Federal Advocacy Update: Week of October 16, 2018


In this issue:

NLC Hosts Mayors in Washington for Capitol Hill Briefing on Opioids

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098; Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On October 10, the National League of Cities (NLC) hosted Gary, Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, NLC’s first vice president, Huntington, West Virginia Mayor Steve Williams and Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Madeline Rogero in Washington to highlight the partnership needed from our federal government to successfully combat the opioid crisis in cities across America.

Opioid Briefing

At a briefing on Capitol Hill, the mayors highlighted the need for a strong federal-local partnership in order to adequately address the needs and challenges in communities across America. Following the briefing, the mayors met with key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including the majority clerk for the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee, as well as Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), as well as key members of the Administration including the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Opioid Meetings on Capitol Hill

Moving forward, NLC will continue to work with Congress to ensure that cities are at the table, particularly through the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 process, as funds are appropriated. For more on this day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, visit NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak.

Congress Sends Water Resources Bill to President

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On October 10, the Senate passed a water resources bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S. 3021), by a vote of 99-1, with NLC support, sending the bill to the president for signature. The bipartisan, bicameral compromise bill authorizes $5.8 billion for 15 projects under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) related to navigation, flood control, and ecosystem restoration, and includes additional provisions related to wastewater and drinking water and workforce development.

For a breakdown on key takeaways and important provisions for cities, visit NLC's blog, CitiesSpeak.

Congress Passes Third Bill to Address Opioid Crisis

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202-626-3098; Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On October 3, the Senate approved, by a 98-1 vote, a broad package of opioid legislation that looks to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid crisis. The House cleared the package on September 28 before recessing until after the elections. The bill, SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6), now goes to the White House which has signaled its strong support for this effort, making it likely that President Donald Trump will sign the package into law.

This bill is an important step in fighting the opioid epidemic, but it falls short in many areas including ensuring sustained, systemic investments to local efforts to combat substance abuse disorders. The National League of Cities (NLC) is concerned that while Congress has provided a considerable amount of federal dollars toward the opioid crisis, this money is still not getting down to fund local prevention, treatment and recovery programs. 

The bill authorizes an additional $500 million per year from the 21st Century Cures Act for the State Targeted Opioid Response (STOR) Grants program to provide funding to tribes and give states additional flexibility for using the grants. The STOR program is designed to increase access to treatment, reduce unmet treatment need, and reduce opioid overdose-related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder (OUD) (including prescription opioids as well as illicit drugs such as heroin).

In Fiscal Years (FY) 2017 and 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded more than $1 billion in grants to states and territories to help combat the opioid epidemic through the STOR program. Lack of clarity from Congress and the Administration on how States should use this money has left millions of dollars in federal spending on the table.

As such, at their Summer Board and Leadership Meeting, NLC’s Board of Directors passed a resolution allowing NLC staff to actively push for changes to the STOR program over the last three months. These proposed changes would have required the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within HHS, to either set aside up to 20 percent of the grants for competitive local grants or to require the states to pass through 80 percent of the STOR grants to local substance abuse, treatment, prevention and recovery programs. While these changes did not make it into the final bill, NLC will continue to fight for additional changes to the various opioid grant programs to ensure the money is getting down to the local level. 

NLC was successful in getting language added to the final bill that requires Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide a detailed report on how States are using the Federal funding to support prevention, treatment and recovery activities. 

FAA Bill Secures 5 Years of Federal Support for City Airports

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

Every day, more than 42,000 flights travel through cities in the United States. On October 3, the Senate passed the latest Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization (H.R. 302), which brings $17 billion in secure support for the next five years to city airport improvements and essential air service that reaches across the United States. NLC was glad that the Senate moved forward with a negotiated FAA package, which the president signed on October 5, particularly because the FAA’s existing programs were not the only programs of note for cities in the bill. Across the country, cities have raised concerns about airport noise, and Congress reacted in this bill with over a dozen possible studies and directives to FAA to mitigate and respond to concerns on the ground. 

The bill also contains significant changes to how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) will be authorized to fly above cities. To open up the possibilities of drone use, Congress removed an exemption for model aircraft that held FAA back from writing overarching rules for all drones, including requiring an electronic identification system for drones. Congress also directed the FAA to update its rules to allow drones to carry property for hire within a year, allowing a range of new transportation uses that could have an even greater growth trajectory then scooters and bikeshare on city streets. While any city with an airport understands how this FAA bill will impact them, every city will actually be impacted by this bill because it turns every part of your city into an “airport.” Cities must now work with the FAA to discuss the specifics of increasing drone flights and set expectations for the new rules and how they will impact communities. 

NLC was also pleased that Congress also chose to incorporate a new Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Program which will provide cities and their partners with $5 million in competitive grants over five years to support career and technical education programs as well as access to scholarship, apprenticeship and transitional programs for those interested in the aviation maintenance sector. NLC strongly advocated for this program, along with our partners in the aviation industry, and this new workforce training program will provide direct access to cities and their local partners to develop and further workforce programs in this growing sector. 

To learn more about the specifics in this legislation, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

Congress Passes Legislation to Reform the Federal Disaster Assistance Program

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The FAA reauthorization passage was significantly better for cities because it included the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA). Congress heard cities’ call to build resilience into their system and the DRRA will shift federal resources to help communities take proactive steps to mitigate risk and make their neighborhoods safer. The additional investment in mitigation, both pre- and post-disaster, is the best defense against natural disasters and it will reduce future federal spending for disaster recovery. 

NLC commends Congress for setting stricter limitations on the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to claw-back previously approved funds distributed to local governments for disaster relief efforts. NLC is pleased that Congress is committed to working with local leaders to rebuild our cities and to drive forward solutions for all American communities.

To learn more about the specific provisions included in this legislation, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

D.C. Court Decision Reinstates 2017 Risk Management Rule 

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On September 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court issued a mandate to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that reinstates the 2017 Risk Management Program (RMP) Amendments to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act. The Risk Management Rule applies to facilities that use regulated toxic and flammable hazardous substances, including water and wastewater treatment facilities, and requires coordination with local emergency responders. 

The 2017 RMP Amendments rule was finalized in January 2017 in the last days of the Obama Administration. NLC raised concerns with the Obama-era rule regarding the process used to develop the rule and the impacts and costs to local governments to comply with the rule. 

In July 2017, the Trump Administration issued a rule to delay the effective date of the 2017 RMP Amendments until February 2019, while it conducted a new rulemaking to revise the 2017 RMP Amendments. 

In August 2018, NLC submitted comments to EPA on a proposed rule to modify the 2017 RMP Amendments. The proposed rule addressed many of the concerns, such as costs to local governments both as owner and operators of water and wastewater treatment facilities and as first responders, as well as vague and unworkable definitions, that NLC raised with the previous rule. 

With the 2017 RMP Amendments now effect, EPA has issued compliance information for stakeholders on current and future obligations. Of interest to local governments (water utilities and public safety officials) are the requirements around local emergency coordination, emergency response, and prevention program provisions. 

Justice Department Awards $320 Million to Combat the Opioid Crisis

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is awarding $320 million to help communities impacted by the deadliest drug crisis in American history, including crime victims, children, families, and first responders. The following is a breakdown of the grant funding:

  • Innovative Prosecution Solutions for Combating Violent Crime and Opioid Abuse ($2.8 million). Help prosecutors develop strategies to address violent crime caused by illegal opioid distribution and abuse. 
  • Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program ($162 million). Help jurisdictions plan and implement programs aimed at reducing opioid abuse and mitigating its impact on crime victims, including training and technical assistance. 
  • Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program ($5.9 million). Address the treatment needs of people using opioids under the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. 
  • Helping Children and Youth Impacted by Opioids ($46.6 million). Help children and youth impacted by the opioid crisis, including training and technical assistance. 
  • Drug Courts ($81.2 Million). Assist adult, juvenile, and family drug courts and veteran’s treatment courts, including training and technical assistance.
  • Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program ($17 million). Address the dramatic increase in deaths and the backlogs of seized drugs because of the opioid crisis. 
  • Opioid-Related Research for Criminal Justice Purposes ($4.1 million). Development of new tools to enforce the law, ensure public safety, prevent and control crime, and ensure fair and impartial administration of justice.

For more information about the grant funding, view the OJP’s fact sheet.

2015 WOTUS Rule in Effect in 22 States; Proposed Replacement Expected Soon

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that district courts, rather than appellate courts, have jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the 2015 Clean Water Rule (aka “Waters of the U.S.” or “WOTUS”). The Supreme Court’s decision reversed the 6th Circuit ruling and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss, essentially vacating the nationwide stay of the rule that had been in effect since 2015. 

As litigation on the WOTUS rule is now in district courts, several district courts have issued preliminary injunctions on the 2015 rule halting implementation in 28 states. At the same time, however, the 2015 Clean Water Rule has gone into effect in 22 states, plus DC and the territories as a result of a South Carolina district court decision that put a hold on the Administration’s plan to delay the effective date of the 2015 rule. 

WOTUS States

Parties to the South Carolina case, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps), have filed a motion appealing the district court decision, stating that the agencies are in the process of repealing the rule. 

Additionally, a motion is pending before a Georgia district court asking the court to expand its 11-state injunction of the 2015 WOTUS rule to apply nationwide.

If a local government has specific questions about a jurisdictional determination or permit, they may contact a local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District office or the EPA.

As litigation on the 2015 WOTUS rule continues, EPA and the Army Corps are undergoing a two-step rulemaking process to rescind and revise the Clean Water Rule, in addition to a finalized rulemaking to delay the effective date of the 2015 rule, which was overturned. NLC raised concerns with the agencies on both the rescind and revise rulemakings, as well as on the 2015 rulemaking. 

According to EPA, the revised Clean Water Rule is expected to be finalized within the next month. 

Application Period Open for 2018 Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program Grants 

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On October 1, FEMA began to accept applications for the Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. HMA’s two competitive grants programs are Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM). These programs provide funding to states, tribes, territories, and local governments for eligible mitigation activities to strengthen our nation’s ability to reduce disaster losses and protect life and property from future disaster damages.

For the FMA program, the agency’s predetermined funding priorities include flood mitigation planning and efforts for repetitive loss and severe repetitive loss properties. In this application cycle, $160 million is available in FMA grant funds. There is a set-aside of $70 million for community advance assistance and flood mitigation projects. The remainder of the FY 2018 FMA grants will continue to focus on reducing or eliminating the risk of repetitive flood damage to buildings and structures, flood hazard mitigation planning, as well as technical assistance for applicants who were awarded FMA grant program funds totaling at least $1 million in the FY 2017 funding cycle.

The PDM program is designed to implement a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program with the goal of reducing overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events. FEMA selects eligible planning and project sub-applications for the PDM program which fulfill statutory requirements and competitive mitigation activities that limit duplication of other HMA grant programs as provided in the agency’s predetermined priorities for funding.  

For additional information or to ask questions about the application or grant programs, contact FEMA’s Intergovernmental Affairs Division at 202-646-3444 or FEMA-IGA@fema.dhs.gov

FCC Proposes New Limitations on Local Cable Franchises and Regulation

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposes new rules that could harshly limit local cable franchising. The proposal would limit most cable-related in-kind obligations that local governments can negotiate as part of franchise agreements and would also eliminate local authority over the non-cable services provided over cable systems. The FCC also seeks comment about whether these limitations should apply to state franchises in addition to local franchises. 

The FCC proposes that any in-kind cable obligations other than capital costs for public, educational, and governmental access (PEG) channels and cable build-out requirements included in franchises should be considered a “franchise fee” for the purposes of the Cable Act, and therefore the value of those obligations should count towards the 5 percent gross revenue cap on franchise fees. This could include the value of obligations such as the channel capacity for PEG stations, complementary connections to school or government buildings, and electronic program guides. These benefits would be estimated at fair market value, and depending on the value given those obligations, could eliminate monetary franchise fees entirely for some communities. The FCC also requests feedback on whether those values should instead be calculated based on cable companies’ costs to provide them.

The FCC also proposes to preempt local governments from regulating non-cable services provided over cable networks, other than institutional networks (I-Nets), as well as the facilities and equipment used to provide those services. The FCC seeks comment on whether this proposal should apply only to cable operators who are common carriers, or whether it should apply to all cable operators. In addition to precluding local involvement in broadband provision by cable companies, this preemption may enable expanded installation of wireless equipment on cable infrastructure with no oversight from local authorities. This could present safety and liability challenges for local governments, as well as differing regulatory schemes for wireless equipment in the rights of way owned by wireless companies, versus that owned and operated by cable companies.

Comments on this proposal will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 60 days after publication. NLC opposes this rulemaking and will file comments in opposition. 

Justice Department Awards $30 Million to Combat Violent Crime 

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced awards of almost $28 million in grant funding to combat violent crime through the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program and another $3 million for training and technical assistance to develop and implement violent crime reduction strategies and enhance services and resources for victims of violent crime. 

Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Through the enhanced PSN, DOJ is targeting the most violent criminals in the most violent areas, utilizing policing tools that did not exist even a few years ago. Tools like crime gun intelligence centers (CGIC), which combine intelligence from gunshot detection systems, ballistics, gun tracing, and good old-fashioned police work, help to develop real-time leads on the “traffickers and trigger pullers” who are fueling the violence in their communities. By using modern technologies and cutting-edge police work, the DOJ is looking to deploy resources strategically to provide the greatest return on community-based anti-violence efforts. 

For more information, click here for the FY 2018 PSN Funding Allocation Amounts.

Make a Difference for Cities: Become a Federal Advocacy Committee Member

Avery Peters, 202.626.3124

Are you interested in making even more of a difference for cities? Serving on one of NLC’s federal advocacy committees is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a municipal leader to bring your expertise to the service of cities and towns at the national level. By representing your city or town and contributing your voice, you have the opportunity to shape the efforts of the National League of Cities to proactively drive federal policy on issues that matter the most to cities.

To serve as a member of a Federal Advocacy Committee, submit your application by November 30, 2018.

NLC's in-coming president appoints the leadership and members for the seven federal advocacy committees for the upcoming year. Leadership and members serve a one-year term and are elected annually for reappointment via the application. Committee chairs also serve as members on NLC’s Board of Directors.

Appointment to a Committee requires:

  • Attendance at all meetings
  • Commitment to actively advocate on NLC's organizational priorities, as well as meaningfully contribute to the Committee you are serving on
  • Your city to be a member of the National League of Cities

To access the application and learn more about the Federal Advocacy Committees, click here.

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