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109th Congress to return for unfinished business: domestic spending on the agenda for lame duck session.

Before control of Congress passes to the Democrats in January, the 109th Congress will return to Washington this week for a lame duck session to complete work on unfinished business, including action on domestic spending.

One of the must-pass items of business will include funding for all federal programs except homeland security and military programs, which were adopted before Congress left for the mid-term elections recess.

Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund all other domestic spending programs, which is set to expire on November 17. All legislative proposals that have not been enacted into law will need to be reintroduced in the new Congress, including some of NLC's legislative priorities.

The following is an update on the status and expected outcome of those priorities in the 109th Congress. In January, NLC will identify legislative priorities for the 110th Congress.

Housing and Community Development

The prospect for maintaining the modest funding gains sought by NLC in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and other NLC-priority federal housing programs, is clouded by the short schedule of the lame-duck session of the 109th Congress.

Although the House passed H.R. 5576, the Fiscal Year 2007 Transportation-Treasury-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations (TTHUD) bill in June, the Senate put consideration of the bill off until after the elections. The House version designates $3.9 billion for CDBG grants. The Senate version, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this summer, set aside $4.1 billion for CDBG grants.

Both House and Senate versions would fund Section 8 tenant-based vouchers at the Bush Administration's requested level of $15.9 billion, a small increase over last year's level of $15.8 billion. Both bills also provide $1.9 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which is a $184 million increase over last year, and $1.5 billion for Homeless Assistance Grams, a $185 million increase.

Given the short time Congress has to pass the remaining FY2007 appropriation bills, it appears likely that Congress will fold TTHUD and any remaining spending bills into a single omnibus appropriations bill.

NLC will vigilantly monitor the funding appropriated to these programs because omnibus spending bills, which are often cobbled together quietly and with little time for review, can be adverse to municipal interests.

Telecommunications

As the post-election lame duck Congressional session begins, NLC opposes legislation, the Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunity Reform Act (H.R. 5252), which was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in June. If passed, the bill would undermine local cable television franchising authority, deprive state and local governments of needed revenue, and confine broadband-video competition to a few well-to-do neighborhoods.

While it seems unlikely that the bill will reach the Senate floor on its own, there is a possibility that the bill--or portions thereof--might be attached to broader appropriations legislation during the lame duck session.

NLC, along with its coalition local government partners, will continue to urge Senators to oppose this bill, particularly because there is not enough time in a lame duck session to fully debate this huge and expansive bill.

Immigration

Although immigration was an issue in many campaigns during the mid-term elections, the 109th Congress is unlikely to take up the issue of immigration reform during the lame duck session.

The House and Senate left before the recess unable to reach agreement on an enforcement only approach favored by the House and a more comprehensive approach adopted in the Senate. With the impending change in composition to the House and the Senate, President Bush may find more support for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, including enforcement and a path to citizenship for those immigrants currently in the United States during a new Congress.

Eminent Domain

On September 29, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) made a final, successful effort to pass eminent domain legislation in the House. His bill, H.R. 4772, the Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 2006, proposed allowing petitioners challenging city zoning decisions to bypass state courts and bring their challenge directly to federal court. The bill also made it easier for developers to bring a claim against a municipality that a zoning decision reduced the value of their property.

NLC argued that the bill undermined local zoning authority to protect private homes and businesses, created greater federal court intrusion into local land use decisions and imposed significant financial costs on state and local governments, both in terms of added litigation expenses and potential damage awards. NLC supported a bipartisan effort to defeat the bill, led by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (R-Mich.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.).

Boehlert captured the consequences of the bill when he stated that support for H.R. 4772 would rob constituents of "the ability to control the character of their own neighborhoods."

The bill, which initially failed in the House, was brought to the floor for a second vote under a new rule, and passed by a vote of 231-181. Fortunately, the Senate took no action of the bill, and NLC anticipates the legislation will expire without further consideration at the end of the 109th Congress.

NLC remains poised to work collaboratively with the state municipal leagues, member cities, other organizations and the 110th Congress to protect the interests of local governments on these important issues.

Details: For more information on NLC priority issues, please visit www.nlc.org. For information on issues that need immediate action, please visit the NLC Grassroots Action Center.

Alexander Ponder, Michael Wallace and Leslie Wollack contributed to this story.
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Title Annotation:United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations
Author:Coleman, Carolyn
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 13, 2006
Words:920
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