the federal government’s inability to enforce its broken immigration laws. We call on the Senate to reject this bill, and on both chambers to open a dialogue with local leaders to discuss real ways in which we can enact comprehensive immigration reform that respects the principles of local control.”

Click here to view NLC’s letter in opposition to H.R. 3003.


House Committee Passes Brownfields Reauthorization

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, with NLC support, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3017) by voice vote. The bill would reauthorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program, while making several key changes to assist with the cleanup and redevelopment of large, complex brownfields sites.

In March, NLC submitted a letter of support for the reauthorization and improvement of the Brownfields program. In April, Mayor Sal Panto, Easton, Pa., and Chair of NLC's Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee testified before the committee on the importance of the program to local redevelopment efforts and economic growth. NLC has advocated for increasing the single-site cleanup grant cap, authorizing multipurpose grants, and clarifying issues around municipal liability. Many of NLC’s recommendations were incorporated into the final bill.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Authorizes multipurpose grants up to $1 million
  • Increases funding for remediation grants to $500,000, with the ability for EPA to go up to $750,000 per site
  • Allows up to 5 percent of grant amounts to be used for administrative costs
  • Addresses liability concerns for sites acquired prior to January 11, 2002
  • Addresses “involuntary” acquisition of properties

H.R. 3017 is sponsored by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV), Greg Walden (R-OR) and chair of the Committee, Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member of the Committee, John Shimkus (R-IL) and chair of the Environment Subcommittee, and Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also has jurisdiction over brownfields, with a version introduced  introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT). The companion Senate bill, S. 822, was introduced by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Edward Markey (D-MA) and is scheduled for a markup on July 12 by the Committee on Environmental and Public Works.

Commissioner Hill Discusses After School on Capitol Hill

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On Tuesday, June 27, Orlando, Fla., City Commissioner Regina Hill traveled to Washington to represent NLC in a briefing on Capitol Hill regarding community supports for youth, including summer learning, meals and jobs.  Speaking specifically about 21st Century Community Learn Center funding, the Summer Food Service Program and federal investments in summer youth employment programs, the Commissioner detailed how federal investments in these programs is critical to ensuring the safety and education of youth. 

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The Commissioner also participated in budget advocacy meetings to advocate for federal investments in cities with Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL) and a representative for Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) office to underscore the need for these programs in cities and specifically within the local Florida community. 


NLC Submits Comments on WOTUS Revision; Withdrawal Comment Period Set to Begin

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

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 (February 28, 2017), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are pursuing a two-step approach to rescind and revise the Clean Water Rule (aka “Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS).

Last month, NLC submitted comments to the agencies highlighting key recommendations for consideration as the agencies move forward with revising the rule, including asking the agencies to:

  • Engage in ongoing consultation under Executive Order 13132
  • Propose easily understandable definitions
  • Propose clear exemptions
  • Conduct an analysis of economic benefits and costs
  • Provide maps of WOTUS determinations

NLC’s comments followed a Federalism consultation briefing that the agencies held in April to solicit input from state and local government officials and organizations on the rule’s revision.

Additionally, last week, EPA and the Corps proposed a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The public comment period will be open for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

NLC Testifies Before Speaker’s Bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Relations

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

On June 22, National League of Cities (NLC) Board Member Patrick Wojahn, mayor, College Park, Md., testified before the new Bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Relations created by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Ryan opened the hearing, stating “There’s no question that we can work better, as partners, with state, local and tribal leaders.

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Out of the dozen members of Congress appointed to the task force, nearly all were in attendance. The hearing, chaired by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), raised questions large and small. Among them:

  • “What powers ought to be delegated to each level of government?”
  • “Should all federal funding simply be block-granted to the states?”
  • “Should Dillon’s Rule be eliminated in every state, in favor of home rule?”

That final question was asked by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to Mayor Wojahn following the mayor’s testimony, which included an explanation of Dillon’s Rule versus home rule states. Cities in home rule states are afforded broader authority than those in Dillon’s Rule states, in which state legislatures can aggressively control various elements of local governments, from their structures and methods of financing to their procedures and abilities to make and implement certain policies.

Mayor Wojahn’s testimony contrasted the growing fiscal power of cities and their contribution to the national economy with the waning authority afforded cities as a result of federal and state level preemptions. Mayor Wojahn cited NLC’s recent report on state preemption laws, City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis, which was submitted with his testimony.

Mayor Wojahn stated to the committee:

“In the interest of our common constituents, the intergovernmental partnership should not serve as a battleground for divisive issues. Cities value strong federal and state partnerships. City leaders are using every tool at their disposal to create revenue locally and to stretch local tax dollars. From traditional tools like tax-exempt municipal bonds and innovative tax-increment financing districts to project-specific taxes approved by public referendum, city leaders are delivering on the expectations of their residents in economically-productive ways. But proposed cuts to programs that cities rely on, and aggressive preemption efforts at the state level — particularly those spurred by special interest groups — are hurting our ability to serve our local communities, expand our local economies, and ensure jobs for our residents.”

The bipartisan task force expects to hold monthly hearings to focus on specific questions that, ultimately, could lead to a rebalancing of the powers in the intergovernmental partnership.

White House Nominates Leaders for FCC, NTIA

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Last month, the White House announced nominees to fill Democratic and Republican vacancies on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates issues related to telecommunications infrastructure and service, as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which handles Internet governance, oversees the FirstNet first responder broadband network, and provides technical assistance to communities for broadband promotion.

The Senate is likely to confirm the two nominees for the FCC, Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel. Carr served as a wireless and public safety advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and is likely to present challenges to local governments on issues of wireless infrastructure preemption. Rosenworcel served previously as an FCC commissioner during the Obama Administration, and was known for championing issues such as closing the digital divide and modernizing the Lifeline subsidy program to include broadband. Both are likely to be advanced through the Senate confirmation as a “package deal,” speeding the process. Their appointments, along with the reappointment of Chairman Pai, will complete the five-member commission.

NTIA Administrator nominee David Redl previously served as chief counsel on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His nomination has faced delays as members of the Senate Commerce Committee, tasked with vetting his candidacy, have raised concerns about the transition of the governance of internet address oversight (ICANN) from the US to an international body in 2016. He is likely to ultimately be confirmed, although controversy relating to the ICANN transition has threatened funding for NTIA in FY2018.

NLC Calls on FCC to Preserve Traditional Telecommunications Authority

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month, NLC called on the FCC to protect authority traditionally held by local governments in two ongoing wireless and wireline rulemaking proceedings. The two proposals are intended to streamline and promote broadband deployment, and suggest a series of changes that could severely hamper local governments’ ability to adequately manage use of the rights-of-way, protect consumers of legacy telephone and data services, and prevent redlining by telecommunications providers of certain neighborhoods.

NLC’s comments opposed further preemption by the federal government and the characterization by the FCC of local governance as a barrier to broadband deployment. NLC also fought back against a “deemed granted” proposal, which would automatically grant the wireless infrastructure siting applications of any entity if a local government overran the federal shot clock time limit to process that application for any reason. NLC also urged the FCC not to limit consideration of aesthetic concerns by local governments or federal interference in this area, as decisions about the aesthetic nature of neighborhoods is an important economic development tool for communities. Finally, NLC urged the FCC to proceed with caution in any streamlining of copper telecommunications infrastructure retirement requirements intended to protect consumers and local government phone service customers.

Cities are encouraged to participate in the reply comment process at the FCC, which will remain open until July 17. Numerous communities and local officials have already filed in these proceedings. For instructions on using the FCC’s commenting system, click here. Use docket numbers 17-79 (wireless proposal) and 17-84 (wireline proposal) when filing your comments to ensure they are properly filed. If your community files in this proceeding, please forward a copy of your comments to Angelina Panettieri at panettieri@nlc.org

House Subcommittee Passes Energy-Water Appropriations Bill

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed a spending bill to fund the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). Important to cities and towns in the bill is the Weatherization Assistance Program, which aims to reduce energy costs for low-income households by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, and funding for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which supports programs such as the Better Buildings Challenge and SunShot program aimed at increasing energy savings from buildings and promoting renewable energy generation. While the Weatherization program would receive level funding compared to FY17, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is facing a proposed cut of $1 billion compared to FY17.

U.S. Department of Energy


FY17 Funding Level

FY18 President’s Proposal

FY18 House Bill

Weatherization Assistance Program

$211.6 million


$211.6 million

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

$2.1 billion

$636 million

$1.1 billion

A markup before the full Appropriations Committee has not yet been scheduled.

The bill language also includes a policy rider that would allow the Army Corps to withdraw the 2015 Clean Water Rule (aka “waters of the U.S.”/WOTUS) without following the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the requirement for public notice and comment period. While NLC has concerns with the 2015 rule, and has advocated for a revision (see above WOTUS article), the ability of local officials to participate in the rulemaking process is a fundamental principle of the intergovernmental partnership.

Municipal Bond Education Continues on Capitol Hill

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

NLC, in coordination with the Mutual Bonds for America coalition, hosted a “Muni Bonds 201” briefing for Capitol Hill staff on June 7. The briefing, which kicked off a 2-day fly-in of local elected officials and stakeholders, was highlighted by a discussion led by Municipal Finance Caucus co-chairs Representatives Hultgren and Ruppersberger. 

The program began with an overview of tax reform, which led to a deeper dive into specific issue areas. Issues such as the day-today impacts of the municipal bond tax-exemption, economic efficiency of municipal bond financing and the role of qualified private activity bonds (PABs) in infrastructure, housing, health and education were addressed.

As discussions on the Hill continue to develop, education on Capitol Hill is paramount to protecting city priorities such as the tax-exemption of municipal bond interest and the state and local tax deduction. Next month, NLC along with other Big 7 state and local organizations will continue the tax series and host a state and local tax deduction briefing featuring a panel of local elected leaders.  The event will illuminate the importance of local control in taxation and infrastructure financing. 

While Congress continues to debate issues important to cities, it is key to maintain a seat at the table and ensure that city voices are heard.

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