Federal Advocacy Update: Week of September 27, 2018


In this issue:

Bill to Fund Federal Government Awaiting Presidential Signature

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Congress approved a $855 billion spending bill this week that will provide federal funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, and Defense. Moreover, the bill would prevent a partial government shutdown this year by extending funding for any federal agency awaiting appropriations approval beyond Monday, October 1 when the new fiscal year begins. Funding for those agencies will be extended for 10 weeks. NLC is opposed to federal government shutdowns and urged Congress and the president to approve the extension to prevent any lapse in federal funding.

As of this writing, the bill is awaiting the president’s signature. Although House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced the president pledged to sign the bill, President Trump has not commented publicly except to express unhappiness that the bill does not include a $5 billion downpayment to fulfill his campaign promise to build a southern border wall. NLC has long urged Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform that includes both border security and a legal path to citizenship.  

If the president signs the bill into law, Congress will have approved a total of five spending bills and more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending, representing three-quarters of all the discretionary funds budgeted for the year under the Bipartisan Budget Act. Congress approved funding for the Departments of Energy, and Veterans Affairs, prior to this week.

Among the agencies awaiting funding, Congress appears close to a deal on funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Interior, and Agriculture. However, with election year demands and other priorities competing for Congressional time, hope is fading that those bills will receive approval before Congress adjourns for the election.

For more information on funding for specific priorities, visit NLC’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget tracker.

NLC Leaders Advocate for City Priorities in Washington

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

During the week of September 10, more than 30 city leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first ever 2018 NLC Leaders Fly-In. Members of NLC’s Board of Directors, Federal Advocacy Committees and Constituency Groups represented cities in meetings with key Members of Congress during the final legislative session before the midterm elections.

The fly-in began on September 12, with a briefing hosted by NLC’s Federal Advocacy team. NLC President Mark Stodola, mayor, Little Rock, Arkansas, NLC First Vice President Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor, Gary, Indiana, and NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony welcomed attendees to NLC’s offices and spoke about the importance of advocating for cities during this critical time in Washington. NLC Federal Advocacy team members provided fly-in attendees with an update on the current political dynamics in Washington, D.C., as well as substantive updates on NLC’s 2018 federal legislative priorities. Finally, NLC Immediate Past President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, Ohio closed the briefing by speaking about the significance of leading at the national level as a city leader. 

NLC Leaders Fly-In

On September 13, NLC took to the Hill in force — meeting with more than 30 Members of Congress and their staff to discuss a wide variety of issues such as Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations, infrastructure, and tax reform 2.0. 

During these meetings, NLC leaders shared their stories about the impact of federal grant programs, the need for greater investment in municipal infrastructure, and the importance of municipal bonds to cities, as well as fighting against several efforts to preempt local authority of city airspace and public rights of way.

For additional photos and highlights from the 2018 NLC Leaders Fly-In, follow NLC on Twitter and Facebook.

FAA Reauthorization is Back on Track and Coupled with Disaster Assistance 

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164; Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On September 23, House and Senate negotiators announced that they had a deal for a $17 billion, five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization that includes disaster recovery reform of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reform. This FAA bill extends programs that continue important programs for cities like Essential Air Service, but it also takes aim at passenger issues like shrinking airplane seat sizes, setting up the future of commercial drone activity in the U.S. and studying the potential impacts on aircraft noise and flight paths. 

NLC engaged widely with Congress on the essential decisions for increased use of drones above cities, and while we and our state partners remain concerned that a “backdoor” preemption remains in the bill, Congress clearly heard us and added a requirement for FAA to take local views into account when writing the new rule for small drones. However, FAA is not under the obligation to make changes based on local views so cities advocating for themselves will be critical to setting the new rules of this growing transportation mode. 

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), included in the FAA Reauthorization, amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The DRRA provisions shift more attention and federal resources to pre-disaster mitigation enabling communities to take proactive steps to make their communities more resilient. Investment in mitigation, both pre- and post-disaster, is the best defense against natural disasters and will ultimately reduce future federal spending for disaster recovery. While federal emergency funding will still be needed to help individuals and communities recover from disasters, a central purpose of the DRRA is to prevent or reduce fatalities, injuries and damage to public infrastructure and private property. 

The bill would also put greater limitations on the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to claw-back or de-obligate previously approved funds distributed to local governments for disaster relief efforts.  NLC has been calling on Congress to prohibit FEMA from retroactively disallowing funding of projects that were approved in which costs were specified and reasonable and the project was completed as required under Section 705(c) of the Stafford Act.

The FAA bill would also provide an additional $1.68 billion in Community Development Block Grants to North Carolina and South Carolina for recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.  The continuing resolution in the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations would also replenish FEMA’s Disaster Assistance Funding up to $8.8 billion to be used for disaster assistance in North Carolina and South Carolina.  Any additional disaster assistance funding would have to wait until after the House returns from its break for the elections.

On September 26, the House quickly passed the package deal and a one-week extension to give the Senate enough time to clear the extension by unanimous consent and schedule a full bill vote. 

Women Mayors Take Washington By Storm

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101; Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

On September 20, the White House convened a bipartisan group of 90 women mayors from 27 states to hear from senior administration officials and key White House staff. During the Women Mayors of America White House Conference, administration officials focused on discussing issues of concern in cities across the nation and building relationships with the mayors. 

The evening before the event, NLC hosted a briefing at our office to provide the mayors an overview of current legislative and administration priorities, as well as provide guidance on what to expect the next day at the White House.

Women Mayors Briefing

The conference began with remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who spoke about the need to support technical education, apprenticeships, and higher education opportunities for non-traditional students and the need to make education affordable and modernize the Federal Student Aid framework. Secretary DeVos was followed by Vice President Mike Pence, who introduced Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence. Mrs. Pence discussed the need to invest in career opportunities for military spouses. Following the Second Lady, U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon spoke about economic recovery following a natural disaster.

The event continued with two panel discussions. The first on workforce and economic development included Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, Ja’Ron Smith, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs and Beth Van Duyne, Regional Administrator for Housing and Urban Development and Former Mayor of Irving, Texas. The event concluded with a shared priorities panel discussion that focused on fighting the opioid epidemic, which included Kellyanne Conway, Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor, Shahira Knight, Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs and Mercedes Schlapp, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications.

Women Mayors of America White House Conference

Overall, the Women Mayors of America White House Conference was a valuable opportunity for the mayors to share ideas, innovations and challenges, and provide an "on the ground" local perspective to federal policymaking. 

NLC Supports Outdoors for All Act as Congress Works Toward LWCF Reauthorization

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On September 25, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Outdoors for All Act (S. 3499), with NLC support, which codifies and establishes a dedicated funding source for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program (ORLP). The bill is a companion to House’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grant Program Act (H.R. 2943) sponsored by Reps. Nanette Barragan (D-CA) and Michael Turner (R-OH). 

Established by Congress in 2014 and administered through the National Park Service, ORLP is a competitive grant funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that helps communities create and improve parks and other outdoor recreation areas to improve public access, particularly in disadvantaged or low-income communities. 

Specifically, the Outdoors for All Act dedicates a mandatory funding source for ORLP grants by allocating 20 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund revenues generated from oil and gas production under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA), a law passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Under GOMESA, the Land and Water Conservation Fund receives up to $125 million in mandatory funding annually, meaning that up to $25 million would go toward ORLP annually under the Outdoors for All Act in addition to any annual appropriations. 

The Senate bill comes as both chambers are working toward a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund before September 30 to ensure that oil and gas revenues continue to be deposited into the fund. If Congress does not act before September 30, offshore drilling money stops going into the fund and is instead diverted into the general Treasury until lawmakers reinstate it.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider a bipartisan reauthorization bill next week, S. 569, sponsored by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), while the House Natural Resources Committee passed a bipartisan bill, H.R. 502, sponsored by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), last week. NLC supports full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

Senate Passes Third Opioid Crisis Funding Package

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098; Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On September 17, the U.S. Senate passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) in a nearly unanimous 99-1 vote. This action by the Senate comes almost exactly two months after the U.S. House of Representatives considered 70 opioid-related bills in an unprecedented effort.

The bill passed by the Senate reauthorizes 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).

The House and Senate this week have reached a conference agreement on this bill, which will be voted on by the House this week prior to adjournment and by the Senate next week before proceeding to the president’s desk for signature.  This legislation is an important step but it falls short in many areas including ensuring sustained, systemic investments to local efforts to combat substance abuse disorders.

To learn more about this bill and NLC’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

House Passes Water Resources Compromise Agreement

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On September 13, the House passed a revised water resources bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S. 3021), by voice vote with NLC support. The bill includes provisions from the House-passed Water Resources Development Act, as well as provisions from the Senate bill related to wastewater and drinking water. The Senate is expected to take the bill up soon, potentially before the end of the month. The timing for the Senate vote is uncertain, however, due to a hold on the bill from Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) regarding reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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, as well as authorizes additional money on modifications to other projects and programs like those targeted at levee and dam safety.  

WRDA Projects

Below is a summary of additional Army Corps and water infrastructure provisions contained in the bill. The bill does not contain, however, two priorities that NLC has advocated for in the past: full allocation of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and codification of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Planning and Financial Capability Frameworks.

Additional Army Corps Provisions


  • Expedites disaster mitigation projects in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and other areas impacted by natural disasters in 2017.
  • Provides greater opportunities for non-federal stakeholders, such as local governments, to engage with and provide input to the Army Corps on future and pending projects, annual budgeting and guidance documents. 
  • Creates a pilot program to allow projects that have been authorized but not funded to move forward with non-federal funding for reviews, inspections, certifications, studies, engineering, construction, and other activities.
  • Beneficial use of dredged material - Allows the Army Corps to grant a temporary easement for a project for the beneficial reuse of dredged sediment to reduce storm damage to property. Allows up to 20 pilot projects for the beneficial use of dredged material. These provisions help ensure that dredged material is used or disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Water Infrastructure Provisions

  • Reauthorizes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for three years at increasing funding levels, rising to $1.95 billion in FY2021. 
  • Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) - Reauthorizes WIFIA through FY21 at $50M; removes designation as a "pilot" program; provides incentives for state financing authorities to leverage State Revolving Loan Fund financing with a WIFIA loan; and jumpstarts the Army Corps of Engineers WIFIA program by allowing EPA to serve as loan administrator (Army Corps retains authority over project selection).
  • Creates a Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Program, a grant program for the planning, design, construction, implementation, operation or maintenance of programs or projects to increase resilience to natural hazards (such as projects related to water use efficiency, modification/relocation of drinking water infrastructure, desalination facilities, and source water protection) - Authorizes $4M for each FY19 and FY20. 
  • Creates a grant and technical assistance program for Lead Testing in School/Childcare Facilities to assist in identifying the source of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities and assist with identifying grant opportunities for lead elimination - Authorizes $25M for each FY19-21.
  • Creates a grant program for Drinking Water Fountain Replacement in Schools for drinking water fountains manufactured prior to 1988 - Authorizes $5M for each FY19-21.
  • Creates a grant program for accelerating the development and deployment of innovative water technologies that address drinking water supply, quality, treatment, or security challenges of public water systems, areas served by private wells or source waters - Authorizes $10M for each FY19-20.
  • Authorizes Sewer Overflow Control Grants to address sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows and stormwater, with 20 percent set aside for green infrastructure, and water and energy efficiency projects - Authorizes $225M for each FY 19-20
  • Establishes a competitive grant program for workforce training and development within the water sector - Authorizes $1M for each FY19-20.
  • Codifies the WaterSense program focused on water efficiency, which the President’s FY18 and FY19 budgets proposed to eliminate.
  • Creates a liaison within each EPA regional office for minority, low-income and tribal communities.
  • Creates a Stormwater Infrastructure Funding Task Force to include state and local officials to study and develop recommendations to improve the availability of public and private sources of funding for stormwater infrastructure.

FCC Votes to Preempt Cities on Small Cell Deployment

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196  

On September 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve a declaratory ruling and report and order that enact harsh new preemptions of local authority over small cell wireless facility deployment and management of local rights of way.

The order is expected to go into effect 30 days after publication of the final version in the Federal Register. As previously reported on CitiesSpeak, the order will:

  • Shorten the time cities have to process applications for small cells to either 60 or 90 days, depending on whether they are being mounted on an existing or new structure; 
  • Limit application fees for small cells to $100 per site, and recurring fees to $270 per site, per year for small cells in the rights of way;
  • Prohibit cities from assessing fees that include anything other than a “reasonable approximation” of “reasonable costs” directly related to maintaining the rights of way and the small cell facility; and
  • Limit aesthetic review and requirements (including undergrounding and historic/environmental requirements) to those that are reasonable, comparable to requirements for other rights of way users, and published in advance.

The final text of the order has not yet been released but is expected to be substantially similar to the draft, with one change: if cities notify wireless providers that applications are incomplete, they will be able to restart, rather than toll, the shot clock for that application.

NLC, along with its local government partners, has fought this preemption order through comments to the FCC. More than 100 local governments, along with members of the House of Representatives and senators from Nevada and New York, filed comments with the FCC to oppose the rule. 

NLC will continue the fight to halt the order in all three branches of the federal government. To learn more about what the order means for cities, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

HHS Announces More than $1B in Opioids Funding

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098; Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

On September 19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released over $1.5 billion in funding to states to continue the fight against the opioid epidemic. This funding is diversified across programs and supports HHS’s Five-Point Opioid Strategy, which was launched last year.  Details of the funding include:

State Opioid Response Grants (STOR) 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) awarded more than $930 million in State Opioid Response grants (STOR) to support a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic and expand access to treatment and recovery support services. The STOR program aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for the treatment of opioid use disorder, reducing unmet treatment need, and reducing opioid overdose related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder.  NLC will continue to work with the administration and Congress to ensure that these funds make their way down to the local area.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Grant Awards

HRSA awarded over $396 million to combat the opioid crisis. The investments will enable HRSA-funded community health centers, academic institutions, and rural organizations to expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Awards to Prevent Opioid-Related Overdoses 

The CDC is awarding $194 million to increase support for states and territories working to prevent opioid-related overdoses, deaths, and other outcomes. States and four U.S. territories are also being awarded $155 million by CDC to advance the understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and scale up prevention and response activities, including improving the timeliness and quality of public health surveillance data.


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