December Congress Passes FY 2015 Spending Bill

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1 December 2014 Congress Passes FY 2015 Spending Bill During a rare Saturday session on December 13, the Senate passed HR 83, the fiscal year 2015 (FY 15) spending bill, by a vote of The Senate passage comes after the House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill on Thursday, December 11 by a vote of The $1.1 trillion spending bill keeps the federal government funded until September 30, 2015, and now heads to President Obama for his signature. The federal government was previously funded by a short term continuing resolution (CR) that expired on December 11. The Senate also passed an additional short term CR, extending government funding through December 17 to give the President enough time to sign HR 83 into law. HR 83, also known as the CRomnibus, contains both an omnibus which funds 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills and a CR that temporarily provides funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Below are funding and policy highlights from sections of the bill most relevant to public works. Transportation, Housing & Urban Development The Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (T-HUD) portion of the bill received $58.3 billion in funding. This total includes $17.8 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and $500 million for the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant) program. The TIGER program funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects. The bill also provides nearly $41 billion for the Federal Highway program the same level authorized in the MAP-21(Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) transportation authorization legislation, which expires on May 31, Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is funded at $12.4 billion and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received $1.6 billion. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) received $2.3 billion and the Capital Investment Grants program, or New Starts, received $2.1 billion. The New Starts program provides competitive grants for major transit investments. This section also includes funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which received $830 million and $584 million respectively. HR 83 includes $35.6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Community Development Block Grant formula program received $3 billion which is a $30 1

2 million reduction from FY 14. The CDBG program funds local community development activities such as affordable housing and infrastructure development. Energy- Water The Energy-Water section of the CRomnibus is funded at $34.2 billion for FY15. This total is $142 million over FY 14 and includes $5.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is $15 million more than FY 14. The Army Corps constructs projects for flood control, water navigation, storm damage reduction, beach nourishment, ecological restoration, water supply and dam and levee safety. Funding for the Army Corps includes $2.3 billion for navigation projects and studies, $1.1 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and $1.6 billion for flood and storm damage mitigation. This section of the bill also provides $50 million for drought relief in the Western states. Interior-Environment The Interior-Environment section received $30 billion in funding, including $8.1 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and $10.7 billion for the Department of the Interior. The funding for Interior-Environment is $14 billion less than FY14. The total for EPA represents a 21% reduction in funding since 2010, and a $60 million reduction from FY 14 levels. Additionally, this bill reduces EPA staff to the lowest levels since This section includes $2.35 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, and funds the Great Lakes Restoration initiative at $300 million. HR 83 included some policy riders restricting EPA s ability to enforce environmental regulations, such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions from farming practices and lead content in sporting goods. Congressional Republicans were also expected to include a policy rider that would block EPA s recent waters of the US rulemaking, but strong Democratic opposition kept the rider out of the bill. Agriculture The bill also provides $2.4 billion for rural development programs. Programs funded by this section of the bill invest in infrastructure in small cities and rural communities, and provide loans for rural businesses. The bill also provides $859 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which manages the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that was authorized in the latest Farm Bill. The RCPP encourages farmers to partner with non-agricultural entities, such as wastewater utilities and municipal storm water agencies, to use available resources to reduce nutrient runoff pollution. As a member of the Healthy Waters Coalition, APWA worked to include the RCPP in the Farm Bill. Department of Homeland Security Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is frozen at FY 14 levels until February 27, Congressional Republicans were critical of President Obama s recent executive order to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Immigration law falls under DHS jurisdiction, and Congress chose not to authorize year-long funding to limit the Obama Administration s ability to enforce the executive order. 2

3 Chairman Shuster Announces New Republican T&I Committee Members On December 10, Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R- PA) announced the 12 new Republican Members who will join the Committee in the 114th Congress. The new members include ten freshmen and two members elected to their third terms in Congress. The new members who were recommended by the House Republican Steering Committee, who will be officially approved by the Republican Conference in January, are listed below. APWA will be reaching out to all new committee members to discuss the importance of investment public works and we encourage APWA members from districts to do the same. Rep. Rob Woodall (GA- 7) Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4) Rep. John Katko (NY-24) Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) Rep. Cresent Hardy (NV- 4) Rep. Ryan Costello (PA 6) Rep. Garret Graves (LA-6) Rep. Mimi Walters (CA-37) Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) Rep. David Rouzer (NC -7) Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY-1) Dwindling Gas Prices to Lead to State Gas Tax Increases? Falling gas prices, Congressional gridlock, and crumbling infrastructure have a number of state law makers considering higher gas taxes. States such as Iowa, New Jersey, and Michigan are considering raising gas taxes to improve infrastructure. Low gas prices, which have decreased by more than $1 a gallon since April, have made some state lawmakers more amenable to considering gas tax increases. The Highway Trust Fund provides funding for state and local surface transportation projects that use federal funding. Despite the increasing need for infrastructure investment, the federal gas tax, which funds the Highway Trust Fund, hasn t been increased in 20 years, and has remained at 18.4 cents a gallon since Congress averted a fiscal crisis over the summer when it passed a short term fix, replenishing the nearly depleted Highway Trust Fund through May, However, Congress is yet to address the need for a long term sustainable source of transportation funding, leaving states to come up with their own solution to finance infrastructure in the meantime. During a December 8 press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, Republican Governor Terry Branstad expressed support for raising gas taxes, noting The timing is right in light of the fact that fuel prices have dropped significantly. This is a difficult and challenging issue, but if we work together, I think we can get something done, he said. 3

4 OIG Report: EPA Failed to Demonstrate Public Health Benefits of State Revolving Funds On December 5, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report stating the EPA needs to take further action to demonstrate the public health benefits of projects funded by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The OIG report found that 10 percent of EPA s annual budget goes to the DWSRF, and EPA has invested over $11 billion in drinking water infrastructure since Additionally, the report found that EPA does not obtain all required DWSRF project data from the states, despite states being required to input this information into EPA databases to receive DWSRF grants. The report also found that EPA does not use annual reviews of state DWSRF programs to assess projects. Considering all of these findings, the report concluded that EPA is unable to determine whether DWSRF funded projects have contributed to public health. The report recommends that the Assistant Administrator for Water enforce grant requirements that states input all necessary data in the project-level tracking database. The report also recommends that EPA review data completeness as part of its annual review of state performance. Finally, the OIG recommended that that the EPA improve coordination between the DWSRF and Public Water System Supervision programs. To view the full report, click here: House Approves California Drought Relief Bill On December 9, the House of Representatives passed HR 5781 by a strictly partisan vote of , with most House Republicans voting in favor of the bill. California Republicans sponsored the drought relief bill, which would temporarily redirect water from rivers and reservoirs in the northern portion of the state toward farmers and residents in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley during this current drought. Though the legislation easily passed the House, the White House threatened to veto it, and California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein as well as California Governor Jerry Brown have come out against it. Environmental groups criticized the legislation claiming it would undermine conservation efforts. Before the House voted on the bill, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, John Laird released a statement saying drought management is best handled at the state level. "Coming off a year where more progress has been made on water policy in California than any time in recent years -- with broad support evident in the electorate for this strategy -- this is no time to reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts and try to pit one part of the state against another," Laird said. "For this reason, the administration opposes H.R " 4

5 Congress Passes Cybersecurity Bill Package On December 11, the House passed S. 2519, the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014, after the Senate cleared the bill on December 10. The legislation will enhance the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to work with the private sector on cybersecurity. The bill provides authority for DHS to provide assistance to the private sector in identifying vulnerabilities and restoring their networks following an attack. The bill also codifies DHS s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center as a federal civilian interface with the private sector for purposes of cybersecurity information sharing. In the same week, Congress passed S. 2521, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014, HR 2952 the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act, S 1353 the Cybersecurity Act, and HR 4007 the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorists Act of S 1353 is a bill that authorizes public-private partnerships to improve cybersecurity and to strengthen cybersecurity research and development, workforce development and education, and public awareness and preparedness. S 2521 codifies DHS s responsibility to help other federal civilian departments and agencies in their own cybersecurity activities, and administer implementation of government-wide cyber security policies. HR 2952 requires DHS to undertake an assessment of its cybersecurity workforce and update Congress on the steps taken to enhance it. HR 4007 authorizes and improves the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program administered by DHS. APWA supports legislation that strengthens the nation s cybersecurity efforts, because public works agencies value the security of their cyber systems that control traffic management systems, water and sewage treatment facilities, emergency communications, and other vital operations. All bills await the President s signature. For more information about APWA activities in Washington, please contact Peter King at or Tracy Okoroike at 5

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