October 19, 2009
RE: Biweekly Federal Update
Period Ending October 16, 2009
We need to thank the Federal Relations Staff of our national affiliate, the National League of Cities (NLC), for their effectiveness in representing municipal interests in Washington, and for keeping us informed of legislative and regulatory developments. Here is their latest report.
FCC Chairman May Support Shot-Clock in Tower Sitings
In a speech to the wireless industry last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski twice labeled "delays in tower siting" as an "obstacle to robust and ubiquitous [wireless] 4G networks.” He went on to say: "On the issue of tower siting, we have heard your call. This issue is ripe for action. I have consulted with my fellow Commissioners, and in the near future we are going to move forward with a shot-clock proposal to speed the process, while taking into account the legitimate concerns of local authorities.” NLC continues to urge the FCC to reject the industry’s invitation to engage in “wholesale preemption of local government authority which has been specifically protected by Congress
Federal Agencies Plan Joint H1N1 Update on October 20
The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), invites city officials to join an H1N1 update conference call at 2:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 20.
The call will feature Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC Chief Health Officer. Drs. Lurie and Schuchat will provide information on the H1N1 Influenza situation nationally, discuss available federal tools and resources, and describe the status of the vaccination campaign.
To join Tuesday’s call, dial 800.475.8413 and enter the following passcode: 5893054. NLC welcomes your participation on the call and hopes that you will share this message with officials in your city or town.
Senate Finance Committee Passes Health Care Reform Legislation
After months of negotiation, legislative drafting, wrangling, and debate, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday passed its version of health care reform legislation. The bill, known as "America's Healthy Future Act of 2009,” passed by a vote of 14 to 9; Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was the only Republican to support the bill. Senate leadership will now work to merge this bill with one already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee before final consideration later this month.
The Finance Committee legislation extends coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans and is estimated to cost $829 billion over the next decade. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposal as drafted will reduce the budget deficit by approximately $80 billion during that time frame. The HELP Committee bill costs nearly $1 trillion and is not considered deficit neutral—a requirement set by the President for any health care legislation. Unlike the Finance bill, however, the HELP legislation does include a public option.
As the debate continues in the House and Senate, NLC continues to urge Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance reform that reduces the rate of growth in health care costs and improves access to health care for all Americans, including wellness and preventive services.
Legislation Proposes Equity for PEG Television Programming
Earlier this month, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation requiring cable providers to increase visibility for public, educational, or governmental (PEG) channels within their systems. Typically these channels carry programming that may not have the high viewership enjoyed by other paid programming.
In the past, funding for and broadcast of PEG channels have been negotiated as part of local franchise agreements. However, recent telecommunications laws establishing statewide agreements in a number of regions have since resulted in many new funding and programming obstacles for these stations. The Baldwin-sponsored Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act of 2009 (H.R. 3745) addresses these challenges by requiring PEG channels to be carried in the same manner as local broadcast channels and requiring the FCC to study impact of state franchise laws on the channels.
Baldwin also wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, asking the FCC to intervene to protect the PEG channels. In his response, Genachowski wrote that he hopes the commission will be able to deal with the issue of carriage of PEG channels "in the near future," and that he believes the channels "are an important source of local programming and the Commission should ensure that the channels receive equitable treatment consistent with the Commission's rules."
To date, no action has been scheduled for H.R. 3745 in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
FCC to Consider Network Neutrality Rulemaking
On October 22, the Federal Communications Commission will hold an open meeting to consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Policies to Preserve an Open Internet, a concept also referred to as “network neutrality.” While issues surrounding network neutrality are many and complex, NLC continues to urge the Commission to adopt a principle of non-discrimination that prohibits discriminatory action by network operators, while protecting the operators network management needs.
NLC Comments on FEMA Proposed Rule Regarding Public Assistance
Earlier this week, NLC sent a letter to FEMA Director Craig Fugate regarding a proposed agency rule that reduces “the Federal cost share of FEMA Public Assistance to public and certain nonprofit facilities repetitively damaged in the preceding 10 years by the same type of event and for which hazard mitigation has not been implemented.”
If the proposed rule is implemented as currently written, public structures damaged three times during a 10-year period by the same type of disaster (i.e. hurricanes, floods) will receive only a 25 percent reimbursement for repairs or reconstruction on the third occurrence. This could be prevented under the new rule only by implementing “cost effective” hazard mitigation measures.
In the submitted comments, NLC requested that facilities with a hazard mitigation value be exempt and expressed concern over the ambiguity of the proposed rule and its definitions.
For more information on any of these matters, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.