Congress Passes Temporary Transportation Spending Bill

Hours before adjourning for their August recess, the US Senate passed the House version of the temporary spending bill to prevent the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the continued authorization of MAP-21 through May 2015. The Senate had tried to shorten the time frame, hoping to force the discussion on long term solutions sooner rather than later, but had to concede at the end of the day. The bill, which passed on a 81-13 vote, inserts $11 Billion into the fund from a variety of sources, including pension smoothing. The League supports a long term solution to transportation funding, and is hopeful that after years of extensions, a serious discussion on the ongoing funding of our nation’s infrastructure will be had in the coming months.

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

 

Senate Passes Their Version of Temporary Federal Transportation Funding

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The US Senate voted last night to pass their version of a short term extension of MAP-21 and some federal funds to cover the expenses of the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out of money within days or weeks. Last week, the House passed a version that would have made the extension through May 2015. However, the Senate yesterday added some pressure by only funding transportation until December 19, 2014. Therefore, creating a greater sense of urgency to come up with a long term plan to fund that nation’s infrastructure. The House now has only two days to accept the changes to continue to try and negotiate before they leave for August recess at the conclusion of session this Thursday, July 31st.

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

Temporary Fix for Federal Transportation Crisis Passes House

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a temporary spending bill that would fund the Highway Trust Fund and extend MAP-21 until May 2015. The bill, HR 5021, would inject $10.9 Billion into the fund, which was projected to run out of money within weeks. The House’s proposal gets the funding from “pension smoothing,” customs user fees, and an account which was set to be used for leaking underground storage tanks.The bill now heads to the Senate for passage. There are positive indications that the Senate will support the measure, as there are only two weeks left until Congress leaves for their August recess.

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

Federal Transportation Department Tells State Transportation Departments Money is Running Out

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has sent a letter to all State Department of Transportation Directors letting them know that because of the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, reduced payments to states will begin starting August 1st absent Congressional action in order to manage cash flow. The letter is attached below.

There is still no solution agreed upon by Congress. However, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees leadership are meeting to focus on a short term fix that will fund transportation through the end of the fiscal year. The Congressional Budget Office has been warning officials that the Trust Fund would be insolvent in August for the past year. We will continue to keep you posted as this issue progresses and as further impacts are known.

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

Federal Transportation Funding Remains in Danger of Becoming Insolvent

Congress is unfortunately not any closer to solving the federal transportation crisis. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of funding within weeks, yet Congress can’t agree on either a long term solution or short term fix. Recently, Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn) and Patrick Murphy (D-Conn) proposed legislation to boost the federal gas and diesel taxes by 12 cents per gallon over two years, but there is not much optimism that this solution would be considered in time to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent or before MAP-21 expired at the end of September.

There will be growing pressure on Congress to act soon and most expect a very temporary solution to get Congress through until after the November election, which is not great news for local communities, looking at long term planning for transportation projects.

The League will keep you posted on any updates regarding this issue in the coming weeks.

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

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Federal Workforce Bill

The Senate passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, H.R. 803 by a margin of 95-3, sending the bill back to the House for action as soon as the next week. WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 by retaining many positive aspects of the program, while updating and streamlining others in a positive way.

The bill maintains and enhances the role of local elected officials in their local workforce development programs and guarantees funding for the program for the next six years. In addition, the new components ensure the effectiveness of local one stop centers, by requiring a full range of partner organizations to locate in the one stop including unemployment insurance, veteran’s employment, adult education, welfare and other services. It also allows for the creation of regional workforce development areas based on labor markets rather than political jurisdictions, but only with the agreement of local elected officials.

Both Senators Stabenow and Levin supported the bill. The League will keep you updated on action on this issue in the House.

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

 

 

EPA extends Comment Period for Proposed “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced they are extending the deadline for comments regarding their proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule until October 20th. The proposed rule would change the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act, which determines jurisdiction of water bodies under the CWA, impacting permitting and other CWA requirements.

Under the proposed rule, all tributaries and adjacent waters would  be considered jurisdictional, as well as “other waters” that would have to meet a “significant nexus” threshold in order to fall into that category as well.  There are other changes that you can find by going to the National League of Cities resource page here and scrolling down to the Clean Water Act portion.

Communities can submit comments for this rule, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 online by clicking here or by emailing ow-docket@epa.gov and including EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.

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 Regarding Supreme Court’s Ruling on Allowing Prayer in Meetings

The National League of Cities is hosting a free webinar on May 28th. The Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway clarifies allowable prayer practices before local government bodies and state legislatures.  Join Tom Hungar, Gibson Dunn, who argued this case before the Supreme Court, Douglas Haney, City Attorney for the City of Carmel, Indiana, and Lanny Proffer, former General Counsel for the National Conference of States Legislatures, in a discussion about how the Court’s ruling affects both state and local government.

Space is limited.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/444252274

This FREE webinar is co-sponsored by the State and Local Legal Center, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Title: Government Prayer after Town of Greece
Date:Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

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

White House Releases Long Term Transportation Proposal

Last week, the White House released it’s long term Transportation Bill. This is in the midst of a federal transportation crisis, as Congress struggles with how to address the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund – set to run out of money by the end of the summer. It is unclear if Congress will be able to come to a resolution on a long term fix in the middle of the mid term election cycle, or if they’ll scramble to find a short term fix until the lame duck session. The Press Release is listed below:

DOT 39-14
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Contact: Press Office
Tel: 202-366-4570

Secretary Foxx Sends Transportation Bill to Congress
GROW AMERICA Act would create jobs, provide certainty for country’s future growth

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today unveiled a long-term transportation bill he is sending to Congress for consideration as the House and Senate face looming deadlines to avoid the economic uncertainty and job loss that would ensue if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money this summer. The GROW AMERICA Act reflects President Obama’s vision for a four-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that would create millions of jobs and lay the foundation for long-term competitiveness, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges while providing much-needed certainty for local and state governments and addressing the country’s future needs.

“I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing – people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go,” said Secretary Foxx. “Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable – and unaffordable. This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve. I have been pleased to see that members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges, and I look forward to continuing our discussion and to supporting and building on the good work that’s already been done.”

On February 26, Secretary Foxx joined President Obama to announce a plan to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. As outlined in the FY2015 budget, the plan will invest in our national infrastructure network, increase safety and efficiency, and provide greater access to ladders of opportunity, all without adding to the deficit, by relying on the President’s proposed pro-growth business tax reforms.

The GROW AMERICA Act is based on this plan, and represents a number of proposals that have historically attracted bipartisan support including:

• Addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and providing an additional $87 billion to address the nation’s backlog of deficient bridges and aging transit systems;
• Creating millions of new jobs to ensure America’s future competitiveness;
• Increasing safety across all modes of surface transportation, including increasing the civil penalties the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can levy against automakers who fail to act quickly on vehicle recalls;
• Providing certainty to state and local governments that must engage in long-term planning;
• Reducing project approval and permitting timelines while delivering better outcomes for communities and the environment;
• Bolstering efficient and reliable freight networks to support trade and economic growth; and
• Creating incentives to better align planning and investment decisions to comprehensively address regional economic needs while strengthening local decision-making.

“GROW AMERICA makes the sizable investment needed to improve our country’s roads and bridges,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Improving U.S. infrastructure is a national priority, and will ensure America’s economy remains robust for generations yet to come.”

“The Administration’s proposal makes forward-leaning investments in ladders to economic opportunity for the many millions of Americans who want to work, or simply need a reliable and safe way to get to work,” said Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. “The GROW AMERICA Act will put thousands of Americans to work on repairing and expanding our aging transit infrastructure, while training women, minorities, and veterans to fill the jobs gap in transit through innovative new workforce development programs.”

“The GROW AMERICA Act will provide rail with a predictable, dedicated funding source and the tools needed to drive the next generation of rail safety and development,” said Joseph C. Szabo, Federal Railroad Administrator.  “It lays out a comprehensive strategy to eliminate risk on railroads through data-driven enforcement, proactive safety programs that identify risk in advance, and strong capital investment.  The safety gains identified in the bill, coupled with new investments in a higher performance rail network will move rail into the 21st Century.”

“Commercial bus travel is increasingly popular and this legislation will build on our unprecedented efforts to make it even safer by expanding oversight to bus ticket brokers and the locations where motorcoaches can be inspected,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “In addition, it will ensure fair pay for long-distance bus and truck drivers who are often paid by the miles they travel, not their total time on-duty, and face economic pressure to jeopardize safety by driving beyond the mandatory limits.”

“Whether traveling by motor vehicle, walking or bicycling, we are committed to ensuring that Americans reach their destinations safely. Our approach will continue to support both safer behavior and safer vehicles to prevent deaths and injuries on our roadways,” said Acting Administrator David Friedman, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “As the nation’s top regulator of the automotive industry, we hold manufacturers accountable for defect and compliance issues regarding their products and are seeking to further our ability to do so in the future, including increasing civil penalty limits nearly 10 times to $300 million.”

“On a typical day, more than 6.1 million tons of hazmat move throughout our nation’s transportation network,” said Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.  “The GROW AMERICA Act promotes efficiencies and improvements that will help PHMSA ensure that the transport of hazmat by road, rail, air and water continues to move safely and efficiently.”

Earlier this month, Secretary Foxx traveled across the country on his Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour, with visits to manufacturers, bridges, freight facilities, and highway projects to raise awareness of America’s infrastructure deficit. Secretary Foxx met with business leaders, stakeholders and members of communities to discuss the projects that work, projects that are needed, and to ask them to commit to a future with an American transportation system that’s second-to-none.

In the face of current uncertainty of federal transportation investment, many states have postponed or canceled needed transportation projects altogether. And without additional investment, deficiencies in our nation’s infrastructure will cost businesses more than $1 trillion every year in lost sales. Despite this growing need, the Highway Trust Fund, which provides most of the federal support for state transportation projects, is on track to start bouncing checks as early as August. In January, the Department of Transportation began posting a ticker online so the American people can track the remaining funds, available 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 Outlines How Communities Can Pay for Infrastructure

Local Solutions to Pay for Your Infrastructure Projects: Infrastructure Funding & Financing

This free webinar is being hosted by the National League of Cities on Tuesday, May 13th from 2:00 – 3:00. To register, click here.

Investment in infrastructure is critical to the economic development of this nation.  Not only does it pay for much needed transportation projects, but it is a job creator, a revenue generator, and a helps promote partnerships between a variety of stakeholders.  With federal funding in jeopardy, states and localities are having to explore new funding options to pay for their transportation infrastructure investments.

The National League of Cities, along with the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, will be hosting this webinar to help participants understand the ins and outs of alternative financing and funding mechanisms.  Presenters will explore a variety of sources and what contributes to an effective “financing toolkit.”  Participants will hear from speakers from Austin, TX and Tampa-Hillsborough, FL on how they are collaborating with key stakeholders on transportation financing options that best serve their communities.

Speakers

Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Austin, TX and President, International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association

Howard Lazarus, Director of Public Works, City of Austin, TX

Joseph Waggoner, CEO and Executive Director, Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority

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