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June 28, 2010

RE: Federal Biweekly Update for the Period Ending June 25, 2010

I. Local Jobs for America Act Introduced in Senate
II. Funding for FMAP Remains in Jeopardy
III. Administration Adopts New Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness
IV. Supreme Court Issues Ruling in City of Ontario v. Quon
V. EPA Announces Comment Period on Pesticide General Permit

Dear Mayor:

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

I. Local Jobs for America Act Introduced in Senate

On June 15, Senators Sherrod Brown, Al Franken and Mark Begich introduced the Local Jobs for America Act (S. 3500), a companion to legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4812) earlier this year.

Both the House and Senate bills call for much-needed assistance to municipalities, as they seek to protect essential services and avoid additional layoffs of municipal workers — a harsh reality many local governments are now facing as they enter the fiscal year 2011 budget cycle.  Identical to the House version, the Senate bill would direct $75 billion to cities, towns, and counties over the next two years to create or save an estimated 1 million public and private sector jobs, prevent further layoffs, and help restore access to key community services.

In addition, the Senate version includes $23 billion to support 300,000 education jobs, $1.2 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat, and $500 million to retain, rehire, and hire firefighters. The bill also provides for on-the-job training subsidies for workers entering private sector jobs who still need skills training.

NLC continues to lend its support to both bills and urges local leaders to contact their House and Senate members to sign on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

II. Funding for Federal Medical Assistance Program  (FMAP) Remains in Jeopardy

Shortly before the Memorial Day recess, the House passed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213), also known as the "extenders" bill. The House version includes several provisions which NLC is supporting, including an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits; funding for the summer youth employment program; and an extension of Build America and Recovery Zone Bonds. But funds for the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) were pulled from the bill to lower its overall costs.

The Senate continues to debate aspects of and amendments to the House passed bill with no clear end game in sight. Agreement in the Senate has not been reached on several provisions that NLC supports — extension of UI benefits, the COBRA subsidy program, which covers 65 percent of health insurance costs for unemployed individuals who are eligible to remain on their employer plans, and FMAP, which provides fiscal assistance to states and could help prevent state and local government layoffs.

III. Administration Adopts New Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness

On June 22, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) announced the new federal homeless strategy in a report called "Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness." The strategy relies on better collaboration between federal agencies, state and local governments, and service providers and uses the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRR) as a means to retool local homeless assistance and prevention efforts.
The strategy aims to end chronic homelessness, homelessness among veterans within five years, and homelessness among families and youth within 10 years. The plan does not call for additional funding; instead, it details five overarching strategies which will serve as a roadmap for using existing funds. In particular, the HPRR program is viewed as central to the goal of retooling existing homeless services into crisis response systems that rapidly return people who experience homelessness into stable housing. The HPRR program provides funds to rapidly re-house families facing foreclosure before they become homeless; the new plan will expand this model to include all homeless populations, not only those facing homelessness because of foreclosure.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, one of four cabinet secretaries attending the announcement, highlighted the fundamental role of local governments in the plan, saying: "Working together with Congress, state and local officials, faith-based and community organizations, and business and philanthropic leaders across our country, we will harness public and private resources to build on the innovations that have been demonstrated at the local level nationwide."

IV. Supreme Court Issues Ruling in City of Ontario v. Quon

On June 17, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the City of Ontario, California, in the case of Ontario v. Quon, finding its review of text messages sent by an employee using a city-issued pager was reasonable because the messages were read for a legitimate business purpose.

Quon, a police officer whose messages were viewed, contended his texts were protected from being read by the Constitution's 4th Amendment ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures." With a policy in place reserving the "right to monitor and log" internet and e-mail use, the city's review of messages was upheld when initially challenged at the trial level because it was conducted for a legitimate, work-related rationale to determine if the city had the most cost effective pricing plan for use of the pagers. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed; it found the search was unreasonable because the city had other means to "verify the efficacy" of the character limit for the pager.

Both NLC and the International Municipal Lawyers Association participated as amicus curiae in the case supporting the city of Ontario.

V. EPA Announces Comment Period on Pesticide General Permit

Earlier this month, the EPA announced a new proposed Pesticide General Permit (PGP) under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for the discharge of pesticides into waters of the U.S. The proposed permit was developed in response to a decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated a 2006 EPA rule that said NPDES permits were not required for applications of pesticides to, over, or near waters of the U.S. when in compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

The new PGP regulates discharges to waters of the U.S. from the application of biological pesticides and chemical pesticides that leave a residue. Four pesticide use patterns are covered under the PGP: mosquito and other flying insect pest control; aquatic weed and algae control; aquatic nuisance animal control; and forest canopy pest control.
EPA's permitting authority only extends to six states-Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Oklahoma-as well as the District of Columbia. Other states are responsible for developing and issuing NPDES permits for pesticide discharges in their respective jurisdictions. EPA is accepting comments on the proposed PGP until July 19. The final permit is expected in December 2010 and will be effective starting on April 10, 2011. NLC will be submitting comments, and any input on the cost or implications of the PGP is welcomed. For more information, click here.
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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