E-Fairness Legislation Introduced in US House

This week, Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a new E-Fairness bill, which would bring online sales tax parity to retail transactions and help states generate significant sales tax revenues which are currently going uncollected without federal action. The bill is called the Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) and has bipartisan co-sponsors – including Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-13). You may recall that legislation passed the Senate last session but failed to pass the House by the end of the year, requiring the introduction of a new set of bills. The League is hopeful that this momentum will help us see this legislation become law sometime soon.

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at sminnick@mml.org or 517-908-0301.

New, Six Year Federal Transportation Authorization Bill Passes Senate Committee

The new transportation authorization bill, – Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) – passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week. It authorizes (but does not fund) $275 billion over the next six years. The current authorization, MAP-21 expires at the end of July. The bill makes some strides for local government priorities, including transit oriented development and complete streets. With respect to TOD – the bill opens up TIFIA to TOD projects. In addition the TIFIA project threshold was lowered from $50 million to $10 million, which should open up opportunities for communities. On the complete streets front, the design criteria for the National Highway System “shall” consider all modes of transportation, rather than “may.” Locals would have greater design flexibility under this bill, and all Transportation Alternatives Program funds would go directly to locals under the bill (although there is a provision that state “may” divert up to half).

While not hailed as a huge success from transportation advocates, this bill would provide much needed stability in transportation planning, which has been a key message the League has taken to Washington. The question now will be – how will these programs obtain the funding necessary to make this bill reality?

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at sminnick@mml.org or 517-908-0301.

Congress Cuts Programs in Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted this week on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development budget and there are some steep cuts to important programs to local officials. The most significant is the HOME program, which provides state and local funding for low income housing, from $900 million to just $66 million – essentially gutting the program. Another key program cut is the Federal Transit Authority’s New Starts program. The Senate Committee cut that program by $520 million. In this version – funding for Amtrak was restored and the TIGER program is funded at the current level. The budget now goes before the full Senate for consideration.

On the House side, however, a different pattern of steep cuts emerged. The full House voted last week to cut funding for TIGER grants form $500 million to $100 million. Amtrak was also cut by the House. However, CDBG and HOME funds were kept in tact at $3 billion and $900 million, respectively.

These funding levels are reflective of the sequestration caps set in the Budget Control Act. President Obama has said he will veto any budget that adheres to the reduced spending caps, so this budget process is still a long way from over. However, with just four weeks left before Congress goes on summer break, it’s important to let your member of Congress know that these cuts would have significant impacts to your community so they feel the pressure when they return to the district.

To contact your member of Congress, click here.

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at sminnick@mml.org or 517-908-0301.

EPA “Waters of the U.S.” Rule Released, Webinar on June 11

The EPA released the final “Waters of the U.S” rule and will be having a webinar this Thursday, June 11th. The report clarifies which waters fall under federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. It becomes effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

A webinar will be held by the EPA this Thursday, June 11th from 1-2:30pm to provide an overview of the rule. You must pre-register for the webinar here.

Under the final rule, “waters of the U.S.” means:
1. All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in intestate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide; (commonly referred to as “traditional navigable waters”)
2. All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
3. The territorial seas;
4. All impoundments of waters otherwise identified as waters of the United States;
5. All “tributaries” of waters identifed in 1-3 above;
6. All waters “adjacent” to a water identified in 1-5 above, including wetlands, ponds, lakes, oxbows, impoundments, and similar waters;
7. Waters including Prairie potholes, Caroline bays and Delmarva bays, Pocosins, Western vernal pools, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands where it is determined, on a case-specific basis, to have a “significant nexus” to a water identified in 1-3 above;
8. All waters located within the 100-year floodplain of a water identified in 1-3 above and all waters located within 4000 feet of the high tide line or ordinary high water mark of a water identified in 1-5 above where they are determined on a case-specific basis to have a significant nexus to a water in 1-3 above.

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org

Congress Passes Federal Budget Resolution; Retains Deep Cuts

Congress this week, passed a federal budget resolution in both Chambers for the first time in many years. The resolution, which is non-binding, sets the larger figures for areas of the budget, which appropriation members will use to start developing actual budget bills. In the framework, Congress set a 10 year plan that cuts $5 Trillion from spending and retains cuts and caps from sequestration. The President has already signaled that he won’t sign budget bills that reflect those cuts, so Congress is setting up for a budget battle over the summer which will set a tone for both parties going into the 2016 elections.

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Budget Extension – Doesn’t Include Marketplace Fairness

Congress passed a $1.1 Trillion budget bill, which is a combination of an omnibus budget and continuing resolution, funding most of the federal government through Sept 30, 2015. However, the Department of Homeland Security only received funding through February 27th, 2015. Overall, the bill increases federal spending for the year by $1.1 Billion; 1.8% for non-defense spending, which is still negative growth when adjusted for inflation. The budget held a mixed bag of results for local leaders. First, the biggest disappointment was that Marketplace Fairness did not get included in the mix. Marketplace Fairness would have leveled the playing field for brick and mortar businesses with online retailers, which don’t have to remit sales taxes.

Specifically, in the budget, TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants were reduced by 16%, but transit programs saw an increase in $141 million. Federal highway programs maintained their level of funding. CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding was reduced by $30 million and a provision was included which bans locals from selling CDBG grants to other communities. There was also a reduction in HOME (Home Investment Partnerships Program) funds of $100 million, bringing that down to $900 million.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

 

Action Needed on Marketplace fairness Push in Congress

With time winding down in the Congressional session, now is the time to push for action on marketplace fairness. This issue has legs and we’re hoping to get it over the finish line in the final days. Marketplace fairness would close the online sales tax loophole and level the playing field for our local brick and mortar retailers. It would also mean an additional $23 billion nationally to invest in our communities – in infrastructure, police and fire, and more. The holiday season has been highlighting the issue as online shoppers spent more this year on “Black Friday,” the traditional start to holiday shopping, than ever before. However, most shoppers will not pay the sales tax owed on those purchases because of the loophole exempting online sellers from collecting sales tax.

Please contact your member of Congress and tell them to support Marketplace Fairness (this phrase is enough as the actual bill numbers have changed and the language could be substituted in a different bill). To contact your member of Congress click here.

For resources on talking points, and letters to the editor, visit the National League of Cities resource page.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

EPA Proposed Regulation on Dental Amalgam Separation Could Cause Burden on Local Treatment Systems

The Environmental Protection Agency is having an open comment period until December 22nd, to allow individuals and organizations to respond to proposed new regulation of discharge of dental amalgam into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) as part of the Clean Water Act. The regulation would classify dentists as an “industrial user” under part 23, which would require additional pretreatment measures that could be burdensome to locals due to the increased oversight requirements in this category. Michigan already has an amalgam separation law on the books, but this new provision would place dentists into a category (industrial user) that the DEQ does not have authorization over in order to modify the federal requirement to better align with the existing state law. If you would like to read about this issue further and/or submit comments, click here.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Free webinar on New FCC Wireless Siting Rules on Nov. 5th

On November 5th from 1-2pm, BB&K telecommunications attorneys are providing a free webinar to provide an overview of the new FCC wireless siting rules, the timetable for responding to them, and the challenges and opportunities facing public bodies as they attempt to protect local interests, while complying with federal requirements governing zoning of wireless facilities.

The webinar will cover:

The FCC’s new rules, which are expected to affect both the substance and the process associated with wireless siting.

The effect of the new rules on contracts for use of publicly owned property

The legal issues raised by the rules and what local governments need to do if they wish to challenge, or obtain clarification of, the rules

Ways local governments can respond to the rules that provide the maximum protection to the public

To register for the webinar click here.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Congress Passes $1 Trillion Short Term Spending Bill, Goes on Break

After failing to pass the 12 budget bills before the October 1st fiscal year began, Congress enacted a $1 Trillion short term spending measure to avoid a government shutdown. Congress is now on recess for the mid-term campaign season. The short term budget extension sunsets on December 11th, ensuring Congress comes back for a lame duck session.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.