News and Updates

Community and Economic Development
Neil Bomberg

The Importance of a Federally-funded Job Training System

In times of very low unemployment, the need for an effective and well-funded federal job training system may be greatest. This is the first of a two-part series on workforce development: Keep an eye out next week for the second article: Why a Regional Job Training System Makes the Most Sense.

Transportation
Eli Spang

More Uncertainty for Capital Investment Grants (CIG) in 2019 and 2020

Last Tuesday, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a $1.36 billion allocation of Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funding. The money, drawn from streams of both fiscal years (FY) 2018 and 2019 allocated funds, will be directed at 11 existing projects and 5 new projects.

Community and Economic Development
Maci Morin

Addressing Public Health Concerns Using Regional Solutions

Happy National Public Health Week! This annual week-long celebration, spearheaded by the American Public Health Association (APHA), celebrates the nation’s public health successes while calling attention to our most pressing health-related challenges.

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eRegions

April 29, 2019        View full newsletter

NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Congress is in Session

Congress Returns with Daunting Agenda
After a two-week recess, Congress has returned facing a daunting agenda that includes writing and approving 12 appropriations bills by October 1 and raising the debt limit. 

President Trump has prioritized raising the debt limit over passing appropriations bills, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said raising the debt limit can wait while Congress moves forward passing appropriations bills. In the meantime, the Treasury Department is now using “extraordinary” measures to enable the federal government to continue borrowing money. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that Congress does not have to act to raise the debt ceiling until September or October of this year.

House Democrats have stated that they want to pass all 12 appropriations bills by June 30, and House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated that she expects all the House appropriations bills to be ready for floor consideration sometime in May.

Still out of reach is a Senate and House budget agreement. Without an agreement, House and Senate appropriators will be working from two different sets of caps that may make appropriations agreements more difficult later in the year. 

House Democrats are currently drafting legislation assuming they have $661 billion for defense and $631 billion for nondefense. Senate Republicans have said that any budget agreement between the House and Senate should include $750 billion for defense, a substantial increase over current spending. House Democrats have set the overall cap for defense at $733 billion, including contingency funds that are not subject to the caps.

Other legislation that may move forward between now and the month-long August recess includes the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would replace NAFTA and legislation to overhaul Internal Revenue Service operations, improve work access to retirement savings accounts, reduce the cost of retail prescription drugs, and reform the immigration process (though that remains a long shot.)

Next week: an overview of some of the bills pending before Congress.

Transportation Thursdays

April 25, 2019      View full newsletter

CONGRESS BRIEF
Congress returns from recess April 29.

Senators to Metro: No More Federal Funding If You Buy Chinese Rail Cars
A Senate bill would raise federal funding for the DC Metro system from $150 million to $200 million per year and approve that funding for ten years – but only if the transit agency agrees to not buy new rail cars from China. The legislative push, brought about by the region’s senators, comes as China’s state-owned rail company is pursuing a Metro contract worth over $1 billion. This deal could potentially save Metro hundreds of millions of dollars, but there is growing concern in Washington over the effect of Chinese domination on American manufacturers and the potential security risk that Chinese-manufactured technology poses.

ADMINISTRATION
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Availability of $900 Million in Infrastructure Grant Funds
USDOT has announced the availability of $900 million in discretionary grant funding through the BUILD program. The FY 2019 BUILD Transportation grants are critical investments in surface transportation infrastructure and will be awarded to projects that illustrate significant local or regional impact. The DOT intends to award up to 50% of available grant funding to projects in rural areas, giving special consideration to projects focused on improving transportation, infrastructure and economic conditions in rural communities. The deadline to apply for the FY 2019 BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grants program is July 15, 2019.

National Coalition on Truck Parking’s Releases Advocacy Resources With Ease-of-Use in Mind
The National Coalition on Truck Parking released new resources geared towards making state, regional, and local government coordination easier when it comes to truck parking issues. The materials cover topics including how to improve truck parking across regions, the importance of local planning and zoning, and how to include truck parking in MPO freight plans.

Alphabet’s Drone Delivery Business Cleared for Takeoff by FAA
Wing Aviation LLC, a Google subsidiary, has become the first drone operator to receive FAA approval as an airline. Wing can now legally begin dropping products to actual customers, and while there are limits on where the offshoot can operate, there is growing optimism about the precedent this sets. Plans are also in the works to conduct extensive outreach to local government leaders and the public to address concerns regarding noise and privacy and understand how this will affect local communities. The approval marks a big step towards the integration of drones into the American economy and highlights the changing landscape of delivery services.

Connecting Transportation and Health: A Guide to Communication and Collaboration
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has compiled a guide for transportation professionals on connecting transportation and the public health sector. The resource provides insights into how to communicate and work within the public health sector on a federal, state, regional and local level, while also highlighting techniques for successful collaboration and coordination with health professionals.

Building Regional Communities

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) serves as the national voice for regions by advocating for regional cooperation as the most effective way to address a variety of community planning and development opportunities and issues.

Advocacy

NARC is responsible for representing regional planning organizations in Congress and with the federal executive agencies. NARC staff work through a committee-guided and local elected official board-driven structure in developing and executing national legislative policies.

Resources

NARC provides its members valuable information and research on key national policy issues, federal policy developments, and best practices. The association conducts enriching training sessions, conferences, workshops and webinars for its members.

Conferences

During NARC conferences members come together to share best practices and attend informative sessions on legislative and regulatory issues. Speakers include experts from the public and private sector, lawmakers, and individuals from universities and non-profit organizations.