Federal Advocacy Update: Week of October 10, 2017

Flags in DC
Flags in DC

In this issue:

Victory for Cities on HQLA

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183

On October 3, the House of Representatives passed the Municipal Finance Support Act of 2017 (H.R. 1624), in a unanimous voice vote.  The bipartisan legislation would roll back regulations and classify municipal securities as a level 2A investment grade, liquid and readily marketable assets.

Under the new law, the Federal Deposit Insurance Act would be amended to require certain municipal bonds to be treated as “High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA),” which allows financial institutions to hold municipal bonds.  This will make bonds a more attractive investment, in turn making municipal bonds more affordable for municipalities to invest in local infrastructure. 

Although a similar bill passed in the Senate by unanimous consent in 2016, the Senate will need to draft and introduce new legislation. NLC calls on city champions in Congress to continue moving this issue forward by voting on this vital legislation this year.

Local Revenue Still a Target in Tax Reform

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

As the tax reform debate heats up in Washington, the state and local tax (SALT) deduction is still a prime target for elimination.  While mounting opposition to its elimination has given rise to multiple proposals to preserve SALT in part, city leaders must continue to stand up and tell Congress that cities and families cannot afford to pay for tax reform.

On October 5, NLC hosted a webinar to educate city leaders about the impact the elimination of SALT will have on cities. David Parkhurst, General Counsel at the National Governors Association, joined NLC to provide insight on the current state of tax reform and the importance of SALT in the intergovernmental partnership. To view a recording and learn more about our efforts to protect SALT, click here.

While the U.S. House of Representatives is in recess the week of October 16, we're calling on city leaders to schedule a meeting with your member of Congress and their district director to advocate for SALT and tax-exempt municipal bonds. NLC and our Americans Against Double Taxation coalition partners are hosting a SALT Week of Action to highlight the importance of SALT. Visit nlc.org/SALT to find the tools you need to take action during this critical week.

WOTUS Under Review by Agencies and Supreme Court

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On September 27, NLC submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on the Definition of the “Waters of the United States” – Recodification of Pre-Existing Rules. The proposed rule would rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule (aka “Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS) and recodify the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule.

The comment letter highlights some of the challenges for local governments in reverting back to the previous definition of a “waters of the U.S.” and asks the agencies to give clear direction to the regional offices about the types of waters that trigger federal Clean Water Act oversight and permitting responsibilities. Additionally, NLC asked the agencies to follow the guidelines of Executive Order 13132: Federalism and the Administrative Procedures Act throughout the rulemaking process of withdrawing and proposing a WOTUS rule.

The withdrawal proposal comes as legal challenges to the 2015 rule continue. While the 2015 rule is under a temporary nationwide stay, the first legal question to be resolved is which court - the district court or the appeals court - has jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the case. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense on the jurisdictional question.

EPA and the Corps will hold a series of sector-specific conference calls throughout the fall to hear from stakeholders. A call for stormwater, wastewater management and drinking water agencies will be held on November 14 from 1-3 pm eastern. Click here for the full list of calls and registration information.

NLC Calls on FCC to Revisit Radio Frequency Emissions Safety

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

NLCcalled on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 28 to revisit and update its outdated guidance on safe exposure to radio frequency (RF) emissions. RF radiation is emitted by transmitting antennas, such as those in phones or on cell towers and rooftops. The current rules were last updated in 1996, when cell phone use within the United States was dramatically lower and wireless infrastructure was much less prevalent in communities.

NLC, along with other organizations representing local government officials, asked the FCC to update its RF emission safety rules with current scientific data and to provide current guidance for local governments that reflects the increasing number of small cell and other wireless infrastructure technologies being deployed within cities. This guidance would provide local officials and citizens with a “plain English” explanation of RF emissions safety and provide assistance in determining facility compliance with FCC rules. NLC’s request also reflects an earlier recommendation by the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, which includes two municipal officials.

White House Updates NLC on Infrastructure Plans

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

During the afternoon of October 5, the White House held a meeting to discuss their infrastructure package with highway and bridge stakeholders. Pinecrest, Fla. Councilmember James McDonald and Vice Chair of NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Services Federal Advocacy Committee and Brittney Kohler, Program Director for Transportation and Infrastructure Services attended the meeting on behalf of NLC.

White House Infrastructure Meeting 9.28.17

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U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen reiterated that this new White House infrastructure package will be an addition to existing programs to “expand the pie.” They want to ensure that federal investment does not replace committed state and local dollars already planned for infrastructure. D.J. Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy, further highlighted the administration’s focus on updating federal processes for infrastructure projects to reduce the overall timeline from start to finish. These advisors all indicated that the funding made available will be competitive and must show local, state or private capital commitment to projects.

The White House echoed that more can and should be done to fill the infrastructure funding gap and will continue to update NLC on the infrastructure package as details are available.

Wildfires Are A Community Design Problem

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Every mayor or city manager has read an article or watched a news clip that focused on a community ravaged by wildfires. Many have even witnessed firsthand the economic, environmental, and social implications that wildland-urban interface fires can create in unprepared communities. Every year, these images grow more widespread and familiar.

The most dangerous kinds of wildfires, which attack communities adjacent to and surrounded by wildlands, are not unique to the West or specific to the Rocky Mountains. Most recently, fires in the southeast have become frequent and severe - a glaring proof for every city in the nation. For this reason alone, it is essential that leaders of communities containing wildland-urban interface zones take immediate action.

Simply put, fires that reach the wildland-urban interface are bad news. But when a community is prepared, the worst impacts can be avoided. Preparedness and planning are key to mitigating the damage - and community leaders should develop strategies to address the challenges these events impose. To learn more about how city leaders can prepare for wildfires, click here to read more on NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

Senate Autonomous Vehicle Bill Moves Forward

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

On October 4, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to move forward the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act (S.1885; AV START Act). The bill which advances efforts to improve roadway safety through the deployment of self-driving vehicles. The full Senate will now have the opportunity to consider this bill, while many provisions are still being worked out including the role of states and cities in managing autonomous vehicles on our roads.

NLC recently joined with other organizations to urge the Senate committee to remove the most concerning language from the bill, including provisions that would prevent cities from making common sense rules of the road for self-driving vehicles or having access to data that could make commutes better and reduce road fatalities.

We need city leaders to urge their Senators to consider the impact the AV Start Act will have on cities local authority and stress the critical role cities will have as self-driving cars hit the road. If you’d like to participate in NLC’s targeted outreach on autonomous vehicles, contact Brittney Kohler at kohler@nlc.org.

October 13 Deadline: Federal Advocacy Committee Leadership Applications

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

Federal advocacy committees play an invaluable role at NLC. By applying to lead, you will raise your profile as a municipal leader on Capitol Hill, at the White House and with federal agencies. You will also serve alongside other city leaders from across the nation to develop federal policy positions, which make up our National Municipal Policy

Applications for Committee leadership positions (chair and vice chairs) are due October 13. Click here to apply today.

Webinar: Supreme Court Preview

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

It’s rare for the Supreme Court to have such an interesting docket so early in the term. But it’s not rare that the interesting cases - including partisan gerrymandering, public sector union dues, free speech and the free exercise of religion - affect states and local governments.

Join Todd Kim, District of Columbia Solicitor General, who will argue one of the two cases involving the District this term, Ashley Johnson, Gibson Dunn, who co-wrote a merits brief on behalf of Governor Chris Christie in a sports gambling case, and Kevin Daley, Supreme Court reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation, in a discussion of the most important cases so far for states and local governments to be decided in the Court's 2017 term. 

Date:  October 24, 2017
Time:  1 PM EST

Register here.

* SLLC will not apply for CLE credit in the 50 states for this

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