Federal Advocacy Update: Week of April 10, 2017

US Capitol
US Capitol

In this issue: 

 

#FightTheCuts at Home this April

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094
 
With the April congressional recess in full swing, now’s the time for cities across the country to come together and stand united to fight for federal investment in cities. Senators and Representatives will be home for the next two weeks to meet with constituents and learn what’s happening in their district. It’s the perfect opportunity for city leaders to continue the conversation we started at the Congressional City Conference — calling on Congress to develop a budget focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity and investing in America’s cities.
 
The President’s recently released budget proposal slashes funding for crucial programs that cities and their residents rely on by cutting more than $54 billion in domestic spending across the board. It’s a brazen attack on our communities and a total non-starter for Fiscal Year 2018 budget negotiations.
 
NLC is prepared to fight every step of the way. To help cities advocate for federal investment in cities, NLC release our In-District Action Guide to #FightTheCuts.  This action guide will help city leaders learn how the proposed budget cuts could impact cities and how you can advocate for federal investments in cities. 
 
We need you to call on our federal elected officials to stand with cities this budget season. Click here to learn how to take action and join our fight.
NLC In-District Action Guide

Cities Beleaguered by Possibility of Cuts, Clawbacks, and Closure

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025
 
Over the next two weeks, city leaders across the country will engage their members of Congress during the congressional recess and call on them to #FightTheCuts proposed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.  
 
The stakes are high, and not only because of the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 cuts.  Before Congress can turn its full attention to the federal budget for FY 2018, it still must complete the unfinished work of approving an FY 2017 spending package before current funding expires on April 28 to prevent a government shutdown.  
 
At this late date, more than half way through the fiscal year, any significant shift in funding priorities for FY 2017 could result in the clawback of federal funds already obligated in local budgets or spent out by local governments.  New last-minute funding priorities under discussion for FY 2017 include a request by the White House to provide $33 billion in additional funding for military and border security, including the border wall, that would come at the expense of domestic discretionary funding like CDBG.  NLC is urging Congress to reject the President’s request and calls on city leaders across the country to join us in calling on Congress to invest in cities.
 

NLC Tells FCC to Preserve Local Wireless Siting Authority

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
 
The National League of Cities, along with all of the nation’s state municipal leagues, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week not to preempt local authority to regulate or charge appropriate fees for the use of public rights-of-way by wireless companies for small cell wireless facilities. 
 
In comments filed jointly with the state municipal leagues, NLC highlighted the many cities and state leagues proactively working to smooth the process of small cell wireless infrastructure deployment and cautioned the FCC from bowing to pressure from companies that have created conflict with cities over inappropriately filed or conceived wireless site applications. In joint comments filed with a number of national organizations, NLC cautioned the FCC from pursuing additional preemption powers, arguing that Congress’s existing authorization for the agency does not intend for the FCC to strip local governments of their authority over the rights-of-way.
 
These comments will inform the FCC’s ongoing process to streamline the deployment of wired and wireless broadband infrastructure. NLC will continue to monitor this regulatory process, along with the newly-created Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, which is tasked with crafting model ordinances and recommendations on state, tribal, and local processes.
 
If your city has developed model codes or other materials for use in wireless facilities siting, particularly in relation to small cell wireless infrastructure, and you are willing to share those materials with other cities, please contact Angelina Panettieri at panettieri@nlc.org

 

Big Seven Urges Congress to Financing Tools Vital to Cities

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183
 
Last week, the National League of Cities joined the Council of State Governments, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and International City/County Management Association, to call on Congress to preserve the state and local deduction and the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds in any comprehensive tax reform package.
 
In the letter to Congress, city priorities were made clear.  Both the state and local deduction and tax-exempt status of municipal bonds are essential components of the tax code and support investments in infrastructure, public safety and education, encourage economic growth and provide state and local governments with flexibility needed to meet resident’s needs.
 
The state and local tax deduction was one of six deductions in the original tax code produced in 1913.  The principal that no government should tax another strikes at the heart of federalism and any reversal would be an overreach by the federal government.  This preemption would result in a double taxation and increase the constraints of local budgets due to a lack of revenue.
 
Municipal bonds are the primary tool used by state and local governments to build and maintain infrastructure.  This efficient financing tool gives localities the flexibility to spend on projects that are needed.  In the past decade, state and local governments have financed $3.8 trillion in infrastructure through municipal bonds.  The tax exemption reduces the issuance cost and affords city leaders the flexibility to finance public capital improvements and infrastructure projects.
 
Since the last comprehensive tax reform in 1986, the tax code has become increasingly complex and the need for streamlining is apparent.  While NLC supports reform, revenue neutrality should not be accomplished by preempting state and local governments taxing authority.  Any effort that includes cutting these vital tools is short sided and would undermine the ability to meet the needs of the citizens we serve.
 
We look forward to working with champions of cities in both the House and Senate in order to protect both the state and local deduction and the tax exemption of municipal bonds.
 

NLC Testifies on Brownfields Reauthorization

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101
 
Recently, NLC testified before two House committees to highlight the importance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields program and ask Congress to make several key improvements to the program as they consider reauthorization. 
 
On March 28, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. On April 4, Mayor Sal Panto, Easton, Pa., and Chair of the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment
 
Mayor Sal Panto and Councilmember Matt Zone
Both President Zone and Mayor Panto shared their brownfields redevelopment success stories in helping to revitalize their communities and grow their city’s economy. During their testimony, they called on Congress to strengthen the program to help local governments overcome the challenges of working with contaminated properties.
 
NLC submitted a letter for the record at both hearings outlining priorities for a reauthorization bill, including increasing or maintaining the overall level of funding for the brownfields program, increasing the overall grant funding to allow communities to cleanup more difficult sites, and resolving the disincentives created by potential liability to facilitate reuse of brownfields properties.  

 

Sessions Orders Review of Department of Justice’s Police Reform Efforts

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124
 
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an extensive review of “all Department’s activities - including collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation.” The order places a freeze on the agreements made between the Justice Department’s civil rights division and embattled local police departments to reform policing practices. 
 
The shift in DOJ policy would require state and local governments to take on greater responsibility to “protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public, or implement best practices in policing.” Cities like Baltimore and Chicago that have been working with the Justice Department’s civil rights division have stated that regardless of DOJ’s review process, they will be moving forward with the policing reforms to improve transparency and accountability. 
 
Last year, NLC published the City Officials Guide to Policing in the 21st Century to inform elected officials about the relevant recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and provide guidance on how they can work together with their city’s law enforcement officials to implement the principles of community policing. This guide is intended to give an executive overview of the key recommendations of the task force report that relate directly to the management and oversight of policing functions.

 

NLC Supports Bill Aimed at Tackling Youth Disconnection

 
At a panel discussion following the introduction of the Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017 (H.R.1748) by House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, highlighted the need for programs that support opportunities for youth.
 
The bill would provide important support to the nearly 5 million young people, ages 16-24, who are disconnected from both school and work.  The legislation, which utilizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as its foundation, authorizes $1.5 billion for summer youth employment opportunities, $2 billion for year-round employment opportunities for youth and $2 billion for the Connecting-for-Opportunities Competitive Grant Program targeting community partnerships for the improvement of high school graduation and youth employment rates.
 
Rep. Scott and President Zone
This legislation would add a federal partner to the long-successful summer jobs programs around the country that are currently supported largely through city and private funds.  President Zone noted the importance of this legislation in supporting initiatives highlighted through his Task Force on Economic Mobility and Opportunity, including workforce.  He noted, “It’s clear to me that training and education systems aren’t meeting the needs of America’s youth...cities could do much more with federal partners.”
 
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint proposed by President Trump calls for a reduction of the Department of Labor’s budget by 21 percent, targeting job training and employment service formula grants through WIOA, as well as Job Corps centers, which serve opportunity youth across the country.  
 
NLC will continue to call attention to the important workforce development programs across our cities that receive critical funding through the Department of Labor and asks city leaders to call on your member of Congress join us by cosponsoring this important bill.
 

Cities Respond to ‘Energy Independence’ Executive Order

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101
 
On March 28, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which seeks to “promote clean and safe development of our nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”
 
The EO includes several provisions that would undo much of the climate action of the previous administration. In particular, the EO calls for the “review” of the Clean Power Plan and the possibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to subsequently revise or rescind the rule; revokes an EO that created the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which provided recommendations on ways in which the federal government can support local climate action; and reverses a requirement that federal agencies consider the risk posed by climate change to their missions, programs, and facilities. 
 
In response to the EO, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland said, “Cities and city leaders recognize how important it is to protect our environment, but we also recognize that this is not simply an environmental issue…Rolling back federal actions designed to protect the environment will have impacts to local economies, public health and public safety.” 
 
Additionally, as the EO was in the process of being released, more than 150 local elected officials signed letters to President Trump and Congress reaffirming their commitment to acting on climate change at the local level and calling on the federal government to be a partner in that effort.
 
“As the elected officials closest and most directly accountable to residents, we cannot let our communities down by taking a step back on our actions and commitments to address climate change,” the NLC letter states.
 
Click here to learn more about how the EO will impact the Clean Power Plan litigation.
 

NLC Works to Make Capital More Accessible for Rural Infrastructure Investment

Brett Bolton, 202.626.3183
 
Last week, NLC lent its support to House legislation that would roll back regulations that discourage banks from holding municipal bonds, increasing the demand for municipal bonds, while allowing rural investors access to capital at a more affordable rate and lower borrowing costs for cities.  
 
The Municipal Finance Support Act of 2017 (H.R. 1624), sponsored by Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), mirrors 2015 legislation passed by the House of Representatives unanimously by voice vote, but was never introduced in the Senate.  The bill would require federal regulators to classify all investment-grade, liquid and readily marketable securities as high quality liquid assets (HQLA) reversing a 2014 federal banking rule. With this reclassification, banks will be more likely to hold these important financing tools, resulting in less tax payer burden.
 
While there is currently no companion bill, NLC continues to work with a bi-partisan group of Senators in order to produce legislation that helps localities invest in infrastructure at an affordable rate.
 

FirstNet Selects AT&T to Buildout the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124
 
On March 30, the Department of Commerce’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officially awarded a contract to AT&T to build and manage the dedicated nationwide public safety broadband network.  The network, when built, will cover all 50 states, 5 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, including rural communities and tribal lands in those states and territories. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within the Department of Commerce to provide emergency responders with a nationwide, high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety. 
 
After five years, NLC is pleased to see that FirstNet is finally making significant progress towards the buildout of the public safety broadband network.  As one of NLC’s Capstone Corporate Partners, AT&T has extensive experience working with local leaders to deliver high-speed broadband services to local governments.  We believe this relationship will continue to strengthen as the public safety broadband network is built out in cities across America.
 

FCC Proposes Sweeping New Restrictions on Local Land Use Authority

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196
 
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released drafts of proposed rules that, if finalized, could dramatically preempt local governments. The two proposed rules regarding wireline and wireless service, which are intended by the FCC to streamline and promote broadband deployment, suggest that local government requirements and practices are inhibiting the deployment of broadband internet, and should be preempted. The proposals suggest a series of changes that could limit local government control over the rights-of-way, further limit local review of wireless facilities, hamper local government protection of consumers of copper landline phone services, and restrict local efforts to stop redlining by telecommunications providers.
 
The FCC will vote on whether to advance these proposed rules through the formal public commenting process at its April 20 Open Meeting. It is likely to do so, and the commenting period would begin after publication in the Federal Register. However, commenting dockets have been opened for both proposed rules and interested cities are encouraged to submit feedback in advance of the April 20 meeting. 
 
Cities can comment on the first proposed rule, “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment,” using WC Docket 17-84, and can comment on the second proposed rule, “Wireless Infrastructure NPRM,” using WT Dockets 17-79 and 15-180. NLC will continue to monitor this rulemaking and will comment on the proposals.
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