Washington Watch Blog
|Bi-Partisan Senate Letter Supporting Extension of PILT and SRS Funding Delivered to Leaders|(read more)2 days 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 weeks 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)2 weeks 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 |4 weeks 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4269
|HUD Launches $1 Billion National Disaster Resilience Competition|4 weeks ago | 0
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which makes $1 billion available to communities that have been
struck by natural disasters in recent years. Funding for the competition comes
from the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery (CDBG-DR)
appropriations provided by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of
2013. The competition will promote risk assessment and planning and will
fund the implementation of innovative resilience projects to better prepare
communities for future storms and other extreme events. There are 67 eligible
applicants for the $1 billion. All states with counties that experienced a
Presidentially Declared Major Disaster in 2011, 2012 or 2013 will be eligible
to apply. A list of eligible grantees can be found here.
The National Disaster Resilience Competition will be a year-long
competition structured in two phases: (1) risk assessment and planning; and (2)
design and implementation. Applications
are due by March 16, 2015.
Contact: Daria Daniel at email@example.com or 202.942.4212
To view a fact sheet about the
competition, click here.
|White House Launches My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
In February 2014, President Obama launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative (MBK) to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The recently launched MBK Communities Challenge encourages communities (cities, counties, and tribal nations) to implement a coherent “cradle-to-college-and-career strategy” to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find employment or go to college and work their way into the middle class. The MBK Initiative is not a new federal program, but rather a call-to-action, and a targeted effort to convene leaders, identify effective strategies, and to work together to accomplish our shared goal of improving life outcomes for young people. Communities would need to accept at least two of the six goals outlined by the White House:
- Ensuring all children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally ready
- Ensuring all children read at grade level by third grade
- Ensuring all youth graduate from high school
- Ensuring all youth complete post-secondary education or training
- Ensuring all youth out of school are employed
- Ensuring all you...
|Draft EPA Ozone Rule on Track for Release in December|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
In early October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its draft rule on ozone to the White House for review. The EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to release the new rule by December 1, 2014. EPA has already completed a science assessment and, it is anticipated, the agency will propose a tightening of current ozone standards.
The ozone standard was last set in 2008 at 75 parts per billion. Currently, over 200 counties are considered in non-attainment under the ozone standard. Counties in non-attainment areas have indicated challenges with attracting and maintaining businesses and industries, since localities must have enforceable standards to reduce pollution within their borders. In some cases, businesses have bypassed non-attainment counties for neighboring attainment areas.
Under the National Air Ambient Quality Standards (NAAQS), a federal law governing air pollution, the agency is required to regulate six principle pollutants—ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particle pollution and sulfur dioxide. Under NAAQS, the current standard threshold for each pollutant must be reassessed every five years. The December ozone proposal is anticipated to propose an ozone decrease to below 70 ppb le...
|EPA Panel Releases Review on “Waters of the U.S.” Connectivity Report|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On October 17, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) Panel released their review of EPA’s draft report on the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence (September 2013 External Review Draft.) The report is relevant for counties who own and maintain public safety infrastructure such as roads and roadside ditches, drainage, stormwater and other types of ditch infrastructure. The proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule defines, for the first time, a tributary as “rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, impoundments, canals, and ditches…” As such, all tributaries are considered “waters of the U.S.” and must be federally regulated under the proposed rule.
The 100+ page scientific review agrees with EPA’s assessment that streams and wetlands are connected with larger water bodies such as rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans, however, also suggests the “connections should be considered in terms of a connectivity gradient.” The recommendations include defining connectivity based on the “frequency, duration, magnitude, predictability, and consequences of those connections.” However, the report also notes that streams that show low connection...
|NACo Urges Congressional Action on the Highway Trust Fund; Releases Transportation Advocacy Toolkit|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
The Highway Trust Fund, which collects revenue from the federal gasoline tax has faced growing shortfalls since 2008 and unless Congress acts, will become insolvent at the end of May. NACo has been a major voice on the need for a multi-year reauthorization of the current federal surface transportation law – Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) – because counties own 45 percent of the nation’s roads and nearly 40 percent of the nation’s bridges, and are involved with about a third of the nation’s transit systems. However, in order to reauthorize MAP-21 and provide long-term certainty for federal highway and transit programs, Congress must fix the trust fund.
NACo has developed a transportation advocacy toolkitto help counties advocate for a trust fund fix. The toolkit features various resources, including talking points, sample tweets, draft letters and guidance for submitting Op-Eds to local newspapers. As majority owners of the nation’s transportation system, we hope that counties will utilize this resource and join in NACo’s advocacy efforts, because the voice of local elected official...
|Potential Action on Marketplace Fairness After Elections|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
Although many eyes are focused on the midterm elections next week and their potential outcomes, many others in and around Washington, D.C. are also anticipating what Congress could (or attempt to) accomplish in the final, post-election days of the 113th Congress, commonly referred to as the “lame duck” session. Several items still need the lawmakers’ attention, including funding for the federal government for the rest of FY 2015. That said, a long-standing priority for NACo, the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which grants state and local governments with the ability to enforce existing sales tax laws on remote sales, could also receive attention upon the lawmakers’ return in mid-November.
MFA could be addressed during the lame duck session through S.2609, the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act (MITFA), which was introduced in mid-July by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). MITFA is a measure that combines MFA with a temporary extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), a law that currently prohibits state and local governments from taxing Internet access and i...
|Local Officials Participate in NACo Virtual Town Hall on the Response to Ebola|4 weeks ago | 0
On October 29, 2014, approximately 200 county officials
participated in a NACo-sponsored virtual town hall to learn how to best prepare
their counties, and protect their citizens, from potential incidents of the
Featured speakers on the town hall included Judge Clay
Jenkins of Dallas County, Texas, who was the first local elected official to
oversee the emergency response to a case of Ebola diagnosed outside of Africa.
Judge Jenkins shared Dallas County’s process of working with federal, state and
local partners to respond to the Ebola diagnosis and provided advice based on
Dr. Umair Shah, the Executive Director of Harris County
Public Health & Environmental Services and the Local Health Authority for
Harris County, Texas, also joined the town hall to provide a background of
Ebola and a perspective on how county public health agencies are readying
themselves and educating the public about the virus
Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson, Douglas County, Neb., chair
of NACo’s Health Steering Committee, moderated the conversation.
Brian Bowden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4275
|NACo’s Gulf States Counties and Parishes Caucus Meets in Biloxi, Miss.|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On October 15, more than 50 elected officials and staff from county and parish governments on the Gulf Coast convened in Biloxi, Miss. for NACo’s 2014 Gulf States Counties and Parishes Caucus (GSCPC) Annual Meeting. Hosted by Harrison County, Miss. Supervisor Connie Rockco, chair of GSCPC, the caucus explored a wide variety of issues including coastal restoration, federal fishing quotas, “waters of the U.S.” and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
GSCPC, which is comprised of the five Gulf Coast states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – was recognized at NACo’s 2014 Annual Conference as operating under the NACo umbrella. Originally created as a NACo task force on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the group evolved beyond BP oil spill emergency response and lobbied on a number of high priority issues such as reforms to the NFIP and the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourists Opportunity and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act).
GSCPC’s purpose is to promote a clearer understanding of mutual problems of Gulf Coast counties and parishes and their citizens; to establish a sing...
|NACo Holds LUCC Leadership Symposium: Driving National Progress Through Local Leadership|(read more)4 weeks ago | 0
On October 15-17, the National Association of Counties (NACo) held its annual Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) Leadership Symposium in Ramsey County, Minn. The gathering brought together over 75 officials from urban counties in 20 states along with other government, philanthropic and private sector leaders. Participants discussed federal policy priorities and how counties drive national progress through local leadership on key issues including transportation, economic development and job creation.
Speakers at the symposium included Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who discussed the outlook for LUCC priorities on Capitol Hill, and Peter Rogoff, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, who discussed the Administration’s vision for the reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the future of the Highway Trust Fund – two key issues NACo has been working on for the nation’s counties. Other topics covered during the symposium included:
- The ways in which big data and analytics are transforming how county governments are managing operations and delivering services
- Public-private-philanthropic models for regional partnerships
- Ways local government leaders are advancing exemplary models of innovation to c...
|NACo to Host Webinar on BLM Planning 2.0 Initiative | (read more)4 weeks ago | 0
The National Association of Counties (NACo) invites you to join a webinar on
Bureau of Land Management’s
Planning 2.0 Initiative
Thursday, November 13 at 2:00PM EDT
The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are pleased to announce an upcoming webinar for local officials to learn about and provide input into the BLM Planning 2.0 initiative. Through this initiative, BLM hopes to improve the land use planning process so that they can more effectively plan across landscapes and at multiple scales, and be more responsive to environmental and social change.
As BLM continues to develop and update its resource management plans, input from local and state officials is a key part of its collaborative planning effort. During this session, BLM will provide an overview of its Planning 2.0 initiative as well as facilitate a group discussion on methods to improve the BLM’s planning process. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how you can provide input to this process.
Special Guest Speakers:
- Moderator: Commissioner John Martin, Garfield County, Colo.
- Shasta ...
|NACo Alert: Comment Period for Waters of the U.S. Extended |(read more)2 months 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...