Federal Relations Update: Week Ending January 17, 2014

Congressional City Conference Keynote Speakers Announced

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

This year’s Congressional City Conference, held March 8-12 in Washington, DC, will feature top voices in today’s political media. The Conference will feature Gwen Ifill, Moderator and Managing Editor of Washington Week and Co-Anchor and Managing Editor of the PBS NEWSHOUR; and Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News.

In addition to these speakers, the Congressional City Conference offers the latest news about federal programs, funding opportunities and resources available to implement the most innovative practices at the local level. The event will include informative workshops, training sessions, and opportunities to engage with federal policy makers.

Register today for the Congressional City Conference»  

Omnibus Spending Bill Set To Become Law

Mike Wallace, 202.626.3025

Yesterday, the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2014 and avoids another round of fiscal brinkmanship. The Senate action followed House passage of the bill with a vote of 359-67 earlier in the week.

In a statement calling for the bill’s passage, NLC President Mayor Chris Coleman said, “We urge Congress to act swiftly to pass the omnibus appropriations bill to keep the government funded and functioning over the next nine months. We recognize the bill cannot meet every priority, including some that affect cities and local communities, but the compromise is a high-water mark of bipartisan cooperation that we hope will continue in order to solve some of our nation’s other challenges. Last year’s government shutdown proved that failing to fund the government is simply unacceptable and the painful consequences are felt in communities across America.”

The $1.1 trillion appropriations bill largely keeps intact, and in some cases, restores funding for local priorities, including TIGER grants and the public transit “new starts” program, CDBG, the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs, the COPS program, housing vouchers for low-income families and veterans, the Head Start program and workforce investment programs. In general, these funding levels also offset some of the dangerous cuts that have been made to criminal justice and homeland security programs over the past few years.

With the federal fiscal debates solved for now, NLC is calling upon Congress to focus on unfinished business, including fixing the nation’s broken immigration system with a comprehensive reform bill, leveling the playing field between brick and mortar relailers and on-line ones by passing Marketplace Fairness, and addressing the nation’s infrastructure challenges. 

Read NLC’s full statement on the budget.»

Treasury to Treat Volunteer Firefighters Fairly Under the ACA

Neil Bomberg, 202.626.3042

In a major victory for cities, towns, and their first responders, the U.S. Treasury announced last week that the hours of volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders would not be counted under IRS rules used to determine a local government’s obligations under the Affordable Care Act.

In announcing the decision last week, the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy said: [T]he forthcoming final regulations relating to employer shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents)[for purposes of the ACA.

NLC and others expressed concern that some volunteer departments would, if forced to count volunteers as full-time employees, be subject to the ACA’s large employer health insurance coverage mandates, which would have placed an unanticipated financial burden on those departments. NLC urged the U.S. Treasury to consider volunteer emergency responders strictly as volunteers, not employees. The department agreed with NLC in its statement, ensuring that volunteer fire departments with few employees may continue to operate and provide firefighting and other emergency services.

Omnibus Provides Limited Relief from Flood Insurance Rate Increases

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12), signed into law in July of 2012, aimed to make FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) more financially stable, by reflecting true flood risks in communities. However, implementation of BW-12 resulted in some unexpected complications, including rapidly increasing flood insurance premiums in local communities.

In response to urging from NLC and local leaders, Congress included a provision in the omnibus appropriations bill that will delay flood insurance rate increases on grandfathered properties called for in BW-12. The delay will allow Congress time to consider legislation that would delay implementation of flood insurance premiums until after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes its affordability study and Congress can act on those recommendations.

The Senate is scheduled to consider legislation when it reconvenes on January 27. A timeframe for action in the House is uncertain.

NLC Submits Comments on EPA PCB Removal Rulemaking

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

This week, NLC asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider offering local governments incentives to encourage the removal of PCB-containing electrical equipment, rather than moving forward with a new rulemaking to require their removal. Last month, EPA held a Federalism Consultation, in which NLC participated, with state and local government groups to provide an overview of potential changes under consideration to the PCB Use Authorizations. EPA anticipates releasing a proposed rule late this year, with a final rule in 2015.

Because of their negative health effects, EPA implemented a ban on PCBs in 1979. The manufacture of products containing PCBs ceased, but existing products were not all required to be removed. With this rulemaking, EPA may require the removal of additional PCB-containing electrical equipment, such as fluorescent light ballasts (ie, the fixture, not the bulb) manufactured before 1979, which are typically found in daycares/schools, hospitals, public housing, and other public and commercial buildings. While a U.S. Department of Energy rule calls for the removal of old fluorescent light ballasts by 2020, this rulemaking would accelerate that process.

NLC further raised concerns about the information used as a basis for determining a need for a new rulemaking, and called on the Agency to gather additional information and data on the prevalence of these fixtures in public building, as well as a perform a cost analysis.

EPA will accept public comments on the issue until Friday, March 28.

More information on identifying and removing PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts and the rulemaking is available from EPA»

2014 Policy and Advocacy Committee Leaders Announced

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

This week, NLC President Chris Coleman, mayor, Saint Paul, Minn. announced his 2014 leadership team for the organization's policy committees and advisory councils. All chairs and vice chairs are appointed by Mayor Coleman to serve a one-year term on NLC's Policy and Advocacy Committees, Member Networking Councils and other NLC advisory groups.

"I look forward to working with all of the 2014 committee and council leaders. They bring a wealth of experience advocating for communities across the country and will provide vital leadership to NLC's activities on behalf of cities in the coming year," said Mayor Coleman. The 2014 leaders of NLC’s Policy and Advocacy Committees are:

Community and Economic Development Policy and Advocacy Committee 

  • Chair - Lavonta Williams, councilmember, Wichita, Kan.
  • Vice Chair - Mike Wojcik, councilmember, Rochester, Minn.
  • Vice Chair - Craig Thurmond, mayor, Broken Arrow, Okla.

Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Bill Peloza, councilmember, Auburn, Wash.
  • Vice Chair - Cindy Lerner, mayor, Pinecrest, Fla.
  • Vice Chair - Cindy Circo, councilmember, Kansas City, Mo.

Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Sarah Levison, councilmember, Longmont, Colo.
  • Vice Chair - Cynthia Mangini, councilmember, Enfield, Conn.
  • Vice Chair - Andy Hafen, mayor, Henderson, Nev.

Human Development Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Vicki Welch, councilmember, Louisville, Ky.
  • Vice Chair - Mia Gregerson, deputy mayor, Seatac, Wash.
  • Vice Chair - Angelia Williams, councilmember, Norfolk, Va.

Information Technology and Communications Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Beth Humenik, councilmember, Thornton, Colo.
  • Vice Chair - Jeffrey Quibell, councilmember, Blue Springs, Mo.
  • Vice Chair - Phil Goldstein, councilmember, Marietta, Ga.

Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Scott Somers, vice mayor, Mesa, Ariz.
  • Vice Chair - Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor, Gary, Ind.
  • Vice Chair - Scott Maddox, commissioner, Tallahassee, Fla.

Transportation and Infrastructure Services Policy and Advocacy Committee

  • Chair - Patsy Kinsey, councilmember, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Vice Chair - Robert Bauman, alderman, Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Vice Chair - Mary McComber, mayor, Oak Park Heights, Minn.

Click here to view the full list of leaders»

Apply Now: 2014 Policy and Advocacy Committees

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

The National League of Cities is now accepting applications from city officials for the 2014 Policy and Advocacy committees. NLC’s Policy and Advocacy committees develop National Municipal Policy positions for consideration by membership at the annual business meeting during the Congress of Cities and Exposition. These positions form the basis for NLC's advocacy on matters of interest to municipal governments before Congress, the courts and federal agencies. More information about the Committees can be found here

Applications must be submitted online. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, January 24, 2014. 

NLC's Policy and Advocacy Committees meet twice a year. In 2014, the first meeting will be during the Congressional City Conference, Washington, D.C., March 8-12, 2014, and the second meeting will be during the Congress of Cities and Exposition, November 18 – 22, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

City officials who served on a Policy and Advocacy Committee in 2013 will be automatically reappointed to that Committee and do not need to submit a new application. If you are currently serving on a Policy and Advocacy Committee and are interested in serving on a different Committee, or have other questions about joining a comittee, please contact Avery Peters.

Apply now to serve on a Policy and Advocacy Committee»

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