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.”

Keeping the Government Funded

Another funding deadline is fast approaching, and Congress has yet to adopt a funding bill that will keep the government open through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

Despite increases in both defense and non-defense discretionary funding, many in Congress remain dissatisfied with the $1.3 trillion bill that House and Senate leaders plan to introduce today. The most serious objection is that this budget agreement will significantly add to the deficit, and therefore the debt.

There are also policy differences that continue to get in the way of a final agreement. Whether and how to shore up funding for the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood are two significant stumbling blocks. Funding for immigration enforcement, including the US-Mexico border wall; a host of tax extenders and provisions to address business concerns about the impact of the new tax law; the new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, which the White House opposes and is using as a bargaining chip; and school safety and guns also threaten an agreement.

Moreover, it remains to be seen whether House and Senate members have enough time to debate and pass a bill before Friday without resorting to another short-term extension. In light of the upcoming mid-term election, members of both parties want to show their base that the core interests of their communities are being addressed – and many members are attempting to use this bill to do just that.

Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders

To engage the next generation of leaders, some regional councils are putting on innovative programs for high school students. The Atlanta Regional Commission is now recruiting for its next round of its Model Atlanta Regional Commission program, bringing together 50 high school students from its 10-county region to learn about the issues shaping metro Atlanta. The program’s participants practice effective leadership, communication, and collaboration skills through the development of actionable ideas and efforts to promote positive change in the region.

Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization has been visiting various high schools in the region hosting “Think Like a Planner” workshops to teach students how to make their area more accommodating and safe for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and motorists. After walking around their local area, the students present their ideas for improvement to a panel of business professionals, showcasing what they have learned about urban planning and transportation decision-making.

Fight Coming Over Clean Air Regulations

The Trump administration signaled this week that it could end California’s long-standing authority to set its own limits on air pollution, largely over a disagreement regarding fuel efficiency standards. The administration faces an April 1 deadline to decide if more stringent fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, established by the Obama administration, are attainable or need to be reworked. The federal government is seeking to leverage the waiver granted by Congress to California in 1970 that allows the state to set pollution standards that are more stringent than the federal Clean Air Act requires, using it as a wedge to convince California to agree to reductions in fuel efficiency standards. Automobile manufacturers are concerned that separate standards at the federal and California level – the state where more cars are sold than any other – would be overly burdensome.