1. Congress Returns for a Short Work Period Before the Mid-Term Elections
Last week, Congress returned to Washington for a three- or four-week work period before the November mid-term elections. During this work period, Congress must pass a continuing resolution funding the federal government starting October 1 and is expected to complete work on a small business package.
The small business package, H.R. 5297, The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, would provide a $30 billion lending fund that is designed to help community banks make loans to small businesses, $12 billion in tax breaks, and enhance federal programs that support small businesses. The Senate cleared the legislation yesterday, the House is expected to clear it next week, and the President is expected to sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.
After the mid-term elections, the Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that a lame duck session will begin on November 15, 2010. House leadership has not confirmed whether it will hold a lame duck session, but one is likely.
2. White House Partners with Cities and Towns to Curb Childhood Obesity
First Lady Michelle Obama has called on municipalities across the country to join Let's Move!, a campaign to reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic-one of America's gravest public health threats-within a generation.
Let's Move Cities and Towns is a component of the campaign specifically designed to encourage cities and towns to adopt long-term, sustainable, and holistic approaches to fight childhood obesity and that highlights the critical leadership mayors and elected officials can provide to bring communities together to spur action. Participating cities and towns agree to take simple steps that promote healthy eating and physical activity, choosing strategies that make sense for their own communities.
NLC is working closely with both the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to mobilize mayors and other local officials on this issue, and we encourage cities and towns to learn more about how to commit to becoming a Let's Move! partner.
To download campaign resources, visit www.letsmove.gov/officials.php. To sign up to become a Let's Move City or Town, visit www.hhs.gov/intergovernmental/letsmove/index.html.
3. More Health Reform Guidance Expected This Week
The U.S. Departments of Labor and Treasury are expected to issue guidance next week to instruct employers on how to comply with provisions of the new health care law that go into effect on January 1, 2011. These provisions include:
- no pre-existing condition exclusions;
- no lifetime limits or restricted annual limits until 2014 on "essential health benefits; and
- coverage for dependents under 26.
Visit www.healthcare.gov to review a list of all of the 2011 requirements and regulations, to receive the latest news on the healthcare reform law, and to view the new guidance as soon as it becomes available.
4. Cell Phone Tax Preemption Bill Marked Up
Despite opposition from NLC and partner organizations, on September 15, the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law referred H.R. 1521, the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009, to the full Judiciary Committee for markup. The bill, which Rep. Longren introduced last year, prohibits cities from imposing new taxes on cell phones at rates higher than for other businesses for a period of five years. Because Congress will adjourn sine die soon, NLC does not expect further action on the bill.
5. President Announces Vision for New Transportation System
Last week, President Obama laid out his vision for renewing and expanding the country's transportation infrastructure system. The President's plan, which Congress must approve, features a $50 billion upfront investment to help jumpstart additional job creation and a long-term framework to expand and reform the nation's investment in transportation infrastructure.
The long-term goals include: (1) establishment of an Infrastructure Bank to leverage federal dollars and focus on investments of national and regional significance; (2) integration of high-speed rail into the surface transportation program to ensure a sustained and effective commitment to a national high speed rail system over the next generation; (3) consolidation of more than 100 different transportation programs and a focus on performance measurement to drive investment toward better policy outcomes; and (4) expanded investments in areas like safety, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and livability, as well as expanded access to job opportunities and affordable housing.
NLC's Transportation and Infrastructure Services Policy Steering Committee will be meeting in Washington later this month to review the President's proposal and meet with federal representatives to discuss the local government perspective on a new transportation program.
6. EPA Announces Proposed NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the early stages of developing a proposed rule on electronic reporting for various aspects of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.
The focus of the rule is to establish new reporting requirements for facilities and other parties-such as states and local governments-that discharge pollutants into water under an NPDES permit. While states and local governments are already collecting and submitting substantial amounts of data on a number of program areas, the proposed rulemaking is expected to require that some portion of this reporting be submitted electronically, rather than on paper, and will set the necessary standards for electronic reporting. EPA expects to issue a final rule in 2012.
NLC plans to submit comments to EPA next month.
7. Report on EECBG Progress Calls Attention to Spending Challenges
Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of the Inspector General released an audit report, The Department of Energy's Implementation of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, recognizing several administrative and regulatory challenges at all levels of government associated with implementing this new federal program. The report concludes that "spending levels were inconsistent with initial Department targets as well as the fundamental goals of the Recovery Act to stimulate the U.S. economy and to create new jobs."
Though program managers expressed the view that the level of recipient spending was not a leading indicator for EECBG performance, the report relies on that figure as the most accurate and realistic metric of progress.
Because securing future funding for the EECBG program is a priority for municipalities, NLC will be working with cities and towns and DOE to identify obstacles and address solutions to getting the current program funds invested in a timely manner.
For more on these items, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.