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July 31, 2012

Re:  Federal Update

I. House Holds a Hearing on Marketplace Equity Act
II. House Subcommittee Moves FY2013 Labor, HHS, Education Spending Bill
III. House Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill
IV. Legislation to Require FEMA to Consider Impact on Smaller Local Units in Disaster
       Declaration Eligibility
V. NLC Prepares to Head to the National Political Conventions

Dear Mayor:

Here is an update on some recent developments in our Nation’s Capital and info on an opportunity to network with other local officials at the upcoming national party conventions.

I.  House Holds a Hearing on Marketplace Equity Act

On July 24, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on one of the National League of Cities’ (NLC’s) top legislative priorities, the Marketplace Equity Act (H.R. 3179). This legislation would permit state and, where allowed by State law, local governments the flexibility to require the seller to collect the sales taxes on remote purchases—not raising existing taxes or imposing new ones. On behalf of municipalities, NLC, along with several of its national partners, submitted a formal statement for the hearing record in support of the legislation.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Senators Mike Enzi, Lamar Alexander and Dick Durbin filed an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act (S. 2237), otherwise known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. No further action has been scheduled on the Senate bill.

II. House Subcommittee Moves FY2013 Labor, HHS, Education Spending Bill

The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) has passed a bill to fund the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED). Besides cutting funds to implement the new health care law, the $150 billion bill is $6.3 billion less than FY 2012  and $8.8 billion less than the President requested and the Senate Appropriations Committee requested for FY 2013.

Among DOL programs, Workforce Investment Act programs fared surprisingly well: funding for disadvantaged adult training totaled $769 million, only $2 million below the recommended level in the Senate version of the bill. Youth activities would be funded at $824 million, same as in the Senate. Funding for dislocated workers would be $1.01 billion, also the same as the Senate.

Among HHS programs, the bill calls for maintaining Social Service Block Grant funding at $1.7 billion. Head Start would receive $8 billion, nearly $3 million below the Senate level but $67 million more than FY2012. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would remain at $3.47 billion. Community Health Centers, which would receive $1.57 billion in the Senate bill, would lose all funding in the House bill.

Among ED programs, Promise Neighborhoods would receive $60 million, the same as last year and $20 million less than the Senate has proposed; Special Education funding would increase by $500 million to $12.1 billion, $400 million more than the Senate bill; Pell Grants would be cut, though the actual amount of the cut is unclear; and Title I would increase by $500 million to $15 billion, $400 million than the Senate bill. Race to the Top, which would receive nearly $50 million in the Senate bill, would receive no FY2013 funds.

While the bill is expected to eventually pass the House, it won’t have the support of the Senate or the White House.

III. House Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill

On July 11, after a whirlwind one-day markup of its version of the “Farm Bill,” the House Committee on Agriculture passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R. 6083). The legislation establishes federal policies impacting rural development, nutrition, conservation and farming.

With more than 100 amendments introduced, the Committee considered several which NLC supported:

  • Farm-to-School (Reps. Ellmers, Pingree and Gibson)—Allows local school districts to make their own food purchases to promote locally farm-grown foods, and establishes pilot projects to test alternative farm-to-school procurement models to U.S. Department of Agriculture food distribution. The amendment passed by voice vote.
  • Farmers’ Market Policy Provisions (Rep. Fortenberry)—Prioritizes capacity building, small- and mid-sized farms and underserved communities in the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which offers competitive grants to fund community-support agriculture programs, farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and other direct marketing strategies. The amendment passed by voice vote.
  • Rural Development Funding (Rep. McIntyre)—Restores $50 million in mandatory funding to address the backlog in water and wastewater applications from local governments. The amendment failed by voice vote.

 

Overall, the $900 billion bill cuts direct spending by approximately $35 billion from current authorization levels, with the bulk of reductions ($16 billion) coming from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Committee defeated amendments both to restore SNAP reductions and to further cut the program.

With the current Farm Bill set to expire on September 30, it remains unclear whether the House will bring the Committee’s bill to a floor vote before the deadline. Last month, the Senate passed a $970 billion Farm Bill, cutting $23 billion from direct spending, including $4.5 billion from SNAP. NLC will continue to advocate for legislation that supports rural development, improves access to healthy, local food and protects local natural resources.

IV. Legislation to Require FEMA to Consider Impact on Smaller Local Units in Disaster Declaration Eligibility

Earlier this month, NLC, along with the national associations for state and local governments and public safety groups, met Rep. Adam Schiff’s office to discuss the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act (H.R. 5870).

If passed, the bill, which NLC supports, will ensure that small to mid-size municipalities located in large counties and states receive similar consideration for disaster declarations at the federal level and related federal disaster relief funding. Specifically, the bill would require FEMA, when considering a disaster declaration, to evaluate the “… budgetary resources available to local and State governments to respond to and recover from such disaster and the impact of the disaster on a small city or a census-designated place with a population of less than 25,000 or a medium city with a population of less than 250,000 if either is located within a large county with a population of more than 1,000,000 and in a large State with a population of more than 5,000,000 if the level of financial damage in such city exceeds 10 percent of the city's general fund or $100 per capita of the census-designated place or city.”

The bill has yet to be scheduled for committee consideration.

V. NLC Prepares to Head to the National Political Conventions

With less than 100 days remaining until the presidential election, planning is underway to send NLC delegations to both conventions: RNC (Tampa Bay) from August 27 to 30, and DNC (Charlotte) the week of September 3. NLC President Ted Ellis will lead both delegations.

Municipal officials that are planning to be in Tampa Bay or Charlotte and who would like to receive convention communications from NLC are encouraged to contact us, so we can make sure you’re on our list to receive convention updates. Contact Stacey Levitt, Senior Outreach Associate at levitt@nlc.org to begin receiving updates from NLC.

Continue to follow www.nlc.org to learn more about the candidates' positions on issues affecting cities and towns as the election draws near.

For more information on these, or any other Federal issues important to local Government, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or jmoran@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.

Executive Director

 

 

 

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