eRegions

NOTE: NARC newsletters are typically uploaded to the website on the Friday of the week they were sent out.

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July 17, 2017

NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Congress is in session.

Overview
Last week was a busy one, and this week promises to be busier. Senate leadership released its latest version of legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Though it is too early to know whether it will pass or not, it is already facing several obstacles to passage. The first is that almost immediately Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) announced they would oppose the bill when it comes up for a procedural vote to allow debate on the bill. Other senators who opposed the previous draft have remained silent as they await the Congressional Budget Office’s report that will show how the bill would affect Americans, and whether the cuts to Medicaid would be as significant as originally thought. Of course, we already know that any hope of passing a health care bill this week was dashed by Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) unexpected surgery to remove a brain clot. With McCain out, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell intends to move forward with some presidential nominees, including the vote on FBI Director-Nominee Christopher Wray.

On the House side, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) adopted an appropriations bill that would reduce funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) by only $100 million to $2.9 billion – that’s $2.9 billion more than the president’s request. In addition, the bill would provide $9.7 billion for mass transit; $182 million for the Small Starts program; and $400 million for new major transit and commuter rail projects. The full Appropriations Committee is expected to adopt the THUD appropriations bill today.

Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee lowered the FY 2018 appropriation for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) by $100 million to $176 million, but still $146 million above the president’s request.

The House continues its efforts to adopt all 12 appropriations bills in committee by the end of the week. If this happens, leadership expects to craft a FY 2018 omnibus appropriations package that would pass the House before adjourning for August recess.

The House Budget Committee is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution by the end of this week. The budget resolution, which is likely to pass along party lines, will allow the House to move forward with tax reform legislation.

The House Banking and Urban Development Committee is expected to focus on a large number of nominations to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including: J. Paul Compton Jr. for general counsel, Anna M. Farias for assistant HUD secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, Neal J. Rackleff for assistant HUD secretary for community planning and development; Richard Ashooh for assistant commerce secretary for export administration; Elizabeth Erin Walsh for assistant commerce secretary for global markets and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service; Christopher Campbell to be assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions.

The Senate and House are very distracted by the Russia hearings, which could derail any plans to move legislation forward. But if all goes according to schedule, this will be a very busy week in the House and Senate:

  • Bills on the House Floor
    • HR 806,  delaying the implementation of EPA’s latest standards for ground-level ozone until 2025
    • HR 2883, eliminates presidential permit requirements for pipelines and electricity transmission equipment that cross U.S. international borders
    • HR 3050, providing Federal financial assistance to States to implement, review, and revise State energy security plans
    • HR 2910, expediting interagency reviews of natural gas pipeline projects
  • Appropriation Markups:
    • Today, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bill
    • On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to adopt the Homeland Security and Interior-Environment spending bills, including $1.6 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall
    • On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Energy and Water Development and Agriculture-FDA will mark up their spending bills, and will be considered by the full committee on Thursday.
    • On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Panel is expected to adopt the State-Foreign Operations, and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bills, including a $1.4 billion cut to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs
  • Committee Hearings:
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine comprehensive tax reform Tuesday at 9:00am
    • Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: Hearing to examine North American energy and resource security Tuesday at 10:30am
    • House Transportation Committee: Hearing to examine the implementation of FAST Act Tuesday at 10:00am
    • House Agriculture Committee: Hearing on the state of infrastructure in rural America Wednesday at 10:00am
    • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs: Hearing to examine housing finance reform Thursday at 10:00am
    • Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife: Hearing to examine innovative financing and funding for U.S. water infrastructure Thursday at 10:00am

Appropriation Bill for EPA, Interior Advances
Last Wednesday an Interior spending bill was advanced from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, sending it to the full committee for consideration. The good news? The cuts to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weren’t as deep as the administration suggested in their budget proposal. The bad news? The reductions in funding to the Interior, especially to EPA, were still significant enough to warrant concern from Democrats and environmental groups.

Bloomberg BNA conducted an analysis of the bill, noting that the bill would reduce funding for DOI, EPA, and related agencies from $32.37 billion to $31.4 billion. This is $4.3 billion more than the administration included in their budget proposal. EPA saw a $528 million reduction in funding for a total of $7.5 billion, cutting the agency’s funding by about seven percent and bringing EPA funding down to 2008 levels. For more specific funding changes in the bill, check out Bloomberg BNA’s analysis.

The bill also contained language that would target current EPA regulations. Bloomberg BNApoints out a total of “16 partisan riders” on the bill, including a measure that would accelerate EPA’s withdrawal of the “Waters of the U.S.” rule by skipping the public notice and comment period. Another important rider is that EPA would be barred from determining which areas meet the new 70 parts per million 2015 ozone standards. The bill language would further delay implementation of the 2015 ozone standards until 2025. It would also define energy from wood burning as carbon neutral.

EPA in the Courts: An Update on Methane Rule and Ozone Deregulations Delay
EPA currently has two cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit delayed its decision on its ruling that EPA could not put a 90-day pause on the Clean Air Act’s rule that limits methane emissions from oil and gas drilling. The court is giving the administration 14 days to decide whether they wish to appeal the decision. After that time expires, they must immediately begin enforcing the regulation again. The administration separately proposed a two-year delay on the regulation; you can voice your concerns during the public comment period, which ends August 9.

Environmental and health groups have filed a lawsuit against the administration for their decision to delay regulating the designations under the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone for one year. EPA’s argument for the delay was the Clean Air Act’sallowance of not enforcing the standard for one year if the EPA Administrator “has insufficient information to promulgate the designations.” The environmental and health groups said that the delay comes with serious risks to public health. Others have argued that the “insufficient information” the EPA cites for their action is not detailed. See the Motion for Summary Vacatur for the D.C. Circuit for more information.

DOE Spending Bill Approved by House Appropriations Committee
The FY 2018 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and various water infrastructure programs is ready to be considered on the House floor. While the $37.6 billion spending bill reduces funding by $203 million, it is much more favorable than the $3.2 billion proposed by the administration. The bill directs DOE to create a cybersecurity plan, quite possibly the result of a recent report on U.S. nuclear facility hacking. The bill also includes a policy rider much like the one on the DOI spending bill, which will speed up the process of withdrawing from the “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

As it is currently written, the bill would cut DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funding in half, severely limiting its ability to conduct research and lead efforts to provide the U.S. with clean and affordable energy. It would also eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds projects aimed at catalyzing the cutting-edge of energy research.

U.S. House Bill Zeroes Out Funding for COPS Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) was hit hard during the markup of the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, having its funding completely zeroed out. The COPS program provides grants to local government law enforcement agencies to hire officers that assist with community policing initiatives. COPS received $194 million in federal funding this fiscal year, and the administration suggested a $207 million increase in FY 2018 grant program funding.

U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) President Mitchell Landrieu wrote a letter urging the committee to support the COPS Office and its activities, sharing that its hiring grants “helped 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies hire and redeploy approximately 129,000 officers, thereby strengthening police-community relations and improving public safety.” He also asked for them to consider funding the COPS program at the levels the administration proposed. The House Appropriations Committee reported that the COPS program will be consolidated with the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, but USCM had concerns that the Byrne Program was a poor fit for the current programs COPS provides.

NARC and Others Send Letter on State and Local Tax Deduction
Today NARC and 24 other state and local organizations, including the National Association of Counties (NACo) and National League of Cities (NLC), sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) urging the Senate to maintain the federal tax exemption for municipal bonds to promote job creation and improve the nation’s infrastructure, allow states and localities the authority to set their own tax policies, and to maintain the current state and local tax deduction (SALT).

OTHER NEWS
Report on The Impact of Eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction
NACo, NLC, and the National Governors Association released a report that calls on Congress to preserve local and state tax deductions. Though not under immediate threat, state and local groups are concerned that these deductions could disappear as Congress looks for ways to increase revenue. With tax reform legislation in the works, this is definitely a possibility. The report makes clear that if state and local tax deductibility were repealed, almost 30% of taxpayers, including individuals in every state and all income brackets, would be adversely impacted, and that upwards of 60 percent of beneficiaries of the tax deduction are taxpayers earning less than $50,000.

VA, WY, AR, and KY Opt-In to FirstNet Network
Last Tuesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a ceremonial letter accepting the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the Commonwealth’s public safety community. “I am proud that Virginia is the first state in the nation to opt in to this program that will help our first responders communicate during times of emergency,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “While this is only the beginning of the process, I look forward to the continued coordinated efforts among Virginia, FirstNet, and AT&T to provide public safety officials with innovative new technologies that will help them keep Virginians safe.”

So far, three other U.S. governors have stated their intent to opt-in to the FirstNet network, including Wyoming, Arkansas, and Kentucky. For states/territories that elect to opt-in, FirstNet and its network provider, AT&T, will deploy, operate, and maintain FirstNet at no cost for 25 years. Once a state/territory opts in, FirstNet becomes available to its public safety community. States/territories that choose to opt-out are responsible for deploying, operating, maintaining and improving a FirstNet-compatible public safety network in their state/territory at their own cost. For more info, visit the FirstNet media kit page.

A Push for Greener Streets Adaptable to Rainwater
Cities are now looking for streets to serve as both a transportation network, carrying people to their destinations, and a stormwater network, to help manage runoff. Green infrastructure is really picking up around the country, allowing local officials to mitigate the effects of flooding and to control pollutants collected on the street from heading to the sewer. Although it may be difficult to install green infrastructure around existing utility lines, trees, curbs, and ramps, advanced planning and coordination can really help move the process along. Check out NARC’s Green Infrastructure and Forestry Toolkit (GIFT) and other green infrastructure projects. The National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Stormwater Guide is also available for your green infrastructure planning needs.

Mapping Disasters Can Lead to More Resilient Communities
Billion-dollar disasters are on the rise across the country, which means that local officials need to be prepared now more than ever to help their communities bounce back after the damage is done. Stateline shares a digital mapping technique being used by SBP, a nonprofit focused on disaster resilience and recovery. The tool assesses damage in homes and crosses that information with insurance and federal financial assistance data. Local officials can use the mapping software to quickly identify homes that need the most public assistance, and help them make decisions for resource allocation. SBP hopes that one day this will help local governments and volunteer agencies be one step ahead when disaster strikes.

REGION SPOTLIGHT
  
New AACOG Program to Help Alamo Area Veterans
More than 200 people attended the launch of TXServes in late June at Patriots’ Casa on the campus of Texas A&M-San Antonio. Administered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, with generous financial backing from the Walmart Foundation, AmericaServes establishes its Lone Star footprint with the launch of TXServes. The effort is led and coordinated by the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) and their Alamo Service Connection and Veteran Services programs. Teaming up with dozens of service providers in San Antonio, TXServes offers a digital platform through which these providers are able to help one another to identify services that many veterans need, like employment, housing, and mental health. The goal is to stop veterans from continuing to slip through service cracks without getting the help they need. The San Antonio metro area is home to more than 200,000 veterans – the 9th largest veteran community in the country.

Local Governments Receive FEMA Funding Awards to Prepare Communities for Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks
FEMA announced that it will award 29 local governments with funding from the Program to Prepare Communities for Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks. This program is focused on developing and implementing initiatives that will prepare communities for terrorist attacks by improving resiliency and encouraging regional approaches. Three awards were given to regional councils, including one of our members, the Mid-America Regional Council. NARC is following up with regional council awardees to provide more detail about specific projects at a later date.

Treasure Coast RPC Hosts Full-Scale Emergency Exercise
Earlier this year, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Commission hosted Operation Troubled Waters, a full-scale terrorism and mass casualty exercise, which was jointly planned, conducted and funded through the Region 5 Regional Domestic Security Task Force and the Treasure Coast Local Emergency Planning Committee. The exercise encompassed Indian River, Martin, and St. Lucie Counties and included 10 active incident response sites. Thirty-four federal, state, and local agencies participated and 250 volunteers provided support for the exercise. The exercise scenario centered on a violent agricultural activist group with stolen toxic chemicals attempting to poison an irrigation water supply. Operation Troubled Waters enhanced regional efforts to prevent, protect, mitigate and respond to acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events through multi-jurisdictional communication and coordination, responder mutual aid, and resource management.

Can Helping High-risk Patients with Basic Needs Reduce Costly Care in Rural Areas?
A recent story televised on PBS News Hour highlights a Montana program working to improve the health of low-income patients dealing with chronic conditions who frequently use emergency care services. This program, located in Kalispell, Billings, and Helena, connects patients with regular specialty care using telehealth; helps address barriers to care like homelessness, a lack of transportation, and food insecurity; and provides community health workers to assist with this transition.

REGIONS LEAD
Visit www.regionslead.org to read up on the latest NARC blogs. We invite members to submit blogs to the site too.

To Sell or Not to Sell? Small Local Governments Look at Privatizing their Public Water Systems
by Maci Hurley
The Washington Post highlighted that the idea of water privatization has left small and mid-size communities, many of which are already struggling with budget deficits, with a tough choice. Should these local governments continue to manage and maintain their own public water systems? Or is selling their water system to a private corporation a more reasonable option?

The Federal Budget and Appropriations Process: in Limbo
by Neil Bomberg
Neither the House nor Senate has passed a budget plan that outlines spending for fiscal year 2018 because the majorities in both chambers cannot agree on how much to spend on defense and non-defense programs. Moderate Republicans are concerned that a budget plan similar to the ones proposed by the president or the House speaker would make it very difficult for the House or Senate to maintain spending at current levels, let alone increase spending where consensus to increase spending existed.

MEMBER REQUESTS
Please email responses to anna@narc.org.

FEATURED JOBS
View full list of jobs!

Transportation Planner 
Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments, Kelso, WA

Executive Director 
Denver Regional Council of Governments, Denver, CO

Transportation Modeler/Analyst
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Philadelphia, PA

Senior Transportation Planner
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Philadelphia, PA

Alamo Service Connection Housing Navigator
Alamo Area Council of Governments, San Antonio, TX

Emergency Services Administrative Assistant
Central Texas Council of Governments, Belton, TX

FUNDING
View full list of grants!

HHS Wants You to Help Empower Communities for a Healthier Nation
Applications Due: August 1
The Office of Minority Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are offering awards through the Empowered Communities Initiative to provide support for minorities and/or disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis, childhood/adolescent obesity, or mental illness. The project should focus on the successful collaboration of academic medical centers, prevention research centers, teaching hospitals or Tribal epidemiology centers, and community based organizations for disadvantaged populations through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and promising practices with the greatest potential for impact. Each application should address only one of these three focus areas.

USDOT Seeking MPO to Support Transportation Disruption and Disaster Statistics Program
Applications Due: August 8
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) requires support from a multi-state coalition of state DOTs and other transportation agencies to develop a consistent national Transportation Disruption and Disaster Statistics (TDADS) program. BTS will establish a Cooperative Agreement with an MPO, state transportation department, or university on behalf of a multi-state coalition, in support of TDADS. The vision of the program is a national system that contains data, statistics, dashboards, tools, and visualizations to analyze and understand multimodal interstate and inter-regional transportation system disruptions.

Grants Available to Benefit HIV/AIDS Clients and Target Audiences
Letter of Inquiry Due: September 1
The Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation is offering grants to community-based organizations wanting to join the fight against HIV and AIDS. Grant projects must support HIV/AIDS care and direct services, education, and/or research. They can support developing or established programs, and should have an emphasis on direct benefit to clients or target audiences. The foundation is particularly interested in assisting smaller communities and rural areas. Once a letter of inquiry is submitted, applicants will receive an email response with an invitation to fill out a full application, a request for further information, or a denial.

HHS Wants to Help Prepare Local Governments to Public Health Crises
Applications Due: October 10
HHS Centers for Disease Control (CDC) wants to prepare communities to rapidly mobilize and respond to specific public health emergencies that exceed the capacity of jurisdictional public health resources. This opportunity is intended to fund public health departments for response to HHS Secretarial declared and nondeclared public health emergencies and other public health emergencies. Awardees would be approved but unfunded until a crisis occurs, enabling them to plan for emergency activation activities. This award complements ongoing capacity-building and response programs by providing a mechanism for CDC to rapidly mobilize and fund jurisdictions for specific response needs for specific public health emergencies. Eligible applicants include city, township, and county governments that have functional public health emergency management programs, legal authority, and already existing public health emergency management capacity.

EVENTS
View full list of events!

How to Compete for INFRA Grants – Rural and Tribal
July 18, 2:00-4:00 PM ET
This is an explanatory webinar on how to apply for INFRA funding and is intended for all applicants. Advance registration is required (Space is limited to the first 500 registrants). Additional webinars will be scheduled in the coming weeks and more information, dates, and registration links will be posted to the INFRA Webinar Series webpage. Prospective INFRA applicants are encouraged to look through the full Notice of Funding Opportunity. Applications are due on or before 8:00 PM ET on November 2. The Grants.gov “Apply” function will open on August 1.

EPA Drinking Water Preparedness Best Practice Webinar
July 19, 3:00-3:30 PM ET
The EPA Office of Water will be hosting a webinar that will discuss promoting preparedness to protect a town’s drinking water. The best practice they will be covering comes from EPA’s FY 2016 National Water Program Performance, Trends, and Best Practices Report. EPA Region 1 representative Jeri Weiss will highlight the town of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts by illustrating how they needed to develop an adaption plan focusing on the threat to the town’s drinking water after a major storm.

NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations: How Broadband is Transforming Agriculture
July 19, 2:00-3:00 PM ET
Broadband is enabling a revolution in agriculture practices, leading to “Smart Farms” that maximize resources by using information technology, mobile phones, apps and the Internet. Join the BroadbandUSA conversation on how broadband can help create new generation farms and farmers.

Connecting Communities® Webinar
July 27, 3:00 PM ET
Join this free webinar to learn how guarantees can be used as a form of credit enhancement to channel more private capital to impact investing deals and projects. Leaders from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and the Kresge Foundation will share their analysis of how guarantees have been used in U.S. community investing to date, including common features of guarantees based on a database of 58 deals. They will discuss recommendations for scaled use and also address barriers to using guarantees at greater scale in U.S. community investing.The program will highlight specific case studies to show how guarantees have been used to effectively motivate capital to finance projects such as healthcare centers, affordable housing development and preservation, energy efficiency retrofits, and neighborhood revitalization.

NARC Webinar! Cyber Security for Public Agencies: Top Mistakes to Avoid
August 1, 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET
Public sector agencies are becoming increasingly focused on the need to secure government information networks and data. Today’s public officials must be aware of threats such as ransomware, cyber extortion, hacktivism, attacks on critical infrastructure, cyber risk, breaches, and operational failure. Join this NARC and Public Technology Institute webinar to learn about the importance of cyber security for regions. The webinar will explore the current cyber security environment and provide insight on:

  •  Why public agencies are targets
  • Who and what is behind the attacks
  • The need to promote awareness within the public sector
  • Resources that are available
  • Tips to make you “cyber safe”

NACo Webinar on Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities
August 8, 3:00-4:00 PM ET
Regional food systems are gaining traction as vehicles for economic development and community resiliency. Join this webinar to learn how investments in agriculture and regional food systems are a leading diversification strategy that coal-reliant communities can use to help offset some of the challenges associated with the declining coal industry. NACo will be offering tools and strategies outlined in a new book by the USDA and the Federal Reserve in developing regional food systems to help stimulate the local economy. They will also be discuss real examples of how coal-reliant communities are integrating agriculture into their economic portfolios.

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