Federal Advocacy Update: Week of June 4, 2019

The US Capitol Building dome.
The US Capitol Building dome.

In this issue:


Congress Introduces Bipartisan BUILDS Act

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On May 16, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH), along with Representatives Mitchell (R-MI-10), Bonamici (D-OR-1), Thompson (R-PA-15) and Langevin (D-RI-2) introduced the bipartisan Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demand for Skills Act (BUILDS Act), which would make an important investment in the skills and supports that our nation’s workforce needs to meet the growing demands of infrastructure sector businesses in cities, towns and villages across America.

The BUILDS Act provides for critical investment in local partnerships between business, education, human services and the workforce system to ramp-up work-based learning programs in the critical sectors that support a robust infrastructure. Across all these sectors the United States has a growing workforce problem. The Department of Education and the Department of Labor project that we will need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022 to keep pace with current hiring needs, not including the even greater need that would result from a significant federal investment. Therefore, an investment in the skills training to meet this need is critical.

Specifically, the BUILDS Act will:
•    Provide grants to industry or sector partnerships that improve worker training, retention and advancement in targeted infrastructure and transportation industry sectors.
•    Connect businesses and education providers to develop classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job learning.
•    Prepare managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors within work-based learning programs.
•    Offer resources and career awareness programming to recruit and retain individuals for workforce training programs.
•    Provide support services such as skills training, adult basic education, work attire and tools, childcare, transportation and mentoring to ensure workers are successful from pre-employment to placement in a full-time position.

NLC issued a letter of support for this legislation and will continue to advocate for its passage and inclusion as a foundational part of any comprehensive infrastructure package.


Congress Passes Disaster Aid Package and Extends the National Flood Insurance Program

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

After three failed attempts to pass the $19 billion disaster aid package last week, on June 3, the House finally passed the bill that would provide billions of dollars to help communities struggling to rebuild after a series of hurricanes, wildfires and destructive storms destroyed essential infrastructure. The legislation also extends the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30. A small group of conservative lawmakers objected to the bill’s passage under the House’s unanimous consent rules because they believed the bill needs to include funding for the border wall and they want a recorded vote on the bill.

The Senate-passed the Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act on May 23 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 85 to 8. The legislation will go to the President’s desk for his signature. 

Click here to view the fact sheet on the Senate-passed bill, prepared by the staff of the House Appropriations Committee.


FY20 House Appropriations Process Underway

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025 and Zachary Gossett, 202.465.2520

The appropriations process is underway in the House of Representatives. Bills for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Agriculture); Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Defense; Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Legislative Branch; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (Transportation-HUD) have passed through subcommittee by voice vote—indicating some bipartisan support. Additionally, each of these bills, aside from Agriculture and Transportation-HUD, have passed through the larger appropriations committee.

In general, these bills promote increases in programs that aid cities, towns and villages. Specifically, the House hopes to double spending for the Choice Neighborhoods program and dramatically increase rural broadband development spending.

NLC continues to track the FY20 budget developments for programs important to cities here


NLC Urges EPA to Delay Rulemaking on Clean Water Act Certification Process

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 24, NLC urged the agency to delay developing a proposed rule on the Clean Water Act Section 401 permitting process and to undergo a proper federalism consultation process. 

While EPA is under a 120-day deadline to release new regulations as instructed by Executive Order 13878: Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth, NLC raised concerns that the short time frame does not allow the agency to fully consult with state and local governments nor to fully consider the implications of changes to the program. NLC notes that any regulatory change to the Section 401 certification process should be developed through genuine consultation with state and local governments and must not come at the expense of state and local authority.  
 
The Executive Order directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its regulations and guidance under the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification program to determine whether provisions should be clarified to “promote efficient permitting processes and reduce regulatory uncertainties that currently make energy infrastructure projects expensive and that discourage new investment.”

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act provides that no federal permit or license can be issued that may result in a discharge to waters of the United States unless the state or authorized tribe certifies that the discharge is consistent with water quality requirements or waives certification. In reviewing a proposed federal permit or licenses, states and authorized tribes have the option to grant the permit, grant the permit with conditions, deny the permit, or to waive their right to act. 

In April, EPA held a briefing for state and local government associations to gather information on how the agency can improve the substance of Section 401 certifications (proper scope and information needs), as well as the process (timing requests, responsibility of the various stakeholders, information coordination). NLC’s comment letter was submitted in response to the briefing. 


NLC Calls on FCC to Preserve Existing OTARD Rules

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), NLC opposed proposed changes that would expand federal preemption of local authority over small wireless devices. As previously reported, the FCC has proposed changes to its over-the-air reception devices (OTARD) rules that would dramatically expand the number of small wireless devices exempted from local or homeowner association control. 

As NLC noted, the OTARD rules were originally conceived to ensure that consumers could access satellite or wireless cable television services, and later satellite broadband services. They exempted from local or homeowner association oversight only equipment of one meter or less located on the owned or leased property of the end user (for example, a satellite dish on an apartment balcony or building rooftop). The FCC has proposed expanding that category to include any wireless equipment, regardless of use or user, so long as it fits the size limitations, and explored whether to expand that size limit.

NLC argued that this was a serious overextension of the original rules, which were intended to expand consumer access to technology, not provide a backdoor to preemption of all local control of wireless infrastructure. NLC also raised concerns about the lack of proposed limits on equipment at a given site, and the potential for abuse of consumers who did not knowingly consent to using their homes or businesses as wireless internet service provider base stations. NLC also noted that rather than preventing the growth of competitive ISP service, many local governments have collaborated proactively with wireless ISPs to increase broadband access in their communities, particularly in rural areas.

Reply comments may be made on the proposed rule until June 17, in WT Docket No. 19-71.


Register for NLC’s 2019 Summer Board and Leadership Meeting

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

Registration for the National League of Cities 2019 Summer Board and Leadership Meeting is open! Join your colleagues June 25-27 in Indianapolis, Indiana, by registering here.

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The meeting will take place at the Indianapolis Marriot downtown—350 Maryland Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225. After you complete the registration, you will receive a confirmation email with information on housing and reservations.

For registration instructions, go here. To register now, click here

If you have questions for the following reasons, contact the relevant staff member:

  • Board of Directors - Carla Smith
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 afternoon; end Wednesday June 26 evening.
  • Advisory Council - Jim Brooks
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Wednesday, June 26 evening.  
  • Federal Advocacy Committees - Avery Peters
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Thursday, June 27 afternoon.
  • Council on Race, Equity and Leadership - Kiera White 
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 evening; end Thursday, June 27 afternoon.
  • Council on Youth, Education, and Families - Sharie Wood
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 morning; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • Large Cities Council - Timothy Evans
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 noon; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • Military Communities Council - Elisha Harig-Blaine
    • Activities start Wednesday, June 26 morning; end Wednesday, June 26 noon.
  • State League Steering Committee - Bryan Griffith
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 afternoon; end Wednesday, June 26 evening.
  • University Communities Council - Katrina Washington
    • Activities start Tuesday, June 25 noon; end Tuesday, June 25 evening.
  • General Inquiries - Lauren Ryan
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