In the past two weeks, the following developments took place in Washington.
I. House Committee Proposes COPS Elimination, Cuts to Criminal Justice Funding
With the debt-ceiling and deficit reduction negotiations at a virtual impasse, the House continued to advance FY 2012 appropriations bills that call for significant reductions in federal investments in our communities.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that would eliminate the COPS Office and virtually all its programs, including both hiring and technical assistance grants. In addition, the bill would make drastic cuts to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), the Second Chance Act, and Juvenile Justice Grants. In all, the spending bill cuts more than $1.1 billion from state and local government programs.
II. EPA Appropriations Bill Sees House Action
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2012 Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which provides funding for the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As approved, the bill would slash both the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds (SRF), by a combined $967 million less than the enacted FY 2011 levels.
Specifically, the bill provides $689 million for the Clean Water SRF and $829 million for the Drinking Water SRF setting those programs back to FY 2009 levels. In addition, the bill includes level funding for the Superfund program ($1.2 billion) and reduces by two-thirds funding for the Brownfields program ($60 million).
The bill also contains several items pertaining to EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, including specific provisions:
- instituting a one-year prohibition on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources;
- prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of "navigable waterways" under the Clean Water Act;
- prohibiting funds for defining coal ash as a hazardous waste;
- prohibiting funds for the EPA from expanding storm water discharge requirements;
- prohibiting the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new motor vehicles or their engines after model year 2016; and
- prohibiting funds for the EPA to implement or enforce certain water quality standards in Florida.
The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.
III. Energy Appropriations Bill Sees Action
Last Friday, the House approved the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which provides funds for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
Similar to the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, the Energy-Water bill includes a provision prohibiting the Corps from administratively expanding the definition of waters subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. In addition, the bill cuts funding for the DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program from $141.3 million to $33 million.
IV. NLC Urges House to Oppose Wireless Tax Bill
Last week, the National League of Cities (NLC), along with the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, sent a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee expressing strong opposition to the Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 1002). The bill, which has 236 co-sponsors, went through Committee markup on Thursday and is now up for a floor vote in the House.
Despite its name, the legislation unfairly provides more favorable tax treatment to one sector of the communications industry, while representing unwarranted federal intrusion into local authority. If enacted, the legislation would preempt state and local taxation of wireless services.
V. House Approves National Flood Insurance Program
On Tuesday, July 12, the House passed the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 1309), which would reauthorize the program for five years, make major reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and take steps toward eliminating the nearly $18 billion in debt the program has accrued. The Senate must now act on the bill before the NFIP is due to expire in September.
A rare bill with both bipartisan agreement and Presidential support, H.R. 1309 passed by a vote of 406 to 22. Beyond repaying the debt incurred through severe disasters over the last decade, the bill would phase in actuarial rates for many flood insurance policy holders while phasing out taxpayer subsidies for certain properties, such as high-risk buildings subject to repeat claims. This should raise $4.2 billion over the next 10 years, putting NFIP on even footing for the future.
In addition, H.R. 1309 provides both FEMA and insurance purchasers greater flexibility to utilize private insurance markets and to allow families with homes recently determined to be located in a flood plain up to three additional years to buy flood insurance.
VI. Administration Responds to City Leaders' Calls for Federal Partnership
Responding to feedback from municipal leaders and the National League of Cities, the Obama Administration has launched a new program, Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2), designed to strengthen the capacity of local governments and spark economic growth in local communities, while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.
To accomplish this, federal agencies will provide teams of experienced staff to work directly with six cities: Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and New Orleans, LA. These Community Solutions Teams will work with local governments in these communities, as well as the private sector, and other institutions to leverage federal dollars and support the work being done at the local level to encourage economic growth and community development.
In addition to the Community Solutions Teams assigned to the six communities, SC2 has three other components that the Administration is in the process of rolling out:
SC2 Fellowship Program: A complement to the Community Solutions Teams, a new fellowship program will select, train, and place early-to-mid-career professionals to serve multi-year terms in local government positions to give municipalities additional capacity.
SC2 Economic Planning Challenge: In addition to the six cities, SC2 includes an Economic Planning Challenge designed to help additional municipalities develop economic blueprints. This national grant competition will enable cities to adopt and implement innovative economic development strategies to support comprehensive city and regional planning efforts.
National Resource Network: Pending authorization of funding, the National Resource Network (NRN) will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities, towns and regions with access to a one-stop portal of national experts to provide holistic policy and implementation support.
For more information, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/11/obama-administration-launches-strong-cities-strong-communities-support-l .
If you have any questions on any of these items, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.