Congress Passes Another Transportation Extension Hours Before Deadline

Despite the Senate working many days to iron out various amendments before passing a six year transportation authorization bill (three years of which were funded under the plan), in the end, local communities are handed another short term extension. The House essentially refused to consider a long term bill and argued that there was not enough time to negotiate differences. Part of this included a non-transportation issue: the Export-Import bank reauthorization which the Senate supported and attached to the transportation bill. So the House sent the Senate a short term extension, funding transportation through October 29th, 2015. This means the debate will begin again within a few weeks. One very positive note in this effort is that both Senators Peters and Stabenow signed on to the Wicker-Booker amendment, which would have sent more money directly to locals. We’re hopeful the significant support that was displayed on that amendment will translate into inclusion during the next round of bill drafting. And we are thankful to our Senators for their support of local governments!

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

Senate Nears Passage of Long Term Federal Highway Bill

The United States Senate worked through the weekend on the six year authorization bill that would be the longest federal transportation bill the nation has seen in decades. But as it nears completion by the upper chamber, the House leadership has stated that they will not take up the Senate bill, and are encouraging the Senate to instead, take up the House passed extension. The House sent over a temporary extension this month which funds federal highway programs through December 18th. The current authorization expired this Friday, July 31st.

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

As Federal Transportation Funding Nears Expiration, House and Senate Take Different Paths

The good news is that there has been action on transportation funding in both the House and the Senate this week in DC. The bad news is that they are taking different paths with respect to how to solve the problem with just two weeks remaining before the existing funds expire on July 31st. This week the House passed an $8 Billion extension which would fund federal transportation projects through the end of the year. However, Senate leaders are still working and have stated they intend to produce a six year bill yet next week. That does not leave much time for the two sides to negotiate differences. In addition, the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank is being thrown into the transportation debate and could complicate the passage of the bill this month.

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

Contact Your Member of Congress on New E-Fairness Legislation

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has introduced a bill to modernize our nation’s outdated sales tax collection process. The League has already sent a letter to our Michigan congressional delegation asking them to support this bill, and we need you to do the same!
The Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) would close the online sales tax loophole and level the playing field for the businesses that help build your community.
Take two minutes now to click this link and send the National League of Cities’ pre-written message to let your representative know how important this issue is to you. The letter is already drafted – all you need to do is fill out your name and address. Please help us send a message to our Representatives that the time for sales tax parity is now!

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

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.