Federal Advocacy Update Week of September 11, 2018


In this issue:

House Tax Writers Unveil Tax Reform 2.0 in Three Parts

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107   

On September 10, the House Ways and Means Committee released three bills as part of House Republicans’ Tax Reform 2.0 package. The separate bills accomplish three main goals set forth in Chairman Brady’s Tax Reform 2.0 framework published last month.

  • H.R. 6760 – Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018 – Focuses on making some of the temporary provisions of last year’s tax plan permanent, including the individual tax cuts and the $10k cap to the state and local tax deduction.  
  • H.R. 6757 – Family Savings Act of 2018 – Contains a host of provisions designed to incentivize more flexible savings and retirement planning.
  • H.R. 6756 – American Innovation Act of 2018 – Would allow new businesses to write off more of their initial startup costs and capital expenditures. 

Chairman Kevin Brady remains committed to marking up the bill this week, pending any interruptions from Hurricane Florence, and holding a floor vote on at least parts of the package this month. Even if the plan passes the House, it is unlikely the Senate will follow suit, especially without the use of the reconciliation rules used last year to get around the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. There does seem to be some political appetite to taking a second look at certain provisions of the bills – particularly those around savings and retirement planning – after the November elections.

While we are continuing to analyze the legislation, it does not appear that the centerpiece bill, Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, targets any additional city priorities as pay fors. The National League of Cities (NLC) continues, however, to push for the full deductibility of state and local taxes and rejects plans to make the $10,000 cap to make these deductions permanent. The tax exemption on one-time advance refunding bonds also remains a top tax policy priority for NLC.

We will continue to provide updates and remain committed to preserving and advancing local priorities in the tax code, including:

Municipal Bonds:

  • Preserving the tax exemption for interest earned on municipal bonds.
  • Preserving the tax exemption for interest earned on qualified private activity bonds.
  • Restoring the tax exemption for interest earned on advance refunding bonds.

Tax Credits that Spur Growth in Cities:

  • Preserving the Historic Tax Credit.
  • Preserving the New Markets Tax Credit.
  • Preserving the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Preserving the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
  • Preserving the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Preserving the Sovereignty of Local Governments:

  • Preserving the state and local tax (SALT) deduction and removing its new $10,000 cap.
  • Eliminating new language that considers local governments’ contributions to capital of corporations as taxable corporate income under Section 118.


Senate to Vote on Bipartisan Opioid Legislation 

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Senators reached an agreement to vote on the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) that consists of a bipartisan package of over 70 proposals recommended to the full Senate by five committees: Health, Finance, Judiciary, Commerce and Banking. The bill reauthorizes the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, expands access to medication-assisted treatment, grants the National Institutes of Health more authority to research and develop non-opioid pain therapies and requires the U.S. Postal Service to crack down on shipments of illicit fentanyl. 

The bill would also create a new grant program through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to establish or operate comprehensive opioid recovery centers that serve as a resource for the community. The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop guidelines for recovery housing and requires the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to develop a regulation to allow qualified providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. The bill also authorizes an additional $500 million a year through 2021 for grants created under the 21st Century Cures Act to combat drug addiction. 

If the Senate passes the bill this week, it will need to be reconciled with the House passed bill H.R. 6. NLC continues to advocate for a provision in the bill that would require states to pass through up to 80 percent of future grant funding to support local substance abuse and treatment programs.

EPA Initiates Rulemaking on Managing Peak Wet Weather Flows

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On August 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated a rulemaking effort aimed at providing certainty surrounding the management of peak wet weather flows at Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW). The rulemaking would apply to treatment plants with separate sanitary sewer collections systems. 

Through this rulemaking, EPA will evaluate changes to its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations and aims to develop a rule that will support a consistent approach to permitting, allow for innovative flexibility, and protect human health and the environment.

EPA is soliciting input on any issue related to the topic of peak flow management at POTW treatment plants with separate sanitary sewer collections systems, but particularly welcomes feedback on the following specific questions:

  1. What strategies have you found to be successful in reducing peak flow volumes at the POTW treatment plant?
  2. What permitting or other regulatory approaches are you aware of that in your opinion provide a good basis for any rulemaking in this area?
  3. What treatment technologies have POTWs with separate sanitary sewer systems used successfully to manage peak excess flows during wet weather? How effective are these technologies at meeting effluent limitations? What are examples of technologies addressing other pollutants not typically subject to discharge requirements in NPDES permits (e.g., pathogens)? Related to these questions, do you have supporting treatment efficacy data that you would be willing to share with EPA for this rulemaking?
  4. What are your specific suggestions regarding conditions that could be included in NPDES permits to allow diversions of some peak flows around biological treatment units to protect the treatment plant?

EPA is holding a listening session in Lenexa, Kansas on October 24 and an online listening session on October 30. Registration for the sessions will be available soon on the EPA website

Written comments will be accepted through October 31. NLC will likely submit comments and any city that submits comments should forward a copy to NLC at berndt@nlc.org. 

Justice Extends Deadline to Accept FY17 Byrne JAG 

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

Recently, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court issued another preliminary injunction enjoining the Department of Justice (DOJ) from enforcing the "section 1373," "notice," and "access" award conditions that are contained in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Byrne JAG awards. In response to the injunction, the Department of Justice stated that it needs additional time to evaluate its options and provide guidance regarding the immigration enforcement conditions it has set for the awards. As a result, the Bureau of Justice Assistance issued a notice that the deadline to accept FY17 Byrne JAG awards has been extended to October 5, 2018. This extension applies to all recipients of FY17 Byrne JAG award documents, whether or not they are covered under the terms of the preliminary injunction. 

In June, NLC sent a letter to Attorney General Sessions asking the Department of Justice to begin releasing the FY17 Byrne JAG awards without these conditions. In the letter, NLC stated that local governments use these funds to address needs and fill gaps across their entire criminal and juvenile justice systems – in prevention, enforcement, courts, prosecution, indigent defense, corrections, crisis intervention and behavioral health services for justice‐involved persons, victim assistance, and other community supports. NLC is concerned that the continued delay in awarding FY17 Byrne JAG grants undermines local law enforcement’s efforts to keep communities safe.

CED Focuses on Economic Development in Fort Worth

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

The City of Fort Worth, Texas and Councilmember Gyna Bivens hosted the Fall Policy Meeting of NLC’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Federal Advocacy Committee. Councilmember Bivens Chairs the CED Committee this year. Approximately 25 local officials from several states attended the meeting.  

The goal of the meeting was to review and update NLC’s policy and advocacy agenda related to economic development. The committee sought to broaden existing policy by focusing on areas where economic development, infrastructure, and workforce issues intersect at the local level. 

CED Committee tours Dickies Arena under construction. The arena will anchor Fort Worth’s cultural/entertainment district.
CED Committee tours Dickies Arena under construction. The arena will anchor Fort Worth’s cultural/entertainment district.

Several local experts presented to the committee and their presentations can be found on the CED Committee webpage. Following the presentations, the committee undertook an evaluation of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and found that a majority of recent EDA discretionary grants have been awarded to cities impacted by natural disasters for the purpose of disaster recovery.  The committee unanimously opposed the use of EDA grants to supplement or supplant federal disaster recovery funds and instructed NLC staff to develop a resolution urging the U.S. Economic Development Administration to award grants based on innovation and economic mobility.

DOJ Releases New Fentanyl Safety Video for First Responders

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On August 30, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released the Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders’ companion training video, “Fentanyl: The Real Deal”. 

The video was produced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help first responders protect themselves when the presence of fentanyl is suspected or encountered on the job. The new training video, as well as the Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders, is the result of a Federal Interagency Working Group coordinated by the White House National Security Council. 

FCC Proposes Preemption, Fee Cap for Local Small Cell Deployment

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196  

After more than a year of deliberation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its draft Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order, focusing on state and local management of small cell wireless infrastructure deployment. This document, if approved by a majority of commissioners at the FCC’s September 26 open meeting, would enact substantial new limits on local wireless siting review. For more information on the proposal in the declaratory ruling and report and order, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

If approved during the open meeting, the new regulations would go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Local governments could then face enforcement action if wireless providers or other small cell applicants challenge them in court on the basis of noncompliance with the above requirements.

NLC and its local government partners will oppose this proposal. To support our efforts, you can send a letter to the FCC expressing your opposition by September 18, before the FCC publishes its official “sunshine agenda” for the open meeting. To support our advocacy, use this template letter to register your opposition with the FCC no later than September 18, 2018.

DHS Announces Grant Allocations for FY18 Preparedness Grants  

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced final allocations Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 DHS competitive preparedness grant programs. These allocations total more than $1.6 billion in FY18 granted to assist states, local areas, tribal and territorial governments, nonprofit agencies, and the private sector with their preparedness efforts. 

The FY18 preparedness grants focus on the nation’s highest risk areas, including urban areas that continue to face the most significant threats. Consistent with previous grant guidance, dedicated funding is provided for law enforcement and terrorism prevention activities throughout the country to prepare for, prevent, and respond to terrorist-related activity. 

Preparedness grant program allocations for FY18 include:

  • Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP): provides more than $1 billion for states and urban areas to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism and other threats.
  • State Homeland Security Program (SHSP): provides $402 million to support the implementation of the National Preparedness System to build and strengthen preparedness capabilities at all levels.
  • Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI): provides $580 million to enhance regional preparedness and capabilities in 33 high-threat, high-density areas. 
  • Operation Stonegarden (OPSG): provides $85 million to enhance cooperation and coordination among local, tribal, territorial, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to jointly enhance security along the United States’ land and water borders where there are ongoing U.S. Customs and Border Protection missions.

Awards made to the states and urban areas for HSGP carry pass-through requirements. Pass through is defined as an obligation on the part of the State Administrative Agency (SAA) to make funds available to local units of government, combinations of local units, tribal governments, or other specific groups or organizations. The SAA must obligate at least 80 percent of the funds awarded under SHSP and UASI to local or tribal units of government

Further information on DHS’s preparedness grant programs is available at www.dhs.gov and www.fema.gov/grants.

Apply for a 2019 Federal Advocacy Committee

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

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. Depending on your availability and the level of commitment you seek, there is a spot for you to get involved with NLC.

Leadership and membership applications are available now to serve on NLC's seven Federal Advocacy Committees. If you have an interest in a leadership appointment, please submit your application by October 8, 2018. All other membership applications are due 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 and other networking Councils, click here.  

September is National Preparedness Month

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The devastating hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 once again reminds us of the importance of preparing for disasters. National Preparedness Month (NPM), recognized each September, provides an opportunity to educate each other about what we must all do to prepare our communities now and throughout the year for the potential disasters. This year’s NPM focuses on planning, with an overarching theme: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How. 

To learn what you can do to promote preparedness in your city, go to www.ready.gov/september. There you will be able to download the Community Preparedness Toolkit and access resources to promote National Preparedness Month in your city. 

Webinar: Supreme Court Preview

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

So far the Supreme Court has agreed to hear about 40 cases next term, many involving state and local government. Topics range from employment to preemption and in three cases the Court may overturn precedent. Join Tom Fisher, Indiana Solicitor General, who will argue a forfeiture case, Matt Zinn, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, who co-wrote the State and Local Legal Center’s amicus brief in a takings case and Brianne Gorod, Constitutional Accountability Center, who filed an amicus brief in the forfeiture case and a double jeopardy case, in a discussion of the most interesting and relevant cases for state and local governments accepted so far this term. 
Date: September 25, 2018
Time: 12:30 PM EDT


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