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'Speak out for our agenda' NLC president tells cities.

NLC President Glenda Hood wrote to mayors and councilmembers across the nation last week to urge their active leadership and support of key federal priorities affecting the nation's cities and towns before the 102nd congress adjourns.

Congress returns today with fewer than legislative days of session left before its scheduled adjournment - and almost every critical city priority awaiting action. More than 8,300 bills are pending, including hundreds affecting the nation's cities and towns.

For the nation's municipal leaders, the key issues are: city aid; housing and community development; funding the new surface transportation program; preventing new, unfunded mandates for stormwater, drinking water, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and restoring some community control over cable TV.

As early as this week, the House could take up action on NLC-supported re-authorization of the nation's housing and community development laws as well as NLC-supported legislation to restore some control over cable TV operators in communities. In the Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) could begin action in his committee on a Senate version of urban aid legislation, HR 11, as early as tomorrow, while Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) could begin action on House-passed funding legislation, HR 5518, this week to provide full funding for the nation's communities' highway and public transportation programs.

In her letter, Hood urged city leaders to speak out on behalf of their communities and constituents to urge action by the Congress before it adjourns:

"Together our nearly 150,000 elected municipal officials can wield significant power if we work together to improve and protect our communities. But we can only make a difference if all of us, together with those we represent, make our voices and views known.

"We all have not only the opportunity, but also the responsibility to promote the role of our communities in advocating our priorities. I know we can make a difference, and I would welcome and appreciate your help in making that difference."

Action Agenda for Communities

The second session of Congress has made little progress on priority community issues, especially given the growing partisan differences between the administration and House and Senate leadership on key municipal issues. Little time remains to complete final action on many issues, with Congress scheduled to resume action today until August 13, return from September 8 until its scheduled adjournment on October 2.

For the nation's municipal leaders, key pending issues are:

City Aid and Tax Package: The House, in response to the events in Los Angeles, on July 6 passed and sent to the Senate a White House-leadership compromise bill, HR 11, called the Urban Aid bill, which includes permanent extensions of the expired mortgage revenue and small issue idb bond programs, $5 billion in tax benefits and direct aid for up to 50 urban and rural enterprise zones, and other municipal tax relief measures. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to begin work on its own version of a city aid tax plan as early as this week.

The House-passed $17 billion bipartisan package includes the following key provisions for cities and towns: [subsection] permanent reauthorizations of the four, expired priority municipal tax programs, [subsection] the creation of up to 50 rural and urban enterprise zones over the next 5 years (phased in, beginning with 8 urban and 8 rural this year), [subsection] a five year, $2.5 billion Enterprise Community Block Grant program for enterprise zone cities and towns, and [subsection] increased authority for the issuance of a new kind of tax exempt redevelopment bonds by cities and towns with enterprise zones.

NLC leaders are concerned that enterprise zones, by themselves, will be insufficient.

The key issue for cities and towns is to ensure credit availability in cities and towns and to ensure that cities can issue tax exempt bonds to help provide financing for purposes other than manufacturing.

Changing the tax laws to provide incentives for banks to purchase municipal notes or bonds would both reduce a city's cost of financing as well as encourage local banks to be a partner in economic development. Changing the restrictions on small issue industrial development bonds would enable a city to provide low interest rate financing for small businesses to create job opportunities.

NLC supports: Creating a new Distressed Areas Bond Program, providing a new program outside the state private activity bond volume cap, for the issuance of bonds for distressed areas; modifying current restrictions on small issue idb's to permit their use for certain commercial purposes in distressed areas; and modifying the current restrictions on bank deductibility to permit full bank deductibility and comparable insurance deductibility for banks or insurance companies that purchase or hold general obligation, revenue, or private activity bonds where the proceeds are used in distressed areas - or for a bank with a Superior Community Reinvestment Act credit rating.

Reauthorizing and extending permanently municipal authority to issue mortgage revenue and small issue idb bonds, and permanent extensions of the low income and targeted jobs tax credit programs.

Housing & Community Development: While the administration has called for severe cuts in both the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME state and local housing block grant programs, but has not proposed reauthorization of the expiring laws, both the House and Senate will be taking up reauthorization bills later this month, and the House will consider appropriations legislation to increase CDBG funding by $600 million next year to $4 billion.

NLC strongly supports the House version, HR 5334, which would reauthorize both the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME state and local housing block grant programs, but reject the administration's proposed preemption of municipal land use and zoning authority. The nation's housing and community development laws are scheduled to expire on September 30th. Both the House and Senate versions would provide communities with direct and flexible assistance to address local housing and community development needs. In addition, the House is likely to act as early as next week on the HUD Appropriations legislation, which includes as $4 billion funding level for the CDBG next year.

NLC is concerned about a provision in the Senate reauthorization bill which would impose an expensive, unfunded mandate on local taxpayers. The Senate reauthorization bill includes a requirement that cities and towns test and assess the extent of hazardous levels of leadbased paint in federally subsidized housing. There is no comparable provision in the House bill.

Surface Transportation: Despite a new law calling for a much greater role for local governments and full draw down of the Highway Trust and Fund balance, the administration has been slow to deal with lack of cooperation by some states and recommended funding levels far below the levels set out in the law. But in a major victory for cities and towns, a bipartisan leadership team in the House successfully amended the Transportation funding bill, HR 5518, to add back $2.4 billion in highway and public transportation project contract authority and funding, and sent the bill to the Senate.

Led by Reps. David Obey (D-Wisc.), House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), House Public Works Committee Chairman Robert Roe (D-N.J.), Ranking Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-Ark), and Reps. Norm Mineta (D-Calif.) and Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), the House voted to take $400 million out of unspent foreign aid and put it into the surface transportation program - enough funding to leverage nearly $2.4 billion worth of projects and 150,000 jobs in American communities.

The Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), is scheduled to begin considering its version of the bill as early as this week.

Unfunded Mandates: Cities and towns are faced by three, major unfunded mandates unless the administration and Congress act shortly. Each of the mandates could impose sever costs on local communities.

Stormwater Mandates: Cities under 100,000 face a September 30, 1992 federal EPA stormwater deadline mandating obtaining in excess of 8 million permits for every stormwater outflow in every community - a mandate projected to cost as much as $20,000 per family in every community - and a mandate for which neither the administration nor Congress has offered any way to pay. NLC is seeking significant changes - focusing especially on Congressional relief from the requirement for treating each and every outflow or end-of-pipe.

Radon: EPA has also proposed new mandatory regulations on radon levels in drinking water which could force cities and towns to pass on some $12 billion in capital and $2.5 billion in annual operating costs to local ratepayers and taxpayers. EPA has not offered to help compensate for any of the mandates. Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) are leading NLC - supported efforts to prohibit EPA from using any funds to enforce the rule until EPA has completed a risk assessment of its proposed mandate.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Relief: Despite intensive lobbying, the administration has still not issued its final regulations. Moreover, a District Court decision against the City of Los Angeles appears to partially invalidate the proposed regulations and impose substantially greater liability on all cities. Without action by the administration or Congress, cities and towns could be faced by billions of additional dollars of liability for overtime payments. NLC is supporting legislation (HR 5112 and S 1670) to reduce this liability and continuing to urge the administration to act on its long-delayed regulations.

Cable: After more than 5 years of efforts by local officials, the House is finally ready to take up NLC-supported legislation, HR 4850, to restore some control over cable TV operators in communities. The Senate has already passed legislation, S 12, and is waiting to go to conference with the House to seek cable consumer relief.

Because of the differences between the House and Senate versions, and because of cable operator and White House opposition to cable relief.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities president Glenda Hood
Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 20, 1992
Previous Article:NLC conference celebrates great leadership ideas.
Next Article:NLC Board meets to redirect organization's leadership role.

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