NLC Assesses Progress of 2002 Advocacy Agenda. (Analysis)

By Whitman, Cameron | Nation's Cities Weekly, December 2, 2002 | Go to article overview
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NLC Assesses Progress of 2002 Advocacy Agenda. (Analysis)

Whitman, Cameron, Nation's Cities Weekly

The second session of the 107th Congress accomplished little and has left the nation's cities and towns uncertain about what, if any, future assistance they can count on from Washington to help them meet new homeland security challenges.

Only two of the 13 "must-pass" appropriations bills met the September 30, 2002, deadline for passage.

The Department of Defense and its military construction programs have up-to-date funding levels for 2003 while all other programs are funded at FY2002 levels under a continuing resolution (CR), which expires January 11, 2003.

This method of funding 2002 municipal priority programs is a mixed blessing. For example, the CR continues full funding for the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, the Community Oriented Police program and the Highway Trust Fund even though President Bush's 2003 budget request would virtually eliminate these two popular public safety programs and would cut $4 billion from the Highway Trust Fund. For now these programs arc adequately funded.

The CR creates a disadvantage for many of NLC's 2002 priorities, particularly protecting the homeland.

New programs proposed for 2003 and existing programs seeking new funding are out of luck since Congress failed to finalize eleven 2003 appropriations bills. For example, the $3.5 billion First Responder Initiative promised in the president's budget has not been authorized or funded.

There is also no money to reimburse states and localities the $22 million per month owed them by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for "temporarily" providing their law enforcement personnel at the nation's 429 commercial airports.

To add to these burdens, Congress passed a new port security bill just before leaving town without any funding at all. Meanwhile Amtrak is limping along without the increased funding it needs to operate and reorganize.

After months of contentious debate before the election, the lame duck Congress returned to Washington to authorize the new Department of Homeland Security and to complete the conference report on terrorism reinsurance.

Funding for the new department, the first responder initiative and other homeland security related programs will occur sometime next year.

And more bad news for cities: In recent days President Bush has recently insisted that the incoming Republican leaders in the Senate must cut $10 billion in discretionary funding from the eleven 2003 appropriations bills left unfinished.

This means that many of the cuts proposed in Bush's 2003 budget request will probably be upheld.

NLC 2002 Priorities

This article provides a wrap up of the second session of the 107th Congress focusing on National League of Cities 2002 priorities, which include: 1) protecting the homeland, 2) sustaining federal support for critical municipal programs, 3) protecting local revenue and taxing authority, 4) ensuring racial justice and equality, 5) investing in children and 6) balancing international trade agreements with local authority.

NLC has had considerable success on these priorities but there is more work to be done in the 108th Congress.

Progress on Protecting the Homeland

NLC made progress on a number of initiatives designed to enhance the country's ability to prepare for and respond to terrorism.

Department of Homeland Security

The Congress agreed to authorize the NLC-supported Department of Homeland Security with virtually no funding. It may take three to five years to consolidate and coordinate the responsibilities of some 22 government agencies including the Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Services, the Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration, etc.

First Responder Planning Grants

The first funding for the $3.

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