November 2, 2009
RE: Biweekly Federal Update Period Ending October 30, 2009
We again 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.
Recovery Act Update
On Friday, the Administration announced that the Recovery Act is working as advertised and has saved or created nearly 650,000 jobs, according to reports from 131,000 Recovery Act grant recipients, including local governments.
To view the reports, go to www.recovery.gov.
Upcoming DOE Webinar Outlines Recovery Act Grant Programs
On Wednesday, November 4, from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is hosting a free webinar to provide an overview of two new $454 million competitive grant opportunities under the Recovery Act’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. Grant applications are due on December 14, 2009.
The two programs are:
(1) Retrofit Ramp-up Program—DOE will award up to $390 million for innovative programs structured to provide whole-neighborhood building energy retrofits. Focus will be placed on projects demonstrating a sustainable business model for providing cost-effective energy upgrades for a large percentage of the residential, commercial, industrial and public buildings in a specific community. DOE expects to make 8 to 20 awards under this topic area, with award size ranging from $5 to $75 million.
(2) General Innovation Fund—DOE will award up to $64 million to municipalities, counties and state-recognized Indian Tribes not eligible to receive population-based formula grant allocations under the EECBG program. These funds are intended to help expand local energy efficiency efforts and reduce energy use in the commercial, residential, transportation, manufacturing, or industrial sectors. DOE expects to make 15 to 60 awards, with award size ranging from $1 to $5 million.
To register, visit https://eecbg.webex.com/eecbg/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=998007802.
For more information on the EECBG program, including accessing the competitive grants Funding Opportunity Announcement, visit http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/about/competitive_grants.html. Also see the FAQ page at http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/about/competitive_grant_faq.html.
House Leaders Unveil Health Care Reform Legislation
With the Senate Finance Committee’s work on health care reform complete, attention shifted back to the House when leadership introduced their version of health care reform legislation, H.R. 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act.
The House bill extends coverage to more than 36 million uninsured Americans and costs an estimated $894 billion over ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this proposal, which includes a public option, would reduce the deficit by $9 billion during the first ten years and continue to reduce the deficit in subsequent years.
The Senate 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 CBO, this proposal, which does not include a public option, reduces the budget deficit by approximately $80 billion during that time frame. The Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee bill, which includes a public option, costs nearly $1 trillion and is not considered deficit neutral—a requirement set by the President for any health care legislation.
As the debate continues in both the House and Senate, NLC is urging reform that:
- Contains the rate of growth of health care costs;
- Provides and improves access to affordable health insurance for all Americans;
- Avoids shifting the costs of health care from the federal or state governments to local governments;
- Preserves the ability of local governments to raise and collect revenues; and
- Offers cities and towns access to the same or similar health care insurance options available to individuals and businesses, including the ability to self-insure, either individually or collectively.
The House is expected to take up the legislation as early as this week.
Another Short-Term Extension Looming for SAFETEA-LU
Early last week, Senate transportation leadership, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), tried and failed to get consent to bring a six-month extension of the federal transportation program, SAFETEA-LU, to the Senate floor for a vote under an expedited procedure.
Boxer and Inhofe had hoped that a six-month extension would win the support of House transportation leadership, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), who continues to press for a six-year, $450 billion transportation program. Instead, lawmakers will need to adopt another short-term extension of the program, which initially expired on September 30 and is being funded under a one-month extension that expires on October 31.
House Committee Supports Bill to Create Consumer Protection Agency
During the week of October 19, the House Committee on Financial Services passed H.R. 3126, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009, by a vote of 39 to 29. If enacted, the bill creates a new federal agency aimed at protecting consumers from unfair and abusive financial products and services, including regulating some of the biggest culprits of the housing collapse and current economic downturn - non-bank mortgage originators, mortgage servicers, and payday lenders who are able to operate largely outside of federal oversight.
Also, the bill consolidates consumer protection rulemaking authority, which is currently spread across several different agencies, into a single agency that would monitor the marketplace for any new financial products or services that potentially could harm consumers, as well as the larger economy.
The bill also makes clear that state attorneys general and other appropriate state regulators would not be prevented from enforcing state laws against national banks and federal savings associations. The bill, which NLC supports, will likely be brought before the full House for a vote before the end of the year.
If you have any questions on these items, call Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.