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Washington Watch Blog
House and Senate Moving to Reconcile Budget Blueprints

House and Senate Budget Committee Chairmen, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) respectively, have begun laying the groundwork for House-Senate negotiations to reconcile the budget blueprints adopted in each chamber before the recess (H.Con.Res. 27 and S.Con.Res. 11). Producing a concurrent resolution that can attract enough votes to pass both chambers will be a challenge given the significant differences between them. While Congress is supposed to pass a concurrent budget resolution by April 15, this process often takes longer and in recent years has not happened at all.

In their pursuit of a concurrent resolution, the House and Senate this week appointed their respective conferees to the Budget Conference Committee. The conference committee is charged with finding an agreement between the House and Senate FY 2016 budget resolutions (H.Con.Res. 27 and S.Con.Res. 11). The committee is also charged with setting top-line defense and non-defense funding for FY 2016 and providing funding allocations for the appropriations subcommittees’ respective spending bills. The conference committee hopes to finish work on their budget by the end of April. Members of...

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4 days ago | 0

Win for Counties as Congress Extends SRS, Health Care Programs

On April 14, 2015, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass  H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, the so-called “Doc Fix” bill, which will extend funding for multiple federal programs important to counties, including the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other health care programs. The legislation passed the chamber by a vote of 92 – 8 (click here to see how your senators voted). The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the bill on March 26 by a vote of 392-37 before adjourning for the spring recess.

Under the legislation, SRS would be reauthorized for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The measure authorizes $500 million through the SRS program to support local schools, transportation infrastructure, emergency response and other services that are critical to counties. SRS funds will help more than 720 counties and 4,000 school districts across 41 states affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. The bill also expedites SRS payments to counties by requiring the federal government to make payments within 45 days of th...

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4 days ago | 0

Action Needed—Please Urge Your House Member to Support “Waters of the U.S.” Bill

On Wednesday April 15, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) passed the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732) by a vote of 36-22.  Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) joined Republicans in supporting the bill.  H.R. 1732 is expected to quickly move to the floor of the House for a vote. Counties are encouraged to contact their member of Congress and urge them to support the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015.

The bill was introduced on Monday, April 13 by House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) to address the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule.

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 to rewrite a new proposed rule after consultation with state and local governments. The measure currently has 35 cosponsors. NACo sent a letter to Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) of the Transportation a...

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4 days ago | 0

House Natural Resources Subcommittee Holds Oversight Hearing on Federal Lands Acquisition

On April 15, 2015, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing entitled "Federal Land Acquisition and its Impacts on Communities and the Environment".  The Subcommittee met to provide congressional oversight over the President’s FY 2016 budget proposal, federal land acquisition policies and to hear testimony from county officials and community representatives about the impacts of federal lands policies on communities. Click here to watch recorded video of the hearing.

The Subcommittee heard testimony from a variety of local representatives including, Supervisor Robert A. Lovingood, First District, San Bernardino County, Calif., Shawn Regan, a Research Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, Domenic Bravo, representing the Wyoming Division of State Parks and Randy Newberg, appearing on behalf of On Your Own Adventures.  A list of witnesses and copies of their opening statements provided by the Majority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee is available here.

 

Opening the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) expressed frustration with federal land acquisition policies and the growing maintenance backlogs on lands currently owned by the federal government.  Chairman McClintock also recognized the challenges fede...

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4 days ago | 0

41 House Members Weigh in to Support SCAAP

On March 25, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and 41 other House members sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders on the importance of funding the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) in FY 2016. SCAAP is a grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which partially reimburses state and local governments for the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes.

To view a copy of this letter, click here.

NACo worked with Rep. Gosar to secure the signatures of 41 House members on his letter to House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) urging adequate resources to effectively execute the program’s purpose.  SCAAP was funded at $185 million in FY 2015.  

Currently, compensation to local law enforcement agencies under SCAAP covers less than 18 percent of the actual cost of incarcerating undocumented criminal offenders.  Further reducing resources for this program would shift an even greater burden to states and coun...

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4 days ago | 0

Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation Stalls in the Senate

On January 13, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with 12 cosponsors introduced the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178). An identical measure was later introduced in the House on February 2, by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). The H.R. 296 bill would provide additional resources to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking, and provide assistance to victims of trafficking.  Additionally the legislation would: 

  • Provide new revenue sources to the Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund.
  • Increase accessibility of benefits and protections offered to domestic victims of human trafficking.
  • Provide grant funding to train law enforcement, prosecutors and judicial officials on ways to rescue and restore the lives of victims.
  • Provide grant funding to develop specialized programs to identify and provide services to victims of child pornography.
  • Clarifies the range of conduct that may be punished as sex trafficking.
  • Mandates that all task forces and working groups within the Innocence Lost National Initiative engage in activities, programs, or ...
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4 days ago | 0

Senate Members Weigh in to Support the Second Chance Act

On April 2, Sens. Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Leahy (D-Vt.) along with 25 members of the U.S. Senate sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders on the importance of funding the Second Chance Act (SCA) in FY 2016. The SCA provides grant funding to counties, states and faith-based organizations to help improve outcomes for individuals returning to communities from prisons, jails and juvenile facilities.  SCA grants have also promoted the public and private partnerships that work towards reducing recidivism. 

Currently, SCA is funded through the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 83) which will expire on September 30, 2015.

To view a copy of the letter, click herePlease help us in thanking the senators listed below for their support and signing onto the SCA “Dear Colleague”.

Kelly Ayotte (lead)

New Hampshire

Patrick Leahy (lead)

Vermont

Mazie Hirono

Hawaii

Jeanne Shaheen

New Hampshire

Barbara Boxer

California

Dianne Feinstein

California

Al Franken

Minnesota 

Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota

Robert Menendez

New Jersey

Cory Booker

New Je...

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4 days ago | 0

FEMA Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House

On April 15, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked-up H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015.  It passed favorably out of committee.  NACo is supportive of several provisions in the bill and communicated our support in a letter that can be accessed here.

H.R. 1471 includes many provisions important to counties, including a provision that limits the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to three years to deobligate disaster/emergency funds and makes it retroactive to January 1, 2004.  The statute of limitations would begin to run after a project (not disaster) closeout as certified by the grantee. This provision would require that FEMA terminate deobligation actions initiated on or after January 1, 2004 if the deobligation was not a result of waste, fraud and abuse.

Additionally, H.R 1471 clarifies that wildfires may be eligible for post-hazard mitigation assistance regardless of whether a presidential major disaster has been declared.  Currently, wildfires that do not receive such a declaration are ineligible for post-hazard mitigation funds.  The Act also specifies that grantees may be reimbursed up to 10 percent for management cost...

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4 days ago | 0

Over 100 House Members Sign Letter to Support Municipal Bonds

​​The bipartisan letter to House leadership in support of the tax exemption for municipal bond interest led by Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) closed with over 110 representatives signing on.  NACo, which worked closely with congressional staff to move this effort forward, commends counties that reached out to their representatives. 

The letter, sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), urges them to support municipal bonds and to oppose proposals that would cap or eliminate the tax exemption for municipal bond interest.  Although comprehensive tax reform seems unlikely this year, an effort to find a path forward in both chambers of Congress continues. Tax reform will be a multi-year process and NACo will continue to engage Congress through efforts like the municipal bond “Dear Colleague” to educate members on the importance of municipal bonds to counties and the nation’s infrastructure. 

To view a copy of the final letter, click hereTo see if your representative signed on, click herePlease take a moment to thank them for signing on to the letter.


Contact: Mike Belarmino at mbela...

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4 days ago | 0

Department of Transportation Announces New Round of TIGER Grants For 2015

On April 2, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that $500 million is available for the seventh round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program. These competitive grants are awarded to states and local governments to fund transportation infrastructure investments, and are among the only sources of federal funding for multi-modal projects. TIGER grants also help create jobs and foster economic and community development.

The U.S. DOT announcement highlighted specific examples of the impact TIGER grants can have on infrastructure projects across the country. During the sixth round of grants, counties received nine awards totaling $93.7 million, including Washoe County, Nev., which received $16 million for a Bus Rapid Transit project; Essex County, N.J., which received nearly $15 million for a port project; Claiborne, Franklin, and Jefferson Counties in Miss., which together received almost $18 million for rural roadway improvements; and Anoka County, Minn., which was awarded $10 million to construct an interchange.

TIGER grants supplement local funding for infrastructure projects. Under this current round of funding, at least 20 percent of TIGER grant funds must be use...

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4 days ago | 0

DHS Period of Performance Extended to Three Years

On March 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would restore the three year period of performance (POP) for most preparedness grant programs from the two year period which is currently in place. The POP is the period of time during which the grantee is expected to complete the grant activities and to incur and expend approved funds. The change will also not apply to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Programs or the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program.

The POP extension is largely due to the reduction in unspent balances.  Over a 27-month period ending on December 31, 2014, unspent balances for FY 2008-2012 programs have dropped from $8.7 billion to $1.2 billion, which represents an 86 percent decline. As a result, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has determined that the period of performance will return to three years for the FY 2015 grant cycle for the programs listed below:

·         Homeland Security Grant Program

o   State Homeland Security Program 

o   Urban Areas Security Initiative

o   Operation Stonegarden 

·         Intercity Bus Security Grant Program 

·         Intercity Passenger Rail Security Grant Program

·         Nonprofit Security Grant Program 

·         Port Security Grant Program 

·         Transit Security Grant Program 

·         Tribal Homeland ...

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4 days ago | 0

Homeland Security Department Issues Grant Guidance for FY 2015

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the release of FY 2015 Notices of Funding Opportunity for nine DHS preparedness grant programs.  Preparedness grants provide funding to local, state, tribal and territorial governments to improve disaster readiness. 

Preparedness grant program allocations for FY 2015 include over $1 billion for the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), $402 million for the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), $587 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and $55 million for Operation Stonegarden. States are required to obligate at least 80 percent of the funds awarded under SHSP and UASI to local or tribal units of government within 45 days of receiving the funds. 

Application submissions may be made through the Non-Disaster Grants system at https://portal.fema.govApplications for Emergency Management Performance Grants, announced on March 25, 2015, are due by April 24, 2015.  All other preparedness grants except Fire Grant programs are due by May 19.  For additional information regarding grant funding notices please visit www.grants.govor for further information on DHS’s preparedness grant program visit www.fema.gov/grants.

Contact: Yejin Jang...

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4 days ago | 0

CMS Announces Opportunity to Apply for Navigator Grants

On April 15, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the availability of funding for grants that will help support entities that educate customers and encourage enrollment in federally-facilitated health care Exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Navigators help customers choose an appropriate health care plan by providing objective information and educating customers about their coverage options. Click here for more information about Navigators.

Up to $67 million is available for the first year of the award. Those eligible for Navigator Grants include individuals as well as public or private entities applying to serve as Navigators in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces. Grantees may receive funds for three years, provided they follow grant requirements. Recipients will not be required to match the funds awarded to them. A letter of intent, due June 3, 2015, is required before an application will be considered. Applications for Navigator Grants are due by June 15, 2015.

To view the funding opportunity announcement from CMS, including detailed award information and eligibility requirements, click here, or visit http://www.grants.gov and search for CFDA #93.332.

Contact: Brian Bowden at bbowden@...

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4 days ago | 0

Labor and Education Departments Release Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on WIOA

On April 3, the Department of Labor (DOL) and The Department of Education (ED) released a five part notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for review governing implementation and administration of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).The five NPRMs are:

On April 16, the regulations were formally published in the Federal Register and the DOL and ED will be accepting comments for 60 days that are submitted through www.regulations.gov. NACo is working on an initial review of the draft regulations to identify key issues within the Unified and Combined Plans, Performance Accountability and the One Stop System, and the DOL Administered Activities NPRMs and will provide further analysis soon.  NACo wi...

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4 days ago | 0

HHS Proposes Rule to Extend Mental Health Parity to Medicaid and CHIP

On April 6, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services (HHS) announced a proposed rule to apply the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The federal law was meant to ensure that coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment was on par with medical and surgical care. Up until now, the government has only spelled out how the law applied to commercial plans.

The rule would affect the majority of the 70 million people on Medicaid who are in managed care plans as well as the 8 million children covered by CHIP. The proposal would mean that health plans no longer could have hard limits on coverage such as a certain number of mental health visits in a year. The rule would also require insurers to provide an explanation if a patient is denied treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder.

Stating “the new rule does not disappoint”, Dr. Ron Manderscheid, Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and...

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4 days ago | 0


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