Dial-In Meeting: Northeast Regional Counties Conference Call

NACo Northeast Regional Conference Call

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

8:00AM EST


Dial-In(toll free): 1-888-757-2790

Guest Passcode:299194

Conference Call Objectives

  • Regular update from your NACo Regional Representative
  • NACo Staff update on critical issues legislatively and organizationally
  • Address issues of concern to you

General Legislative/NACo Update

  • HADI SEDIGH – NACo Associate Legislative Director – Justice & Public Safety
    • Executive Orders on Immigration and Sanctuary Cities and the possible impact on counties
    • Opioid Town Hall Update
    • Justice and Public Safety sessions at the Legislative

Counties Nationwide Fight For A Local Infrastructure Fast Track

A Local Infrastructure Fast Track not only matters to Maryland counties, but to counties nationwide. Yesterday, the National Association of Counties (NACo) testified before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on modernizing the nation’s infrastructure system. NACo Representative Cindy Bobbitt, chair of the Grant County, Okla. Board of Commissioners, emphasized counties’ vast transportation infrastructure responsibilities. Counties own and maintain 45 percent of public road miles and nearly 40 percent of bridges, and are involved in a third of the nation’s public transportation systems and airports.

In Maryland, counties own and maintain 74 percent of the public roads. Local governments own and maintain 83 percent of our transportation network.

NACo reports:

[Bobbitt] noted that county infrastructure plays a critical role in moving freight and other goods to market, while modernizing industries, higher crop yields and new methods of energy extraction create immense stress on rural roads.

Additionally, Bobbitt underscored that the federal-state-local partnership on infrastructure, informed by county input, is crucial for economic competitiveness.

“Counties stand ready to work with our federal partners to achieve our shared goals — improving transportation, increasing public safety and boosting our economy,” she said.

Watch the testimony here:

Ruppersberger Again Leading Defense of Muni Bonds

Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is helping lead the efforts on protecting tax-exempt municipal bonds in any future tax reform or infrastructure measures. He, along with Rep. Randy Hultgren, urge you to take action and sign the Municipal Bond Dear Colleague Letter.

Background from NACo:

As tax reform and infrastructure discussions advance on Capitol Hill, proposals that would cap certain tax benefits, including the exemption for municipal bond interest, continue to be offered as a way to help address the federal debt and deficit. The House Ways and Means Committee continues to work on a tax reform package and could finalize details in the weeks and months ahead.

Tax-exempt municipal bonds have been a fundamental feature of the U.S. tax code since 1913. They remain the primary method used by states and local governments to finance public capital improvements and public infrastructure projects that are essential to creating jobs, sustaining economic growth and improving the quality of life for Americans in every corner of this country.

Between 2003 and 2012, counties, states and other localities invested $3.2 trillion in infrastructure through long-term tax-exempt municipal bonds, 2.5 times more than the federal investment. During that decade, $514 billion of primary and secondary schools were built with financing from tax exempt bonds; nearly $288 billion of financing went to general acute-care hospitals; nearly $258 billion to water and sewer facilities; nearly $178 billion to roads, highways, and streets; nearly $147 billion to public power projects; and $105.6 billion to mass transit.

How to Sign the Letter:

Call and email your House members today and urge them to sign on to the municipal bond dear colleague letter. The current cosigners include: Reps. Hultgren (R-Ill.), Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Napolitano (D-Calif.), Messer (R-Ind.), Brooks (R-Ala.) and Capuano (D-Mass.).
Visit NACo’s County Explorer to download your state municipal bond profile and share this with your members of Congress and their staff.

Supreme Court Will Take Up “Waters of the US”

The US Supreme Court will resolve a jurisdictional issue over the controversial “Waters of the United States” issue, a pending EPA rule determining the authority of the federal agency to oversee and regulate bodies of water.

From the NACo website:

The Supreme Court has now agreed to review the appeal of the 6th Circuit’s ruling, but its review will be limited to the question of which court has the authority to decide the case, and will not assess the substance of the new rule. The Supreme Court’s ruling will determine, however, which courts are authorized to hear challenges to the substance of the new WOTUS definition.

NACo has expressed multiple concerns on the new WOTUS definition and its impact on county-owned and maintained roadside ditches, bridges, flood control channels, drainage conveyances and wastewater and stormwater systems, and will continue to monitor developments in the courts on this issue. NACo does not have a position on which courts should hear challenges to the new WOTUS definition.


New Federal Administration May Propose Sharp Cutbacks

The incoming Trump Administration apparently is developing a range of policy proposals to curtail federal spending and agencies – some of which may have effects both on stat and local governments directly, and on the federal and federal-dependent workforce. Both areas of consequence could be substantial for Maryland and its economy.

From reporting in The Hill:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

. . .

The preliminary proposals from the White House budget office will be shared with federal departments and agencies soon after Trump takes the oath of office Friday, and could provoke an angry backlash.

Trump’s Cabinet picks have yet to be apprised of the reforms, which would reduce resources within their agencies.

The budget offices of the various departments will have the chance to review the proposals, offer feedback and appeal for changes before the president’s budget goes to Congress.

It’s not clear whether Trump’s first budget will include reforms to Social Security or Medicare, two major drivers of the federal deficit.

Read the 2016 Heritage Foundation report, referenced as a source for many of the current proposals in development, online at the Heritage website.

Tensions High As Howard Debates “Sanctuary” Law

Hundreds of residents turned out for a passionate and emotional public hearing on Tuesday night, as the Howard County Council weighed a pending “Sanctuary” bill, framing the county and law enforcement posture regarding undocumented residents.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun’s “Howard County Times” section:

County Council Chairman Jon Weinstein frequently interrupted testimony to call on the audience to refrain from applause, laughter and overall discord. Back and forth between two council members prompted Weinstein to call for a 10-minute recess in the more than seven-hour-long meeting.

The debate veered between two extremes: opponents said the bill invites undocumented residents to Howard County at the expense of possibly stripping federal funding, while supporters said the bill was a principled stand on behalf of undocumented immigrants in a county that champions and celebrated diversity.

The bill is set for a vote in early February, but faces opposition from the County Executive:

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman pledged to veto the measure if it crosses his desk, citing the bill as political grandstanding that threatens critical federal funding and provides a false sense of security to undocumented residents.

Riemer Snares FCC Advisory Appointment

Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer will serve as one of two local government advisors to the Federal Communications Commission.

From the FCC website, The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation and technological innovation.

The FCC maintains an Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to:

…provide guidance to the Commission on issues of importance to state, local and tribal governments, as well as to the Commission. The IAC is composed of 15 elected and appointed officials of municipal, county, state, and tribal governments. The IAC provides ongoing advice and information to the Commission on a broad range of telecommunications issues of interest to state, local and tribal governments, including cable and local franchising, public rights-of-way, facilities siting, universal service, broadband access, barriers to competitive entry, and public safety communications, for which the Commission explicitly or inherently shares responsibility or administration with local, county, state or tribal governments.

From the Montgomery County press release:

I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

Unions Push to Rescue Pending Federal Overtime Rule Change

With the controversial proposed changes to overtime rules halted by a court decision, labor unions are seeking to rescue that effort in the face of an incoming Administration that may not support them.

From an article in the online publication HR Daily Advisor:

Despite the expedited schedule, the 5th Circuit still isn’t scheduled to issue a ruling until after President-elect Donald Trump has taken office. Experts predicted that his administration will withdraw the appeal, and after he announced Andrew Puzder as his pick for Secretary of Labor, that seems even more likely, they said.

In a last-ditch effort to preserve the defense of the rule, the Texas AFL-CIO has asked the district court to allow it to join the suit. While DOL has represented the group’s interests so far, it said, that is unlikely to continue. “With the recent presidential election, and particularly as more information becomes available regarding the incoming Administration’s plans, policy, and appointments, the Texas AFL-CIO has grave concerns as to whether its interests in the Final Rule will be represented by the DOL,” it said.

“Puzder has strongly and publicly opposed the Final Rule,” it said, so “the Texas AFL-CIO is very concerned that the incoming administration will change course.”

NACo had weighed in expressing concerns on the county effects of the proposed new rule, and offered testimony on these issues.

Visit the HR Daily Advisor website for more information about labor and employment issues.

National Association of Counties Accepting Ideas for 2017 Policy Resolutions

The NACo resolutions process provides members with the ability to participate in national policy decisions affecting county governments.

NACo’s 2017 Legislative Conference, will be held in Washington, D.C. on February 25 – March 1, 2017

During the Legislative Conference, NACo’s 10 policy steering committees and the Board of Directors consider legislative and policy resolutions that will guide NACo advocacy until the NACo Annual Conference in July 2017.

In preparation for NACo’s 2017 Legislative Conference, held in Washington, D.C. on February 25 – March 1, NACo invites county government officials to submit interim policy resolutions. All resolutions must be submitted electronically (preferably as a Word document) via email to resolutions@naco.org by January 25, 2017.

From NACo:

IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you plan to submit a policy resolution, you (or a designated representative) must appear in person at the steering committee meeting at the 2017 Legislative Conference to introduce and explain the resolution.

For more information, see the National Association of Counties.


U.S. Communities Welcomes the National Governors Association as New National Sponsor

The National Governors Association (NGA) will become a national sponsor of the U.S. Communities program on January 1, 2017.

uscommunitiesAccording to the press release,

U.S. Communities, the nation’s leading national government purchasing cooperative serving state and local government, education and not-for-profit organizations, is pleased to welcome the National Governors Association as a National Sponsor of the U.S. Communities program and member of the U.S. Communities Foundation Board of Directors. Their new role becomes effective on January 1, 2017.

The National Governors Association (NGA) is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. Through NGA, governors share best practices, speak with a collective voice on national policy and develop innovative solutions that improve state government and support the principles of federalism. As part of NGA’s continuing efforts to help governors make government work in the most effective and efficient way possible, NGA has joined the U.S. Communities Foundation Board and become a National Sponsor of the program.

“NGA is proud to sponsor the U.S. Communities program,” NGA Executive Director and CEO Scott Pattison said. “States seek to be efficient and save taxpayers’ money. Through U.S. Communities, states are able to realize significant savings in the time and cost of procurement, and therefore more effectively and efficiently serve their citizens.”

Kevin Juhring, Executive Director of U.S. Communities, commented on NGA’s new status with the program. “State agency utilization of U.S. Communities contracts to procure goods, services, and solutions grew 44 percent in 2016,” he said. “NGA’s nomination to the Foundation Board and their partnership as a National Sponsor demonstrates their commitment to the program as a best practice for state agencies.”