eRegions Newsletter

Congress is in session

Congress Returns With a Herculean Agenda
Congress returns to work today after a week-long recess with fresh hope of passing several bills, including all 12 appropriations bills, legislation to raise the debt ceiling, and a budget agreement that will avoid $100 billion in automatic spending cuts to both discretionary defense and discretionary domestic programs before Congress leaves town for its month-long summer recess.
The degree to which Democrats and Republicans will be able to work together remains an open question given the potential for disagreement on a range of issues other than the fiscal ones mentioned above. These include gun control, Supreme Court nominations, the question of impeachment, and potential problems reauthorizing the Older Americans Act
So what can we expect over the next 28 full legislative days before the August recess? It is likely that Congress will pass a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill today and it will go to the president for his signature. It is also likely that Congress will find a way around obstacles to passage of the Older Americans Act before the current law expires on September 30. What is not clear, however, is whether Congress will pass 12 appropriations bills on time, adopt legislation to raise the debt ceiling, or avoid $100 billion in cuts to discretionary defense and domestic programs. 
It has been suggested that Congress may ultimately pass a two-year continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded through the 2020 election.  But, as the New York Times has pointed out, a penchant “for brinkmanship on the debt ceiling and a desire to keep strict spending limits in place, [is] prompting concern on Capitol Hill,” making bi-partisan progress on the debt ceiling and a budget agreement to avoid $100 billion in automatic cuts extremely difficult.
House Set to Pass Disaster Aid after Setbacks
The House is expected to pass a $19.1 billion disaster relief package (HR 2157) today after three Republican congressmen blocked the legislation over the Memorial Day recess. The legislation will provide recovery funding for a series of recent storms, wildfires, and hurricanes. Legislation passed in the Senate shortly before the Memorial Day recess only to be blocked three times over the recess by congressmen Chip Roy (R-TX), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and John Rose (R-TN). Once legislation is passed in the House, the bill will go to the president for signature. (He has already said he will sign it.) The final deal includes $600 million in food stamp aid for Puerto Rico and $300 million in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants. 
House FY 2020 Appropriations Schedule this Week
The House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its fiscal (FY) 2020 appropriations bill this evening. The Homeland Security appropriations bill is expected to drop tomorrow. The full House Appropriations Committee will meet tomorrow morning to mark up the FY 2020 Transportation-HUDand Agriculture-FDA appropriations bills.
National Flood Insurance Program Extended Two Weeks through June 14
Last Thursday, the House approved a two-week extension (S.1693) of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by voice vote, ensuring passage before the May 31 deadline. The $19.1 billion disaster aid package that the House is expected to clear this week would further extend the NFIP deadline until September 30, 2019. This would provide lawmakers additional time to work towards a long-term reauthorization of the program, which has seen 10 short-term extensions since 2017. NFIP was created under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to provide insurance coverage to property owners for damages and losses due to catastrophic flooding.
Mayors Appear Increasingly Concerned About Infrastructure
new report by the National League of Cities (NLC) stated that 57% of mayors discussed infrastructure at length during their annual State of the City addresses this year. Infrastructure increasingly has become a popular topic for mayors, especially as the prospects for a federal infrastructure package vanish quickly. While talks for a $2 trillion federal plan have stalled, mayors say their work must continue, citing the need to address problems with roads, bridges, water infrastructure, public transit, and housing.
The Economic Cost of Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events is Even Worse Than We Thought
June marks the official start of hurricane season, and with it comes growing concerns about the effect a warming global climate will have on the prevalence of extreme weather events across the country. New figures suggest that there will be serious economic costs associated with the increasing occurrence of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires that could cause the country’s GDP to drop 3.6% lower in 2029 than it would be otherwise. This may create a $1 trillion loss to the economy over the next decade. These figures highlight that the financial costs of extreme weather events will be felt much sooner than originally anticipated.
Administration to Allow Use of Ethanol Gas in Move to Benefit Farmers
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized its plan to allow year-round sales of E15, a fuel composed of 15% ethanol. This action will now permit distributors to sell the fuel during summer months, when it was previously banned due to concerns that the fuel harms the environment by increasing ground-level ozone pollution when burned in warm temperatures. E15 may be found at gas stations this summer, although E&E News reports that opponents could ask a federal court to block sales while an expected legal challenge is mounted.
Regional Spotlight
MORPC Approves Smart Streets Policy
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is the first region in the nation to include digital infrastructure in all planning of transportation projects through their new Smart Streets Policy. The policy seeks to incorporate emerging technologies and data into the planning, programming and implementation of all future transportation infrastructure projects. Through the Smarts Street Policy, local governments will be better prepared for future needs of the region by having the flexibility and preparation required to adapt to changing technology.
NIRPC Receives Fifth Award Recognizing Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan 
Last month, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) received the Best Practice Award from the Indiana Chapter of the American Planning Association for their Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan. This is the fifth award the plan has received since it was adopted in 2018, including a NARC Medium Metro Achievement Award. The plan continues to be recognized for the unique approach it takes to the combined needs of conservation and non-motorized transportation planning. NIRPC crafted the plan to enhance access to existing attractions and to expand their reach to all residents.
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Transportation Planner II
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Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, Toledo, OH​​

Senior Communications Specialist – Content Marketing
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Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Cleveland, OH​​

Executive Director
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Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization & Central Transportation Planning Staff, Boston, MA

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USDA Housing Preservation Grants
Applications Due: July 8
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award total of $15,888,420 in Housing Preservation Program grants to sponsoring organizations for the repair or rehabilitation of housing owned or occupied by low and very low-income rural citizens.
Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design
Applications Due: July 22
The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, along with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. Focusing on communities with populations of 50,000 or less, CIRD’s goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic viability of rural America through planning, design, and creative placemaking. CIRD is intended to empower local citizens to capitalize on unique local and regional assets in order to guide the civic development and
future design of their own communities.
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Working with Nontraditional Stakeholders
June 5, 12:00-1:00 PM ET
A major part of the Towards Zero Deaths (TZD) goal is to involve everyone in the effort. Helping others understand what TZD is and how it works can bolster your champion and ambassador ranks. In this University of Minnesota webinar, you will learn strategies for engaging and communicating with nontraditional stakeholders.
EPA Webinar: Earthquake Threats, Resilience Tools, and Project Funding
June 12, 1:00-2:00 PM ET
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invites you to join their webinar series on earthquake resilience for water and wastewater utilities. In these hour-long webinars, you will learn about earthquake risk, mitigation strategies, and resilience resources tailored to utilities. Question-and-answer periods offer participant interaction with the speakers.
Building Smart Cities and Communities at the Regional Level (NARC Speaker!)
June 19, 2:00-3:00 PM ET
Regional teams that span jurisdictions and disciplines are working together on projects to address issues that impact an entire region such as economic development, resiliency, health, public safety, connectivity, agriculture, mobility, and more. Join BroadbandUSA to learn about these efforts and others that cross jurisdictional boundaries to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, and increase the quality of life for all residents.


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