Washington Watch Blog
|Urge Your U.S. House Members to Vote "YES" On the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, H.R. 3370 (as amended) |(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to begin debate this week on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3370, as amended). Please urge your House Member to vote "yes" on the measure.
H.R. 3370 was originally introduced as a companion bill to the Senate measure (S. 1926)—also known as the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. However, the original legislative text has been replaced with completely new language. The amended bill will be considered under a procedure that will require a 2/3 majority vote to pass and does not allow for any amendments.
H.R. 3370 (as amended) contains several provisions that would address county concerns::
- Reinstates Grandfathering: The House bill would permanently repeal Biggert-Waters' phase-out of grandfathered policies and thus would allow grandfathering of policies to continue. This means that post-FIRM properties built to code at the time of construction may have the ability to grandfather into a lower premium.
- Removes Sales Trigger:The House bill would discontinue the practice of fully actualizing rates at the point of sale, meaning the sales "trigger" is ...
|Long-Term Debt Ceiling Bill Clears Congress|3 weeks ago | 0
departing Washington for the President’s Day recess, Congress approved
legislation (S. 540) that would suspend the statutory debt ceiling limit of
$17.2 trillion through March, 2015. On February 11, the House approved the
measure by a vote of 221 to 201. The Senate followed suit on February 12 by a
final vote of 55-43.
vote in the Senate occurred after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and
Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) led efforts to hold a cloture vote – a
procedural method to end debate on a measure – which was needed because of
opposition from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The chamber voted 67-31 in favor of
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had originally contemplated offering a bill
that included a provision to restore a one percent cut to military pensions.
However, when it became clear that the Republican caucus would not vote for the
cut, he offered a clean bill to the Democrats, who accounted for the vast
majority (193) of the votes in favor of the bill.
Marilina Sanz at email@example.com
|Treasury Issues Final Rules Exempting County Volunteers from ACA Coverage Requirement|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On February 11, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued final rules, after an initial announcement on January 10, clarifying that he hours worked by volunteer firefighters and other bona fide volunteers will not trigger the health insurance coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In response to concerns raised by NACo, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and other local government groups, the final regulations clarify that bona fide volunteers include any volunteer who is an employee of a government entity or 501(c)(3) organization whose only compensation from that entity or organization is “in the form of (i) reimbursement for (or reasonable allowance for) reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of services by volunteers, or (ii) reasonable benefits (including length of service awards), and nominal fees, customarily paid by similar entities in connection with the performance of services by volunteers.”
Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full time workers are required to offer affordable comprehensive health insurance to their employees or be subject to a penalty. The ACA generally defines full-time employees as those who work 30 or more hours per week, with the hours of part-time workers combined into full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).
Contact: Paul Bed...
|Final Farm Bill Signed into Law; President Obama Announces Partnership with NACo on "Made in Rural America" Initiative|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On February 7, President Obama signed the final farm bill, H.R.2642, in Lansing, Mich. at Michigan State University. At the signing of the farm bill, the President unveiled a new initiative – “Made in Rural America” – that NACo will be a part of. This initiative is aimed at helping American farmers and rural businesses boost exports. NACo will be coordinating on this export initiative with the White House Rural Council, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the United States Trade Representatives, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) also released a report highlighting recent farm sector and rural economy performance. The report also outlines how the Farm Bill will spur growth throughout rural America. To view this report, click here.
For a complete breakdown of the President’s initiative, click here.
Over the next nine months, these key stakeholders will focus on the following areas of engagement:
|Debt Ceiling Deadline Reached, Deal Remains Elusive|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
Under the deal reached by congressional leaders to end the government shutdown in October, PL 113-67, February 7 was the deadline for raising the $17.3 trillion debt ceiling. However, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, stated that the Department will start taking extraordinary measures and the ceiling will not be reached until February 27. At that point the Treasury will no longer have authority to issue bonds as necessary to pay the government’s financial obligations. In his letter, Secretary Lew also stated that the extraordinary measures are limited and that the unpredictability of cash during tax return season, which began January 31, makes it difficult to predict how much cash will be on hand by the end of February.
House Republican leaders are considering a list of additional provisions to the debt ceiling bill that would decrease the deficit or attract additional votes. These provisions are reported to include raising the reimbursement rate for doctors to treat Medicare patients (known as the “Doc Fix”), restoring the one percent cut to cost-of-living adjus...
|Omnibus Delays Flood Insurance Premium Increases |(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On February 5, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a memorandum outlining the effect of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (the Omnibus) which included a provision to delay the increase of flood insurance premiums until October 2014.
Upon the effective date of any revised or updated Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 requires FEMA to adjust premiums to reflect the current flood risk to an affected property. Any increase in the risk premium rate charged for flood insurance resulting from a FIRM revision is phased in over 5 years; at a rate of 20 percent each year.
By withholding funds, the Omnibus is essentially mandating that FEMA stop current planning and development activities for section 207 “grandfathered” properties. “Grandfathering” was available as a lower-cost insurance to property owners who had flood insurance policies when new flood maps became effective, or who built in compliance with FIRM at the time of construction. BW-12 called for a phase-out of grandfathered rates and moved to risk-based rates for most properties when a community a...
|Sen. Baucus Confirmed as Next Ambassador to China; Wyden Eyed as Potential Next Finance Chair|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On February 6, Senate voted (96-0) to confirm Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) as the next U.S. ambassador to China. This now leaves the top seat on the Senate Finance Committee vacant even though it is widely assumed that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will ascend as chairman. This creates an interesting twist in the tax reform saga given the amount of effort that Sen. Baucus has put into enacting reforms to the federal tax code. Alongside his counterpart on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Sen. Baucus held countless meetings, discussion groups and forums over the past few years in the attempt to draft a plan that could garner broad support.
In the end, the issue of whether reform should generate revenue or not continued to split the sides and the anticipated release of tax reform legislation never materialized. Given the amount of time Sen. Baucus and Rep. Camp have spent working together on tax reform efforts, if Sen. Wyden does in fact take over the gavel, it remains to be seem how much he may want ...
|House Endangered Species Task Force Release Recommendations|4 weeks ago | 0
On February 4, the House Endangered Species Working Group released a 64-page
report detailing its findings and recommendations related to reforms of the
Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Task Force recommended changes to the ESA
- Ensure greater
transparency and prioritization of ESA with a focus on species recovery and
- Reduce ESA litigation
and encouraging settlement reform
- Empower states,
tribes, local governments and private landowners on ESA decisions affecting
them and their property
- Require more transparency and accountability of ESA data and science
The group was established last spring by Chairman Doc
Hastings (R-Wash.) of the House Committee on Natural Resources. NACo has
adopted policy which supports efforts to reform the Act, and will continue to
work individually, and within the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition,
of which NACo is a member, to promote reforms in the ESA.
here to view the final report.
Contact: Paul Beddoe at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Vice President Biden to Lead Reform of Workforce Training Programs|4 weeks ago | 0
On January 30, President Obama released a memorandum instructing Vice
President Joe Biden to lead the effort to review and reform federal employment
and training programs within existing legislative authority. Vice
President Biden held a conference call and has been meeting with key
stakeholders including NACo to get ideas for reform. NACo will be part of
Vice President Biden’s Workforce Training Task Force and will be utilizing
county best practices in workforce development to assist his efforts. For
more information on the Presidential memorandum instructing the Vice President
to lead an across-the-board review of federal job training programs, click here.
To view the White House skills and job-driven training fact
sheet, click here.
To view more information on the “Ready to Work” $150 million grants
announcement, click here.
Contact: Daria Daniel at email@example.com or 202.942.4212
|Reconsideration Process for EPA’s Ozone Air Quality Rule Begins|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On January 31, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their Policy Assessment for the Review of Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Second External Review Draft. In the proposal, EPA proposes to tighten the current ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range between 60 ppb and 70 ppb. The current ozone standard of 75 ppb has been in place since 2008.
In 2010, EPA submitted a similar proposal to tighten the standards to levels between 60 ppb and 70 ppb, this proposal was eventually tabled by the Administration because annual implementation costs would have been between $19 billion and $90 billion annually. Approximately 650 rural and urban counties would have been considered in non-attainment under the 2010 proposed standards, in addition to the 515 counties currently under non-attainment. In 2010, NACo, along with the National Association of Regional Councils, submitted comments to EPA on the ozone proposal.
Ozone, a key component of smog, is blamed for increased health care costs for bronchitis, acute asthma, hospital and emergency room visits, non-fatal heart attacks and premature deaths. Ozone is ...
|FCC Allows IP Transition Experiments; New Funding for Rural Broadband |(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On January 30, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) outlining the requirements for telecommunications service providers to begin experiments in substituting new communications technologies (namely, Internet Protocol-based technologies) for the copper-based traditional landlines that are used today. Telecommunications providers would begin these experiments with intent to discontinue landline services while preserving values inherent in America’s communications network like universal service, public safety, competition and consumer protection. In essence, the FCC is collecting proposals from telecommunications providers for transitioning consumers off of copper-based landlines to an internet, IP-based network which will allow telecommunications carriers to experiment with providing voice service using internet protocol, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber or wireless technologies.
Telecommunications providers will now start submitting experiment proposals to the FCC. The proposals must ensure the following:
- Will not diminish consumer access to 911/E911 emergency services
- In the event of a public safety failure in the course of an experiment, the provider must be able to immediately fix the IP-based service, restore its legacy (copper-based landline) service or provide a comparable service
- Protect cybersecurity
- Ensure access for persons with disabi...
|Major Win for Counties as Farm Bill Clears Remaining Hurdles|(read more)5 weeks ago | 0
On Tuesday, February 4, the Senate voted 68-32 in favor of the conference report to accompany H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. Today’s vote will send the five-year farm bill to the President’s desk, where it is expected to be signed it into law later this week. For the complete Senate roll call vote, click here. The House passed the conference report on Wednesday, January 29 by a vote of 251-166. To see the complete House roll call vote, click here.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) supported the final farm bill because it contains several critical county priorities, including FY2014 funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, reauthorization of vital programs within the Rural Development title and protection of county authority over forest roads.
The conference report includes several NACo priorities on a broad range of programs that assist counties in the development of rural water-wastewater infrastructure, community facilities, broadband expansion, nutrition assistance, renewable energy, local and regional food systems, support for new farmers and business development initiatives. The farm bill would also codify the U.S. Environmental Prot...
|Farm Bill Progress Continues; FY2014 PILT Funding Included in Conference Report|(read more)5 weeks ago | 0
On January 29, House members voted 251-166 in favor of the farm bill conference report, sending the bill to the Senate floor. The Senate is expected to vote on the conference report on February 3; if passed by the Senate, the bill will go to the President’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.
NACo has championed the final conference report because it contains several critical county priorities, including FY2014 Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding, reauthorization of vital programs within the Rural Development and Nutrition titles and protection of county authority over forest roads. To read a letter sent by NACo (as part of the Campaign for Renewed Rural Development) to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders in support of the final farm bill, click here.
The farm bill conference report would provide $435 million PILT funding for FY2014, which is a $35 million increase over FY2013 funding (post-sequestration). PILT payments allow local governments with federal land in their jurisdictions, including 1,850 counties in 49 states, to provide critical services for residents, such as education, solid waste dis...
|Flood Insurance Bill Sails through Senate |(read more)5 weeks ago | 0
On January 30, the Senate passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1926, by a vote of 67-32. This measure would delay implementation of new federal flood insurance premiums, which would cause a rapid increase for insurance rates in certain areas of the country, until after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes an affordability study and Congress can act on its recommendations. NACo supports S. 1926 and advocated strongly on Capitol Hill in favor of its passage.
S. 1926 was introduced in reaction to the Biggert-Waters Flood insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12), which was enacted in July 2012. The purpose of BW-12 was to make FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which faced a deficit of $24 billion, solvent. However, BW-12 resulted in some unintended consequences for local governments, residents and businesses. A number of the nation's 3,069 counties represented by NACo, both coastal and inland, have reported that their homeowners and businesses are facing drastically increasing annual NFIP flood insurance premiums due to BW-12's phase-outs of subsidized premium rates.
S. 1926 now moves to the House for consideration. The bill fac...
|NACo President and Second Vice President Participate at FEMA Event on Community Outreach Best Practices|(read more)5 weeks ago | 0
On January 29, NACo President Linda Langston (Supervisor, Linn County, Iowa) and Second Vice President Sallie Clark (Commissioner, El Paso County, Colo.) participated in a webcast on community outreach best practices at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The session was titled “Doubling Down on Community Engagement and Technical Credibility Major Objective: arm the Risk Analysis Division (RAD) staff with information, tools and best practices for enhancing community engagement in order to deliver credible technical solutions that address community priorities and increase resilience.” The virtual audience was composed of various FEMA personnel from all FEMA regions around the country. During the webcast, President Langston highlighted the importance of relationships and the need for FEMA officials to work closely and cooperatively with local elected officials in order to establish a clear line of communication in times of disaster. She encouraged FEMA personnel to explain risk in layman’s terms using a narrative format so that county residents can better comprehend the risk of and prepare for disasters.
Second Vice President Clark shared her experience with disaster reco...
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