|June 29, 2007
Federal Update for period ending June 29, 2007
Again, thanks to the great work of the federal relations staff at the National League of Cities, here’s the latest from our Nation’s Capital.
House Leaders Unveil Bipartisan Affordable Housing Trust Fund Legislation
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) joined several of his committee colleagues, including Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Jim Ramstad (R-MN), and Chris Shays (R-CT), to unveil legislation to establish a national affordable housing trust fund (AHTF). The goal of the bill is to provide more than $1 Billion annually for the production, preservation, and rehabilitation of 1.5 million affordable homes over ten years. Funding for the trust fund will come from nonbudgetary sources, including the Government Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as interest earnings generated by the Federal Housing Administration, ensuring that AHTF funds will not be affected by the annual appropriations process and will not compete for funds with other programs, such as CDBG and the HOME. Sixty percent of annual funding from the AHTF will go to participating local jurisdictions, and 40 percent will go to states. The bill charges the Department of Housing and Urban Development with working out the specific funding formula that will determine which localities will be eligible. Moreover, the bill mandates that all funding be used to benefit families below 80 percent of median income, and that at least 75 percent of the funds be used for families below 30 percent of median income. The bill includes a generous matching requirement that stipulates for every $2 of AHTF monies, the local jurisdiction must provide $1 in matching funds. Eligible uses for the funding, for which for-profit, non-profit, and faith-based institutions can apply, include construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, and preservation of affordable housing. Administrative costs, advocacy, counseling, or tax-preparation assistance are ineligible uses.
Immigration Reform Legislation Stalls in the Senate Again
In a vote yesterday, the Senate voted 46-53 not to limit debate on comprehensive immigration legislation (S. 1639), probably dooming the bill for the remainder of the 110th Congress. For the second time this month, supporters fell short of the 60 votes needed to surmount vehement opposition to the legislation from conservative Republicans and a smaller group of Democratic opponents. Earlier in the week, the Senate debated a series of amendments under a rarely used procedure to help expedite discussion. Debate was contentious throughout with Senators objecting to the substance of the bill and the procedure for its consideration. In the House, Republicans caucused and voted 114 – 23 to demonstrate their opposition to the Senate bill. On the Democratic side, House leaders began convening regional “listening” sessions to see whether there was any consensus on how to proceed on immigration and avoid some of the problems faced by Senate leaders trying to move a bill quickly without going through the committee process. Now that the Senate has held this decisive vote, it is unlikely that the House will take on the issue.
FAA Reauthorization Bill Introduced
Last evening, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced H.R. 2881, the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007.” The full Committee is currently holding a markup on the bill. The bill includes an increase in the passenger facility charge (PFC) ceiling to $7, as well as $3.8 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding in FY 2008, $3.9 billion in FY 2009, $4.0 billion in FY 2010 and $4.1 billion in 2011. Also, the bill includes several provisions developed and advocated by Airports Council International-NA including the environmental mitigation pilot program and the aircraft departure queue management program.
Transportation Commission Meets with Local Government Groups
NLC joined with state and local associations last week in a meeting in Washington with the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to discuss policy and financing options for the future of the nation’s surface transportation network. Speakers representing NLC, the National Governors Association (NGA), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), National Association of Counties (NACo), The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), Council of State Governments (CSG), and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) represented the owners and operators of virtually all of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure and systems. During the discussion, the organizations focused on the importance of maintaining a strong intergovernmental partnership, encouraging innovative state and local policy and finance, and the need for a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to transportation planning and decision-making. Wilmington, NC Councilmember Laura Padgett represented NLC and highlighted the role of land use planning and the complicated rules that hinder local innovation. The Commission will issue its recommendations to Congress by the end of the year. The current federal surface transportation program will expire on September 30, 2009.
Energy Legislation Moves Forward
Action on sweeping energy legislation moves to the House, after the Senate voted 65-27 to adopt legislation (H.R. 6) increasing fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, providing tax incentives for development of alternative fuels, and requiring greater use of ethanol and other renewable automotive fuels. The bill also contains the Sanders-Menendez energy and environment block grant program for local government energy efficiency and environmental programs. Over the strenuous objections of auto makers, the Senate voted for higher vehicle fuel-economy standards, the first increase in more than two decades of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. In the House, Energy and Commerce Committee leaders worked to prevent major amendments on their version of the energy bill, creating controversy on both sides of the aisle. Currently, the bill will concentrate on energy efficiency and conservation, updating energy standards for appliances. Other issues such as automobile fuel efficiency standards will be left for a global warming bill to be considered in the fall.
House and Senate Committees Pushing Forward on HOPE VI Reauthorization
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee held hearings on the HOPE VI program, which is set to expire on September 30, 2007. The HOPE VI program provides competitive grants to public housing authorities for the removal, rehabilitation, and construction of public housing units. The hearings exposed key differences between the House and Senate approaches to reauthorization. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is the sponsor of the Senate reauthorization bill (S. 829), which has bipartisan support from Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL). While generally retaining the current HOPE VI requirements, the Senate bill would tie HOPE VI grants to new education goals. In the House, Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) expressed concern that the HOPE VI program is used to tear down more public housing than is rebuilt but expressed confidence that a one-for-one replacement requirement could be achieved. Chairman Frank hopes for a committee vote on a HOPE VI reauthorization bill sometime in July. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Orlando Cabrera testified in opposition to the reauthorization at both hearings
Housing Authorities Set to Receive an Increase in Section 8 Renewal Funding
On June 18, HUD notified public housing agencies of their 2007 Housing Choice Voucher renewal funding provided under the Fiscal Year 2007 Continuing Resolution. Public housing agencies will receive a five percent increase, on average, over their program costs in 2006, adjusted for inflation. The increase can be used to serve additional families or to increase services to current families. More funding is available from HUD if a public housing agency can certify that the FY 2007 funding is insufficient to fund their current vouchers. Information on how to apply for additional funds, if necessary, can be found at:
NLC Files Comments in response to FCC NPRM Concerning the Development of
Nationwide Broadband Data
On June 15, NLC, along with the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, the National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, filed comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning the Development of Nationwide Broadband Data to Evaluate Reasonable and Timely Deployment of Advanced Services to All Americans. The NPRM sought comment on whether to modify collection of speed tier information, and how to improve the data collected about wireless broadband Internet access service. In the comments, the organizations commend the FCC for this important first step in promoting the growth and deployment of affordable broadband to all communities, and assert that reliable and comprehensive data on the current state of broadband deployment must be collected so that our country may develop an appropriate and lasting national broadband policy.
NLC Files Comments in response to FCC NOI Concerning Broadband Industry
Also on June 15, the NLC, along with the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and the National Association of Counties, filed comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) concerning Broadband Industry Practices. The NOI sought comment on a number of issues, including whether the FCC’s broadband Policy Statement should be amended to include a principle of nondiscrimination. The organizations urged the Commission to adopt such a principle of nondiscrimination prohibiting discriminatory actions by network operators so that all citizens can access the Internet content, applications, and services of their choice.
NLC Files Comments with OMB in response to FCC’s recent Paperwork
Reduction Act Submission
On June 22, the NLC filed comments with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting that the agency disapprove the FCC’s recent Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Submission. The FCC is seeking OMB’s approval under the PRA of an “information collection” rule in the FCC’s Video Franchise Order requiring local franchise authorities to process franchise applications filed by new entrants within a 90 or 180 day time frame. Comments were sought by OMB on whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the FCC and whether the FCC’s burden estimate is accurate. The NLC responded that the FCC information collection is unnecessary and duplicative of processes already engaged in by local franchising authorities. As to the accuracy of the FCC’s burden estimate, the NLC vigorously objected to the FCC’s estimates that only 6,000 local franchising authorities and six competitive providers would be impacted by the proposed information collection.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.