What Cities Are Asking Congress to Accomplish This Fall

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Congress is back in session and local leaders are looking to Washington for action, partnership and progress. For cities, towns and villages, this fall is about empowering our communities and pushing forward “must pass” bills before the federal legislative process slows during the election cycle. Here are five things we hope Congress will accomplish before the end of the year:

First things first, we need to prevent a federal government shutdown!

America’s cities, towns and villages cannot afford another government shutdown. The federal government must prevent a shutdown by passing the 12 annual spending bills by September 30. The continued failure to pass spending bills on time makes it more difficult for local leaders to plan our budgets and for communities to rebuild infrastructure, assist low-income households and invest in community development.

We look forward to helping Congress craft spending bills that move cities, towns and villages forward. Because local leaders are on the front lines, we know where federal dollars can go the farthest in our communities.

As part of a budget deal, NLC calls on Congress to stop the looming infrastructure cuts.

Congressional leaders need to fix the looming rescission of $7.6 billion in transportation funding and the estimated 12% cut in transit funding, set to take place in 2020 without Congressional action. Without a fix, these cuts will become permanent and crippling, and communities can’t afford cuts to infrastructure funding when the current status quo is not sufficient.

Long-term reauthorization of flood insurance is on the clock by the end of September.

The House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 3167 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for another five years in June. This bill includes several reforms such as increasing affordability, improving mapping and enhancing mitigation. The Senate is also considering a proposal (S. 2187) from a bipartisan group of Senators from coastal states that would support low- and middle-income families, invest more in mitigation and institute various management reforms.

NLC is concerned that without a long-term extension there will continue to be uncertainty about the fate of the program and the future of flood insurance rates for businesses, residents and disaster resilience. We are closely following proposed congressional legislation and implore the Senate and House to come to an agreement in early September to pass a five-year extension of the NFIP.

Local leaders need the federal government to empower local broadband leadership.

We’re calling for cosponsors to H.R. 530, the Accelerating Wireless Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019, and S. 2012, the Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act of 2019. H.R. 530/S. 2012 would repeal recent harmful Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations forcing local governments to subsidize the deployment of 5G wireless infrastructure on public property, with no guarantee of improved service for residents.

Cities, towns and villages are eager to welcome new technologies like 5G, but local leaders must retain the authority to protect the diverse needs of their residents. Federal agencies should work more closely with local leaders to understand those needs, which recent FCC actions failed to do.

It’s past time to invest in infrastructure.

Cities, towns and villages have continuously called on Congress to develop and pass comprehensive legislation that rebuilds and reimagines America’s infrastructure in partnership with local governments. 

In absence of a long-term infrastructure plan this year, we are focused on a few key pieces of bipartisan legislation that can improve our nation’s water, broadband and transportation systems while investing in training and education for our workforce.

  • The transportation reauthorization bill, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) ( 2302) would grow transportation investment and provide direct funding avenues for cities on safety, resilience and congestion.
  • The Moving FIRST Act (S. 1939 / H.R. 3388) would invest in “Smart Cities” of all sizes with annual grants for innovation in transportation and infrastructure.
  • The Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for SkillsBUILDS Act (H.R. 2831/S. 1517), would help ensure that communities have a pipeline of skilled, trained workers to meet the growing needs within infrastructure sectors.
  • The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act (H.R. 1497) would reauthorize and increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, an essential tool for communities to provide clean and safe water for residents and businesses.
  • H.R. 1764 would give states the flexibility to issue National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits up to 10 years to better align with local planning and construction timelines.
  • The Digital Equity Act of 2019 (S. 1167) would help communities get more residents online, through grants to train residents, develop a digital workforce and gain access to technology equipment.

Federal policies are implemented locally. Our cities want to partner with Congress to implement programs efficiently and seamlessly for residents. Local leaders across the country are counting on the productivity and partnership of Congress and the administration this fall.

During this critical time in Washington, it’s critical that local leaders stand together to drive forward a comprehensive and dynamic agenda on Capitol Hill. Visit the NLC Take Action page to ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor legislation that will make a difference for cities, towns, and villages.

Irma Esparza Diggs smallAbout the author: Irma Esparza Diggs is a senior executive and director of federal advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow Irma on Twitter @iediggs.