Federal Advocacy Update: Week of September 12, 2017

The Capitol
The Capitol

In this Issue:

NLC Leaders Represent City Priorities in Washington

Ashley Smith, 202.626.3094

Last week, over three dozen city leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. for a first ever NLC Federal Advocacy Committees Fly-In. Members of NLC’s Energy, Environment & Natural Resources (EENR), Finance, Administration & Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR), Human Development (HD), and Transportation & Infrastructure Services (TIS) Federal Advocacy Committees represented cities, meet with Congress, the White House, and federal agencies in lieu of an in-person fall meeting. Over the course of the two-day event, NLC members achieved several victories — and educated key government officials on the priorities of city leaders across America.

After an opening briefing at NLC headquarters and several Congressional meetings last Wednesday, NLC hosted an informal reception with local elected officials and federal agency intergovernmental affairs officials to build better bonds between local and federal leadership.

Federal Advocacy Committee Fly-In

On Thursday and Friday, NLC took to the Hill in force — meeting with nearly 40 Members of Congress to discuss a wide variety of issues such as appropriations, tax reform, infrastructure and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Through these activities, NLC found a great deal of support for funding the programs that matter the most to cities — such as CDBG, infrastructure grants and other programs that directly connect cities to federal funding.

Click here to read more about the fly-in on NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.

PSCP Committee Meets in Nation’s Capital

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

The Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Federal Advocacy Committee held its fall meeting at NLC’s headquarters last week. The committee met with representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to discuss Office of Justice Programs efforts to help cities combat the opioid epidemic.

PSCP Meeting

Committee members also met with AT&T to discuss FirstNet’s effort to deploy the public safety broadband network.  FirstNet awarded the contract to build out the public safety broadband network to AT&T. 

Finally, the Committee finalized changes to the Public Safety and Crime Prevention chapter of the National Municipal Policy and resolutions that will be considered by NLC members during City Summit in Charlotte.  The meeting was held in conjunction with the Federal Advocacy Committee Fly-In.

ITC Committee Meets in the City of Mesa

Angelina Panettieri, 202.626.3196

Members of NLC's Information Technology and Communications (ITC) Federal Advocacy Committee met last week in the City of Mesa, Ariz., to refine policy on broadband infrastructure and local control of wireless telecommunications facilities. The committee debated two new resolutions on federal preemption of local regulation over small cell wireless infrastructure and inclusion of broadband infrastructure in federal infrastructure legislation.

ITC Meeting

While in Mesa, committee members also learned more about the local economic impact of technology development, particularly in the aerospace industry. The ITC Committee toured local commercial aviation training facilities, a Boeing defense manufacturing facility, and Arizona State University's robotics and fabrication research labs. The ITC Committee will next meet during NLC's City Summit in Charlotte, N.C.

City Priorities Protected in FY2018 Spending and Debt Limit Deal

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

Last week, Congress approved a bill to provide $15.25 billion in emergency funding assistance for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  The bill also included several “must-pass” provisions necessary for preventing a government shutdown, at least for the short-term.

First, the bill extends the continuation of federal government operations until December 8, 2017.  Without that continuing resolution, the federal government would have shut down with the start of the new Fiscal Year beginning October 1st.  Second, the bill suspends the federal debt limit through December 8.  Without that suspension, the federal government would have defaulted on certain debts for the first time in history.  Third, the bill temporarily extends the National Flood Insurance program until December 8.

In each case, NLC urged Congress to act to ensure uninterrupted operation of programs and services at the local level.  City leaders were able to express thanks to the President and Congressional Leaders on NLC’s behalf during meetings in Congress and at the White House that took place during NLC’s Federal Advocacy Fly-In last week. 

Congress now has until December 8 to find consensus on a long-term spending bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and the federal debt limit.  NLC is urging city leaders to continue advocating for city priorities, such as the CDBG and TIGER programs during this period.

Encouraging Signs for Cities in FY2018 House Omnibus Appropriations

Michael Wallace, 202.626.3025

This week, the House is scheduled to complete work on its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  The bill combines eight of the 12 annual spending bills including Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD.

Voting began last week on the 342 amendments approved for consideration under the bill.  In general, funding for city priorities are surviving the amendment process.  Among amendments opposed by NLC that have been defeated is an amendment by Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) that would have defunded Amtrak.

In a sign that House Members are hearing city leaders, the House approved an amendment to increase CDBG funding by $100 million to $3 billion, which is equal to existing levels.  The amendment, offered by Congressman Steve Knight (R-CA) was approved by unanimous voice-vote.  This is a significant victory over the President’s FY2018 budget proposal, which recommended elimination of the CDBG program; as well as a demonstration of significant growth in bipartisan support for the CDBG program in the House since last year.

If the House bill is approved this week as anticipated, it will move to conference with the Senate to iron out differences between the House and Senate proposals.  That work will likely take place in October to give time to build support for a final bill before the current Continuing Resolution expires on December 8. For the latest on the FY 2018 budget and appropriations process, click here to visit NLC’s Federal Budget FY18 Tracker.

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

Avery Peters,202.626.3020

Are you interested in making even more of a difference for cities? Serving on one of NLC's seven Federal Advocacy Committees is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a local 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.

NLC's incoming president appoints the leadership and members for the committees for the upcoming year. Leadership and members serve a one-year term and are eligible annually for reappointment. Committee chairs also serve as members on NLC's Board of Directors.

Applications for Committee leadership positions (chair and vice chairs) are due October 13 and applications for general Committee membership are due December 1. Click here to apply today.

NLC Calls on Congress to Address DACA and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On September 5, President Trump released an Executive Order that rescinded the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Citing questions about the constitutionality of the program, the Administration classified the program as administrative and called on Congress to provide a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow of a limited six-month window to adjudicate specific requests.  They will do so in the following way:

  1. DHS will adjudicate all DACA requests received by the department by September 5.  The department will reject all requests received after that date.
  2. DHS will adjudicate all DACA renewal applications received as of September 5.  For those for whom their status will expire by March 5, 2018, the department will adjudicate a renewal request if the application for renewal is received by October 5, 2018.  They will reject all renewal requests outside of these parameters.
  3. DHS will not terminate current DACA holders.
  4. DHS will continue to process requests to reprint lost or stolen employment authorization document (EAD).

Prior to the Administration’s announcement, NLC issued a statement calling on the president to save DACA and focus on comprehensive immigration reform.  NLC has maintained policy calling for comprehensive immigration reform for the last decade and currently details parameters important to cities for reform in the National Municipal Policy Resolution #17

Following the Administration’s announcement, NLC issued a second statement and sent a letter to congressional leadership calling on Congress to legislatively institute protections for Dreamers within an overall context of comprehensive reform. 

NLC Advocates for NFIP Reauthorization

Yucel Ors, 202.626.3124

As a part of the $15 billion aid package for hurricane relief, President Donald Trump signed legislation on Friday that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until December 8, 2017.  The extension gives Congress additional time to consider reforms to the flood insurance program.

NFIP Briefing

To explain the importance of NFIP to state and local governments, last Tuesday NLC hosted “The Future of the National Flood Insurance Program: Helping Communities Prepare and Respond” with the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National Governors Association (NGA), the National League of Cities (NLC), the Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance.  Tallahassee, Fla. Mayor Pro-Tem Gil Ziffer participated as a panelist and offered the local perspective on NFIP and the need for the flood mapping system to be updated.

Prior to passage, NLC sent a letter to House and Senate leadership to reauthorize NFIP as soon as possible to help homeowners and businesses across the country, particularly those currently impacted by the devastating floods in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  The letter also urged Congress to act quickly to help cities in Texas and Louisiana recover from the devastation caused by the Hurricane Harvey.  Finally, the letter urged Congress to negotiate higher budget allocations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide additional resources for flood mitigation assistance in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 without reducing funds for existing programs.

NLC Urges Congress to Act Quickly on Brownfields Reauthorization

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

In a pair of letters sent last week to House and Senate Leadership, NLC applauded committee leaders for their bipartisan support in passing legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program, and urged them to quickly bring the legislation to the floor of both chambers for a vote.

In the House, two similar brownfields bills have passed committee. In June, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 3017, the Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act. In July, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed H.R. 1758, the Brownfields Reauthorization Act.

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee passed S. 822, the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act.

NLC supports the three bills, which include our recommendations for making key improvements to the program, such as increasing the cleanup grant amounts, creating a multi-purpose grant, allowing grant recipients to use a portion of the grant amount for administrative costs, and clarifying local liability issues.

HELO Conducts In-District Meetings in Phoenix and Mexico Border Tour

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

In early August, members of NLC’s Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) Constituency Group traveled to Tempe, Ariz. for an annual leadership retreat.  A gathering of over thirty elected officials, the meeting focused on conversations surrounding the 2018 federal budget process, comprehensive immigration reform, sanctuary cities policies and trade, specifically North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its impact.

To kick-off the meeting, HELO President Joel Navarro, councilmember, Tempe and NLC Board Member, and HELO Board Member David Luna, councilmember, Mesa and Chair of the Information Technology & Communications (ITC) Federal Advocacy Committee, met with the district offices of Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-09) to discuss the impacts of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget on the local economy.  The discussion highlighted the local impact of federal funds such as CDBG and HOME by sharing the #FightTheCuts handouts for Tempe and Mesa, as well as the interconnected nature of these funds.

Local leaders also participated in a border crossing to Mexico where they made the following visits along the way: a visit to the Port of Tucson to learn about the inter-modal capabilities of this inland port and its connections and impacts across the country; a visit to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas for a conversation about the inter-connected relationships of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. as it pertains to fresh produce and its impact on cost and availability; a tour by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Mariposa Point of Entry on the border with Mexico to learn about the processing of commercial vehicles across the border; manufacturing facilities tours in Nogales, Sonora at Continental Corporation and MTD Consumer Products, which make car components and lawn maintenance machines, respectively.  Finally, the group was joined by Mexican officials in Nogales, Sonora for a dinner before returning to Tempe.

HELO Meeting

At this meeting, HELO members were deeply engaged in the 2018 federal budget conversation and generated multiple summer actions, including an op-ed and press conference, to support the advocacy work of NLC this summer.

Last Call for Feedback on DOL Overtime Exemption

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a highly-anticipated request for information (RFI) on the overtime regulations put forward by the Obama Administration that increased the overtime salary level to $47,476, which is double the current level, and called for automatic adjustments every three years. The rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, however, it was delayed due to the issuance of a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the rule by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.  The Trump Administration dropped its appeal of the preliminary injunction in light of Judge Mazzant’s more recent ruling and the rules as proposed by the Obama Administration may be dead.

In the RFI published in the Federal Register, DOL is seeking input on the role the duties test plays with respect to the salary threshold, what is the proper methodology, and whether there should be multiple salary levels to reflect different regional economies, sizes of employers, and exemptions.

NLC plans to issue comments on the RFI, which will be due on September 25. If you are interested in sharing the impact of this rule on your city, specifically: the cost implications to on your municipal payroll both in the first year of implementation and beyond; any changes you have made to the number of exempt employees on your payroll; and any thoughts you may have on the duties test applied to determine the status of employees, please share those by September 1st to be incorporated into NLC’s formal comments to DOL.

EPA Extends Public Comment Period on WOTUS Withdrawal

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced a 30-day extension of the public comment period on a proposed rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule (aka “Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS). The comment period closes on Sept. 27. NLC is reviewing the proposed rule and will likely submit comments.

EPA and the Corps will hold a series of sector-specific conference calls throughout the fall to hear from stakeholders. A call for small entities (including small governmental jurisdictions) will be held on Sept. 19 from 1-3 pm eastern. A call for stormwater, wastewater management and drinking water agencies will be held on Nov. 14 from 1-3 pm eastern. Click here for the full list of calls and RSVP information.

The proposed rule would re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule. Consistent with the direction in the Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule (Feb. 28, 2017), EPA) and the Corps are pursuing a two-step approach to rescind and revise the Clean Water Rule.

In June, NLC submitted comments to the agencies highlighting key recommendations for consideration as the agencies move forward with revising the “Waters of the U.S.”. NLC’s comments followed a Federalism consultation briefing that the agencies held in April to solicit input from state and local government officials and organizations on the rule’s revision.

The withdrawal proposal comes as two of the House appropriations bills contain policy riders that would allow the agencies to withdraw the rule without following the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the requirement for public notice and comment period. While NLC has concerns with the 2015 rule and has advocated for a revision, the ability of local officials to participate in the rulemaking process is a fundamental principle of the intergovernmental partnership.

An Update on Health Care and the Path Forward

Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

As Congress returns to Washington after the August recess, the path forward on health care reform has changed.  On August 31, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the reconciliation instructions that would be the vehicle for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will expire at the end of this month.  This ruling makes the path forward on repeal and replacement a much tougher battle as any change would require 60 votes for passage beginning in the new fiscal year.

Given this landscape, the future of any health care changes seems to rest with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  This month, the committee is slated to hold four hearings on stabilization of the individual health insurance marketplaces.

On September 6, the committee heard from a panel of state insurance commissioners followed by a panel of governors the following day with two additional panels planned for this month.  Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) have been working closely together on these panels with the ultimate goal of a bipartisan bill by the end of September that would address rising premiums and unsteady marketplaces.  This timeline would coincide with when insurers need to file their premium rates for 2018.

Transportation Grants for Cities of All Sizes

Brittney Kohler, 202.626.3164

Infrastructure discussions are heating up in Washington, and there’s good news for cities, especially those in rural areas. Two transportation grant programs with a focus on direct funding to cities, as well as rural cities’ participation, are now accepting applications: the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program and the Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.

TIGER

Last week, the U.S. Department Of Transportation (USDOT) announced that the popular TIGER program will be accepting proposals through Monday, October 16.  TIGER has proven to be a tremendously effective program for cities to invest in regionally and nationally significant projects in road, rail, transit and ports.  USDOT has indicated the FY (Fiscal Year) 2017 TIGER program will “give special consideration to projects which emphasize improved access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation for communities in rural areas, such as projects that improve infrastructure condition, address public health and safety, promote regional connectivity, or facilitate economic growth or competitiveness.”

The need for applicants to demonstrate significant non-federal commitment has differentiated this program from other past USDOT grant programs, and USDOT notes that through the TIGER program, projects on average use 3.6 matching dollars for every one TIGER grant dollar. Cites are well positioned to explain the shared responsibility for funding infrastructure to leverage local dollars, and the focus on rural projects will certainly bring awards to cities of all sizes.

USDOT will be hosting a series of webinars to explain the application process and how to present a benefit-cost analysis in September, the first being hosted on Wednesday, September 13. Click here learn more and register for the webinars.

INFRA

USDOT is also accepting proposals for INFRA, a $1.5 billion competitive freight-focused program.  INFRA is a continuation of previously titled FASTLANE program, but with updated criteria to ensure projects “are aligned with national and regional economic vitality goals.”

Two levels of funding are available: at least $25 million for large scale projects and at least $5 million for small scale projects. The INFRA program is required by law to award at least 25% of funding for rural projects, which will ensure cities of all sizes benefit from this program.  USDOT states it “will give full consideration to the unique needs of rural areas.” USDOT has indicated that prior FASTLANE applications are welcome with minor realignment to the updated INFRA criteria. Applications for the INFRA grant program due by 8:00 PM EST, November 2, 2017. Click here to learn how to apply.

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