Federal Advocacy Update: Week of May 9, 2017

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

In this issue:

NLC Gears Up for Infrastructure Week 2017


Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Infrastructure Week 2017

Now in its fifth year, the National League of Cities (NLC) is once again participating in Infrastructure Week, May 15-19. Infrastructure Week is a national week of education and advocacy that brings together American businesses, workers, elected leaders, and everyday citizens around one message: It’s #TimeToBuild.

NLC will host several events during Infrastructure Week highlighting the need for Congress to directly invest in local infrastructure, including:

  • An infrastructure advocacy action. As NLC leaders and our allies converge on Capitol Hill, join us from home to tell Congress to invest in cities.
  • An event discussing resilient water management on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 16 at 2:00pm EDT. This event is hosted by NLC, the Value of Water Campaign, and World Resources Institute.
  • A panel discussion on the importance of local infrastructure investments at the National City-County Leadership Center on Wednesday, May 17 at 10:00am EDT. This event is hosted by NLC, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the US Conference of Mayors.
  • An event highlighting outstanding examples of infrastructure projects nationwide on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 17 at 2:00pm EDT. This event is hosted by the Big 7 state and local government associations.
  • An event discussing the importance of broadband in building smart communities at the National City-County Leadership Center on Thursday, May 18 at 2:00pm EDT. This event is hosted by the NLC, NACo, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
  • A panel discussion on the current landscape of autonomous vehicle research and technology development at the National City-County Leadership Center on Friday, May 19 at 10:00am EDT. This event is hosted by NLC and National Association of Regional Councils, and sponsored by Enterprise.

Visit www.nlc.org/InfrastructureWeek for more information on NLC’s activities or email your questions to advocacy@nlc.org.

Congress Stands with Cities on Funding for Fiscal Year 2017


Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Last week, by large bipartisan margins, Congress approved a final Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 spending package that adheres to existing spending levels; and in doing so Congress also rejected the major, last-minute cuts to city priorities requested by the Administration.  As a result, cities should not face any unanticipated shortfalls or systematic clawbacks of spent-out FY17 federal funds.  In response to the bipartisan agreement, NLC President Matt Zone released the following statement:

“We called upon members of Congress to reject any plan that cut federal investment in cities and towns, and that is exactly what they did. Today’s bipartisan action is a major victory for the National League of Cities, cities and towns nationwide, and the hundreds of local leaders who stood with us to fight the cuts and save crucial programs for cities.

“More than 700 city leaders made phone calls, sent letters, held town halls, wrote op-eds, signed our action letter and told Congress to stand with cities. We sent a clear message: If our federal elected leaders truly want to make America a safer and better place to live, don’t cut the programs that provide a bridge for millions of Americans moving into the middle class.

“Congress heard our message, and it is now up to the president to sign this bill. As we look toward the fiscal year 2018 budget, local leaders will continue to defend the tried and proven programs that help cities build stronger communities.”

Now that the work of the previous Congress is complete even months late, there is no time to rest before our focus turns to Fiscal Year 2018.  The President’s budget proposal is typically delivered to Congress in February, however, White House aides have said not to expect the President’s full budget proposal before May 22.  Until then, we only have the President’s “skinny budget” proposal to respond to, which would eliminate billions in federal funding for city priorities, including the CDBG program. 

Congress is unlikely to advance any FY18 spending bills until they see the President’s proposal, even though there are only four-and-a-half months left before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.  With the short calendar, Congress will feel pressured to make decisions very quickly or yield to another series of stop-gap spending bills. 

Under either scenario, city leaders must make their voices heard now – before it’s too late to have an influence. Click here to learn more about our efforts to #FightTheCuts and how you can advocate for federal investments in cities.

House Passes Healthcare Reform; Debate Moves to the Senate


Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098 

Last week, the House of Representatives narrowly voted to approve the GOP plan to reform the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a 217-213 vote. All 193 Democrats opposed the bill, along with 20 Republicans.  The bill will now travel to the Senate where many within the Republican party have been critical of the House version, particularly as it relates to Medicaid and the impact within their states.

Leader McConnell has appointed a 12-member working group to begin crafting the Senate version of the legislation.  As they do, they will await a score from the Congressional Budget Office on the House-passed legislation, which is required by the Senate budget rules for the parliamentarian to move forward with the Senate legislative process.

As the Senate begins negotiations, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated that his priorities include helping those without insurance options, lowering premiums, giving states more flexibility on Medicaid and protecting those with pre-existing conditions.

For more information on the House vote, click here to read a post on NLC’s CitiesSpeak blog that provides details on the amendments and changes to the bill.  We hope that you will join us in engaging with your Senators to ensure that they craft legislation that protects and promotes healthy communities without passing the financial burden onto local governments.

NLC Leader Testifies Before Senate Committee on Broadband Deployment


Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

On May 3, Mayor Gary Resnick, Wilton Manors, Florida, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology to share ideas on how local governments could aid in reducing barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment. Mayor Resnick serves as a vice chair on the National League of Cities’ Information Technology and Communications Federal Advocacy Committee.

Mayor Resnick

“As city leaders,” Mayor Resnick noted, “we work proactively with the private sector to support high quality service for our communities.” But as he went on to explain, all parties, including local and federal, governments and industry, need to work together as productive partners to accomplish mutual goals. Resnick pushed back against industry assertions that local governance of wireless facilities and public rights-of-way are barriers to broadband deployment, and described how Florida communities, subject to extreme weather and roadways close to bodies of water, balance industry needs with community priorities.

As part of his testimony, Mayor Resnick outlined several policy recommendations and stressed the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all federal preemption of local authority — and the value of local input in the rulemaking process. Specifically, Mayor Resnick called on Congress and federal agencies to eliminate federal barriers to infrastructure deployment, allow local governments to use tools like municipal broadband to close the digital divide, and expand education efforts to improve digital literacy and safe use of the internet.

For more information, click here to read Mayor Resnick’s written testimony or here to watch a video of the hearing. 

NLC Applauds E-Fairness Legislation, but Demands Action


Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

On April 27, bipartisan coalitions in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced two e-Fairness bills: S. 976, the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) of 2017, and H.R. 2193, the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA) of 2017.  Unchanged from last Congress, NLC supports these bills that would help to alleviate budget shortfalls at the state and local level due to the lack of online sales tax enforcement.

In a press release, NLC and other state and local government associations applauded the bipartisan introduction and reaffirmed the need for action: “Our organizations have long supported remote sales tax legislation that would ensure collection of existing sales and use taxes and level the playing field between online and Main Street businesses.”

Despite their necessity to our local economies, brick-and-mortar retailers compete at a five to ten percent disadvantage to online sellers by collecting legally-required sales tax at the time of purchase – something online retailers are not required to do.  Each year, $23 billion in owed sales tax go uncollected from online transactions. 

NLC is calling on Congress to take action on this common-sense reform and move this bill forward to ensure that cities have tools they need to thrive in the economy of the future and empower city leaders with the autonomy they need to run local government more efficiently.

Workforce Tool for City Leaders on WIOA


Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requires that local workforce development boards engage with education, economic development, and community partners to carry out their missions of providing relevant job training to residents and increasing economic competitiveness in the regions they serve. Together with our workforce partners and local government colleagues, the National League of Cities has partnered to create a new online learning platform, StudyWorkforce, designed to support state and local elected officials, workforce board members, agency staff, and workforce development professionals seeking to build their knowledge and skills in the workforce development arena. Development for StudyWorkforce was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration.

The first course available on the platform, “The Case for Strong Workforce Boards and Board Staff,” is available at no cost to help build professional competencies around the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and create understanding among chief local elected officials, economic development agencies, and newly elected workforce board members or staff about how WIOA can be leveraged in support of a workforce and economic development agenda that builds communities, strengthens cities and benefits constituents.

Learn more and register for the online course here: https://studyworkforce.bluedrop.io

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