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May 19, 2010

RE: FEDERAL UPDATE for the Period Ending May 14, 2010 

 

I. Update on the Local Jobs for America Act
II. Senators Kerry, Lieberman Release Climate Change Bill
III. Local Officials, NLC, Partners Brief Senate on Livable Communities Act
IV. Legislation Introduced to Permanently Increase Bank Qualified Debt Limit      
V. NLC Co-Signs Letter Urging Changes to Federal Aviation Bill
VI. Legislation to Amend Clean Water Act Introduced in House
VII. Legislation to Aid Water Infrastructure Financing Introduced in Senate
VIII. President Announces Legislative Package in Response to Gulf Oil Spill  
IX. White House 2010 National Drug Strategy Released 

Dear Mayor:

Here’s the latest bi-weekly update from the Federal Relations Team at the National League of Cities (NLC).

I. Update on the Local Jobs for America Act
Thanks to the continued efforts of the state municipal leagues and municipal officials, there are now 159 House members co-sponsoring the Local Jobs for America Act, H.R. 4812.
As the Memorial Day Congressional recess approaches, NLC is calling on local leaders to contact House members who have not yet signed on and let them know we need their support for the legislation to help municipalities recover from the recession and prevent further lay-offs and cuts in essential services. The message is clear: Barring federal assistance, local governments are soon facing significant lay-offs of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other city workers.
Key talking points for the legislation:

  •  
  • If enacted, the bill will direct $75 billion to municipalities and counties to save local government jobs and prevent layoffs.
  • The bill also includes $23 billion to support an estimated 250,000 teacher jobs; $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the streets; $500 million to hire and retain firefighters; and $500 million for approximately 50,000 additional on-the-job training positions to help the private sector expand employment.

 

  • For municipalities, the resources made available will counter the recession's impacts-declining property, sales, and income taxes and lost state aid and increased demand for services.
  •  

II. Senators Kerry, Lieberman Release Climate Change Bill

On May 13, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman released their long-awaited climate change legislation. The American Power Act calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, similar to the version the House passed last year (H.R. 2454). Among differences with the House bill, the Kerry-Lieberman bill separately targets three major sectors of the economy-power plants, heavy industry, and transportation.

The legislation pre-empts the ability of states to implement mandatory greenhouse gas reductions but does provide compensation to states for revenue they will lose as a result of the termination of their programs. 

NLC is analyzing the bill for potential impact on local governments and continues to advocate for a portion of the anticipated cap and trade revenue to be dedicated toward the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant and energy efficient transportation solutions, such as public transportation, passenger and freight rail, and biking and walking improvements, as well as funding for local adaptation projects. The timeframe for moving the bill is uncertain.

III. Local Officials, NLC, Partners Brief Senate on Livable Communities Act
NLC continues to collaborate with Senator Chris Dodd and Rep. Ed Perlmutter to advance the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619/H.R. 4690). If enacted, local leaders could receive grants and technical assistance to support the development and implementation of comprehensive regional sustainable development strategies. The legislation is a step forward in recognizing that pressing community issues such as economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, housing affordability and access, transportation mobility and quality of place are often regional in nature and require a comprehensive and coordinated approach.

Last week, NLC, in coalition with NACO and others, hosted a well-attended briefing for Senate staff in anticipation of upcoming hearings on the bill. Local elected officials from Brookings County, SD; Bedford, NH; and Kent County, VA, each highlighted specific developments and development plans that could benefit from the Livable Communities Act. The briefing also highlighted the potential benefits of the Livable Communities Act for small towns and rural communities. The first Senate hearing on the bill could take place as early as the final week of May.  

IV. Legislation Introduced to Permanently Increase Bank Qualified Debt Limit
On March 12, Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced the Municipal Bond Market Support Act of 2010, S. 3350, to permanently increase the limit on bank qualified debt to $30 million, allowing communities, schools, hospitals and colleges to access lower cost debt. The bank qualified debt limit was raised from $10 million temporarily in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the increase to expire at the end of this year.

Bank qualified debt is critical for local governments who issue small amounts of debt, to place debt directly with banks, often community banks, rather than in the open market. This allows those governments to pay as much as 0.5 percentage points lower in borrowing costs. In 2009, the dollar amount of bank qualified issuances doubled to $32.7 billion, with nearly 6,000 issuances. NLC supports the legislation.

V. NLC Co-Signs Letter Urging Changes to Federal Aviation Bill
Conferees continue to try to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a long awaited Federal Aviation Administration funding bill. The original legislation expired in September 2007 and has survived on short-term extensions. The House passed a long-term reauthorization bill twice but the Senate was never able to reach an agreement.
NLC has long supported both funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and an increase in the passenger facility charge (contained in the House bill) but strongly opposes a provision in the House version that would impose controversial National Firefighter Protection Association firefighter staffing requirements on airports and airlines without any benefit to aviation safety.

VI. Legislation to Amend Clean Water Act Introduced in House
Recently, Congressman James Oberstar, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has reintroduced legislation to amend H.R. 5088, America's Commitment to Clean Water Act, deleting the term "navigable waters" and replacing it with the statutory definition of "waters of the United States." This marks Representative Oberstar's fifth attempt to pass such legislation.

The bill is a legislative response to two U.S. Supreme Court cases that called into question federal authority and jurisdiction over certain waters, including wetlands. Supporters say the purpose of the legislation is to restore the original intent of the law, as passed in 1972: to reduce pollution to all freshwater bodies, including rivers, streams, and wetlands, regardless of their size. Changes made to previous versions of the bill include deletion of language that suggested any "activities," as opposed to just "discharges;" would be regulated, the exemption of wastewater treatment systems and parameters to allow for new treatment systems; and the exemption for "prior converted croplands" or farmlands converted from wetlands.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a similar bill last year. H.R. 5088 has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for consideration. NLC continues to review the legislation and has not yet taken a position.

VII. Legislation to Aid Water Infrastructure Financing Introduced in Senate
Late last month, New Jersey’s own Senator Robert Menendez introduced legislation that would allow local governments to leverage private capital markets in combination with other financial mechanisms to finance water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act (S. 3262) removes issuances of private activity bonds for water and wastewater infrastructure projects from the federally-mandated annual state volume cap.
The legislation, which NLC supports, has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. Currently, with water and wastewater infrastructure projects included in the cap, water infrastructure projects often lose out to other projects that are a better fit for the private activity bond program. According to a recent study by the American Water Works Association, while many different types of projects are subject to the same private activity bond cap, most states allocate only a small portion of their private activity bonding capacity to water infrastructure projects.

A companion bill—H.R. 537—sponsored by Garden State Representative (and former Paterson Mayor) Bill Pascrell, was included in the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act (H.R. 4849), which passed the House on March 24. 
VIII. President Announces Legislative Package in Response to Gulf Oil Spill
On May 11, President Obama sent Congress a legislative package that is designed to speed assistance to individuals and communities affected by the Gulf oil spill, while strengthening and updating the oil spill liability system to better address catastrophic events. Under the bill, impacted communities can apply for recovery planning assistance, and workforce investment boards will also receive additional funding. There will also be multiple avenues of providing assistance to individuals whose employment are impacted by the spill.

IX. White House 2010 National Drug Strategy Released
Also on May 11, President Obama released the Administration's inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, which establishes five-year goals for reducing drug use and its consequences. The plan emphasizes strengthening collaborative efforts with state, local and non-profit organizations to create a community-oriented national prevention system focused on young people. In all, it aims for a 15-percent reduction in the rate of youth drug use over 5 years and similar reductions in chronic drug use and drug-related consequences such as drug deaths and drugged driving. The plan also seeks to strengthen law enforcement efforts against trafficking and production, increased intervention and treatment, and developing better data and science on effective programs. To read the plan, visit http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/strategy.

For more on any of these, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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