Federal Advocacy Update: Week of May 24, 2017

US Capitol
US Capitol

In this issue:

Administration’s Proposed Budget Could Devastate Cities

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Yesterday, the White House released its full Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, which includes unprecedented cuts that would slash or eliminate crucial programs that invest in cities and create jobs. While based on the previously released “skinny budget” that proposed $54 billion in cuts to domestic programs, the full budget proposal includes even more severe cuts to social welfare spending.

Cutting these essential programs would impose a crippling burden on state and local governments. The President’s budget proposal not only asks cities and towns to do a lot more with a lot less, it represents a vision of unprecedented withdrawal of federal investment in America’s neighborhoods and communities and an abandonment of the role the federal government traditionally plays as a stakeholder in cities.

If Congress honors the administration’s proposal, the impact on cities and towns will be devastating. The plan eliminates dozens of successful programs, including the Community Development Block Grant program, TIGER grants for transportation projects and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The proposal would have major consequences for every city in America — regardless of size, location or economic outlook. Instead of lifting up our communities, it cuts the very programs that allow them to thrive and prosper.

NLC is prepared to fight every step of the way — but we need your help. Click here to send a letter to your members of Congress today and tell them how the administration’s budget proposal will impact your city. By sharing real examples of how your city leverages federal funds to build your community, we can stop this budget proposal from becoming reality.

During Infrastructure Week NLC Tells Congress: Invest in Cities

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Last week, NLC joined partners and local leaders for the fifth annual Infrastructure Week. At meetings and briefings on Capitol Hill and in cities across the country, city leaders called on Congress to invest in cities to help improve our nation’s water, broadband and transportation infrastructure. Together we ensured that federal decision-makers heard loud and clear that it’s time to build.

On Tuesday, May 16, NLC along with the Value of Water Campaign and the World Resources Institute hosted a Congressional Briefing on “Resilient Water Management: Strengthening Communities and Growing Economies.” During the briefing local leaders shared how they are using integrated water management strategies to address environmental challenges head on. Click here to view a video of the briefing.

During the morning of Wednesday, May 17, NLC President Matt Zone joined local leaders from the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the event “Built to Last: a Discussion on the Importance of Local Infrastructure Development.” President Zone spoke on the importance of municipal bonds in infrastructure construction and maintenance. Click here to view a video of the event.

Wednesday afternoon, NLC along with the other state and local government associations hosted a congressional briefing, “State and Local Governments Drive America: A Discussion for the Future of Infrastructure Policy.” During the briefing President Zone praised Cleveland’s use of local property taxes and municipal bonds to improve aging schools and reiterated the point to Congress that cities and states are contributing their fair share to the economy and are facilitating our nation’s infrastructure recovery.

On Thursday, May 18, NLC, NACo, and the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration hosted the event “The Importance of Broadband in Building Smart Communities”. Panelists discussed the infrastructure and policymaking challenges facing communities exploring new technology and data solutions. Click here to view a video of the event.

To wrap up a week of events, NLC, along with the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), hosted a final panel discussion “Preparing for Autonomous Vehicles on our Roads” on Friday, May 19. This panel discussion featured several experts on the subject as well as local government and regional planning officials who discussed the current landscape of autonomous vehicle research, technology development, and deployment. Click here to view a video of the event.

In addition to the events, NLC leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in Infrastructure Week activities and meet with members of Congress, key congressional committee and agency staff. During these meetings, NLC Board Member Patrick Wojahn, mayor, College Park, Md., Mayor Sal Panto, Easton, Penn., and Chair of NLC’s Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee, Vice Mayor David Luna, Mesa, Ariz., and Chair of NLC’s Information Technology and Communications Federal Advocacy Committee, Councilmember James McDonald, Pinecrest, Fla., and Vice Chair of NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Services Federal Advocacy Committee, Councilmember Gerri Schroder, Henderson, Nev., and Chair of NLC’s Community and Economic Development Federal Advocacy Committee, and Councilmember Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville, Va., and Vice Chair of NLC’s Public Safety and Crime Prevention Federal Advocacy Committee, advocated for water, broadband and transportation infrastructure investment, as well as the tax-exemption of municipal bonds.

Finally, NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak, celebrated Infrastructure Week by focusing on the importance of investing in infrastructure and featured guest posts from NLC President Zone, Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA)Mayor Sal Panto, Vice Mayor David Luna, and Councilmember James McDonald.

Throughout Infrastructure Week, NLC's message was amplified through social media under the hashtags #InvestInCities and #TimetoBuild. For additional photos and highlights from Infrastructure Week, follow NLC on Twitter and Facebook.

Cities Call on FCC to Preserve Local Authority During Infrastructure Week

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

In meetings with senior Federal Communications Commission officials during Infrastructure Week, city advocates called on the FCC to preserve local authority in pending regulatory matters. NLC ITC Committee Chair David Luna, Vice Mayor of Mesa, Ariz., along with representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association and GCCA, met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, and representatives of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Wireline Competition Bureau to urge that any regulatory decisions preserve existing local government authority to negotiate with broadband and wireless providers, receive appropriate compensation for use of public property, and ensure that residents are protected from redlining or other potentially harmful business practices.

NLC encourages cities of all size to submit comments on these items, and to combat the narrative about “local laws inhibiting broadband deployment” by describing how their communities work to deploy broadband, and any obstacles their residents may face in getting access to broadband, including challenges faced from providers or preemptive state policies. Comments on the wireless item, which focuses on wireless siting on public property, proposes a “deemed granted” remedy to local shot clock overruns, and loosening of historical review requirements for wireless infrastructure, must be filed by June 9 using WT Docket No. 17-79 in the FCC’s online comment submission system. Comments on the wireline item, which focuses on wired access to rights of way and utility poles, as well as copper phone service retirement issues, must be filed by June 15 using WC Docket No. 17-84. NLC plans to comment on both items.

Virginia and Kentucky Local Leaders Fly-In to Washington to Advocate for Cities

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Recently, city officials from Virginia and Kentucky traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress and the Administration to advocate for city priorities. Following a legislative briefing at NLC's headquarters last Wednesday, Virginia Municipal League staff and 8 members of their Federal Action Committee, led by Councilmember Rosemary Wilson, Virginia Beach, hosted a reception on Capitol Hill to advocate for transportation and infrastructure funding, E-fairness, tax exempt municipal bonds, and the CDBG program.

In addition, the Kentucky League of Cities brought 6 members to Washington this Monday to meet with members of the Kentucky congressional delegation. Led by Kentucky League of Cities President Claude Christensen, mayor, Sadieville, the advocates first received a briefing from NLC's Federal Advocacy team, then traveled to Capitol Hill to advocate for the preservation of the federal tax exemption for municipal bonds, infrastructure investment, and rural and economic development programs.

Is your city or state municipal league planning an advocacy visit to Washington, D.C.? NLC is here to help. Email advocacy@nlc.org for assistance and to coordinate your advocacy efforts.

NLC Urges White House to Strengthen Federal-Local Partnership

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, NLC sent a letter to President Trump urging him to consider local elected officials as a resource in helping to solve our nation’s most pressing challenges that are essential to the success of the Administration. To strengthen the federal-local partnership in furtherance of mutual goals, we asked President Trump to open up a direct channel for local government elected leaders by appointing a municipal leader within the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to serve as the critical voice of local government on policy matters.

Second, as the Administration prepares an infrastructure proposal to improve our nation’s airports, bridges, highways, ports, tunnels and waterways, we asked him to consider the following local government principles:

  • America’s cities are paying their fair share: over two-thirds of all public infrastructure projects in the United States are locally financed by municipal bonds.
  • While the demands on America’s infrastructure grow each year, federal funding has fallen to historically low levels, placing the economic and physical well-being of our cities and towns in jeopardy.
  • City leaders are best positioned to identify where infrastructure needs are greatest, and should be given a stronger voice in how limited federal dollars are spent.

Specifically, we asked President Trump to propose an infrastructure package that protects the tax exemption for municipal bonds; includes direct funding for local governments and uses existing mechanisms and programs for funding and financing; includes transportation, water and broadband; is forward looking and makes investments that are built for the 21st century; is accessible for small and large cities; and includes workforce development.

NLC Testifies in Support of Integrated Planning

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, Mayor Johnny DuPree, Ph.D, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi testified on behalf of NLC before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on the importance of investing in our nation’s water infrastructure and to share his perspective on two key policy frameworks that can provide local governments needed flexibility to make smart investments to protect water quality.

Highlighting challenges such as aging infrastructure, rising costs of unfunded mandates, and the limited financial capability of residents at the lower end of the economic scale to absorb further rate increases, Mayor DuPree asked for a partnership with the federal government and the states to comprehensively deal with wastewater and stormwater investments as well as unfunded mandates; for flexibility to prioritize investment in wet weather overflows and flooding collectively, rather than individually; and to address these challenges in an affordable and cost-effective manner.

NLC supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach and the “Financial Capability Assessment Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements,” which have been important tools for local governments dealing with stormwater and wastewater management issues. In his testimony, Mayor DuPree called on Congress to codify these frameworks, including calling for a reassessment of the 1997 Financial Capability Guidance, as an affordable, flexible program that all communities, both large and small and urban and rural, have an equal opportunity to take advantage of and be successful in implementing.

Specifically, NLC urges Congress to support provisions that stipulate that the effluent limitations within a compliance schedule in an integrated permit must be technically feasible and economically affordable. NLC also urges Congress to include a provision that will clearly define the threshold at which financial impacts on ratepayers trigger a consideration of flexibility to address those impacts.

Prior to the hearing, NLC lent its support to House and Senate legislation that would codify EPA’s memorandums on green infrastructure, integrated planning and affordability: the Water Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 465) sponsored by Representatives Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH); the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (S.692) sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH); and House companion bill, H.R. 2355, sponsored by Representatives Bob Latta (R-OH), David Joyce (R-OH), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH).

The legislation would allow local governments who undertake integrated planning to incorporate green infrastructure components into municipal stormwater, combined sewer overflow (CSO) and other water plans in a more cost effective way, and therefore will help reduce costs for fixed- and low-income citizens who spend a significant portion of their income on water and wastewater bills.

NLC Submits Comments on EPA Regulatory Reform

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Under the direction of Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, NLC submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification.

As co-regulators, cities play a vital role in implementing the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other statutes. Therefore, as partners in protecting America’s water resources and ensuring clean air, it is important that federal, state and local governments all work together to craft reasonable and practicable rules and regulations to ensure that these proposals are effective, implementable, offer local flexibility, avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and avoid an unfunded mandates.

The joint NLC letter notes that local governments, residents and businesses are spending tremendous resources to comply with numerous environmental and non-environmental federal and state unfunded mandates, while the capacity of local governments to respond to federal demands is limited due to fiscal constraints.

The NLC letter offers comments on the items below, including several current rules or regulations, potential forthcoming regulations where cities have some concerns, as well as suggestions for strengthening a policy that in itself is designed to provide more local government flexibility in meeting requirements under the CWA.

  • Wastewater and Stormwater Mandates
    • Combined Sewer Overflows, Sanitary Sewer Overflows and Consent Decrees
    • Integrated Planning for Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater
    • Financial Capability Guidance
    • Total Maximum Daily Loads
    • National Pollution Discharge Elimination System
  • Blending and Bypass (Iowa League of Cities v. EPA)
  • Clean Water Rule/“Waters of the U.S.”
  • Lead and Copper Rule
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter
  • Risk Management Program for Chemical Facilities
  • PCB Light Ballasts in Schools and Daycares

More information about the Agency’s Regulatory Reform is available on the EPA website.

NLC Raises Concerns with PACE Legislation

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last week, NLC expressed concerns with the Protecting Americans from Credit Expansion Act (S. 838 and H.R. 1958), which would restructure how Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs operate. Sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), the bills would undermine local government authority and jeopardize the viability of PACE programs nationally.

PACE is a public policy tool that local governments use to help residential and commercial property owners finance energy efficiency upgrades or renewable energy installations through a tax assessment. However, under the legislation, PACE would be subject to Truth in Lending Act requirements, which would hamstring a local government’s ability to use local tax assessments in the manner in which they were designed. Additionally, the legislation would overburden local tax collection systems by restricting how local governments can bill, credit and collect PACE line items on property taxes, as well as make local governments subject to licensing requirements by reclassifying them as creditors. These complications would likely lead local governments to exit PACE, effectively ending the program.

NLC calls on Congress to consider alternative legislation that focuses on expanding consumer protection and disclosure requirements, without threatening the success of PACE.

NLC-RISC Trustees Meet in Indianapolis

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman; 202.626.3098 

Last week, over 200 trustees and pool administrators of state municipal league risk pools gathered in Indianapolis to learn about industry trends, programs, services and pooling best practices.  One of two annual NLC-RISC conferences, this gathering provided an opportunity for NLC’s federal advocacy team, along with Lisa Soronen from the State and Local Legal Center, to provide a federal legislative, regulatory and legal update.

Federal law has a significant effect on local governments and their risk pools, ranging from flood insurance protection to overtime regulations.  Most recently, NLC worked closely with the health pool administers via  a monthly call to provide input on NLC’s position regarding healthcare reform.  As the new Administration and Congress set their priorities, NLC looks forward to continuing to partner with the state municipal league risk pools to advocate on behalf cities and their priorities.

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