Federal Advocacy Update: Week of November 7, 2017

Inside view of Capitol Hill Dome
Inside view of Capitol Hill Dome

In this issue:


Tax Plan Takeaways for City Leaders

Irma Esparza Diggs, 202.626.3176

On November 2, the House Ways and Means Committee released its long-awaited tax reform plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The proposed plan aims to streamline the U.S. tax code and create some tax relief for middle- and low-income Americans by reducing the number of tax brackets, reducing marginal tax rates, and expanding family tax credits. Unfortunately, these come at the cost of eliminating key deductions and tax credits that many other middle-class Americans rely on, help finance local infrastructure and build strong, vibrant and economically sound communities.

In response to the bill, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, released a statement. “We welcome efforts to simplify the federal tax code, expand beneficial tax credits, and lower tax rates for middle class and low-income Americans. But, as city leaders, we see this bill as yet another attempt to limit local control and pass the cost of action in Washington onto city halls throughout the nation,” said Zone.

There are a number of interests at play in this tax reform bill. NLC’s mission is to preserve all existing elements of our tax code that allow for healthy financing options for cities and support local control in taxing authority. This includes preserving the tax exemption for municipal bonds and all elements of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. Click here to read more about the specific proposed tax cuts on NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

Given that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act falls short on critical issues for cities, including bonds, credits, and tax deductions, NLC drafted a letter to Congress urging the preservation of these key components of the tax code.Click here to send letter this letter to your Member of Congress now before the bill is sent to the House floor for a full vote.


Cities, Start Your Drone Idea Engines

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

On November 2, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced how the new Unmanned Aerial System (UAS or drone) Integration Pilot Program will be conducted and how cities can apply to be one of the first places in the country to test new uses with drone partners and in collaboration with FAA. To help you think through this new opportunity consider the following questions:

  • What drone uses could benefit your city?
  • What drones already operate in your city and do they want to expand or test outside of their existing activities?
  • What companies or public entities in your city may want to test drone uses?
  • What new industries could develop in your area using or testing drones?

If your city wants to participate, you will need a concept for operations, gather a team capable of proposing and executing your concept, and submit an application to the FAA. The application process will include several iterative steps.

Cities who want to apply must take the first step of informing the FAA of your intention to apply within 20 days of the FAA’s official notice. If the notice is published on November 8, as expected, the deadline to submit a Notice of Intent to the FAA will be November 28. This will also allow a city to access a closed Facebook group where potential industry partners will also be invited to encourage collaboration and find partners. A pilot partnership may include several partners – industry partners, technology providers, public safety officials, airport officials – to successfully achieve their pilot’s goals. Full application instructions are available here.

The FAA is hosting a webinar on November 8 at 3pm EST to provide an overview of the UAS Integration Pilot Program, the application process, and specific criteria and deadlines that are required in order to be accepted into the program. Click here to register.


Senate Considers Draft Bill to Preempt Local Rights of Way Authority

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee began work on a draft bill that would radically preempt existing local authority over rights of way management for broadband infrastructure. The draft bill, which has not yet been introduced, would authorize in statute many of the challenges faced by cities in proposed rulemaking at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this year.

The current language would sharply reduce the “shot clock” time limits local governments have to process broadband infrastructure siting applications for facilities of all sizes (60 days for collocation and 90 days for new towers). This would leave local governments with only a fraction of the working time the federal government allowed itself in the bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act the Senate passed this year to improve infrastructure siting on federal lands.

The current draft also enacts a “deemed granted” remedy for any situation in which a local government did not meet these new stringent timelines, allowing providers and tower companies to install infrastructure regardless of the safety and propriety of the equipment, and even if any delay in processing was caused by a lack of sufficient information from the applicant - or by the applicant submitting dozens or hundreds of applications simultaneously.

The draft bill would also restrict compensation for access to rights of way, pole attachments, and any other locally owned facility to “actual and direct costs,” and tightly restricts what local governments may consider in infrastructure siting applications to a narrow set of standards.

If you are represented by a senator on the Commerce Committee, please contact him or her and urge their opposition to this draft in its current form. Click here to send an email, or download an editable template to use on your city’s letterhead. If you send a letter on letterhead, please share a copy with Angelina Panettieri at panettieri@nlc.org. NLC will continue to work with the Senate Commerce Committee to find a path forward on legislation that promotes broadband infrastructure, while respecting local authority.


House Votes on Key Healthcare Provisions

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098 

On November 2, the House passed The Champion Act (H.R. 3922) on close to a party line vote with 15 Democrats voting yes and 3 Republicans voting no, for a tally of 242-174. This bill renews funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers. 

While there is bipartisan support for these programs in the House and the Senate, debate in the House has become partisan around the offsets that would increase premiums for Medicare beneficiaries earning over $500,000 a year, limit benefits for lottery winners who qualify for Medicaid and cut $6.35 billion over 10 years from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF).  The PPHF provides access to vaccinations, chronic disease prevention and other public health programs directly impacting cities and thus proposed cuts to this program are a concern. 

The Senate bill, S. 1827, is bipartisan but does not yet include offsets.  Federal funding for CHIP and other safety net programs expired at the end of September, creating greater urgency towards finding a compromise.

NLC sent a letter to House and Senate leadership on November 1 urging Congress to take immediate action to address critical human services and health care programs which, without immediate action, will impact children, seniors, rural and underserved patients in 19,000 cities and towns across the country.  These programs include: The Children’s Health Insurance Program, Community Health Centers, Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and the National Health Service Corps.


NLC Conference Delegates to Vote on Changes to NLC National Municipal Policy in Charlotte

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

A powerful line-up of speakers and sessions that feature inspiring keynote addresses, skill-building seminars, innovate learning approaches, mobile workshops, and great opportunities to network with colleagues from across the country are in store for the thousands of city leaders who will descend upon Charlotte, N.C. on November 15-18 to attend NLC's 2017 City Summit conference. In addition to those sessions, important governance activities that involve NLC members will also take place at the conference.

During the conference's Annual Business Meeting on November 18, the entire NLC membership, including the State Municipal Leagues, will consider changes to NLC's National Municipal Policy (NMP). The NMP is NLC's comprehensive policy platform on federal issues directly affecting or of concern to cities and towns. It serves as the foundation for NLC's federal advocacy efforts on behalf of the nation's cities and is subject to an annual review by NLC’s membership during the City Summit. As the foundation for our advocacy efforts, a relevant and robust NMP is essential to our effectiveness on your behalf on Capitol Hill.

Over the course of this year, members who serve on NLC's Federal Advocacy Committees have been hard at work reviewing the NMP and developing recommendations for changes where needed. Click here to review the proposed changes that will be considered in Charlotte and the individual policy chapters for each of the seven Federal Advocacy Committees.

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