Washington Watch Blog
|House Members Weigh in to Support Secure Rural Schools Extension |(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
On December 18, a bipartisan group of 35 members of the House sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urging quick action in the 114th Congress to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program and make payments to counties as swiftly as possible. The letter was led by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), and was supported by NACo. To view the letter, click here. The SRS program helps rural counties and school districts supplement local funding for education services, roads, conservation projects, search and rescue missions, fire prevention programs and other county projects.
Along with the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, SRS provides stability for forest counties and school districts impacted by reduced revenue sharing due to dramatically curtailed federal timber receipts. Without full funding for SRS, essential local programs and services will be severely cut or even cancelled.
The 113thCongress adjourned without enacting a reauthorization of the SRS Program, which expired September 30, 2013. However, thanks to the work of Reps. Greg Wa...
|Waters of the U.S. Public Comment Period Closes—Eyes Now on Capitol Hill|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
After months of debate, the public comment period for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposed rule — Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act — officially closed on November 14. The focus now moves to Capitol Hill where lawmakers plan to introduce and debate legislation to stop the proposed rule within the next month.
To date, almost 900,000 comments have been submitted. The agencies are now undertaking a massive review of the submitted comments and plan to release a final rule by April 2015. Since the rule’s publication in April 2014, NACo has expressed concerns about the proposed rule’s impact on county-owned and maintained roadside ditches, flood control channels, drainage conveyances, stormwater systems, green infrastructure construction and maintenance.
On behalf of counties, NACo submitted a 19-page comment letter that emphasized the importance of the local, state and federal partnership in crafting practical rules to ensure clean water without impeding counties’ fundamental infrastructure and public safety functions. To view NACo’s letter, click here.
Within the next month, Congressional leaders plan to i...
|House Approves Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline; Bill Moves to Senate|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
The 114th Congress opened this week and the first major issue both chambers are taking up is the Keystone XL Pipeline.
On January 9, the House passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (H.R. 3), by a vote of 266-153. Click here to see how your member voted. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and 30 cosponsors, and would authorize construction of the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline. To see if your Representative is a co-sponsor, click here. The southern section of the pipeline, which runs from Cushing, Okla. to the Gulf Coast, went operational in January 2014, but construction of the northern section of the project has been delayed due to environmental and siting concerns.
On January 8, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a companion bill (Keystone XL Pipeline Act, S. 1) by a vote of 13-9. The bill was introduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on January 6 and has 59 cosponsors. To see if your Senator is a co-sponsor, click here. Debate on the measure is...
|Showdown over Executive Actions on Immigration Unfolding in Congress|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
As the 114th Congress begins its first session, one of the questions facing lawmakers is whether they can reach agreement on comprehensive immigration reform – something the 113th Congress ultimately failed to do even though the Senate passed a comprehensive bill (S.744). For the time being, however, the focus is on the president’s recently announced executive actions on immigration, which have drawn much criticism from Republican lawmakers and will be at the center of upcoming debate on FY2015 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On November 20, the president announced an expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which temporarily shields certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children from deportation – as well as a new deferred action program to similarly shield certain undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents. Under both programs, individuals must pass criminal background checks and meet several other eligibility criteria. Those who qualify for the program receive work authorization, but are not given any legal immigration status or path to citizenship and...
|Congress Renews Efforts to Fix the Highway Trust Fund; NACo Members asked to Weigh in|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
On January 6, the 114th Congress was sworn in and with the new Congress came a renewed interest to address the future of the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund, which collects federal gas tax revenue to pay for highway and transit programs, will become insolvent by the end of May 2015 unless Congress acts.
In the Senate, a number of Republican chairmen have recently commented on the potential to increase the federal gas tax as a means to shore up the trust fund. Among the group of Senate Republicans considering a gas tax increase is Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee has jurisdiction over revenue measures, and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), whose committee is responsible for the highway title of the next surface transportation law that will replace the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
While there appears to be a new openness to considering a gas tax increase in the Senate, a different message was delivered by the Republicans in the House whe...
|Action on U.S. Department of Homeland Security Appropriations|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
On January 9, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced H.R. 240, the appropriations bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the remainder of FY2015. The DHS funding bill was the only spending bill that was funded in the continuing resolution; all other spending bills were included in the year-end CROmnibus. Funding for DHS is set to expire February 27, 2015 which allows for roughly six weeks of congressional discussion and debate.
The bill would authorize $39.7 billion in spending which is an increase of $400 million from FY2014 enacted levels. State and local programs would be funded at a total of $1.5 billion, which is level with FY2014 enacted amounts. In particular, Homeland security programs of interest to counties are funded at the following levels:
- Emergency Management Performance Grant: $350 million, level with FY2014
- Pre-Disaster Mitigation: $25 million, level with FY2014
- Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI): $600 million, level with FY2014
- State Homeland Security Grant: $467 million, level with FY2014
- Assistance to Firefighters: $680 million (1/2 for SAFER staffing), level with FY2014
Additionally, the DHS appropriations bill includes language prohibiting that FY15 funds be used to implement the National Preparedness Gran...
|Department of Labor Delays Release of WIOA Implementation Regulations until Spring|2 weeks ago | 0
On January 5, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the release
of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations would be
delayed until spring 2015, versus January 18, 2015, as stipulated in the Act. President
Obama signed WIOA into law on July 22, 2014, reauthorizing federal employment and
workforce training programs. NACo successfully lobbied to maintain local
authority in the federal workforce system. WIOA also reduces the number of
mandatory partners on local workforce boards, which had been an issue for some
local board operation and business participation.
Many of the provisions of WIOA are in effect starting July
1, 2015. NACo continues to work with DOL to keep NACo members informed on the
WIOA implementation process and will use some new grant funding to assess local
government needs related to the workforce legislation implementation.
Click here to view
the DOL notification and click here
to view the DOL resource page on WIOA. To access NACo resources on WIOA
Implementation click here.
Contact: Daria Daniel at email@example.com
|GSE’s begin Funding the National Housing Trust Fund|(read more)2 weeks ago | 0
In December, Mel Watt, Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that FHFA had lifted the suspension on Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund. The NHTF was established by Congress as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, to provide resources for the expansion of affordable housing for the lowest income and most vulnerable populations in the U.S. and to boost efforts to end homelessness and housing poverty. NACo supported the establishment of NHTF.
The law required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to pay 4.2 basis points of their annual volume of business to the NHTF (65 percent) and Capital Management Fund (35 percent). The requirement was suspended when the GSEs were taken into conservatorship by the federal government in September of 2008, the height of the housing crisis. The trust fund will be a block grant to states, at least 90 percent of which must be used for the preservation, ...
|GSEs Lower Homebuyer Down Payments|2 weeks ago | 0
Mel Watt, Director
of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
announced that Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) – Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac would reduce first time homebuyer down payments to as little as three
percent of the home purchased price. The FHFA regulates GSEs
Fannie and Freddie Mac that guarantee mortgages and will be offering the new
mortgage programs. Watt said this would again make mortgages more available to people
who have strong credit history but lack the standard 20 percent down payment.
NACo supports increasing home-buying opportunities for families, so long as
these options do not lead to a repeat of the mortgage foreclosure crisis due to
increased defaults. Many counties are still recovering from the mortgage
foreclosure crisis. FHFA says there are new safeguards in place including
underwriting restrictions, private mortgage insurance requirements, homebuyer
counseling, and performance monitoring loans.
Contact: Daria Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org
|USDA Announces Rural Development Community Connect Webinars|... (read more)2 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced two webinars on the Community Connect grant program which are to take place on Tuesday, January 15, and Wednesday, January 21 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. (EST). The webinars will focus on educating stakeholders on updates to the FY2015 Community-Oriented Connectivity Grant Program, and highlight the major eligibility and regulatory requirements of the program, as well as guidance for successfully submitting grant applications.The Community Connect program serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it could make a large impact in the quality of life for citizens. Counties are eligible to apply for Community Connect grants. The deadline for FY2015 applications is February 17, 2015. To apply, click here.
To reserve your space for the webinar please contact Gayle Buckner or Deborah Herndon at USDA by phone at (202) 720-0800, or by email at email@example.com or Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information on the Community Connect Grant Program, click here. For question on the webinars, please contact the USDA Rural Utility Service (RUS) at email@example.com.
Contact: Yejin Jang at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4239
|NACo's Interim Resolutions Process is Now Open |(read more)3 weeks ago | 0
The 2015 NACo Interim Resolutions Process has Begun!
Don’t forget to Register for the NACo Legislative Conference
In preparation for the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2015 Legislative Conference, February 21-25 in Washington, D.C., we invite NACo members to submit interim policy resolutions!
The NACo resolutions process provides members with the ability to participate in national policy decisions affecting county governments. During the Legislative Conference, NACo's ten policy committees and Board of Directors consider legislative and policy resolutions that will be active until the NACo Annual Conference in July 2015.
The American County Platform and the association's policy resolutions are carefully considered statements of the needs and interests of county governments throughout the nation. These policy statements serve as a guide for NACo members and staff to advance the association's federal policy agenda before the White House, Congress and federal agencies. Please also refer to the comprehensive overview of NACo's policy resolution process here.
Please work with the appropriate steering committee staff liaison to adhere to the following guidelines:
|HOW TO SUBMIT AND FORMAT RESOLUTIONS|
All resolutions and pla...
|Bi-Partisan Senate Letter Supporting Extension of PILT and SRS Funding Delivered to Leaders|(read more)2 months ago | 0
On November 24, Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling on them to ensure that funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) program is extended. They were joined by a bi-partisan group of thirty-two senators representing states from every region of the country. NACo issued a national action alert on November 19, calling on county officials to encourage their senators to sign the Udall-Crapo letter.
Without new congressional action, counties will have received their last authorized SRS payment in April and their last fully funded, mandatory PILT payment in June.
Why Do PILT and SRS Matter to Counties?
PILT: 62 percent of counties have federal land within their boundaries. Even though they are not able to collect property taxes on federal land, county governments must still provide essential services for their residents and those who visit these public lands each year. Such services include road and bridge maintenance, law enforcement, search and rescue, emer...
|NACo Releases 2014 U.S. Election Analysis |(read more)2 months ago | 0
The National Association of Counties (NACo) Releases 2014 U.S. Election Insight Analysis
Details How the Election Could Impact County Priorities
Click here to view the presentation
The 2014 midterm elections have shifted the political balance in Washington, and despite a handful of unresolved races still pending, Republicans are poised to control both chambers of Congress in 2015. NACo has broken down the election results and provided analysis
to prepare county officials for the lame duck period and beyond.
In the coming weeks, Congress could tackle a number of issues that would impact counties including FY 2015 appropriations, Marketplace Fairness Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act, tax extenders, and funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs.
Also learn how the new Congress could address important issues like tax and entitlement reform, transportation funding and reauthorization, and regulatory issues including the “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule.
The NACo Analysis Examines:
- How County Federal Legislative and Policy Priorities Could be Impacted by the Elections
- U.S. Senate Elections
|NACo Issues Action Alert on PILT |(read more)3 months ago | 0
Update on the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program:
As Congress returns after the elections, counties are calling on Congress to immediately address PILT funding during the lame duck session. Today, the National Association of Counties (NACo) issued a press statement calling on Congress to fund PILT.
Recap of Current Status
- FY 2015 Appropriations: With the Current Continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government set to expire mid-December, appropriators in both chambers are working on a path forward. It is unclear at this point whether they will be able to negotiate and pass a final FY 2015 appropriations package with an omnibus appropriations measure (which combines all or several appropriations bills into one package) or whether they will have to pass another Continuing Resolution (at current funding levels), or a combination of the two. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies included a one year extension of mandatory, full funding for PILT when it marked up its FY 2015 bill. The Senate subcommittee has not marked up its bill, but did release ...
|Request for Proposals: 2015 Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup Grants |3 months ago | 0
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced
a new request for proposals for FY 2015 Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup
grants. These grants may be used to address sites contaminated by petroleum and
hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants (including hazardous
substances co-mingled with petroleum). Opportunities for funding include
Brownfields Assessment Grants (each funded up to $200,000 over three years;
Assessment Coalitions are funded up to $600,000 over three years) and
Brownfields Cleanup Grants (each funded up to $200,000 over three years). The proposal submission deadline is December
19, 2014. For more information, click here.
Julie Ufner at email@example.com or 202.942.4269