Washington Watch Blog
|Full House Expected to Vote On the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315) on Tuesday, July 29|(read more)3 days ago | 0
- Contact your House Members today and urge them to vote "YES" on H.R. 4315, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act. The measure is expected to be on the House floor on Tuesday, July 29.
- Urge your House Members to vote "NO" on the Holt/Huffman Amendment. Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) have filed an amendment which may be considered during floor debate that would strike a provision requiring the federal agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to consider county data when making endangered species decisions.
Tomorrow, July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315). This measure incorporates three other pieces of legislation (H.R. 4316, H.R. 4317 and H.R. 4318) that were reported out of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). This measure represents a positive step toward reforming a law that over time has substantially impacted local communities and their economies and imposed signif...
|House Members Introduce Resolution Commemorating 40th Anniversary of the CDBG program |(read more)3 days ago | 0
Ask your House Members to co-sponsor H.Res.668
On July 14, House members introduced a bipartisan House Resolution, (H. Res. 668) to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The resolution has six lead cosponsors, Reps. Joe Barletta (R-Pa.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio).
ASK YOUR HOUSE MEMBERS to co-sponsor H. Res. 668, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the CDBG program. Let your House members know that the resolution seeks to recognize CDBG on its 40th anniversary and does not request any funding.
- To read the “Dear Colleague” letter, click here
Background on CDBG
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was enacted in 1974 to provide block grant funding for community development programs. The program assists urban, suburban, and rural communities to improve h...
|Legislative Update Marketplace Fairness Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act|(read more)3 days ago | 0
Measure (S. 2609) introduced in Senate that addresses both the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) and the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA)
On July 15, Sens. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Alexander (R-Tenn.), Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Collins (R-Me.) and Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act (MITFA). The bill (S. 2609) combines two key issues important to counties:
- It includes the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) as passed by the Senate in 2013 with a few minor technical corrections. MFA allows state and local governments to enforce existing sales taxes on remote sellers.
- Provides a ten-year extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). ITFA prohibits counties from collecting a tax on Internet access (typically a subscription service) until November 1, 2014. While a 10-year extension is not the best case scenario for counties, it is better than the House proposal (H.R. 3086) for a permanent extension.
MITFA has already garnered bipartisan support, with 13 Senators (10 Democrats and three Republicans) joining as cosponsors less than a week after its intr...
|NACo Member Testifies Before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Natural Resource Revenue Sharing with Local Governments|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On July 22, Charlotte Randolph, President, Lafourche Parish, Louisiana testified on behalf of her parish and the National Association of Counties (NACo) before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a hearing titled “Leveraging America’s Resources as a Revenue Generator and Job Creator.” Randolph’s testimony focused on how revenues generated from our nation’s natural resources should be shared with parishes and counties.
The hearing, led by committee Chairman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), focused on the benefits of natural resource production to state and local government in terms of revenue generation and jobs created. With the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and mandatory full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program both having expired and the Land and Water Conservation Fund set to expire next year, the committee is looking at options to address these pressing needs and ways to share natural resource revenues in a fiscally responsible manner. Securing SRS and PILT funding remains a top ...
|National Association of Counties Member Briefs Senate Staff on County Use of Behavioral Health Information Technology to Improve Health Outcomes|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On July 22, Salt Lake County, Utah, Mayor Ben McAdams opened a congressional staff briefing on behavioral health information technology. Using Salt Lake County as an example, McAdams discussed how counties can use health information technology in their behavioral health and substance abuse programs and how increased federal funding for behavioral health information technology could further improve health outcomes and save local taxpayers money.
McAdams highlighted Salt Lake County’s commitment to the overall health and wellbeing of its residents, including the provision of medical services for county jail inmates and county behavioral health services. He also described how the county was an early adopter of low-cost open source behavioral health information technology which is also interoperable between the county’s behavioral health providers. Lastly, McAdams stressed the need to take the next big step towards integrating the behavioral health system with medical and surgical health care, by promoting widespread meaningful use of interoperable electronic health records (EHRs).
More than 750 county behavioral health authorities provide mental health services to those most in need, many of whom who have co-occurring mental and physical health conditions. F...
|House Appropriations Subcommittee to Mark Up Bill that Includes FY15 Funding for PILT and would Block Funding for EPA's "Waters of the U.S." Proposed Rule|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
Thank your members of Congress that serve on the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and urge them to support Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding at the Subcommittee Markup tomorrow (July 9).
Today the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow, July 9. The legislation includes funding for the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.
Bill Would Provide $442 Million for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program in FY 2015
The bill would provide $442 million for the PILT program through a one-year extension of mandatory funding for this program. The PILT program provides payments to counties and other local governments to offset losses in tax revenues due to the presence of tax-exempt federal land in their jurisdictions. Counties with federal land in their jurisdictions often provide vital services on those lands...
|Congress Moves Forward with Temporary Trust Fund Fix|(read more)5 weeks ago | 0
On June 24, the Senate unveiled and advanced a short-term fix to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent through the end of this calendar year. As NACo reported last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation is expecting HTF shortfalls as early as August. Although momentum is gaining for a bipartisan proposal to address the HTF’s long-term solvency by increasing and indexing the federal gasoline and diesel taxes, the consensus in Congress is that major trust fund reform will not occur in time to avoid the predicted shortfalls this summer.
To avoid a major transportation funding crisis, the Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released his plan to raise $9 billion to temporarily extend the HTF. Sen. Wyden’s initial versionof the Preserving American’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act, would raise the revenue needed to pay for this extension through a number of sources, which included a modification to the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax that would increase the tax cap for heavy vehicles (vehicles over 97,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight) while not altering current truck wei...
|GASB OPEB Exposure Drafts Released|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
As reported in a previous edition of Washington Watch, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board recently approved two Exposure Drafts that recommend requiring state and local governments to report other postemployment benefits (OPEB), such as retiree health insurance, on their financial statements. This week, GASB released the full text of the proposed standards for any individual or organization that wishes to review the standards and provide written comments on the documents. To view the Exposure Drafts, including full text and instructions for submitting comments, click here.
A series of public hearings are also planned to enable GASB to obtain information from interested individuals and organizations about any of the issues discussed in the Exposure Drafts. The hearing dates and locations are as follows: September 10, 2014 in New York, September 11, 2014 in Chicago and September 12, 2014 in San Francisco. Additional information, including instructions for how to register to participate in any of the hearings, can be found within the Exposure Draft documents. For additional GASB resources on the OPEB project, click here.
Contact: Mike Belarmino at firstname.lastname@example.org 202.942.4254 or...
|EPA Accepting Applications for 2015 Clean Air Excellence Awards Program|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is accepting applications for its 2015 Clean Air Excellence Awards Program. In this program, EPA recognizes organizations and individuals that are using innovated methods to ensure clean air. Applications must demonstrate that the programs directly or indirectly reduce emissions and are innovative, sustainable and replicable. There are five categories: Clean Air Technology, Community Action, Education/Outreach, Regulatory/Policy Innovations and Transportation Efficiency Innovations.
In the past several years, the following county programs have won EPA Clean Air Excellence Awards: Montgomery County, Maryland’s Resource Recovery Facility (2014 Award—Clean Air Technology); Washoe County, Nevada’s Keep it Clean program run by the Washoe County Health District Air Quality Management Division (2014—Gregg Cooke Ward Visionary Program Award); City and County of Greenville, South Carolina’s Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Pilot Project (2011—Community Action); Broward County, Florida’s Conservation and Climate Change Challenge for Schools (2011-Education/Outreach) and Maricopa County, Arizona’s Rapid Response Notification System (2011—Regulatory/Policy Innovations) to name a few.
Award applications and more information are available here. Applications must be emailed or postmarked by September 12, 2014.Applicants are strongly encouraged to send their entries electronicall...
|Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Stop “Waters of the U.S.” Proposed Rule|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On June 19, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), David Vitter (R-La.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with twenty-three other Senators, introduced the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, which would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing the recently proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule (79 Red. Reg. 22188) or using the rule in any future rulemaking activities.
The rule, jointly proposed by both EPA and Corps on April 21, would amend the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” and expand the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction. NACo has voiced significant concern that this rule may have unintended impacts on counties as more waters become federally protected and subject to new rules or standards.
Other cosponsors of the measure to halt the rule are the following: Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn ...
|Senate “Minibus” Appropriations on Hold|6 weeks ago | 0
On June 19,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) withdrew a “minibus” appropriations package,
which included FY 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), Transportation-Housing
and Urban Development (T-HUD) and Agriculture-Rural Development spending bills from
the Senate floor after he was unable to reach an agreement with Senate
Republican over amendments. The three spending bills included in the $126.2
billion spending packing (H.R. 4660) had all been passed by the Senate Appropriations
Committee. The decision to pull the minibus casts doubt on the prospects for
this year's appropriations process in the Senate, since the bills included in
the “minibus” are commonly perceived to be relatively non-controversial
measures. The House has already passed the CJS spending bill and the House
Appropriations Committee has passed the T-HUD and Agriculture-Rural Development
spending bills. H.R. 4660 is still available for floor debate, and Majority
Leader Reid has set aside time next week to attempt further work on the
Contact: Daria Daniel at email@example.com
|Congress Looks to Fix Highway Trust Fund|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent projections, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is expecting shortfalls in the Highway Account as early as August, and in the Transit Account before the end of the year. The HTF provides over $40 billion annually for federal highway and transit programs. Since 2000, HTF spending has outpaced revenue. To fill the gap, Congress has relied on transfers from the General Fund of the Treasury rather than fixing the revenue stream to meet the needs of the HTF. This practice has resulted in a major impending fiscal cliff for the HTF, and unless Congress acts, the fund will tumble over that cliff this summer.
Although many in Congress agree with NACo’s position that what’s best for local governments and the nation’s transportation infrastructure is a sustainable long-term solution to the HTF’s shortfalls, it seems increasingly more likely that Congress will pursue a temporary fix for the HTF and pair that with a short-term extension of MAP-21.
While the House and Senate committees that have jurisdiction over the trust fund work to find c...
|House Appropriations Committee Passes Energy and Water Spending Bill with “Waters of the U.S.” Rider |(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On June 18, the House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY 2015 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which would allot $34 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and a U.S. Department of Interior water program. This is $50 million below the FY 2014 enacted level and $327 million over the President’s budget request. Under the measure, the Corps would receive $5 billion, while DOE would receive $27 billion.
Importantly, the measure contains a policy rider that would prohibit the Corps from moving forward on the proposed rule—Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act—for FY 2015. The “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule was released for public comment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps on April 21. Many groups, including NACo, have raised concerns with the proposed rule, which would expand the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction.
The committee also accepted an amendment by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) that would allow individuals to carry guns on Corps of property. This amendment pa...
|Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Hits Snag in Senate|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On June 19, the Senate Appropriations Committee was scheduled to take up its FY 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which provides funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). However, after Senate Republicans announced their intention to propose several controversial amendments to block the Administration’s climate emissions reduction plan and the “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule, and the White House threatened a veto if the amendments were included, the committee announced that the bill would be withdrawn from consideration.
The bill faces an uncertain future and is unlikely to move as freestanding legislation; it is more likely to be included in a more comprehensive omnibus package. Before it was withdrawn, the bill would have included $34.2 billion in discretionary funding, which represents an increase of $148 million over FY 2014 enacted levels and $525 million over the President’s budget request. Corps programs would have received $5 billion, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation would have received $1billion and DOE would have received $28 billion.
Contact: Julie Ufner at firstname.lastname@example.org 202.9...
|Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act Passes House Judiciary Committee |(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On June 18, the House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), by a vote of 30-4. The measure seeks to permanently extend the temporary moratorium first established in the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which essentially prohibits state and local governments from taxing Internet access (typically, the subscription fee for accessing the Internet). NACo opposes PITFA in part because it would establish a precedent of permanently preempting state and local taxing authority over a particular industry.
ITFA, first enacted in 1998, was originally intended to protect the nascent Internet industry and give it a chance to develop. It has since been extended three times; the most recent extension will expire November 1, 2014. NACo, along with other state and local government groups, argue that the Internet is no longer a nascent industry needing protection and express concerns with the potential impact to county budgets given the rate at which the technology continues to develop. For example, definitions within the current law for “Internet access” and “Internet access services” are drafted in a way...