Washington Watch Blog
|NACo Update on "Waters of the U.S." |(read more)9 days ago | 0
Proposed "Waters of the U.S." Rule Open for Comment until October 20
Counties are encouraged to submit comments during the August recess
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 proposed rule, published in the Federal Register, is open for public comment for 181 days, until October 20, 2014. Counties are encouraged to submit comments to the agencies.
The proposed rule would amend the current definition of "Waters of the U.S." in the Clean Water Act (CWA), which has been in place for over 25 years, and would expand the range of waters (and their conveyances) that fall under federal regulation. Changes in the definition of "Waters of the U.S." will impact many county operations and ...
|NACo Releases August Advocacy Toolkit |... (read more)10 days ago | 0
The toolkit provides updates on important issues impacting counties
August Advocacy Toolkit
Between now and the end of the year, federal lawmakers will be back in their home districts and states more days than they are in Washington. These recess periods, particularly the one occurring during the month of August, provide county leaders with the opportunity to talk to members of Congress on federal legislative and regulatory issues that impact counties.
To assist you in making the most of this opportunity, NACo has prepared a toolkit that provides updates on the policy issues most important to counties across America, as well as helpful tips for communicating with members of Congress and the media. If you do not already have plans to meet with your Senators and Representative(s) while they are home, we encourage you to reach out to their offices and request meetings!
Issues addressed in the toolkit include:
- Highway Trust Fund and Surface Transportation Reauthorization
- Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act
- Tax-Exempt Status of Municipal Bonds
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
- Secure Rural Schools (SRS)
- Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule
|Senate Fails to Pass Border Funding Bill; House May Act Before Recess|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 31, the Senate’s $3.6 billion package (S. 2648) of supplemental funding to address the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border and Western wildfires failed when Senators could not come to agreement on how to proceed with consideration of the bill. The Senate bill would provide $2.73 billion for unaccompanied migrant children, $615 million for wildfire suppression and also $225 million to accelerate production of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Of interest to NACo members, the Senate supplemental includes language modeled after the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013 (S. 1876), which would provide a long-term funding solution for wildfire suppression.
Meanwhile, the House introduced their $659 million supplemental funding bill (H.R. 5230) on July 29. The measure would provide $405 million for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct border security and law enforcement activities, $22 million to accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants and $35 million for the National Guard border efforts. The measure would also provide $197 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to una...
|$16.3 Billion Veterans Affairs Overhaul Deal Reached|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 28, House and Senate negotiators agreed to an overhaul package, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230), that would reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including changes that would allow veterans to seek private care in their communities.
H.R. 3230 was sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, respectively. The House formally passed the legislation on July 30, and the Senate followed suit the following day. The bill is expected to be signed by the President on August 7.
$10 billion of the $16.3 billion agreement would be allocated to allow veterans to receive care from non-VA providers—private physicians, community health centers, U.S. Department of Defense health care facilities, or Indian Health Centers—if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or if VA doctors cannot see them within 30 days. This authority would expire after three years and payment would generally be limited to Medicare rates, with exceptions for veterans l...
|House Bill to Stop “Waters of the U.S.” Rulemaking Moves Forward|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 16, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, H.R. 5078, by a voice vote.
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.
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 Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on April 21. The proposed rule amends the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and expands the range of waters (and their conveyances) that would fall under federal regulatory authority. The proposed rule would impact county-owned and maintained roads and roadside ditches, flood control channels, drainage c...
|Senate Introduces Bill that Combines the Marketplace Fairness Act and Internet Tax Freedom Act |(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 15, Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act (MITFA). The bill (S. 2609) would combine two key issues important to counties:
- The Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) as passed by the Senate in 2013, with a few minor technical corrections. MFA, which passed with the support of NACo, allows state and local governments to enforce existing sales taxes on remote sellers.
- A ten-year extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). ITFA prohibits counties from collecting a tax on Internet access (typically a subscription service) until November 1, 2014. While a 10-year extension is not ideal for counties, NACo favors a temporary extension of ITFA in lieu of permanent measures like the Permanent ITFA (H.R. 3086) that passed in the House on July 14, 2014.
MITFA has garnered bipartisan support, with 14 Senators (1...
|President Signs Workforce Bill into Law, Vice President Releases Review of Federal Training Programs|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 22, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (PL 113-128) into law. WIOA updates the rules governing federal employment and training programs. It maintains local governance authority while adding needed flexibility for training opportunities to meet the needs of businesses and jobseekers. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation. The previous workforce legislation expired in 2003.
The Act takes effect on July 1, 2015, the first full program year after enactment, unless otherwise noted. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will issue further guidance on the implementation and proposed regulations on WIOA. DOL must publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking no later than January 18, 2015 (180 days after enactment). DOL will be reaching out to stakeholders, including NACo, to receive input on this process. Click here to view more information about WIOA implementation dates. Click here for DOL Training and Employment Notice No.05-14 about WIOA resources.
Meanwhile, on July 22, Vice President Biden released his Ready to Work: New Actions to Expand Job-Driven Training and Broaden the Pathway to the Middle ...
|Update on Wildfire Mitigation and Suppression Bills |(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On June 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $39 billion Homeland Security spending bill for FY 2015. The bill includes an amended version of the Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013 (S. 1396/H.R. 3333) that would provide state and local governments with mitigation funds following a fire disaster during FY 2015. Funds would be drawn from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. Unlike hurricane, tornado and flood disasters, wildfires are not eligible for mitigation funds following a disaster; these other disasters typically receive assistance from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program post-disaster.
Wildfire suppression bills have also been introduced in both chambers. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013 (WDFA) (S. 1875/H.R. 3992) would relieve the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior from drawing from other accounts within their budgets to fund wildfire suppression. Specifically, the WDFA would provide a long-term funding mechanism for wildfire suppression by creating an account similar to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. The WDFA would amend the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of ...
|Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Draft Labor-HHS-Ed Bill, Path forward Uncertain|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 24, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee released a draft FY 2015 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill and an accompanying draft report. The bill would fund the U.S Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Education.
While no specific date for committee action on the draft has been made public, the bill serves as a useful marker for ascertaining the Senate’s starting negotiating position when a likely omnibus appropriations measure is crafted in the coming months.
Among the NACo priories addressed in the draft bill are:
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
Overall, the bill would provide $2.624 billion for grants to states to fund employment and training activities for adults, youth and dislocated workers. This would include:
· $776.7 million for adult employment and training activities, which is a $10 million increase over the current FY 2014 level
· $831.8 million for youth activities, an $11 million increase over current funding
· $1.016 billion for dislocated workers employment and training activities, a $15 million increase over the FY 2014 level
The measure retains language that would allow local workforce boards to transfer up to 30 percent of funds between ad...
|Federal Soda Tax Bill Introduced|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 30, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced, with co-sponsors Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act), which would impose an excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages and generate revenue for the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). The SWEET ACT would amend the IRS code and impose a 1 percent tax per teaspoon of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other caloric sweetener.This would equate to approximately a dime per can of soda or 20 cents for a 20-ounce soft drink—with all tax revenue directed to the PPHF. It is estimated that the revenue from this tax could be as much as $10 billion a year.
While NACo does not hold a position on soda taxes, NACo fully supports protecting the PPHF. Established by the Affordable Care Act, the PPHF is a mandatory, dedicated investment of $14.5 billion over the next 10 years in programs that prevent disease at the community level. It supports the core functions of 1,947 county-based public health departments that protect communitie...
|Legislation Introduced to Ensure Full Economic Impact of Proposed Critical Habitat Designations |(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 31, Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced the “Private Landowner Protection Act”. This bipartisan legislation would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take the full economic impact of proposed critical habitat designations into account. NACo supports such legislation that would require the USFWS to perform appropriate economic analysis, prior to the designation of critical habitat, that would measure the effects of such a designation on all affected stakeholders – not just on federal agencies – and would include effects on possible uses of land and property values, employment and revenues available for state and local governments.
Last year, USFWS issued a final rule that would implement an “incremental approach” to analyzing the economic impact of critical habitat designations versus a “quantitative analysis.” This approach would require USFWS to only consider the cost to the government of consulting on critical habitat, instead of considering costs to all stakeholders. The senators’ bill would implement a comprehensive approach, requiring consideration of the costs to agriculture producers, businesses, county and city governments and other l...
|SEC Adopts Money Market Fund Rules|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
On July 23, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted 3-2 to approve the final rule that stemmed from its 2013 proposal to institute reforms to money market mutual funds (MMMFs). The final rule contains several provisions that were included in the 2013 proposal – which NACo and a number of other state and local government associations opposed and commented on (click here for a copy of one of the coalition letters that NACo signed on to). Among the provisions adopted is the requirement that institutional municipal funds maintain a floating net asset value (NAV) instead of a stable NAV, a fundamental change from what existed previously. This change is expected to increase the cost of government cash management as local governments adjust to new accounting systems from those currently based on a stable NAV.
Further, the change to a floating NAV will also affect governments as investors, as many state and local governments are subject to policies and legal restrictions that only permit them to invest in funds that do not fluctuate in value. As a result, state and local...
|U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Holds Listening Sessions on WRRDA Implementation|3 weeks ago | 0
On June 10, 2014, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014
113-121) was signed into law. WRRDA establishes
new laws governing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) water resources
programs and projects. In coordination with the Secretary of the Army,
the Corps will prepare guidance establishing policies and procedures to
implement this legislation.
To ensure the public has adequate
opportunity for input, the Corps has scheduled four listening sessions on
specific topics. The listening sessions offer
a strong opportunity for counties to provide input on how the Corps implements
WRRDA in the field.
The schedule and topics are as
13, 2014—Session I
& Backlog Prevention
Development and Delivery (Including Planning)
27, 2014—Session II
Financing - Contributions
Financing - Title V
10, 2014—Session III
24, 2014—Session IV
Supply and Reservoirs
More specific details about the
listening session topics can be found here.
Contact: Julie Ufner at firstname.lastname@example.org or
|EPA Begins Public Hearings for Climate Change Proposed Rule|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked off their public hearing schedule for the Administration’s Clean Power Plan proposed rule this week in Washington, D.C. Public hearings were also held in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh and allowed members of the public to provide their views on the plan. EPA stated that 1,600 people were scheduled to speak and that the agency has received over 300,000 written comments on the proposal.
The Clean Power Plan was published in the Federal Register on June 18, 2014 and is open for public comment until October 16, 2014. The plan proposes guidelines to states in developing plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Under the plan, states would have a unique state-specific emissions reduction target and the state would be given a wide range of options to meet these standards.
The proposed rule states, under Executive Order 13132, that it may have Federalism implications for state governments, because it may impose “substantial direct compliance costs on state or local governments, and the federal government will not provide the funds necessary to pay those costs.” The proposal is ...
|EPA Proposes Changes to Landfill Emission Standards|(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule earlier this month to update emission reduction standards from municipal solid waste landfills (MSW). This proposed rule will apply to solid waste landfills that start construction, reconstruction or undertake modifications after July 17, 2014. The rule will also apply to other landfill issues, including the definition of landfill gas. The rule is expected to be finalized by January 2015.
Emission standards for landfills have been on the books since 1996. However, even though a review of the standards is required under the Clean Air Act every eight years, this is the first time EPA has undertaken a review of the standards. In 2011, the Environmental Defense Fund filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s failure to review the standards. The EPA settled out of court under a consent decree and agreed to revisit the current set of standards.
Under current standards, an MSW landfill that has a design capacity of 2.5 million megagrams (Mg) and 2.5 million cubic meters must install and set up a gas collection control system within 30 months after landfill gas emi...