Washington Watch Blog
|House Offers Two-Month Extension of MAP-21|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 15, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) offered a bill that would extend the current surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), through July 31. The current extension of MAP-21 is set to expire at the end of May. Without congressional action, spending authority for federal surface transportation programs would cease and, as Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a letter earlier this week, the Federal Highway Administration would not be able to reimburse states for construction costs incurred after May 31, including many county projects.
Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that he was seeking $11 billion in revenue to extend current law and keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through December 2015. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the length of Sen. Hatch’s proposed patch and potential offsets that might b...
|NACo Testifies Before Senate Committee on Endangered Species Act|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 5, Valley County, Idaho Commission Chairman and NACo Western Interstate Region First Vice President Gordon Cruickshank testified on behalf of NACo at a Senate hearing titled, “Fish and Wildlife Service: The President’s FY 2016 Budget Request for the Fish and Wildlife Service and Legislative Hearing on Endangered Species Bills.” Cruickshank’s testimony, which took place before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, provided insight into how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) impacts counties and ways the legislation could be improved to achieve shared goals of environmental protection and responsible land use. The hearing was led by Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
The ESA was passed by Congress in 1973 with the goal of protecting species and the ecosystems they inhabit. The legislation has not been updated since 1988. Many counties have expressed concerns over the impacts of current regulations under the ESA, as these regulations do not require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...
|House Passes Bill That Would Restart “Waters of the U.S.” Rulemaking Process|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 12, the House of Representatives passed the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732) by a vote of 261-155. To see how your representative voted, click here. NACo urges counties to thank their members for their support of H.R. 1732.
H.R. 1732 would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to withdraw the proposed "waters of the U.S." rule within 30 days and restart the rule-making process. The bill would require the agencies to consult and collaborate with state and local governments on the "waters of the U.S." rule development process. The agencies would also be required to document the interactions, including those areas where consensus was reached and not reached, and submit a final report to Congress. To view NACo's letter in support of H.R. 1732, click here.
In April, the White House issued a veto threat for H.R. 1732. In its Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), the White House stated that they “strongly oppose” and would veto the bill ...
|Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor the Newly Introduced Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2015 (S.1169)|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On April 30, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2015 (JJDPA)(S.1169), a legislative priority for NACo. JJDPA is the principal federal program through which the federal government sets standards for the care and custody of juveniles in the criminal justice system. Counties that operate juvenile detention centers, house justice-involved children in jails, or those that provide social services to justice-involved children must adhere to requirements in the JJDPA in order to receive federal funding. NACo supports reauthorization of the JJDPA, legislation which has not been renewed in over 10 years.
S.1169 includes four long-standing core protections for juveniles:
- Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders:Status offenses, including the following, are offenses that are only crimes if committed by children: truancy, running away, breaking curfew and possession or use of alcohol. Under the JJDPA, status offenders may not be held in secure detention or confinement unless there is a valid court order (VCO) issued by a judge that would...
|Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Create New Bond Program|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 4, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced S. 1186, the Move America Act of 2015. The bill would create Move America Bonds that would essentially be treated as exempt-facility, private-activity bonds (PABs). The Move America Bonds, however, would have fewer restrictions and separate state volume caps. The proposed legislation would also authorize Move America Credits that allow states to convert portions of their volume cap to allocations for tax credits. NACo is currently exploring the provisions of the bill given its potential to serve as another tool in the fiscal toolkit of counties. To review a section-by-section summary of the bill, click here. To view the full text of the bill, click here.
The Move America Act has some similarities with the Administration-proposed Qualified Public Infrastructure Bond (QPIB) program and both are focused on increasing private investment in infrastructure.
Move America Bonds would generally follow the rules as exempt-facility bonds and could be used to finance, among other things, airports, docks and wharve...
|House Subcommittee Funds Critical County Law Enforcement Programs, Cuts Juvenile Justice Funding|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 14, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) marked up the 2016 CJS appropriations bill, which includes $1.01 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, a decrease of roughly $200 million from FY 2015. The CJS appropriations bill would fund U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Commerce programs such as the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG) and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP); both programs would see an increase for FY 2016. Specifically, Byrne JAG would be funded at $409 million, an increase of $32 million, and SCAAP would be funded at $220 million, an increase of $35 million from FY 2015. The CJS appropriations bill also includes a new “Community Trust Initiative” which would provide $15 million for body camera pilot programs, $30 million for justice reform and collaboration and $5 million for improved statistics collection.
Notably, funding for juvenile justice programs was cut by $68 million. Specifically, Title V...
|House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Standards for Trust Land Acquisition
|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 12, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing titled “Inadequate Standards for Trust Land Acquisition in the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934.” The hearing was for oversight purposes and thus no legislation was considered. The specific purpose of the hearing was to examine whether or not there should be any meaningful statutory conditions imposed on the power of the Secretary of the Interior to acquire trust land and what the policy and constitutional risks may be if Congress fails to enact such conditions.
Two main policy points guided discussion at the hearing. The first was whether the Secretary of the Interior should have “blank check” authority under the IRA to develop all rules and policies for the acquisition of trust land. The second was the assertion that if Congress determines that conditions on the secretary’s powers are necessary, the conditions should reflect a balancing of the tribes’ need and justific...
|New DOJ Funding Opportunity for Body Cameras|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 1, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released a FY 2015 grant solicitation for state and local law enforcement agencies to establish or expand the use of Body-Worn Cameras (BWC). Counties are eligible to apply and must provide a 50 percent in-kind or cash match if the application is accepted. The deadline to apply is June 16, 2015. A total of $17 million is available for the BWC Pilot Implementation Program. BJA anticipates making 50 awards to law enforcement agencies, with about one-third of the grants directed toward agencies with less than 250 officers.
BWC equipment may be purchased under this program. Successful applicants must demonstrate a commitment and adherence to a strong BWC policy framework, including comprehensive policy adoption and requisite training. Additionally, the coverage of long-term costs, such as data storage fees, will be the responsibility of the local law enforcement agencies.
In addition to the 50 awards, $2 million will go toward establishing a BWC ...
|Up to $35 Million in Available Funding Under POWER Initiative |(read more)10 days ago | 0
On May 11, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) joined U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in announcing that up to $35.5 million in funding is available through the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative. POWER, which was announced at the end of March, is a coordinated effort among federal agencies to invest in communities, including counties and workers negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.
This new Federal Funding Opportunity leverages funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Funding for these programs has been aligned in this FFO to take a comprehensive approach towards economies diversification and worker advancement in implementing economic development strategic plans in impacted coal communities. These grants will enable grantees, including counties to build economic resilience, industry diversification and promote new job creation opportunities. For more informat...
|Office of Management and Budget Moves Forward With DATA Act Implementation, Seeks Feedback|(read more)10 days ago | 0
In 2014, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) was signed into law. The law builds on the Federal Funding and Transparency Act (FFATA), which spurred the creation of www.USAspending.gov. The DATA Act takes steps to improve transparency related to federal spending by requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to work with other agency heads and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop government-wide financial data standards to track the use of all federal funds. These government-wide standards must incorporate existing standards, be computer-readable and include universal award identifiers so that individual awards can be tracked through the entire spending cycle.
The DATA Act does not require additional reporting on the part of recipients, and it requires OMB to consult with state and local governments when developing new data standards. For more information about the DATA Act, its requirements and its implementation, click here.
On May 8, OMB issued a memorandum outlining how federal agencies will implement DATA Act requirements and la...
|New NACo ENERGY STAR Report Released|
10 days ago | 0
|Action Needed on Waters of the U.S.| (read more)2 weeks ago | 0
URGE YOUR U.S. HOUSE MEMBER TO
VOTE "YES" ON WATERS OF THE U.S. BILLVOTE
Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732). Please urge your House Members to vote “yes” on the measure.
H.R. 1732 would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to withdraw the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule within 30 days and restart the rule-making process. The bill would require the agencies to consult and collaborate with state and local governments on the "Waters of the U.S." rule development process. The agencies would also be required to document the interactions, including those areas where consensus was reached and not reached, and submit a final report to Congress. To view NACo’s letter in support of H.R. 1732, click here.
NACo asks counties to urge your House Representatives to vote “yes” on H.R. 1732.
|BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND WHY THIS ISSUE MATTERS TO COUNTIES|
|In April 2014, the EPA and the Corps jointly released a new proposed rule that would amend the d... |
|FY 2016 Budget Passes House|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On April 30, the House of Representatives voted 226-197 to adopt the compromise budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 11) hammered out by House and Senate negotiators.
The measure, which does not go to the president for signature, but rather lays out Congress’ tax and spending plan for FY 2016 which then can be enforced by House and Senate rules. It maintains the sequestration caps on discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which includes $493.5 billion for non-defense programs that are most relevant to counties. This is roughly the amount made available to appropriators for domestic discretionary spending in FY 2015.
The conference report lays down the following limits on federal budget function areas that include programs important to counties as follows:
Agriculture and Rural Affairs
The budget agreement provides $19.1 billion in overall budget authority for FY 2016 agricultural functions including production, direct assistance and loans to farmers, export assistance, research, marketing and inspection services. This level is $1.5 billion less than the Senate resolution and $1 billion less than the House amendment.
The report also includes $15.5 billion in total budget authority for commun...
|NACo Calls on Congress to Repeal Excise Tax on Employer-Provided Health Insurance|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On April 28, Berks County, Pa. Commissioner and National Association of Counties (NACo) Board and Executive Committee Member Christian Leinbach represented NACo during a press conference to announce bipartisan legislation to repeal the impending 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided health benefits. Commissioner Leinbach focused on the negative impact the tax would have on county budgets and workforce. Joining Commissioner Leinbach to speak at the event were representatives from the American Benefits Council, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Economic Policy Institute and the Connecticut Education Association.
The press conference, held on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, was led by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) who unveiled his bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2050, "The Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act." Rep. Courtney announced that he was joined by 65 co-sponsors for the bill's introduction.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted into law in March 2010, one of the provisions of the ACA was an excise tax on employer-sponsored health coverage which would take effect in 2018. The tax is levied on the aggregate amount of employer-sponsored coverage...
|NACo Commissioner Speaks in Support of CDBG Program at Capitol Hill Briefing|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On April 28, Dauphin County, Pa. Commissioner George P. Hartwick III, a member of NACo's Board of Directors, discussed the importance of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) on behalf of NACo at a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. The briefing was hosted by the CDBG Coalition, which is comprised of twenty-one national associations including NACo and represents local elected officials, housing and community development professionals, planners, economic development entities and non-profit organizations.
The CDBG Coalition held the briefing for members of Congress and their staff to educate them about the importance of the CDBG program and highlight how recent funding cuts have negatively impacted local communities. CDBG funding has been cut by nearly 25 percent, or $1 billion, since FY 2010.
Hartwick explained that the program is critical to counties by stating, "Counties across the country leverage the flexibility of CDBG funds to support top local priorities including community revitalization and economic development, homeownership, infrastructure and human services. As we work with the private and non-profit sectors to address local needs, we need strong partners on Capitol Hill. We urge Con...