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Bi-partisan action breathes life back into partnership act.

The Local Partnership Act, HR 5798, has been approved by the House Governments Operations Committee and can now be considered on the floor of the House.

The Act, designed to provide a one-year distribution of $3 billion to cities, towns and counties across the United States was approved by the House Government Operations Committee on a bipartisan vote of 31 to 10 on Tuesday, August 11th. It was amended substantially as a result of negotiations and received a majority of the votes from both the Democratic and Republican members of the committee.

In order for cities and towns to receive funding under the Act the bill require approval in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, in which no comparable legislation has yet emerged from committee. Following these steps the program will have to secure a place in the budget through the appropriations process.

Negotiations Lead to Passage

The bill now designated HR 5798, (in earlier versions it was HR 3601 and HR 5359) was forged in eleventh hour negotiating sessions held between Rep John Conyers (D-Mich.), the original sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Bob Wise (D-W.V.) and a trio of Republican members: Rep Christopher Shays (R-Conn.); Rep Frank Horton (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican and a father of the old Revenue Sharing program, and Rep Ron Machtley (R-R.I.).

The negotiations resulted in amendments which make the following major changes in the bill. It now (1) authorizes funding at a level of $3 billion compared to the $5.4 amount proposed in the last consideration of the legislation, (2) adds language to accomplish federal deficit-neutrality, and (3) makes substantial modifications in the proposed fund distribution formula.

Opening the committee meeting, Chairman Conyers said the legislation honors three principles: local governments can make the most responsive spending decisions, the federal government has strong role in setting overall priorities and funding is distributed on a need based formula.

Rep. Shays said that in the compromise "common ground" had been reached." Many cities are dying and we will have to deal with them one way or another. We simply have no choice." Rep. Wise said that in the process of negotiation "We have gained strength." Referring to differences between West Virginia and Connecticut communities, he said "through the discussions we have learned of each other's problems."

Four Classes of Recipient Cities Created

The new funding formula which creates four classes of jurisdictions appears to have been the key element of the compromise. Two classes receive funding under the bill, one class is completely ineligible and a fourth class of primarily smaller jurisdictions can advocate for local projects from a fund to be administered by the governor of each state. The creation of differential funding levels and the ineligibility of jurisdications whose residents have the highest average incomes in each state allows more targeting of the funding even after the $2 billion reduction in total funding.

Cities and towns whose residents per capita income is greater than 160 percent of their state's per capita income are ineligible for funding (approximately 1,500 jurisdictions nationally).

Cities and towns whose per capita income is more than 120 percent and 160 percent of their state's per capita income would receive 50 percent of the amount they would otherwise receive under the formula.

Cities and towns with per capita income is 120 percent or less of the state average would receive a full share under the Act's formula.

Cities and towns which would be allocated $5,000 or less under the formula would not receive direct funding under the legislation instead the sum of all such allocations in the state would be paid "to the Governor of the state in which the unit is located.

Mandates were the Subject of Discussion

As a part of the discussions of the bill, Conyers indicated an openness to reviewing currently introduced legislation on the cost of federal mandates or the development of a new legislation on this subject. During the course of the committee's meeting and a subcommittee markup held earlier in the day a series of amendments were offered on mandates and federal preemptions and while all were ruled out-of-order in the context of the Local Partnership legislation they did lead to the chairman's comment. Rep. Weiss (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, also indicated a sympathy for the issue during subcommittee consideration.

Rep Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) offered one amendment in subcommittee which would have required the federal government to pay for mandates and another which would require the Congress to declare in legislation their specific intent to preempt state or local authority and to produce an annual report on new preemptions enacted in each year. In the full committee, Rep. Gary Condit (D- Calif.) also proposed a pay for mandates amendment which produced the statement by Chairman Conyers.

Other Amendments

Three other amendments were approved during the committee's deliberations a requirement that recipient communities set aside 10 percent of contracts under the Act for "small businesses concerns controlled by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals and women," sponsored by Rep Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.).

Rep Wise expanded the list of eligible spending to include "any public works project for which on-sit labor can begin within 90 days after the date of approval of the project by the unit."

Wise was unsuccessful in gaining approval of an amendment to require 50 percent of funds to be used for capital improvements. This amendment lost on a vote of 16 to 23 but given the one year character of the program and the near unanimous support of the proposal by Republican members of the committee some variation of this concept can be expected to emerge in future consideration of the legislation.
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Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 17, 1992
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