Despite vast differences between the House and Senate FY2014 budget resolutions, appropriators from both chambers have started to move forward with their FY2014 spending bills. House appropriators this week held two subcommittee markups: the House Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee and the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved their respective FY2014 bills. Full committee markup of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill will occur on May 21; full committee markup of the Homeland Security appropriations bill will occur on May 22.
The House and the Senate have made no significant progress in settling on a FY2014 budget and currently are roughly $91 billion apart on the overall discretionary level. House conservatives insist they will use a $967 billion top-line spending figure that assumes the sequester remains intact, while the Democratic Senate is siding with the White House and calling for scrapping the sequester and setting spending at $1.059 trillion. Without an agreement, it is unclear how many of the annual bills will move to the floor, and none would go to conference. As has been the case over the past few appropriations cycles, the gap in spending almost guarantees continuing funding resolutions (CRs) will be needed to keep government operating until Congress comes to a broader accord on fiscal issues.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said that she aims to move the FY2014 spending bills through the committee before August recess. Next week, she plans to meet with subcommittee chairmen to discuss spending amounts in each of their respective bills (these are known as 302(b) allocations). Sen. Mikulski plans to hold a full committee vote on 302(b) allocations in June.
NACo will continue to monitor the progress of the budget.
On May 15, the U.S. Senate passed S. 601, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 83-14. The lead sponsors were Sens. Boxer (D-Calif.) and Vitter (R-La.), the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
Historically, WRDA has been a popular biannual bill, funding a number of earmarked projects. Last enacted in 2007, WRDA has faced an uphill battle in the past several years, due to the earmark ban. S. 601 carefully worked around the earmark ban by granting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) authority over what projects should move forward. This decision has caused controversy in the House, where Members are concerned about giving the Corps too much decision-making authority over projects.
WRDA authorizes $12.5 billion, to be applied to many water related issues in counties, involving navigation channels, harbors, beach management, levee repair, aquatic ecosystems, flood emergency and water infrastructure projects through the Corps. Additionally, WRDA contains a number of policy directives for the Corps. Funding for WRDA projects is accomplished through the yearly appropriations process.
Prior to debate, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) planned to offer an amendment to freeze flood insurance premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could study the impacts of the increased rates on affordability issues. However, after concerns were raised, Sen. Landrieu withdrew her amendment.
Another unsuccessful amendment was offered by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing its “Waters of the U.S.” guidance. While the amendment received a simple majority vote of 52-44, it ultimately failed to garner the needed 60 votes for inclusion.
NACo weighed in on several of the provisions in the bill, in a letter that can be viewed here. Specifically, NACo was interested in the levee provisions, the Corps Vegetation Management policy, and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). HMTF, into which fees from shippers are collected, is used for the dredging of ports and harbors. Historically, HMTF has spent substantially less than it collects, which has resulted in a balance in the fund of nearly $7 billion. S. 601 would increase funding from the HMTF beginning with $1 billion in FY2014 and increasing every year thereafter by $100 million through FY2019. Beginning in FY2020, all funds collected would have to be spent.
Contact: Bob Fogel firstname.lastname@example.org 202.942.4217 or Julie Ufner email@example.com 202.942.4269
Senate Bill Much Better for NACo Priorities in Rural Development, Energy and Nutrition
The obstacles preventing a reauthorization of the Farm Bill are quickly clearing as the House and Senate Agriculture Committees passed Farm Bill packages with bipartisan support on May 14 and May 15, respectively. The Farm Bill will move to the Senate floor next week. The biggest shift in the status of the Farm Bill is the promise by House leadership to give the bill floor time by this summer. If the House and the Senate stick to this schedule, there will be enough time for the two chambers to negotiate a compromise and pass a final bill by September 30, when the current Farm bill extension expires.
The House measure, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013, (H.R. 1947), passed the Agriculture Committee by a vote of 36-10 on May 14 and includes $940 billion in funding over 10 years. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, (S. 954), by a vote of 15-5 on May 15, which includes $955 billion over that same time period. During the markups this week, NACo successfully supported and opposed several amendments. In the Senate, NACo was the lead champion behind the adoption of Brown Amendment 1, which passed by a unanimous voice vote. The amendment will give USDA Rural Development the flexibility to prioritize 20 percent of funding to projects that are a part of multijurisdictional economic development strategies. This will help ensure that USDA focuses on the priorities identified by counties and their partners in their county and multi-county economic development strategies. NACo successfully opposed attempts to repeal Country-of-Origin Labeling in both the Senate (Johanns Amendment 1) and House (Austin Scott Amendment 20). Similar efforts are expected on the House and Senate floor.
Another key NACo win was the successful inclusion of McIntyre Amendment 41 in the final House bill. The amendment makes technical assistance an eligible expense under USDA’s community facilities program. NACo successfully lobbied for the tweaking of the amendment language to ensure that local governments will be eligible to receive and provide technical assistance under the program. In addition, the NACo supported Healthy Food Financing Initiative (Fudge Amendment 29), which authorizes $125 million in appropriations for USDA to incentivize construction of grocery stores in food deserts, was approved by a vote of 21-19 in the House. Unfortunately, NACo’s priority effort to restore $50 million in mandatory funding for backlog of Water and Wastewater projects (McIntyre Amendment 39) was defeated by a vote of 23-22 during the House markup. The effort to provide $15 million in mandatory funding for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance program and change eligibility to include local governments (McIntyre Amendment 40) was also defeated in the House, by a vote of 25-20.
The larger fight in the amendment process in both bodies was over the size of the cuts to nutrition programs and the type of risk management system for producers. After lengthy and heated debates, all major efforts to amend the committee leadership’s proposals for nutrition and risk management were ultimately unsuccessful.
Senate Proposal Better Supports NACo’s Farm Bill Priorities
The Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee would reduce overall spending over the next 10 years by more than $39.7 billion, while the Senate bill cuts overall spending by $23 billion. Both of these Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected figures include about $6 billion in cuts enacted by sequestration. The main funding difference between the two bills is that the House bill achieves the majority of its savings by cutting about $20.5 billion from the Nutrition Title, while the Senate bill cuts only cuts $4 billion from the Nutrition Title. NACo opposes cuts to nutrition programs and will work to minimize cuts in any potential conference. The most worrisome nutrition cut in the House bill for counties is the elimination of the categorical eligibility option, which represents $11.6 billion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reductions. This provision allows states to align SNAP eligibility and assets to the same rules they use for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant (TANF), which makes it easier to operate the program and cuts administrative costs. The federal government pays 100 percent of the SNAP benefits, but only 50 percent of the administrative costs. Counties in 11 states administer SNAP and TANF.
NACo priorities in the Rural Development Title and Energy Title fare much better in the Senate Farm Bill and NACo will work to support these funding levels and policy changes in any potential conference. The Senate bill includes $115 million in mandatory funding for the Rural Development Title. This includes $50 million for the Water and Wastewater Backlog, $50 million for the Value Added Producer Grant Program and $15 million for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance program. In comparison, the House bill reduces Rural Development authorizations by $1.5 billion over five years, a 50 percent reduction, and reduces mandatory funding by $100 million with only $50 million in mandatory funding for the Value Added Producer Grant Program. The contrast is even starker between the two Energy Titles, with the Senate bill’s inclusion of $800 million in mandatory funding and the House providing no mandatory funding. The Energy Title received $1 billion in mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill, which makes up nearly all of its annual funding. Therefore, the House bill threatens the elimination of these NACo supported programs. The NACo supported Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program fares better in the House bill, with $100 million in mandatory funding compared to the $85 million provided in the Senate bill.
The Senate bill includes more NACo supported policy changes to rural development programs that make authorizing language clearer, simpler and more effective for rural counties. The House and Senate both simplify application forms and add a technical assistance component to the Community Facilities Program. However, only the Senate bill requires USDA to focus resources on strategic community and economic development plans on a multijurisdictional basis.
Both the House and Senate bills eliminate previous commodity programs, such as direct payments for producers, and replace them with risk management options. The House bill cuts Commodity and Crop Insurance programs by $13.8 billion over 10 years, while the Senate bill cuts these programs by $16 billion. The Senate bill creates the Agricultural Risk Coverage Program, which would make payments to farmers for shallow losses that are not covered by crop insurance, and the Adverse Market Payments program, which would make payments to farmers when prices fall below certain targeted levels. This new target price option was not included in the last Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill and is now included due to its importance to Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and other members from the South. In the House, the Commodity Title retains the same optional coverage plan as last year, with a choice for producers between Price Loss Coverage (PLC) to address deep losses and Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC) based on county-wide losses. Both PLC and RLC apply to planted acres up to total base acres on a farm.
The House cuts conservation programs by $6.4 billion, while the Senate cuts these programs by $6.9 billion. The House consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13. The Senate takes a similar approach by consolidating the 23 current programs into four fundamental program functions: Working Lands, Conservation Reserve Program, Easements and Regional Partnerships.
Detailed summaries of each bill are available by clicking on the following links: House and Senate.
Contact: Erik Johnston firstname.lastname@example.org 202.942.4230
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee continued marking up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744), a process which is expected to continue for several weeks. Although more than 300 amendments have been offered, this week the committee focused on the sections of the bill that pertain to visa programs and interior enforcement. Counties that work with the economic development visa program (EB-5) should note that the committee adopted an amendment offered by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that will permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Also of interest is the defeat of an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), by a vote of 5-13, that would have mandated implementation of the E-Verify program within 18 months of enactment of the legislation.
The committee will return to markup sessions next Monday and will tackle sections of the Senate bill relating to the path to citizenship and benefits, respectively. Chairman Leahy has stated that he expects long markup sessions, as the Committee hopes to finish the markup process before recessing for Memorial Day.
On the House side, the bipartisan group of Members working on a comprehensive bill announced on May 16 that they have an agreement in principle; however, details are still being worked out. It remains unclear whether the House leadership will proceed with a comprehensive reform bill or with a series of smaller bills.
On May 16, the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee held a markup of the FY2014 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. The Subcommittee draft can be found here. The following is a brief summary:
General Funding Overview: The House proposal would provide $38.9 billion in discretionary funding to DHS for FY2014, $35 million below the President’s FY2014 request. This figure is roughly $671 million less than the enacted level for FY2013, but approximately $981 million more than the post-sequestration level currently in effect (as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office)
Customs and Border Protection: The House proposal would provide $10.6 billion to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), exceeding the President’s FY2014 request by roughly $35 million. This is approximately $255 million above the FY2013 enacted level (not accounting for sequestration)
Cybersecurity: The House proposal would provide $786 million for cybersecurity, $24 million less than the President’s FY2014 request, but $30 million above the FY2013 enacted level
National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP): The subcommittee bill also addressed the President’s National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP), which he proposed for the second consecutive year, stating that, “None of the funds provided in this or any other Act may be obligated to implement the National Preparedness Grant Program or any other successor grant programs unless explicitly authorized by Congress.” The NPGP would require a change in authorization language in order to take effect, but the Administration has yet to submit such language.This is an excellent show of support by the House Appropriations Committee to include language rejecting the Administration’s proposed consolidation efforts
Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG): The House proposal would provide $350 million and maintains EMPG as a separate account. The funding amount is basically level with the President’s FY2014 request and the FY2013 level (not including sequestration)
Firefighter Assistance Grants: The House proposal would provide $675 million and maintains it as a separate account; of that, $337.5 million would be provided for assistance to firefighter grants for equipment, training, vehicles and related materials and $337.5 million would be provided for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. These numbers are similar to the FY2013 numbers and the President’s FY2014 request
State and Local Programs: The measure would provide $1.5 billion for FEMA state and local programs—roughly $1.26 billion would be distributed at the discretion of the DHS Secretary to the following programs:
State Homeland Security Grant Program
Operation Stonegarden ($55 million)
Urban Area Security Initiative
Private nonprofit organizations determined to be at high risk
Public Transportation Security Assistance and Railroad Security Assistance
Port Security Grants
Over-the-Road Bus Security Assistance
Metropolitan Medical Response System
Driver’s License Security Grants
Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program
Emergency Operations Centers
Buffer Zone Protection Program
National Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grants
*Roughly $235 million would be provided to sustain current operations for training, exercises, technical assistance and other programs; roughly $157 million for training of state, local, and tribal emergency response providers
PreDisaster Mitigation Program (PDM): The House measure proposes $22.5 million, approximately $13 million below FY2013. The President’s FY2014 budget proposes to eliminate funding for the program
Disaster Relief Fund: The House measure proposes $6.2 billion, basically level with the President’s request and approximately $800 million below the FY2013 level (not accounting for the sequester)
On May 16, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan bill to reaffirm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 37 year stance that forest roads runoff should be regulated as a nonpoint sources through states’ best management practices (BMPs), rather than through the federal Clean Water Act’s (CWA) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.).
This bill is a followup to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) decision, which overturned a May 2011 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling that required logging companies and state and local governments to obtain industrial Clean Water Act (CWA) permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for stormwater runoff from forest roads. The Supreme Court’s ruling means that state and local governments and companies are not required to obtain industrial NPDES permits for forest roads. However, this ruling did not end the debate.
While this was a partial win for counties, the court did not rule on whether forest road runoff is considered a point source under the Clean Water Act (CWA), which may have significant impact on counties moving forward. NEDC has already re-filed in the Ninth Circuit Court on this very issue. If stormwater runoff from forest roads is deemed a point source by the courts, CWA permits will be required for activities, regardless of the road’s original purpose.
Forty-four percent of the roads and highways in the U.S. are owned and maintained by counties; county-owned roads run through federal, state and private lands where logging activities may occur. Determining ownership and/or purpose of said roads is not always simple. In Decker, two of the roads in question were, in fact, county-owned roads that were multipurpose in nature and not dedicated to logging. The roads were used by residents, recreators, emergency responders and wildfire response teams.
Lead co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D- Ore.). Additional original co-sponsors include: Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and James Risch (R- Idaho) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Mike Michaud (D-Maine), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Mike Simpson (R- Idaho), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.).
Please ask your member of Congress to support the bill.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule on May 13 to allocate cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on May 15.
Assuming that the ACA coverage expansion would result in significant decreases in uncompensated care for disproportionate share hospitals, Congress used DSH cuts to help offset the costs of the legislation.
This rule would only apply to the first two years of DSH cuts under the ACA, which requires a $500 million cut in federal DSH funding for FY2014 and $600 million in FY2015. The cuts balloon quickly after FY2016 to $1.8 billion in FY2017, $5 billion in FY2018, $5.6 billion in FY2019 and then $4 billion in FY2020. Subsequent legislation has “rebased” the DSH cuts for FY2021 and FY2022 at $4 billion.
The ACA required the methodology to:
Impose a smaller percentage reduction on low DSH States;
Impose larger percentage reductions on states that have the lowest percentages of uninsured individuals during the most recent year for which such data are available;
Impose larger percentage reductions on states that do not target their DSH payments on hospitals with high volumes of Medicaid inpatients;
Impose larger percentage reductions on states that do not target their DSH payments on hospitals with high levels of uncompensated care; and
Take into account the extent to which the DSH allotment for a state was included in the budget neutrality calculation for a coverage expansion approved under a Medicaid section 1115 waiver as of July 31, 2009.
As proposed, the rule would not take into account states’ decisions about whether to implement the ACA Medicaid expansion. Additional rulemaking will follow with a methodology for subsequent years. The proposed rule contains a table illustrating how the methodology may play out for each state.
On May 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of Rural Business Opportunity Grants. Approximately $2.6 million is available on a competitive basis nationwide to projects that improve the economic conditions in rural areas. Counties and their partners have established business incubators, business plans, long term planning and other innovative projects with this funding. Applications are due by June 28, 2013. For more information, click here.
On May 16, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the release of an updated draft proposal that would establish standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Following the release of an initial draft proposal in 2012, DOI received over 177,000 public comments that were considered prior to the release of the updated draft proposal. There will be a 30 day public-comment period, which will begin once the draft is published in the Federal Register.
“As the President has made clear, this administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production. In line with that goal, we are proposing some commonsense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place.”
NACo has requested that the Bureau of Land Management defer the regulation of hydraulic fracturing to the states that already have hydraulic fracturing regulations in place, based on state primacy over groundwater as defined in the state constitution, and instead provide basic rules to states that have no rules related to hydraulic fracturing. Proactive state regulations have the highest likelihood for successful protection of water resources because they are best able to respond to localized impacts and issues, as opposed to a redundant federal hydraulic fracturing rule.
On May 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new rules to better target Community Connect broadband grants to areas where they are needed the most. The changes include:
- Simplifying the application process by requiring a single project summary and map
- Allowing grant applicants to use a USDA web-based mapping tool to define their proposed service area. The old rules did not accommodate some of the most rural communities, which often are not Census-designated places or are not recognized by a commercial atlas
- Giving grant applicants more flexibility on the monetary contributions that can be used to meet the 15 percent matching fund requirement
- Allowing USDA to consider giving funding priority to projects in persistent poverty counties, communities experiencing population declines, and most rural areas
Click here to view the new rules. Click here to view the original USDA press release.