Washington Watch Blog
|NACo Alert: Comment Period for Waters of the U.S. Extended |(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
Comment Period for Proposed "Waters of the U.S." Rule Extended until November 14
Counties are encouraged to submit comments
On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly released a new proposed rule – Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act – that would amend the definition of "Waters of the U.S." and expand the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction. The comment period deadline for the proposed rule has now been extended from October 20, 2014 until November 14, 2014 to allow the public to comment on a soon-to-be released document which provides the scientific basis for the proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule.
The document—Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters:A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence—has been under review by EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) but has not been finalized. The agencies have been under fire for releasing the proposed rule without including the connectivity report, which provides their scientific basis for the proposed rule change. So while the agencies did extend the comment period into November, it...
|NACo’s Leadership Fly-In brings Association’s Strategy into Focus|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On September 10-12, NACo’s 2014 Leadership Strategic Planning Fly-In brought the chairs of NACo’s policy steering committees to Washington D.C. to discuss the association’s strategic vision and priorities. Also joining the Fly-In were the chairs of NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) and Rural Action Caucus (RAC), the President of the Western Interstate Region (WIR), and NACo’s executive officers and staff.
NACo President Riki Hokama, Council Member, Maui County, Hawaii, led participants in roundtable discussions on topics including “strategies for achieving legislative and policy goals” and “growth and engagement of steering committees and caucuses.” President Hokama also shared his vision for the remainder of his term as president, focusing on transportation and infrastructure – his presidential initiative.
Participants in the Fly-In also took to Capitol Hill and the agencies to promote the interests of county governments across America, including the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and transportation reauthorization. Meetings were held with members of Congress, key committee staff, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of State and Local Finance and the U.S. Department of Healt...
|House Set to Vote on CR to Extend FY 2014 Funding Levels until December|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On September 9, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government at FY 2014 levels through December 11, 2014. The CR would prevent a repeat of last year’s government shutdown, which would otherwise occur at the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1, since Congress has not passed any FY 2015 bills. The House has delayed a vote on the CR to further consider adding language related to U.S military action against terrorist groups abroad, but a vote now seems to be set for Wednesday, September 17.
While the CR is mostly “clean,” it would include some additional provisions including an extension of the Export-Import Bank authorization through June 2015, funding to help fight the Ebola crisis in Africa and an extension of the moratorium on state and local government taxing of internet sales (Internet Tax Freedom Act). The CR would also extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant (TANF), a $16 billion program set to expire on September 30, until December 11 of this yea...
|House Passes WOTUS Overreach Measure|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On September 9, the House of Representatives successfully passed the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 5078) by a vote of 262-152. H.R. 5078, which passed with 227 Republican and 35 Democratic votes, would prevent the Administration's proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule from moving forward. Additionally, the measure 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 be required to document the interactions, including those areas where consensus was reached – or not reached – and to submit a final report to Congress.
The House-passed measure, which was threatened with a potential veto in a statement released by the White House before the vote, now faces an uncertain future in the Senate. NACo members should contact their U.S. Senators and urge them to support H.R. 5078, or any bill that delays the rule-making process to allow for the resolution of issues with the proposed rule.
The proposed rule that prompted the introduction of H.R. 5078—Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean W...
|Potential Action on MITFA after November Elections|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
The Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act (MITFA) (S. 2609), which would combine two important county priorities, currently stands ready for floor action in the Senate. MITFA, introduced in mid-July by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), would combine the Marketplace Fairness Act, which grants state and local governments the ability to enforce existing sales tax laws on remote sales, with a temporary extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), a law that prohibits state and local governments from taxing Internet access and is set to expire November 1, 2014. Although an extension of this prohibition is not ideal for county governments, NACo prefers a temporary extension of ITFA to permanent extensions proposed in other bills.
Despite MITFA’s readiness for floor consideration, it is unlikely that Senators, many of whom face time-consuming reelection battles, will tackle this complex issue before the upcoming midterm elections in November, especially since much work remains in the annual appropriations process. The more likely outcome is a short-term extension of ITFA to keep the law from lapsing when it expires in November, followed by potential considerat...
|U.S. DOT Announces 2014 TIGER Grant Awards|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On September 12, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $600 million in grant awards through the 2014 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. This round of awards will support 72 transportation projects, including $16 million for a Bus Rapid Transit project in Washoe County, Nev.; $14.8 million for a port project in Essex County, N.J.; $17.9 million for rural roadway improvements in Claiborne, Franklin and Jefferson Counties in Miss.; and $10 million for an interchange in Anoka County, Minn. Overall, county governments are direct recipients of 9 awards totaling $93.7 million in investment and are involved as partners on many more of the projects. For a full list of project awards, click here.
The TIGER program was originally created in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Since 2009, the program has provided more than $4.1 billion to transportation projects of national or regional significance. This latest round of funding continues to highlight the high level of demand for the program and the need for state and local transportation investments, with DOT r...
|EDA Announces FY 2014 Regional Innovation Grants Program|6 weeks ago | 0
U.S. Department of Commerce’s, Economic Development Administration (EDA) has announced
funding for the FY 2014 Regional Innovation Grants Program. This program,
for which county governments are eligible, will enable regions across the
country to develop regional innovation strategies and industry clusters, to
develop globally competitive regions. The grant funding is part of EDA’s
existing i6 Challenge and Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program.
Under this program, EDA is soliciting applications for three separate
- FY 2014 i6 Challenge;
- Science and Research Park Development Grants
- Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds.
Applicants may, but are not required to, submit proposals for more than one
competition under the RIS Program. Applications are due by November 3, 2014.
Click here for
information and program eligibility.
Daria Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org or
|Financial Regulators Adopt New Federal Banking Rules that Could Impact Counties|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On September 3, federal regulators (Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) voted to adopt new banking rules which, in response to the 2008 financial crisis, imposed new liquidity standards on banks that may impact state and local borrowing. Set to take effect January 1, 2016, the rules would require banks with at least $250 billion in assets to meet new liquidity requirements in an effort to ensure that large banks are capable of funding their operations for 30 days during times of fiscal stress. Under the rule, banks that meet the asset threshold must maintain designated levels of “high-quality liquid assets” (HQLA), i.e., assets that can be easily converted to cash.
NACo, along with other state and local government association, has urged regulators since the rule was first proposed in November 2013 to classify municipal securities as HQLA. By not classifying municipal securities as such, the rules would make them less appealing to banks, making it less likely for banks to underwrite the securities and ultimately increasing borrowing costs for sta...
|FCC Releases Order on Text-to-911 |(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
On August 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order that requires commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) providers (i.e. cell phone providers) and other providers of interconnected text messaging applications (e.g. the popular messaging application WhatsApp), collectively referred to as “covered text providers,” to be capable of supporting text-to-911 by December 31, 2014. Covered text providers have until June 30, 2015 to begin delivering 911 text messages to public safety answering points (PSAPs) that have submitted a “valid PSAP request” for text-to-911 service on or before December 31, 2014.
County PSAPs that are technically ready to receive 911 text messages must certify in their valid PSAP request that:
- the PSAP is technically ready to receive 911 messages;
- the appropriate local or state 911 service governing authority has authorize the PSAP to accept text messages and, by extension, the text provider to provide text-to-911 messages; and
- the PSAP has notified the text provider that it is both technically ready and authorized to receive text-to-911 messages.
County PSAPs can submit their valid PSAP request through a central FCC database that will be developed in the coming months. County P...
|DATA Act Implementation Underway to Standardize Federal Financial Data |(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which was enacted in early 2014, builds on the Federal Funding and Transparency Act (FFATA), the primary motivation behind www.USASpending.gov, which was created to increase transparency of federal spending by posting award data online. The DATA Act makes changes to FFATA by requiring the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the administrator of the General Services Administration and federal agency heads, to develop government-wide financial data standards for all federal funds. This is important to counties because both federal agencies and all recipients of federal funds would be required to adhere to the new standards.
In order to improve the usability, transparency and accountability of financial and performance information, the legislation directs that the standards must incorporate widely accepted existing standards, must be computer-readable and must include government-wide universal award identifiers so that individual awards can be tracked through its entire spending cycle. What this ultimately means for counties remains to be determined, but with specific timelines within which to achieve certain goals h...
|Coast Guard Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Increasing OPA Liability Limits|(read more)6 weeks ago | 0
In the August 19 edition of the Federal Register, the Coast Guard published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would increase the liability limits for vessels, deepwater ports, and onshore facilities that spill oil in jurisdictional waters. The cap would be raised 15.6 percent for onshore facilities and 8.2 percent for offshore and other structures. This increases liability under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, as amended (OPA 90) from $350 million to $404.6 million. The liability caps apply to economic damages in accidental spills. The company is responsible for all costs associated with clean up. Comments are due by October 20, 2014.
To submit comments, use one of the following methods and reference Docket No. USCG-2013-1006 in your comments:
- Online: http://www.regulations.gov.
- Fax: 202-493-2251.
- Mail: Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
- Hand delivery: Same as mail address above, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is 202-366-9329.
To view the proposed ru...
|NACo Joins Congressional Members in Capitol Hill Press Conference on the Importance of Investing in Water Infrastructure | (read more)6 weeks ago | 0 Picture (left) from left to right: Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.);Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio); Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City of San Diego; Karen Pallansch, CEO, Alexandria Renew Enterprises and President, National Association of Clean Water Agencies; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and NACo President Riki Hokama. Picture (right): NACo President Riki Hokama stresses the critical role counties play in water infrastructure. Photo Credit: Max Taylor Photography
On September 10, NACo President Riki Hokama (council member, Maui County, Hawaii) participated in a bipartisan press conference on Capitol Hill urging renewed investment in our nation’s water infrastructure.
President Hokama stressed the critical role of county governments in infrastructure. Not only do counties own the greatest share of America’s roads and bridges, but they also own a wide variety of public infrastructure, including drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. In recent years, local governments and utilities have shouldered an increased financial burden to maintain and expand these systems.
Hokama said, “Investment in water infrastructure creates jobs, drives economic recovery and fosters counties’ ability to be resilient an...
|Action Needed: Water of the U.S. Proposed Legislation |(read more)7 weeks ago | 0
Urge Your U.S. House Members to Vote "YES" TODAY
On the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Act of 2014, H.R. 5078
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this afternoon on the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014, H.R. 5078. Please urge your House Member to vote "yes" on the measure.
H.R. 5078 would prevent the Administration’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule from moving forward. Additionally, it 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 be required to document the interactions, including those areas where consensus was reached and not reached, and submit the final report to Congress.
NACo asks counties to urge your member to vote “yes” on H.R. 5078.
Background Information and Why This Issue Matters to Counties
The proposed rule that prompted the introduction of H.R. 5078—Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act— was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Ag...
|NACo's Fall Grassroots Webinar: The Tools You Need for Effective Advocacy in the Final Weeks of the 113th Congress | ... (read more)2 months ago | 0
NACo's Fall Grassroots Webinar:
The Tools You Need for Effective Advocacy
in the Final Weeks of the 113th Congress
Tuesday, September 9 at 4:00-5:00PM EDT
When members of Congress return in early September from their annual summer recess, the 113th Congress will enter its "home stretch." This is a crucial time for county officials to engage their members of Congress on issues important to counties across America.
NACo's legislative staff will host a webinar on Tuesday, September 9 at 4:00PM EDT to provide county leaders with the most up-to-date information on counties' pending federal legislative priorities, including:
- The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule
- The Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs
- Transportation reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund
- Online sales tax legislation / Marketplace Fairness Act
- Tax-exempt municipal bonds
We hope you will join this webinar to get the knowledge and tools you need to advocate effectively on behalf of your county with members of Congress and the Administration at this critical juncture.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Hadi Sedigh at email@example.com or 202.942.4213
|Action Needed: Bipartisan Legislation to Improve ESA Introduced |(read more)2 months ago | 0
Bipartisan Legislation to Improve ESA Introduced
Co-Sponsors Urgently Needed
Counties would benefit from recently introduced bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would reduce the regulatory and financial burden imposed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On July 31, right before Congress left for the August recess, Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced S. 2729, the "Private Landowner Protection Act," which closely matches H.R. 4319, the "Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2014," introduced by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) in the House earlier this year.
NACo fully supports both bills, which would require the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the ESA—the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services)—to take into account the full economic impact of proposed "critical habitat" designations. When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under ESA, large swaths of land may be deemed as essential to the species' conservation. Such lands require special management and conservation, which can have enormous economic impacts on county governments and private landowners.
Both pieces of legislation would require the Services to perform cumulative and quantitative economic analysis prior to the critical habitat designation that would measure the potential effects on all affected stakeholders, not just ...