July 26, 2010
RE: Federal Biweekly Update for the Period Ending July 23, 2010
I. NLC Health Care Reform Webcast Scheduled for August 3
II President Signs Restoring American Financial Stability Act
III. Senators Announce Legislation to Secure "D Block" for Public Safety
IV. NLC Testifies in Support of Clean Water Infrastructure Investment
V. Deadline Nears for TIGER II Discretionary Grant Pre-Application
VI. HHS, DOL, Treasury Announce New Rules for Preventive Health Care
VII. PACE Program Dealt Setback
VIII. NLC Board Calls for Immigration Reform and Adopts Gulf Oil Spill Resolution
Here’s the latest bi-weekly update from the Federal Relations Team at the National League of Cities (NLC).
- NLC Health Care Reform Webcast Scheduled for August 3
On August 3, NLC will host a webcast for municipal officials on the new health care law passed earlier this year. The webcast is scheduled for August 3 starting at 12:00 p.m. (EDT). The featured speakers on the webcast will be health care attorneys Rita Patel and Mark Muedeking from the Washington, D.C., based law firm of DLA Piper. Watch the NLC website, www.nlc.org, for further details on how to access the webcast.
- President Signs Restoring American Financial Stability Act
On Wednesday, July 21, President Obama signed the Restoring American Financial Stability Act into law. The new law fundamentally alters the rules governing America's financial markets and consumer credit transactions to prevent the conditions that lead to what the President called "the worst recession since the Great Depression."
NLC specifically supported provisions within the law designed to improve the fiscal conditions of municipalities and strengthen consumer protections in credit transactions, such as home mortgage lending.
Among other things, the new law affects municipalities by:
- requiring credit rating agencies to apply the same standards to municipal securities as are used for corporate securities;
- providing $1 billion for a third round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds that will be distributed by formula to local governments to address vacant and abandoned properties;
- providing a funding stream to support the Governmental Accounting Standards Board;
- improving protections for all investors, including local governments and public pension funds, in the derivatives market; and
- requiring that the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board consist of a majority of independent board members not associated with any broker, dealer, municipal securities dealer or advisor; and for the first time setting standards for municipal financial advisors.
- Provisions of the new law will be phased in over several years with many rules left to the new federal regulators to develop. A resource page on the new law, including a comprehensive summary, is available on the House Financial Services Committee website at financialservices.house.gov.
- Senators Announce Legislation to Secure "D Block" for Public Safety
Also on Wednesday, July 21, three Senators announced legislation to reallocate the 700 MHz D Block of spectrum to public safety. If enacted, the legislation would double the spectrum available for the build out of a national public safety broadband network.
Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain introduced the First Responders Protection Act of 2010, H.R. 4992, while Senator John Rockefeller sent out a statement announcing his plan to introduce the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act. Both bills would not only provide for reallocation of the D Block to a public safety governance committee, but would also fund the build out, operation, and maintenance of a national public safety broadband network.
The National League of Cities, along with other national state and local government associations, who have been urging the FCC not to auction the D Block of spectrum for commercial uses, are supporting the legislation.
Earlier this year, Representatives Peter King and Yvette Clarke introduced a similar version of the Senate bill, the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2010 (HR 5081).
- NLC Testifies in Support of Clean Water Infrastructure Investment
On July 15, Kansas City, Mo., Councilwoman (and NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Steering Committee member) Jan Marcason testified on behalf of NLC at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Specifically, she spoke about the important role clean water infrastructure investment plays in creating jobs, protecting the environment, and improving the quality of life in cities and towns across America.
Citing findings in the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Watershed Needs Survey, Councilwoman Marcason called on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund program, an essential tool for providing clean water.
- Deadline Nears for TIGER II Discretionary Grant Pre-Application
The pre-application process for the TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program/HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant Program will close at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 26, 2010. If any interested parties have not yet registered for access or submitted a pre-application, they should do so as soon as possible.
The U.S. Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) strongly encourage potential applicants to register by 5:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 22, to provide as much time as possible on Friday, July 23, to resolve any problems that are encountered before the system closes. DOT and HUD are responding to a high level of late requests for registration, and will continue to respond to these requests in the order in which they are received until the final deadline on Monday. Further guidance is available in the pre-application instructions provided on the TIGER II website www.dot.gov/recovery/ost/tigerii
For further information concerning the TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program/HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant Program, please contact the TIGER II Discretionary Grant program manager via e-mail at TIGERIIGrants@dot.gov or call Robert Mariner at 202.366.8914.
- HHS, DOL, Treasury Announce New Rules for Preventive Health Care
The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have issued new rules stipulating that new and renewed health care plans must provide patients with preventive services without charging a co-pay, requiring coinsurance, or applying the costs to the plan's deductible. The rules will go into effect on September 23, 2010 and will affect most health plans.
- PACE Program Dealt Setback
Earlier this month, the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was dealt a setback when the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a statement effectively halting mortgage financing for homes participating in the PACE program. FHFA oversees the operation of mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who, although under federal conservatorship, together still finance approximately 90 percent of U.S. home mortgage lending.
Under the PACE program, local governments provide funds to participating homeowners to install energy-efficiency upgrades, which are paid back over time in the form of a special assessment on the property tax. Payments are typically secured by a lien on the property that gives local governments priority of repayment if the home goes into foreclosure.
In its statement, FHFA objected to local governments holding the first lien on PACE homes, calling it a significant risk to the mortgage financier. The decision comes as a surprise to the 23 states and many cities that currently have PACE programs, because federal agencies, including HUD and EPA, as well as Vice President Biden, have been promoting PACE programs as a key component of economic recovery. NLC supports the PACE program and is urging the FHFA to reconsider its position.
- NLC Board Calls for Immigration Reform and Adopts Gulf Oil Spill Resolution
As the national debate on immigration gains momentum, the NLC Board of Directors at its summer board meeting in Riverside, Calif., earlier this month discussed the value immigrants have brought to the country socially, culturally, and economically and renewed its call for Congress and the Administration to act immediately to enact comprehensive immigration reform. The Board also voiced its opposition to Arizona's controversial new immigration law.
In response to the continuing effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Board adopted a resolution urging the federal government to coordinate closely and share resources with local governments in all phases of the response to the spill. The resolution focuses on ensuring swift cleanup of the entire Gulf region, relief measures that facilitate the rapid revival of affected local and regional economies, and accountability for all responsible parties.
For more on any of these, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.