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Your Voice in Washington: 2018 Year in Review

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In 2018, with your help, NACo achieved several significant federal policy wins, including the five-year reauthorization of the farm bill, record funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, comprehensive legislation to fight the opioid epidemic and much more. Here are some highlights of what we accomplished together this past year.

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

This month, Congress passed and the president signed a five-year, $867 billion reauthorization of the farm bill that reflects many top county priorities for rural economic development and nutrition. Favorable county amendments include:

  • New technical assistance money to support local economic development plans
  • A new grant program that will support rural economies through enhanced public-private partnerships
  • Enabling “middle-mile” broadband projects to receive grant funding, since currently only “last-mile” projects are eligible

During the farm bill process, NACo produced a number of resources for counties, including a Farm Bill 101 presentation and legislative analysis.

Farm Bill 101

The Farm Bill contains programs that assist counties in rural development efforts, nutrition assistance programs, conservation initiatives, renewable energy deployment, support for new farmers and ranchers, and business development initiatives.

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Legislative Analysis: Farm Bill

Download NACo's analysis of the 2018 Farm Bill to learn more about the various programs of interest to counties included in the package.

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Community, Economic & Workforce Development

NACo helped secure some significant funding wins for key county programs, including the Community Development Block Grant, the HOME Investments program, and the Economic Development Agency.

Additionally, NACo also worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to withdraw and begin reworking its proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

CDBG for Counties

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is a federally-funded grant program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that assists state and local governments in improving housing and living conditions and providing community services for vulnerable residents.

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Environment, Energy & Land Use

This year, Congress passed the America's Water Infrastructure Act, which authorizes water infrastructure projects through the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). NACo was able to secure a few provisions that will require the Corps to consult with state and local governments on annual budget plans, potential projects and pending guidance documents.This will help ensure federal agencies engage with counties as co-regulators and partners.

Additionally, earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps released a new proposed “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) definition to replace the 2015 WOTUS rule issued under the Obama Administration. The rule will be open for comment from county leaders starting in January.

Policy Brief: Rewrite the "Waters of the U.S." Rule

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NACo testifies before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on America’s water infrastructure

NACo Associate Legislative Director Julie Ufner testifies before the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to discuss the role counties play in strengthening America’s water infrastructure.

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NACo testifies on Endangered Species Act modernization

Klickitat County, Wash. Commissioner David Sauter will testifies on behalf of NACo on ESA modernization bills.

Finance, Pensions & Intergovernmental Affairs

This summer, counties scored a significant victory related to online sales tax collection in the Wayfair v. South Dakota Supreme Court case. In a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down the “physical presence” standard for sales tax collection, opening the door for states and counties to be collecting sales taxes on out-of-state vendors.

Counties Urge Congress to Pass Remote Sales Tax Legislation

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Health

The biggest news from this year was the passage of the 660-page bill to help address the opioid epidemic. Several provisions will help counties address substance use issues. For example, counties will now be able to suspend – rather than terminate – Medicaid benefits for at-risk youth in the criminal justice system, which will help ensure that they do not experience a lapse in coverage or care when they transition out of jail.

Additionally, counties will also have more flexibility using Medicaid funds to help cover mental health and addiction care for individuals as they exit the criminal justice system and go through the reentry process.

Medicaid and Counties: Understanding the Program and Why It Matters to Counties

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Opioid Epidemic Action Center

Counties are on the frontline of ensuring the health and safety of our residents affected by this crisis.

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NACo Opioid Legislative Analysis: Comparison of House and Senate Opioid Legislative Packages

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Human Services & Education

This year NACo championed efforts with both Congress and the administration to help states and counties prepare for the new laws and regulations regarding child welfare and foster care systems.

NACo was also instrumental in ensuring language in a potential reauthorization of the federal cash welfare program – the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – was friendly to counties. NACo also worked to include provisions in the farm bill on the food stamps program favorable to counties, including administrative changes to streamline the program, make it more efficient and reduce fraud.

NACo Legislative Presentation: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program helps families in need connect to services & activities addressing the root causes of poverty.

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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) County Explorer Profiles

View County Explorer

Childcare Development Block Grant (CCBG) County Explorer Profiles

View County Explorer

Justice & Public Safety

In a major win for counties, the Second Chance Act reauthorization was included in the newly-passed criminal justice bill, providing consistent funding for local reentry programs to help reduce recidivism.

Congress recently passed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which makes modifications to FEMA programs to better assist local communities as they prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from disasters. In a major win for counties, the legislation prohibits FEMA from attempting to recoup any aid provided more than three years after the date of its release.

NACo Legislative Analysis: Impacts of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018

New federal disaster legislation makes modifications to FEMA programs to better assist local communities as they prepare for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from disasters.

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Public Lands

2018 saw record funding funding levels for the Payments In-Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and a two-year reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools (SRS). Also included in the FY 2018 omnibus bill was a long-term wildfire funding fix and new active forest management provisions.

PILT Advocacy Toolkit

Find resources designed to help county officials educate Congress, the administration and the public on the importance of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program

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NACo Press Conference in support of SRS & PILT

On March 6th, 2018 the National Association of Counties (NACo) held a press conference in support of important public lands payment programs, Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

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Technology & Telecommunications

The Federal Communications Commission recently passed a ruling that would severely limit local zoning authority as it relates to the installation of next-generation telecommunication devices on public property. NACo requested that the FCC pause the rule until numerous court cases on the issue are resolved.

Next Generation Local Zoning Authority: 5G Wireless Broadband 101

Counties will play a key role in the 5G deployment process as service providers navigate public property and rights-of-way.

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NACo testifies on election cybersecurity

Hon. Ricky Hatch, Webster County, Utah Clerk/Auditor, testifies before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the role counties play in ensuring safe and efficient elections.

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Transportation & Infrastructure

Infrastructure remains a top priority for counties. While there was of talk of a comprehensive infrastructure bill this year, Congress instead passed the water resources bill and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The FAA bill included a number of wins for counties that own or are involved in airports, including:

  • Grant programs for small airports, including the Essential Air Service program and the Small Community Air Service Development Program
  • A drone study to be done in consultation with local governments

America's Counties: The Foundation for American Infrastructure

With the administration and Congress focused on infrastructure, NACo held a briefing on how counties are working to strengthen our national infrastructure network and learn how a strong federal-state-local partnership will help us get there.

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Looking Ahead: 2019 and the 116th Congress

The 2018 midterm elections resulted in a divided 116th Congress in which both parties could struggle to advance legislative priorities. Bipartisan action is possible on some issues – including several key county issues – which could result in bipartisan agreement on major pieces of legislation. Check out NACo's midterm election analysis to learn more.

U.S. Election Analysis 2018: Insights for Counties From the Midterm Elections

Four years of bicameral Republican control of Congress will end in January after Democrats secured a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections

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