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May 27, 2014

RE:  Washington Watch Federal Update on Several Issues
I.     Water Infrastructure Bill Clears Congress
II.    Invitation to Support Transportation Alternatives Program
III.  Transportation Advocacy Resources Available
IV.  Workforce Investment Bill Expected in Senate
V.    Energy Efficiency Stalls in Senate

Dear Mayor:

Thanks to the Federal Relations staff at the National League of Cities (NLC), here is an update on recent developments on municipal issues in our Nation’s Capital.

I.  Water Infrastructure Bill Clears Congress

This week, with large bipartisan majorities, the House and Senate passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) that will provide resources to upgrade the nation’s aging water infrastructure. The bill authorizes $12.3 billion for 34 new lock, dam, levee, port and ecosystem restoration projects and includes a new pilot program that makes loans available to local governments building large water and wastewater-related infrastructure projects and activities. NLC had advocated for the bill, which now awaits the President’s signature.

The five year, $350 million pilot program, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, (WIFIA, modeled after the successful TIFIA program), provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees for large water and wastewater-related infrastructure projects and activities (projects of at least $20 million or $5 million for communities serving less than 25,000 people). While there are limitations on the use of the program, including a cap on the percentage of a project that can be funded through the program and a provision that tax-exempt municipal bonds cannot be used for the non-federal share of the project, this is a good first step to providing communities with more financing options to upgrade our nation’s aging infrastructure.

The bill includes several other provisions important to local governments:

  • Sets target expenditures for a gradual increase in the percentage of user fees that are spent through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for harbor and port maintenance, reaching 100 percent by 2025.
  • Amends the Clean Water Act to ensure that projects funded with State Revolving Loan Funds (SRF) maximize the potential for efficient water use, reuse, recapture and conservation; adds language that States may provide additional subsidization to local governments in the form of principal forgiveness and negative interest loans; includes a Buy American requirement for iron and steel and requires EPA to conduct a review of the SRF State allotment formula.
  • Allows local project sponsors to submit proposals to the Army Corps, which in turn would submit a list to Congress for project authorization.
  • Allows local project sponsors to contribute their own funds to the Army Corps to carry out studies and move projects forward via the processing of permits.

Sets a hard deadline of three years for Army Corps feasibility studies and requires concurrent reviews of feasibility studies and environmental reviews.

II.  Invitation to Support Transportation Alternatives Program

As Congress considers options for a new federal highway program, NLC is asking local officials to sign on to a letter from the National League of Cities and the United States Conference of Mayors to Senator Boxer, the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in support of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

TAP provides cities with funding for important transportation options, such as bike paths and pedestrian walkways, which help to manage local congestion and keep communities healthy. TAP funds are sent directly to local and regional governments, so that local leaders can decide how best to provide communities with active transportation alternatives.

Please consider signing your name to the joint letter now, and tell Congress to protect the Transportation Alternatives Program.

III.  NLC Transportation Advocacy Resources Available

As indicated in our May 20 letter (, as part of its ongoing advocacy efforts for a new federal highway program that supports local priorities, NLC has created a toolkit for city officials to use when engaging with their members of Congress. The toolkit, which includes talking points, provides local officials with the information needed to advocate on behalf of local transportation needs, whether in a personal meeting with a federal official, or via local media outlets.

Your congressional delegation needs to hear from you now on value that a strong and modern transportation system has on economic growth, job creation, and quality of life in your community. There are several ways you can show them the impact:

IV.  Bipartisan Workforce Investment Bill Expected in Senate

Last week, the Senate announced it will begin work on long-overdue legislation to renew and update the Workforce Investment Act, the federal workforce development program. The bill, known as Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA), has widespread support in both chambers of Congress and from NLC. It is expected to pass the Senate within the next few weeks, and the House soon after.
WOIA retains a number of aspects of the previous Workforce Investment Act that worked for local communities, while adding provisions to modernize existing programs and to make training for currently in-demand jobs within targeted labor markets and regions a priority.

Among other provisions, WOIA preserves the local delivery system of workforce investment, and enhances the role of local elected officials and business leaders in planning, developing, and implementing local programs – provisions key to NLC’s support of the bill.

V.  Energy Efficiency Initiative Stalls in Senate

With a dispute over amendments, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 2262) once again failed to advance on the Senate floor. Last week, the popular bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Rob Portman (OH), along with six other Democrats and Republicans, could not muster the 60 votes needed to end debate and take a vote on the bill. Last September, Senate floor action on the bill ground to a halt because of an amendment dispute and to make time for deficit and appropriations issues.

The bill would improve energy efficiency across a variety of sectors, including residential and commercial buildings, schools, and federal buildings. NLC supports the bill as a key opportunity for the federal government to support local action on climate adaptation.

In March, the House overwhelming passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R 2126), sponsored by Reps. David McKinley (WV) and Peter Welch (VT), by a vote of 375-36. Every provision in the House bill is included in the more-comprehensive Senate bill, including a “Tenant Star” program to encourage efficiency in leased buildings, directing the federal government to reduce energy use in data centers, adjusting standards for grid-connected water heaters and establishing efficiency benchmarking standards for buildings.

If you have any questions on these matters, please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


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