Search

NACo > Legislation & Policy > Washington Watch
RSS_Sketch_Large.png 
NACo
Washington Watch Blog
NACo Testifies Before Rare Joint Senate and House Hearing on "Waters of the U.S." Proposed Rule


20150204_wotus_064clarkpanel_EDIT.jpg 

Pictured here (L to R): E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, State of Okla.; Adam H. Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, on behalf of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; Sallie Clark, Commissioner, El Paso County, Colo., on behalf of the National Association of Counties; Timothy Mauck, Commissioner, Clear Creek County, Colo.; and Lemeul M. Srolovic, Bureau Chief, Environmental Protection Bureau, Office of New York State Attorney General T. Schneiderman

Screen-ShotSMALL(1).jpg 

Sally_WOTUS_videoicon.jpg 

Click above to view Commissioner Clark's testimony
before the joint committee.

Click above to hear Commissioner Clark discuss counties' concerns with the proposed rule.

On Feb. 4, El Paso County,...

(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

Senate and House Members introduce New Endangered Species Act

On January 28, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to increase the transparency of listing decisions and give counties a seat at the table during ESA settlement negotiations.  On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Senator Cornyn introduced S. 292, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, and S. 293, a bill to amend the ESA to establish a procedure for the approval of certain settlements. 

Both bills closely resemble legislation previously introduced in the 113th Congress that were opposed by the environmental community and failed to receive hearings in the Democratic controlled Senate.  However, in the 114th Congress, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), has identified reforming the ESA as one of his top priorities. 

The 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (S. 292) would amend the ESA to require the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Interior to publish any data used by the Departments in their decision to list or delist a species under the ESA online.  The legislation also includes provisions that would...

(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

House-Passed Homeland Security Funding Bill Stalls in Senate; Outcome Remains Unclear

On February 3, Senate Democrats prevented the House-passed H.R. 240 U.S. Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for the remainder of FY 2015 from proceeding to a final vote.

Senate Democrats, newly in the minority in their chamber, unanimously opposed the spending measure because of policy riders that would undo the executive orders on immigration recently announced by President Obama. These orders would enable millions of undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and work permits if they meet certain eligibility criteria.

With current funding for DHS expiring on February 27, it is unclear how the department will be funded going forward, if at all. A “clean” spending bill – one without policy riders related to the president’s executive orders – could be introduced in either chamber, or a Continuing Resolution could be utilized to fund DHS for the time being. It is also possible that DHS will have no funding after February 27, forcing the department to operate in a “mission critical” status similar to the way it operated during the federal government shutdown of 2013. Such an outcome could n...

(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

Amended Keystone XL Pipeline Bill Passes Senate

After a three week debate, the U.S. Senate passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act (S.1) on Jan. 29 by a vote of 62-36. This is five votes short of the 67 votes needed to overcome an expected Presidential veto. Click here to see how your member voted. S. 1 would allow TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Nine Democrats voted for its passage including, Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

During the floor debate, several changes were made to the base bill including provisions that would promote energy efficiency programs and language calling on the House to pass legislation to require oil sands producers to pay  a tax to fund oil spill cleanups.  Additionally, the bill contains language stating climate change is “real and not a hoax.”  Republicans ultimately accepted the provision because the amendment did not address climate change.   

The House of Representatives passed an almost identical bill in early January, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (H.R. 3). Howev...

(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

​President Obama’s FY 2016 Budget Request

On February 2, President Obama unveiled his nearly $4 trillion 2016 budget proposal, which includes many provisions that would affect counties, if adopted by Congress.

Each year, the President and his administration are responsible for providing Congress with an outline and request for appropriations for each Department and Agency in the Executive Branch.  Though the President’s budget is not signed into law, it provides insight on the Administration’s policies and priorities for the next fiscal year, and is the opening move in the annual appropriations process.

In President Obama’s FY 2016 Budget request to Congress his administration has laid out a plan that would impose a 28 percent cap on the tax-exempt interest on municipal bonds, increase funding for most housing and community development programs, introduce a six year surface transportation funding plan, increase funding for economic development assistance programs, consolidate the Department of Homeland Security’s grant programs and increase funding for employment and training programs among others.

FY 2016 Budget Highlights:

Agriculture & Rural Affairs:

As part of President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development would receive $2.8 billion in over...

(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

Administration Releases Executive Order on Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

On January 30, President Obama issued an Executive Order that requires all federal investment in and around floodplains to meet higher flood risk standards.  The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires current and future flood risk assessments be rolled into the planning and construction of federally funded projects in and around floodplains. The new flood standard will apply when federal funds are used to build, or significant retrofit or repair structures and facilities in and around floodplains. However, it will not affect the standards or rates of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

Currently, most federal agencies determine a new construction project’s flood hazard based on historic flood data and not future projections.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal agency responsible for producing flood maps, does not currently account for future flood risk. 

The new flood risk management standard gives federal agencies the choice between the following three options for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design and construction:

  • Use data  and methods informed by best-available, actionable climate science;
  • Build two feet above the 100-year (1 percent annual ch...
(read more)

3 weeks ago | 0

County Highlights from President Obama's FY 2016 Budget Request

On February 2, President Obama unveiled his nearly $4 trillion 2016 budget proposal, which include many provisions that would affect counties, if adopted by Congress.

Each year, the President and his administration are responsible for providing Congress with an outline and request for appropriations for each Department and Agency in the Executive Branch.  Though the President’s budget is not signed into law, it provides insight on the Administration’s policies and priorities for the next fiscal year, and is the opening move in the annual appropriations process.

In President Obama’s FY 2016 Budget request to Congress his administration has laid out a plan that would impose a 28 percent cap on the tax-exempt interest on municipal bonds, increase funding for most housing and community development programs, introduce a six year surface transportation funding plan, increase funding for economic development assistance programs, consolidate the Department of Homeland Security’s grant programs and increase funding for employment and training programs among others.

FY 2016 Budget Highlights:

Agriculture & Rural Affai...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

Amended Keystone XL Pipeline Bill Passes Senate

After a three week debate, the U.S. Senate passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act (S.1) on Jan. 29 by a vote of 62-36.  This is five votes short of the 67 votes needed to overcome an expected Presidential veto.  Click here to see how your member voted. S. 1 would allow TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Nine Democrats voted for its passage including, Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

During the floor debate, several changes were made to the base bill including provisions that would promote energy efficiency programs and language calling on the House to pass legislation to require oil sands producers to pay  a tax to fund oil spill cleanups.  Additionally, the bill contains language stating climate change is “real and not a hoax.”  Republicans ultimately accepted the provision because the amendment did not address climate change.   

The Hou...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

Senate and House Members Introduce New Endangered Species Act Reform Legislation

On January 28, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to increase the transparency of listing decisions and give counties a seat at the table during ESA settlement negotiations.  On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Senator Cornyn introduced S. 292, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, and S. 293, a bill to amend the ESA to establish a procedure for the approval of certain settlements. 

Both bills closely resemble legislation previously introduced in the 113thCongress that were opposed by the environmental community and failed to receive hearings in the Democratic controlled Senate.  However, in the 114th Congress, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), has identified reforming the ESA as one of his top priorities. 

The 21stCentury Endangered Species Transparency Act (S. 292) would amend the ESA to require the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Interior to publish any data used by the Departments in their decision to list ...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

Administration Releases Executive Order on Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

On January 30, President Obama issued an Executive Order that requires all federal investment in and around floodplains to meet higher flood risk standards.  The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires current and future flood risk assessments be rolled into the planning and construction of federally funded projects in and around floodplains. The new flood standard will apply when federal funds are used to build, or significant retrofit or repair structures and facilities in and around floodplains. However, it will not affect the standards or rates of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

Currently, most federal agencies determine a new construction project’s flood hazard based on historic flood data and not future projections.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal agency responsible for producing flood maps, does not currently account for future flood risk. 

The new flood risk management standard gives federal agencies the choice between the following three options for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design and construction:

  • Use data  and meth...
(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

House-Passed Homeland Security Funding Bill Stalls in Senate; Outcome Remains Unclear

On February 3, Senate Democrats prevented the House-passed H.R. 240 U.S. Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for the remainder of FY 2015 from proceeding to a final vote.

Senate Democrats, newly in the minority in their chamber, unanimously opposed the spending measure because of policy riders that would undo the executive orders on immigration recently announced by President Obama. These orders would enable millions of undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and work permits if they meet certain eligibility criteria.

With current funding for DHS expiring on February 27, it is unclear how the department will be funded going forward, if at all. A “clean” spending bill – one without policy riders related to the president’s executive orders – could be introduced in either chamber, or a Continuing Resolution could be utilized to fund DHS for the time being. It is also possible that DHS will have no funding after February 27, forcing the department to operate in a “mission critical” statu...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

Action on ​U.S. Department of Homeland Security Appropriations

On January 9, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced H.R. 240, the appropriations bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the remainder of FY2015. The DHS funding bill was the only spending bill that was funded in the continuing resolution; all other spending bills were included in the year-end CROmnibus. Funding for DHS is set to expire February 27, 2015 which allows for roughly six weeks of congressional discussion and debate.

The bill would authorize $39.7 billion in spending which is an increase of $400 million from FY2014 enacted levels. State and local programs would be funded at a total of $1.5 billion, which is level with FY2014 enacted amounts.  In particular, Homeland security programs of interest to counties are funded at the following levels:

  • Emergency Management Performance Grant: $350 million, level with FY2014
  • Pre-Disaster Mitigation: $25 million, level with FY2014
  • Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI): $600 million, level with FY2014
  • State Homeland Security Grant: $467 million, level with FY2014
  • Assistance to Firefighters: $680 million (1/2 for SAFER staffing), level with FY2014

Additionally, the DHS appropriations bill includes language prohibiting that FY15 funds be used to implement the National Preparedness Gran...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

​Department of Labor Delays Release of WIOA Implementation Regulations until Spring

On January 5, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the release of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations would be delayed until spring 2015, versus January 18, 2015, as stipulated in the Act. President Obama signed WIOA into law on July 22, 2014, reauthorizing federal employment and workforce training programs. NACo successfully lobbied to maintain local authority in the federal workforce system. WIOA also reduces the number of mandatory partners on local workforce boards, which had been an issue for some local board operation and business participation. 

Many of the provisions of WIOA are in effect starting July 1, 2015. NACo continues to work with DOL to keep NACo members informed on the WIOA implementation process and will use some new grant funding to assess local government needs related to the workforce legislation implementation.

Click here to view the DOL notification and click here to view the DOL resource page on WIOA. To access NACo resources on WIOA Implementation click here.

Contact: Daria Daniel at ddaniel@naco.org or 202.942.4212

7 weeks ago | 0

​GSE’s begin Funding the National Housing Trust Fund

In December, Mel Watt, Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that FHFA had lifted the suspension on Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund. The NHTF was established by Congress as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, to provide resources for the expansion of affordable housing for the lowest income and most vulnerable populations in the U.S. and to boost efforts to end homelessness and housing poverty.  NACo supported the establishment of NHTF.

 The law required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to pay 4.2 basis points of their annual volume of business to the NHTF (65 percent) and Capital Management Fund (35 percent). The requirement was suspended when the GSEs were taken into conservatorship by the federal government in September of 2008, the height of the housing crisis. The trust fund will be a block grant to states, at least 90 percent of which must be used for the preservation, ...

(read more)

7 weeks ago | 0

GSEs Lower Homebuyer Down Payments

Mel Watt, Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would reduce first time homebuyer down payments to as little as three percent of the home purchased price. The FHFA regulates GSEs Fannie and Freddie Mac that guarantee mortgages and will be offering the new mortgage programs. Watt said this would again make mortgages more available to people who have strong credit history but lack the standard 20 percent down payment. NACo supports increasing home-buying opportunities for families, so long as these options do not lead to a repeat of the mortgage foreclosure crisis due to increased defaults. Many counties are still recovering from the mortgage foreclosure crisis. FHFA says there are new safeguards in place including underwriting restrictions, private mortgage insurance requirements, homebuyer counseling, and performance monitoring loans.

Contact: Daria Daniel at ddaniel@naco.org  or 202.942.4212

7 weeks ago | 0


RSS_Sketch.png