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Mandate watch: progress and problems on unfunded mandates.

NLC spearheaded a national campaign last year that culminated in nationwide demonstrations and press conferences led by local officials on October 27, 1993, National Unfunded Mandates Day.

That campaign raised the awareness of citizens and taxpayers in cities and towns about the impact of unfunded federal mandates on local taxes, budgets, and services. The campaign was the first step in a comprehensive effort to change the way the federal government deals with the nation's cities.

On the day before National Unfunded Mandates Day, President Clinton signed an Executive Order in the Oval Office with NLC President Sharpe James and other state and municipal leaders -- the first fruit of our combined efforts. Now President James is leading the next steps to reduce existing mandates, stop new unfunded mandates, and to put municipal leaders at the table anytime the federal government is set. on influencing the way cities do business.

To keep city and town leaders informed about unfunded federal mandates, this "Mandates Alert" column will appear regularly in The Weekly. The column will highlight mandates contained in current and forthcoming administrative regulations and Congressional legislation, inform municipal officials on to fight unfunded mandates at the federal level, and discuss steps local officials must take to comply with mandates. Readers with comments or suggestions on the column are invited to call Mary-Margaret Larmouth at (202) 626-3025. EPA Cabinet Status Bill

The defeat of the rule on the EPA Cabinet bill, HR 3425, two weeks ago was a clear demonstration that the seeds sown in cities and towns across the nation last fall are working. The House of Representatives sent a message that the current way of doing business--that is, imposing mandates on municipalities without any consideration of costs or benefits to local governments -- is no longer acceptable.

The administration and House leadership had proposed a rule to prevent the House from voting on an amendment to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue any new regulations unless accompanied by a risk-benefit analysis -- similar to an amendment by Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La) already passed by the Senate. NLC President Sharpe James wrote to every member of the House urging them to oppose the rule (see The Weekly, Febuary 7).

The vote against the rule (227-191) was a vote for the consideration of costs and benefits, and risk assessment in the EPA's regulation process. The vote also shows that Congress is finally getting the message local officials made loud and clear on National Unfunded Mandatesw Day. There are many challenges ahead in the battle against unfunded mandates and we are off to a great start. City and town leaders need to keep the momentum going!

DOT Mandates Drug

And Alcohol Testing

One rule that is already out of the gate is mandated drug and alcohol testing of mass-transit employees and all drivers with commercial drivers licenses. These regulations are included in the 1994 final rules published February 4 by the Department of Transportation updating the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991.

Local governments must fund the testing of their employees with no assistance from the federal government. Every locality that employs bus drivers, subway operators, school-bus drivers, and the controllers, mechanics, and armed security personnel associated with transit systems will be affected by the new rules.

The number of drivers with commercial licenses depends upon the municipality, but can include drivers vehicles for highway maintenance, sanitation, natural gas, and ferries. The new rules can also apply to pilots of police and rescue helicopters.

These regulations are effective January 1, 1995. At that time, pre-employment, post-accident, and "reasonable suspicion" testing will begin through the use of breathalizers and urine samples.

In addition, the first year of testing will require 25 percent of employees to be tested randomly for alcohol use and 50 percent for drug use. After the first year, these percentages would change based on the number of employees who tested positive and who refused to be tested.

These are final rules and will not be changed. Local governments must start to prepare now for implementation in 1995. A copy of the rules can be found in the Federal Register of February 15, 1994; vol.49, no. 31, p.7302-7625. Copies are available by calling Mary-Margaret Larmouth at (202) 626-3025. Safe Drinking Water Act

Because of efforts by municipal and water supply officials, there are now 121 co-sponsors of the Slattery-Bliley amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (HR 3392). A bi-partisan bill, similar to H.R. 3392, should be introduced in the Senate shortly.

NLC believes the Slattery-Bliley bill will provide a more rational approach to protecting public health from contaminants in drinking water than current law by making changes in the standard setting process allowing EPA to take cost and risk reduction benefits into account.
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Author:Larmouth, Mary-Margaret
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 21, 1994
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