County News

NACo Board approves national policy priorities

NACo Northeast Region Representative Christian Leinbach makes a point during the 2019 Fall Board Meeting in Douglas County, Neb. From left: Executive Director Matt Chase, Central Region Representative Cindy Bobbit, South Region Representative Ruby Brabo and West Region Representative Joe Briggs. Photo by Hugh Clarke

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During its fall 2019 meeting Dec.6-7 in Douglas County, Neb., the NACo Board of Directors approved national policy priorities that the organization will target in 2020, along with 36 policies identified by NACo's 10 policy steering committees. 

The national policy priorities are as follows:

Restore the balance of Federalism and optimize intergovernmental partnerships

NACo supports efforts that recognize and respect the unique roles and responsibilities of counties as essential partners—not just stakeholders—in our nation’s intergovernmental system of federal, state, local and tribal government officials. Consistent and meaningful engagement and consultation between intergovernmental partners is vital in the development and implementation of effective policies, programs and regulations. County governments are tasked with both implementing state and federal policies and regulations at the local level and should be included at all stages of the governing process. NACo urges Congress to pass the Restore the Partnership Act (H.R. 3883) and the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 300) to increase transparency to reduce regulatory burden, foster intergovernmental dialogue and unite all levels of government in supporting our unparalleled system of federalism.

 

Promote county infrastructure priorities

NACo supports efforts by the Administration and Congress to increase our nation’s infrastructure investments to help promote economic development, public safety and overall mobility through a comprehensive infrastructure package, surface transportation reauthorization and water resources bill. Any federal infrastructure package should reflect county priorities, such as: allocating more federal seed capital and matching funds for locally owned infrastructure, increasing local decision-making authority and flexibility, protecting and restoring tax-exempt municipal financing tools, and streamlining and shortening the federal permitting process while still requiring robust public participation and world-class environmental stewardship.

NACo supports a two-year authorization of the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) that will address county interests related to ports, inland waterways, levees, dams, wetlands, watersheds and coastal restoration. As owners, users and regulators of water resources and infrastructure, counties are directly impacted by the policies and funding authorized through WRDA authorizations. Any water infrastructure legislation should address the needs of counties, including: allocating federal matching funds for local governments to plan for and implement projects that reduce flood damage risks and address habitat restoration, connectivity and resiliency, ensuring counties are consulted prior to the federal government undertaking water resource projects within county boundaries, and strengthening the federal-state-local partnership in the decision-making process for water projects.

 

  • Counties own and operate 45 percent of all public roads and almost 40 percent of the National Bridge Inventory and are directly involved in 78 percent of all public transportation systems and 34 percent of public airports
  • Counties also invest $122 billion annually in maintaining and operating public works, including transportation and water systems

 

Promote mental health and substance use treatment and address essential criminal justice reforms

NACo supports sensible measures that promote and advance the overall safety of the public, and enhances federal, state, and local partnerships to provide evidence-based treatment services to justice involved individuals suffering with mental illness and substance use disorders. NACo urges Congress and the Administration to advance legislation and regulations that would amend the federal Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP) and allow non-convicted individuals to have continued access to necessary treatment through federal health benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and VA health benefits. Furthermore, NACo supports policies and programs that divert non-violent individuals struggling with mental illness and/or substance use disorders from local jails into more appropriate treatment services.

 

  • Approximately 8.5 million adults have both a mental health and substance use disorder
  • 10.6 million individuals cycle in and out of more than 3,000 local jails each year
  • 20 percent of jail inmates have a serious mental illness
  • Counties own and support 903 hospitals and operate 1,943 local health departments

 

Boost advanced broadband deployment and accessibility while preserving local decision making

NACo supports the deployment and availability of emerging technologies, such as small cell 5G, to all areas of the nation to ensure equitable economic and educational opportunities for all. County officials must also fulfill our responsibilities as trustees of public property and as protectors of public safety and health during this deployment process. By preserving local authority, county governments can ensure that the public interest is being served by communications providers regardless of the delivery platform.

Additionally, complete and accurate connectivity data is necessary to effectively bridge the growing digital divide as the federal government relies on this information to determine the true need for critical broadband resources.

NACo urges Congress and federal agencies to recognize counties as partners in extending the benefits of advanced telecommunications and broadband technology — including improvements to county emergency preparedness and public safety systems — to all Americans. Federal policymakers should support local decision-making and accountability and oppose any actions that would preempt or limit the zoning and siting authority of local governments.

 

  • In rural areas, just 68.6 percent of residents have high-speed internet access via both fixed wireless services and mobile LTE broadband
  • Approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on tribal lands still lack access to broadband that meets the federal definition for minimum standards

 

Support full funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs

NACo supports restoring full mandatory funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates public lands counties for untaxable federal land. NACo also supports extending the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program as a transitional funding mechanism until the federal government fully implements a sustainable, long-term forest management program with adequate revenue sharing for forest counties and schools.

NACo supports legislation to ensure mandatory, full-funding of PILT, including H.R. 3043, the Permanently Authorizing PILT Act sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), and S. 2480, the PILT Reauthorization Act sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would make PILT mandatory for ten years.

NACo endorses legislation to extend SRS for an additional two years: H.R. 3048, sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), and S. 430, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Additionally, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sponsored S. 1643, the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which would create an endowment fund to make permanent SRS payments to national forest counties and schools while also granting more flexibility to counties in the use of SRS funds.

 

  • 61 percent of counties have federal land within their boundaries
  • PILT and SRS support critical county services, including emergency services, search and rescue, fire protection, forest maintenance, education and transportation infrastructure

 

Establish a more effective definition of "Waters of the U.S."

NACo believes that local streets, gutters and human-made ditches should be excluded from the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the federal Clean Water Act. NACo calls on Congress and the Administration to develop and implement a new, more practical WOTUS definition in consultation and collaboration with state and local governments.

 

  • More than 70 percent of counties invest in storm sewer systems, sewage disposal, solid waste management and water utilities
  • Counties invest $23.9 billion in sanitation, storm and water supply systems

 

Promote workforce opportunities and supportive services for county residents in changing economies

NACo supports federal investments and policies that help advance and leverage both regional and local strategies to engage children, youth, adults and older adults in the development of a competitive and quality workforce. While national economic indicators are strong, many counties face challenges in linking residents to sustainable employment opportunities that foster economic mobility.

For example, counties are confronting increased demand and caseloads for services that help residents overcome barriers to employment, such as skills training, mental health and substance abuse disorders, accessible childcare and housing affordability.

At the same time, county governments face reduced federal and state funding, along with growing federal and state mandates, limitations and oversight. To help counties meet these challenges and foster a high-quality workforce to compete in the global economy and meet the needs of employers including county governments here in the U.S., NACo encourages a strong federal partner committed to providing increased resources and maintaining local decision-making and flexibility to achieve better outcomes for county residents, especially those in transitioning local economies.

 

  • Despite low rates of unemployment, two-thirds of counties have poverty rates exceeding the national average
  • Counties employ 3.6 million residents and provide services to 314 million county residents

 

Strengthen election integrity and safety

NACo supports federal policies that provide flexibility for local decision making and increased federal investments in the nation’s elections system. As administrators and financers of our elections, counties work to ensure our elections are both fair and secure. Therefore, NACo supports a consistent, predictable and dedicated federal funding stream to assist counties with meeting the significant federal requirements already imposed on local governments administering elections. We also support efforts by Congress and the Administration to combat cybersecurity threats in a way that is inclusive of county election and technology officials.

As Congress considers these changes, NACo urges federal lawmakers to protect local control over election administration and oppose mandates and specific requirements regarding equipment, procedures and personnel responsibilities.

 

  • Between the 2016 and 2018 general elections, county jurisdictions processed over 73 million registration forms
  • More than 109 million voters, or almost 91 percent of voters nationwide, in the 2018 general elections cast their ballots within jurisdictions where counties play a major role in administering and coordinating elections
  • In 2018, counties oversaw more than 151,000 polling places and organized over 593,000 poll workers during election periods

 

Enhance community resilience through regional and local disaster preparedness

NACo urges Congress and the Administration to provide increased federal resources to counties for disaster planning, mitigation and recovery. Counties often serve as our nation’s first line of defense before and after disasters strike. While state statutes and organizational structures vary, local emergency management responsibilities are most commonly vested in county governments. NACo supports increased federal investment in support of local emergency management capabilities that improve public safety and environmental stewardship, along with social and economic security.

Furthermore, NACo supports rapid federal reimbursement of local costs associated with major disasters and encourages the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to administer policies and regulations on a consistent manner during any presidentially declared disaster or emergency throughout the country. NACo also encourages DHS to apply any policy or regulation changes on a prospective basis, based on the declaration date of the emergency or disaster. NACo supports DHS and FEMA leadership as they work to reduce excessive paperwork as well as overly restrictive and bureaucratic regulations.

 

  • In 2018, local governments were impacted by 66 federally declared disasters funded by recovery grants 
  • In total, an estimated 570 counties (19%) received at least one federal Major Disaster Declaration, with 411 with at least one federal Emergency Declaration and another 788 counties (26%) with at least one federal Disaster Declaration (STILL NEED TO DOUBLE CHECK)
  • During that same time period, local and state governments managed 23,331 emergency events without additional federal resources

 

Fully repeal the Cadillac Tax

NACo urges Congress to pass the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019 (H.R. 748/S. 684), which would permanently and fully repeal the 40 percent excise tax, known as the Cadillac Tax, on employer-sponsored health insurance plans. This new policy was enacted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 and has been delayed for implementation until 2022. As one of the largest providers of employer-sponsored healthcare insurance in the nation, county leaders would either pay significant new “taxes” to the federal government or cut healthcare coverage for nearly 3.6 million county employees and their families and dependents. NACo supports a renewed bipartisan approach to improving our nation’s healthcare delivery system that balances the roles and responsibilities of intergovernmental partners, employers and individuals.

 

The Board approved the following legislative policy priorities:

Agriculture and Rural Affairs

  • Implement the 2018 Farm Bill with Priority on Rural Development. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, NACo calls on Congress and the Administration to emphasize implementation of the rural development provisions – such as reinstating the Under Secretary of Rural Development and the expansion of the Strategic Economic and Community Development Program – aimed at helping counties provide critical programs and resources to address the unique needs of rural communities.
  • Support FY 2020 Appropriation Funding for USDA Rural Development Programs. Counties depend on programs such as the Rural Water/Wastewater Program, the Community Facilities Grant and Loan Program, and the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program to provide critical resources to rural communities. NACo strongly supports full funding for USDA Rural Development programs and urges Congress and the Administration to oppose cuts to these essential programs in FY 2020.
  • Strengthen and Streamline the Administrative Processes for Critical USDA Rural Development Programs. NACo urges Congress to find opportunities to streamline the grant and loan application process while preserving the program structure and funding authorizations for individual Rural Development Programs under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

Community, Economic and Workforce Development

  • Increase Appropriations for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) Programs. Both CDBG and HOME, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have been cut by almost a billion dollars since FY 2010. CDBG is currently funded at $3.3 billion, and HOME is funded at $1.25 billion. Both the House and Senate FY 2020 appropriations bills include at least level and/or increased funding for CDBG and HOME. NACo supports increased CDBG and HOME formula funding in FY 2020/21.
  • Reauthorize Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act / Funding for Workforce Investment - Title I Formula Grants. Congress enacted the new Workforce, Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation in July 2014.  WIOA maintains a locally-based, business-led workforce system and the current governance structure while adding needed flexibility to meet the needs of employers and jobseekers. NACo will work to ensure that WIOA implementation and reauthorization accurately reflect the intent of Congress in preserving local governance authority, while promoting innovation and flexibility to respond to local emerging economic realities and business needs. NACo will also work to ensure Congress continues its support of the local workforce development system by funding WIOA Title I Adults, Dislocated Workers and Youth state formula grants and oppose any efforts to consolidate WIOA funding in a way that would reduce overall funding levels, and/or limit access to services for job seekers and employers.
  • Enhance implementation of Opportunity Zones to better coordinate with county governments. Enacted in 2017 as part of the jobs and Tax Cuts Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones (OZs) provide an incentive for private investments in distressed communities designated as Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has released two proposed regulations focused on the investors and investment requirements, but no rules have been promulgated around reporting requirements for OZs and benefits to distressed communities. NACo supports ensuring investments in distressed communities include collaboration with local governments and provide benefits to residents and communities for the long-term.
  • Rehabilitate Infrastructure and Public Works. Counties must provide and support sufficient infrastructure and support services to generate increased economic activity- i.e., multimodal transportation, power utilities, broadband, water treatment and waste management systems, and natural gas distribution infrastructure. NACo strongly supports a national commitment, shared by all levels of government and the private sector, to increase capital spending; increase flexible administration of federal and state mandates to allow cost-effective methods of compliance; accelerate spending of federal highway, transit, aviation and waterways trust funds; prioritize rehabilitation and improvement of aging infrastructure that negatively affects business retention and attraction in older regions and communities; and remove limits on the ability of state and local governments to utilize tax-exempt financing and incentives.

 

Environment, Energy and Land Use

  • Craft a More Effective “Waters of the U.S.” Definition. NACo supports the withdrawal and rewriting of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) 2015 Rule in a way that recognizes counties’ role as owners of key public safety and water infrastructure and as intergovernmental partners in implementing federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. NACo recommends that the agencies work closely with state and local governments to develop consensus for a new WOTUS rule. NACo believes that local streets, gutters and human-made ditches should be excluded from the definition of WOTUS. 
  • Address Ongoing and Emerging Threats Due to Climate Change. NACo urges the federal government to work closely with counties on climate change initiatives. NACo supports federal policies and programs that provide assistance and mechanisms for willing counties, along with local and state governments, to partner with federal and international entities in order to benefit economically from the global transition to a lower carbon economy. While NACo presently opposes cap and trade or carbon tax, NACo supports ongoing analysis and evaluation of these and all other tools that seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including their local economic and fiscal impacts. Likewise, NACo is concerned about EPA’s efforts to further constrict the mining, transportation and burning of coal. EPA should undertake further consultation and research to fullyunderstand the impacts of existing and pending rules, regulations and standards will have on local communities, including the impact on existing and future revenue sources for counties and schools.
  • Work with the EPA on Pending Groundwater Regulations. NACo urges the EPA to work closely with state and local governments on potential regulations, guidance or clarifications on the agency’s authority to regulate groundwater connections under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).
  • Increase the Use of Natural Infrastructure to Prevent Flooding and Manage Stormwater Runoff. NACo supports continued and increased funding for federal programs that assist counties with planning and the implementation of projects that address habitat restoration and connectivity, ecosystem restoration and resiliency, protection and enhancement of ecological resources including fish and wildlife, and environmentally beneficial modifications to existing projects. NACo supports the national policy goal of net gain/no net loss of wetlands and encourages a management approach that first avoids wetlands, then minimizes wetland loss and mitigates any loss as the final alternative. This policy goal is intended to prevent new adverse impacts on both watershed, flood storage capacity and water quality impacts.
  • Promote a Comprehensive National Energy Policy. As Congress considers energy legislation, NACo seeks a comprehensive, integrated approach to a national energy policy that includes county priorities.

 

Finance, Pensions and Intergovernmental Affairs

  • Enact Legislation to Reinstate Advance Refunding Bonds and Support Tax-Exempt Municipal Financing. NACo supports legislation reinstating tax-exempt advance refunding bonds as part of the federal tax code. Prior to 2017, advance refunding bonds were tax-exempt and allowed counties to refinance municipal bonds once over the lifetime of the bond. Advance refunding bonds made up about a third of the municipal bond marketplace, with over $391 billion in advance refunding bonds issued between 2012 and 2016, saving municipalities almost $12 billion of taxpayer money.
  • Provide Funding for Election Administration and Include Counties in Any Election Reforms. NACo supports providing additional funding to support election administration and security. Any such funds should be at least partially available directly to county governments, who administer the vast majority of federal elections. NACo opposes legislation that imposes impractical requirements on the election process that adversely affect the conduct of state and local elections, especially when they unnecessarily inflate the local cost of that process without a commensurate perceivable benefit. NACo supports legislation requiring federal entities work with local governments to increase cybersecurity in elections.
  • Fund Fully the U.S. Census. NACo supports full funding for an accurate and complete count during and throughout the 2020 Census process. NACo urges Congress to provide enhanced resources for “hard to count” counties and areas, especially rural and other underserved counties without access to reliable internet, in order to support a complete and accurate census count in all communities.
  • Restore the Balance of Federalism and Oppose Unfunded Mandates. NACo supports strengthening the intergovernmental partnership of federal, state and local officials by establishing a neutral forum for elected policymakers from all levels of government to convene and address today’s increasingly complex public policy issues. Such a forum, as outlined in the Restore the Partnership Act (H.R. 3883), should balance the scale of federal powers and resources with the rights, responsibilities, capabilities and innovations of states, local governments and tribal officials. NACo also supports passing the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 300) to protect states and local governments from unfunded mandates in the legislative and regulatory processes and to ensure that federal agencies engage with county officials early and often in the rulemaking process.

 

Health

  • Advance Legislation and Administrative Changes that Will Enhance Counties’ Ability to Provide Comprehensive Behavioral Health Services. One in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental health crisis, one in 25 a serious mental illness. Additionally, rates of suicide in the United States have increased dramatically across all age groups over the past 15 years, with the current mental health workforce and support systems inadequate to meet demand. Counties support maintaining funding for the Community Mental Health Services block grant and support other measures including developing and expanding the workforce, fully implementing and expanding mental health parity, expanding access to health information technology and clarifying privacy provisions.
  • Protect the Federal-State-Local Partnership Structure for the Financing and Delivering of Medicaid Services While Maximizing Flexibility to Support Local Systems of Care. Counties oppose measures that would further shift costs to counties, including proposals to institute block grants or per capita caps, as they would serve to further shift costs to counties and reduce counties’ ability to provide for the health of their residents. Meanwhile, counties champion efforts to enhance flexibility in the program to support local systems of care, including easing the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases and inmate exclusions. 
  • Protect Funding for Core Local Public Health and Prevention Efforts. Counties support the majority of America’s nearly 3,000 local health departments that protect our residents’ health and safety and prevent the leading causes of death. Federal investments such as the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) are responsible for approximately one-fourth of local health departments’ funding and continue to be under threat. Counties support increased federal support for providing basic public health services such as immunizations and programming that address the social determinants of health, as well as preparedness and response efforts to outbreaks like Zika and Hepatitis C and other threats to the public’s health and safety.

 

Human Services and Education

  • Address and Combat Intergenerational Poverty. Enact legislation that utilizes an intergenerational, results-focused, evidence-based effort to improve the well-being of future generations. Federal efforts to reform public assistance must recognize that poverty is often influenced by global and national economic factors that are beyond the control of local or state governments, yet local and state governments are uniquely positioned to help our citizens when federal programs are flexible and support all generations within a family.
  • Update and Reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Adopt legislation to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) program that includes a provision increasing TANF funds annually at an amount commensurate with the rate of inflation. In addition, reauthorization of the current TANF program should be updated by providing greater state and county flexibility to create and provide services that support families and help move them off welfare and out of poverty, including allowing more flexibility in TANF program design such as allowing higher education to count as work; realistic time limits on education; allowing states to use TANF funds to support postsecondary educational expenses; giving states and TANF recipients partial credit for part-time work and giving states the option to include participation of working, timed-out parents whose children are receiving aid in the state’s work participation rate calculation.
  • Enact Legislation that Supports County Child Welfare Flexibility and Funding. Ensure administrative flexibility for county child welfare agencies as they transition to new federal child welfare requirements including those related to prevention, pre-placement and post-adoption services.
  • Pass Legislation Supporting Early Childhood Development. NACo supports legislation that would protect and increase investments in early childhood development to ensure that needed educational, nutritional and social services are available to children in the critical years of development between birth and age three. These investments include greater coordination among pre-school programs in schools and county-run programs such as home visiting programs funded by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, child wellness, Head Start, Early Head Start and quality childcare. By investing in and demonstrating leadership in these early childhood development programs, we can begin to fight poverty and reduce inequality.

 

Justice and Public Safety

  • Prioritize Improving Health Outcomes for Justice Involved Individuals. NACo legislative action to improve federal, state, and local partnerships in providing safety-net services to pretrial incarcerated individuals that are currently denied access to federal benefits per the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP). Counties continue to work with Congress and the Administration to help improve health care and mental health services for the more than 10 million individuals who are admitted annually into county jails, whose entire costs of care must be provided by the county. NACo continues to support legislation and administrative actions that would amend the federal Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy and allow pre-trial detainees to have continued access to federal health benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and VA health benefits. 
  • Help Decrease Mental Illness in Jails by Fully Funding Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP). NACo urges Congress to support local efforts to reduce the number of individuals with mental health, substance abuse or co-occurring disorders in county jails by providing fullfunding for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) (formerly MIOTCRA) in the annual appropriations process.
  • Facilitate Successful Reentry by Increasing Funding for the Second Chance Act (SCA). Second Chance Act programs have helped numerous counties provide reentry services, including employment assistance, substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing and family-centered programming and mentoring to adults and juveniles returning to the community from prisons or jails.
  • Increase Funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) Program and Mitigation Grants to Support Local Hazard Mitigation and Preparedness. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program assists state and local governments in our efforts to protect our communities from natural and man-made disasters and is the most demonstrably successful DHS grant program. EMPG should remain an all-hazards program that is funded separately from all other grants that specifically address terrorism or other specific issues, at or above current funding levels. NACo appreciates recent congressional action, through the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), to reauthorize EMPG through 2022. States should be required to pass through a minimum 70 percent of EMPG funds to local governments.

 

Public Lands

  • Maintain Full Funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program. PILT compensates counties for tax-exempt federal land within our county boundaries. Counties received the last full PILT payment in summer of 2019. Congressional action is required to act to provide funding for FY 2019 and beyond. NACo supports legislation to ensure mandatory, full-funding of PILT, including H.R. 3043, the Permanently Authorizing PILT Act sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), and S. 2480, the PILT Reauthorization Act sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would make PILT mandatory for ten years.
  • Fully Fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program. Until the federal government fully implements a sustainable long-term forest management program with adequate revenue sharing for forest counties and schools, NACo supports extending and fully funding the SRS program as a transition funding mechanism. NACo supports current legislation to extend SRS for an additional two years: H.R. 3048, sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), and S. 430, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Additionally, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sponsored S. 1643, the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which would create an endowment fund to make permanent SRS payments to national forest counties and schools while also granting more flexibility to counties in the use of SRS funds, such as forest management and economic development activities.
  • Reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NACo supports legislation to update and improve the ESA, including making science-based decision-making more transparent, requiring more collaboration with counties, giving greater deference to state and local conservation measures, incorporating economic impact analysis into decision-making processes and taking natural factors like drought or predation into account.

 

Telecommunications and Technology

  • Support Broadband Deployment and Adoption. NACo supports legislation and administrative policies that help counties attract broadband services regardless of population or technology used. This includes supporting legislation that provides tax credits to telecommunications providers that develop broadband in rural and under-served communities and provides for broadened eligibility and additional federal agency loan authority, extension of credit and other appropriate investments to telecommunications providers and partners that deploy broadband in rural communities.
  • Enact a National Broadband Coverage Map. Accurate broadband connectivity data is essential to buildout critical broadband infrastructure in areas lacking access to high-speed internet. Unfortunately, connectivity data provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by internet service providers is often inaccurate and inflated – leaving many rural and other underserved areas overlooked and disconnected. NACo urges Congress and the FCC to improve the accuracy of the broadband coverage maps by creating a formal process by which crowd-sourced data can be used to create new or update existing FCC broadband coverage maps. Further, NACo supports legislation requiring the FCC to test and certify the accuracy of the crowd-sourced data.
  • Engage with Counties to Enhance Cybersecurity. Counties continue to face increasing risk of cyber threats from multiple sources every day and we must ensure that citizens’ personal information and critical infrastructure are adequately protected, recoverable and secured in the event of any potential breach. As Congress considers cybersecurity legislation, NACo supports ensuring that the needs of counties and local government are considered.

 

Transportation

  • Enact a Comprehensive Infrastructure Package/Surface Transportation Reauthorization. Counties should be recognized as major owners of transportation infrastructure in any comprehensive package presented by the administration and Congress, including future surface transportation reauthorization legislation. Federal assistance should adequately reflect the county's role in the nation's infrastructure network. All tools in the toolbox, including direct federal funding and decision making, public-private partnerships (where appropriate) and regulatory reform must be present for a successful federal-state-local partnership.
  • Ensure Road, Bridge and Highway Safety. Owning more roads and bridges than any other public entity, the safety of citizens on our roadways is always a priority for counties. Whether the issue be federal regulations, technological advancements or the ability to access funds for transportation infrastructure upgrades, the safety of residents on our local roads and bridges remains paramount in local decision making.
  • Enhance Regulatory Streamlining. Whether it be time or local funds saved, streamlining of the federal permitting and regulatory process is a way for county resources to go further towards infrastructure projects. Streamlining the permitting process and eliminating regulatory impediments creates a conducive environment for counties to effectively implement infrastructure projects.

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