Washington Watch Blog
|House and Senate Approve Budget Resolutions|(read more)3 days ago | 0
The federal budgeting process is moving forward, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have each voted on and passed their respective budget resolutions after the chambers’ budget committees released their plans last week. The budget resolutions lay out upper limits for federal spending for the next fiscal year. While these measures do not carry the weight of law, budget resolutions form the basis for the appropriations process that fund federal government programs.
On March 25, the House passed its budget resolution (H Con Res 27), by a vote of 228-199. Seventeen Republicans joined all 182 Democrats to vote against the plan. Later, on March 27, the Senate passed its budget resolution (S Con Res 11) by a vote of 52-46. In both chambers, the votes were largely along party lines. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were the only two Republicans voting against the budget resolution, which was approved after a 15 hour long debate in which Senators deliberated and voted on almost 50 non-binding amendments.
Both resolutions would balance the budget within ten years, mostly by cutting health care and...
|NACo Testifies Before Senate Agriculture Committee on "Waters of the U.S." Proposed Rule |(read more)3 days ago | 0 Pictured here (L to R): Lynn M. Padgett, Commissioner, Ouray County, Colo., on behalf of the National Association of Counties; Furman Brodie, Vice President, Charles Ingram Lumber Company, Effingham, S.C.; Jason Kinley, Director, Gem County Mosquito Abatement District, Idaho; and Robert “Mac” N. McLennan, President and CEO, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc., N.D.; Jeff Metz, Owner and Operator, Metz Land and Cattle Co., Neb.; Kent Peppler, President, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colo.
On March 24, Ouray County, Colo. Commissioner Lynn Padgett testified on behalf of NACo at a hearing titled, "Waters of the United States: Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of EPA’s [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] Proposed Rule." Commissioner Padgett’s testimony, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, highlighted the potential impacts of the “waters of the U.S.” proposal on rural counties. The hearing was led by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
Click above to view Commissioner Padgett’s testimony (left) and to hear Commissioner Padgett discuss counties' concerns with the proposed rule (right)
Chairman Roberts stated that the proposed rule has generated widespread concern around the country from farmers, ranchers, states and local communities. “I ...
|Senate Budget Includes Non-Binding Amendment on "Waters of the U.S."|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 25, during the U.S. Senate’s budget resolution debate, the Senate passed a non-binding amendment on the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule by a vote of 59-40. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) offered the amendment to ensure that federal jurisdiction over water features is focused on “water quality,” rather than regulation of roadside and irrigation ditches, stormwater and wastewater systems or water delivery, reuse or reclamation systems.
Five Democrats—Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Angus King (I-Maine) – joined all Senate Republicans in supporting the amendment.
While this amendment is non-binding and would not stop implementation of the proposed rule, it could be a sign of the Senate’s willingness to take up future legislation to withdraw the proposed rule. Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is currently writing a bill to address the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule. Chairman Inhofe has indicated this a priority for his committee and plans to introduce legislation within the next month or two.
Contact: Julie Ufne...
|House “Doc Fix” Bill Would Extend SRS, Health Care Programs|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 26, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that would extend several federal programs important to counties, including Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). House lawmakers passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, by a vote of 392-37. Under the legislation, SRS would be reauthorized for FYs 2014 and 2015 and CHIP, along with other key health care programs, would be extended. H.R. 2 must now be taken up and passed by the Senate, likely after returning from recess on April 13.
Crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), H.R. 2 is a compromise bill that would permanently correct the formula by which physicians are paid under Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans over 65. It replaces the flawed “sustainable growth rate” used to calculate Medicare payments, saving Congress from having to pass another temporary patch, or “doc fix”, as it has 17 times in the past 20 years. While the current “doc fix” expires on March 31, the Center for Medicare and Med...
|Over 100 House Members Sign Letter in Support of Municipal Bonds|... (read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 27, the bipartisan letter to House leadership in support of the tax exemption for municipal bond interest led by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) closed with over 100 members of the U.S. House of 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, which will be sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), urges leadership to support municipal bonds and to oppose proposals that would cap or eliminate the tax exemption for municipal bond interest.
To view a copy of the letter, click here. NACo will update the link once the letter has been finalized and sent to House leadership.
Click here for the list of representatives who signed on, current as of March 26. Please take a moment to thank them for signing on to the letter.
- To view NACo’s various resources on municipal bonds, including a comprehensive research report and a policy brief, click here.
Contact: Mike Belarmino at email@example.com or at 202.942.4254
|Bipartisan House Letter Supporting PILT Closes with 100 Signatures|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 25, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) champions in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to Congressional leadership urging them to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to secure full funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for FY2016 and beyond. The letter, led by Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), was signed by a strongly bipartisan group of 100 members of Congress from across the U.S., including several members of the House Natural Resources and House Appropriations Committees.
A copy of the finished letter and a list of signers are available here.
Sending a strong bipartisan letter in support of PILT is a critical first step to beginning the conversation on securing PILT funding for FY2016 and beyond. PILT provides payments to local governments in 49 states and nearly 1,900 of the nation's 3,069 counties to offset foregone revenue lost to tax-exempt federal lands within their boundaries. Even though counties are not able to collect property taxes on federal land, they must still provide essential services for their r...
|House Members Weigh in to Support SCAAP|(read more)3 days ago | 0
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 FY2016. 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 signatures from 41 House members endorsing 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.).
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 counties for what is a federal responsibility.
Please thank your congressional representatives who signed on to support funding for SCAAP in FY2016. Clic...
|Interior Releases Final Rule on Hydraulic Fracturing on Public Lands|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 20, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued its final rule on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking”, on public lands. The release of the rule follows years of planning and a comment period during which the DOI reviewed over 1.5 million public comments. The rule will go into effect 90 days after it was issued.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting sand, water, and chemicals into underground shale formations to open small cracks and pores in the rock and release the oil and gas trapped inside. Oil and gas production in the United States has grown at an exceedingly fast pace in recent years, partially as a result of hydraulic fracturing and the development of horizontal drilling technologies that improve access to oil and gas deposits.
The new rule requires that oil and gas companies disclose the chemicals they use to conduct hydraulic fracturing operations and regulates the storage of wastewater from fracking operations. States and tribal lands that currently have restrictions on hydraulic fracturing may obtain an exemption if the ...
|Appellate Court to Hear Arguments on Halted Executive Orders on Immigration|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On February 16 Judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas ordered a halt to the president’s executive actions on immigration. These actions, announced by President Obama on November 24, 2014, would expand eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and, separately, would create a similar program for undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Next month, on April 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments to determine whether Judge Hanen’s decision should be reversed.
Judge Hanen’s decision came after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging that the president’s actions were unconstitutional. In putting a halt to the program, Judge Hanen did not rule that the executive orders did in fact violate the Constitution, but that both the DACA expansion and the DAPA program should be halted while the judge reviewed the case. A reversal by the 5th Circuit in favor of the Obama Administration would allow the programs to proceed and accept applications from undocumented immigrants...
|Emergency Management Performance Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 25, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate announced the FY2015 Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program. A total of $350 million is available through the EMPG. Counties use EMPG funds to build and sustain core capabilities across the prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery mission areas. Many local governments use EMPG for emergency management training and necessary equipment.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico each receive .75 percent of the total available EMPG funds and the remaining balance is distributed on a population-share basis. All 50 states and territories are eligible to apply for EMPG; counties may apply for EMPG through their State Administrative Agency (SAA) or the state’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA). Note: new for FY2015, EMPG funding must follow new administrative requirements and cost principles codified in 2 CFR 200 instead of the previous regulations in 44 CFR 13.
Applications for FY2015 EMPG must be submitted no later than April 24, 2015. To access the application, first visit www.grants.gov, and then complete the full application at https...
|Comment Deadline Extended for Federal Flood Risk Management Standard|(read more)3 days ago | 0
On March 18, 2015 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a 30-day extension for the public comment period regarding the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). The original deadline was April 6, 2015 and the new deadline is May 6, 2015.
The new standard was established by Executive Order 13690 on January 30, 2015. It is intended to improve the nation’s resilience to flooding and better prepare the nation for the impacts of climate change. The new standard requires that all future federal investments, including the construction of new structures and the reconstruction of those that have been damaged, meet a certain level of resilience to flooding. It also requires federal agencies to consider current and future risk when taxpayer dollars are used to build or rebuild in floodplains.
FEMA will be accepting comments from stakeholders. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov (search for the notice in docket ID FEMA-2015-0006), or mail them to:
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Regulatory Affairs Division
Office of Chief Counsel
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472-3100
At the NACo Legislative Conference, the NACo board of directors a...
|Mark Your Calendars for the 2015 Western Interstate Region Conference|(read more)3 days ago | 0
Registration has already begun for NACo's 2015 Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference, taking place May 20-22 in Kaua'i County, Hawai'i! Click here to learn more.
The conference will focus on the new political landscape within our nation's capital. There are at least 74 new members of Congress serving in the 114th Congress, which means nearly half of Congress was elected in November 2010 or later. This Congress will be making important long-term decisions and it is critical our counties be at the table for all conversations that impact local governments.
This year's conference will address a broad swath of critical issues for western and eastern counties alike including the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs, active forest management, Endangered Species Act (ESA) policies, tax and entitlement reform, long-term funding for federal transportation programs, deployment of broadband and the Administration's net neutrality policy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) environmental regulations, including "Waters of the U.S."(WOTUS) and much more.
The WIR Conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Resort on Kaua'i. For more information on the hotel, click here. The Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Resor...
|New FEMA Flood Risk Management Standard Listening Sessions and Extended Comment Period|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On March 20, 2015, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the schedule for listening sessions regarding the implementation of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.
The new standard was established by Executive Order 13690 on January 30, 2015, and is intended to improve the nation’s resilience to flooding and better prepare the nation for the impacts of climate change.
The new flood risk standard requires all future federal investments, including the construction of new structures and the reconstruction of those that have been damaged, meet a certain level of resilience to flooding. It also requires federal agencies to consider current and future risk when taxpayer dollars are used to build or rebuild in floodplains.
FEMA has extended the comment period to May 6, 2015, and will be accepting comments from stakeholders on the implementation. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov (search for the notice in docket ID FEMA-2015-0006), or mail them to:
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homelan...
|House and Senate Release Federal Budget Plans|(read more)10 days ago | 0
During the week of March 16, both the House and Senate Budget Committees released their respective budget plans as the federal budgeting process shifted into high gear. On March 17, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) released the House budget resolution, and on March 18, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) released the Senate’s version. The two plans have significant differences, and the budget committees in each chamber have marked the bills and leaders are working to gain support before the measures go to the chambers' floors for votes.
This process, in which Congress begins to lay out its unified budget resolution, follows the release of the president’s FY 2016 budget last month. While the president’s budget outlines the Administration’s policy priorities, Congress ultimately holds the “power of the purse,” or the final say over how programs are funded through the twelve annual appropriations bills that will fund the government beginning October 1, 2015.
Unlike the president’s budget, which is detailed, the congressional budget r...
|Budget Plans Contain Items of Interest to Public Lands Counties|(read more)10 days ago | 0
On March 18, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released a FY 2016 budget proposal which included provisions aimed at addressing a broad array of natural resources issues. Although non-binding, Congressional budget resolutions outline Congressional spending goals and priorities for coming fiscal years and establish spending caps for Congressional appropriators.
The Senate budget resolution, introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) includes several provisions of key interest for public lands and western counties. Enzi’s budget contains language to create a spending-neutral reserve fund to reauthorize funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
PILT’s inclusion within the budget resolution marks the reauthorization of the program as among the priorities for the Senate Budget Committee, providing a mechanism with which to reauthorize PILT in a manner that does not increase the federal deficit. The President’s FY 2016 Budget estimated the PILT program would cost $452 million in that fiscal year.
The Senate budget also includes a spending neutral reserve fund to improve fores...