Upcoming Brownfields Tax Legislation

Representatives Elizabeth Esty and Peter King joined forces to introduce the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act of 2018, as referenced in their “Dear Colleague” letter. If passed, the legislation would save a brownfields tax incentive that expired in January 2012. According to the letter, the bill would “reauthorize a tax incentive program that would allow developers to fully deduct the costs of environmental cleanups of brownfields in the year the costs were incurred.” The reauthorization is expected to encourage private sector investment to take on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment projects. NARC, the National League of Cities (NLC), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently produced a letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

Farm Bill Advances from House Agriculture Committee

On April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 out of committee in a party-line vote. The strictly partisan vote resulted from many factors, including the bill’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the feeling from Democrats that they were left out of the bill drafting process. The Farm Bill is expected to face similar partisan pressure when it reaches the House floor, which could be as early as the week of May 7. Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to release their own Farm Bill next month. The Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has indicated that the Senate’s Farm Bill draft will not include the House’s SNAP provisions since they will be much more difficult to pass in the upper chamber. Concerns remain about the partisanship surrounding the Farm Bill and whether that will affect the passage of the legislation before it expires on September 30.

Last week, NARC signed onto a letter with the Campaign for Renewed Rural Development (CRRD) – a coalition of national policy advocacy organizations representing a broad spectrum of interests focused on rural issues – to highlight to the House Agriculture Committee the need for a robust Rural Development Title that provides critical investments to underserved communities and enhances rural America’s competitiveness in a global marketplace.

Long-Term FAA Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House

Last Friday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, which would reauthorize FAA through FY 2023. Attached to the bill are provisions of the bipartisan Disaster Recovery Reform Act previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy. The FAA bill does not include FAA air traffic control spinoff provisions. As of yesterday, 40 amendments had been filed. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. The current reauthorization deadline is September 30, 2018.

THUD Appropriations Member Day

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee had its FY 2019 Member Day yesterday. Several members applauded FY 2018 increases and urged the panel to protect infrastructure and housing programs and increase funding for FY 2019. Members also asked for support in their districts on specific issues, such as housing displacement from Louisiana floods and building Interstate 11 to link Las Vegas and Phoenix. Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said he is very happy with the 2018 omnibus and that it will be a firm starting point for 2019.

Rescissions Package a No-Go in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shut down the idea of a recessions package to reduce spending in the recently passed Omnibus bill, as has been floated in the House and by the administration. McConnell said that this action could imperil future negotiations with Democrats, telling Fox News, “you can’t make an agreement one month and say, ‘OK, we really didn’t mean it.’” He also pointed out that the administration was involved in bill negotiations and the President signed it, so they should not have been shocked to learn that the omnibus included Democratic priorities. Meanwhile, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told the House Appropriations Committee’s financial services subcommittee on Wednesday that he hopes to send a package in the coming weeks. He also said they plan to target money from previous years as well.

FCC Ditches 2 Federal Reviews in 5G ‘Streamlining’

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a wireless infrastructure streamlining order last week to try to speed up American efforts in the race to 5G, exempting small cell deployments from federal historic preservation and environmental reviews. Now only states and localities that have their own review processes in place can mandate them. After a failed attempt to delay the vote for more input from tribal nations, environmental advocates, and local government officials, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that streamlining the installation of 5G networks for the wireless industry will not guarantee improved access to underserved communities, such as rural areas and urban deserts. Read more in this Route Fifty article.

At Long Last, Congress and the President Fund FY 2018

After months of wrangling, five continuing resolutions, two short-term government shutdowns, and much argument over what funding levels and policy riders should make the final cut, Congress voted and the president signed an omnibus appropriations bill that will keep the federal government funded through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2018.

The $1.3 billion appropriation represents a significant success for our members! Many of NARC’s 2018 legislative and funding priorities received substantially more funding than the president requested and more than was appropriated in fiscal year 2017. Areas that saw significant funding increases include:

  • Transportation and infrastructure, including TIGER Grants, AMTRAK funding, and autonomous vehicles;
  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG);
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state workforce formula grants;
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA);
  • Census Bureau;
  • Opioid crisis relief, including funding for prevention, treatment, and law enforcement;
  • Rural water and broadband programs;
  • Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds;
  • Aging programs;
  • Low Income and Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program and other housing assistance programs; and
  • Homelessness assistance.

Several policy riders and authorizations were also adopted as part of the omnibus, including:

  • Reauthorization of the EPA Brownfields Program, including NARC supported language;
  • Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration is now extended through September; and
  • Short-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is extended through the end of July.

For more information, check out our new blog post on the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

Bipartisan Letter for Great Lakes Restoration Funding

Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI) and David Joyce (R-OH) submitted a joint letter to the House Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies requesting an appropriation of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for FY 2019. With 63 bipartisan co-signers joining the effort, this is the largest number of signers supporting GLRI funding. Representative Levin said, “The fact that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative garners such strong, bipartisan support is a testament to the importance it has to our region and the nation. Our public health and regional economic vibrancy is built on the Great Lakes’ ecological wellbeing, which can only be maintained with our sustained and robust commitment.”

Farm Bill Talks on Hold

At the request of his colleagues, Representative Collin C. Peterson stopped Farm Bill negotiations until House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conway provides Democrats with the draft text of the Farm Bill and the Congressional Budget Office cost estimates and impact assessments. Disagreement over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is partly to blame – as Democrats have made it clear that they oppose the language for SNAP, as it has been described to them and reported in the press. Although Chairman Conway hoped to release a bipartisan proposal last week, it was put on hold to gain support from several committee Democrats. These recent developments are likely to delay committee action until negotiations can start again between the committee Democrats and Republicans.