Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Legislative Focus: Status of and Outlook for NRPA's Priorities in the 112th Congress

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Legislative Focus: Status of and Outlook for NRPA's Priorities in the 112th Congress

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

WHILE THE WEATHER IN WASHINGTON, D.C., has cooled, the legislative landscape is heating back up as Congress, returned from the August recess, focuses on reviving a struggling economy and creating jobs. Appearing before a joint session of Congress in early September, President Obama put forth the American Jobs Act, a legislative proposal that includes $447 million in tax cuts and spending increases aimed to improve the economy through investments in education and infrastructure, assistance to state and local governments, and various other measures.

The U.S. House and Senate have begun serious discussions to complete the FY12 appropriations process. This will ultimately determine funding levels for all federal agencies and programs for the current fiscal year, which began October 1. Additionally, the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee, also known as the Super Committee, has begun work on bringing a deficit reduction plan before Congress by November 23. If the bi-partisan committee is unable to come up with a plan that can pass both chambers by December 23, $1.5 trillion in automatic spending cuts will go into effect under the debt ceiling agreement reached this summer.

All of these things and other decisions made in the 112th Congress have the potential to have a tremendous impact on the parks and recreation community. Many federal programs that have long provided resources to state and local agencies are in serious jeopardy of being cut or eliminated. In a time of economic uncertainty and inevitable budget cuts, all sectors must, in some ways, justify their existence. There has never been a more important time for advocates to make the case for the vital role that parks and recreation plays--not only in enhancing the quality of life for people and families, but also in reviving the economy, creating jobs, and building a healthier, viable, and sustainable America, now and for generations to come.

The following provides an overall outlook for each of NRPA's legislative priorities in the 112th Congress. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Advocacy section of the NRPA website at www.nrpa.org. Don't miss this year's Federal Policy education session at next month's annual NRPA Congress and Exhibition in Atlanta. For more information on this year's NRPA Congress, please visit www.nrpa.org/ congress.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State Assistance Program

In July, the House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY12 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The bill provides only $2.8 million for LWCF Stateside compared to the $40 million the program received in FYIO and FY11. The Senate bill has yet to come up for consideration but committee staff has indicated that cuts are likely to occur in their version as well. Key Majority and Minority staff have stressed the fact that Senators Reed (D-RI) and Murkowski (R-AK) need to hear from other senators regarding funding for LWCF Stateside in FY12 in order to save the funding. In FY11, LWCF Stateside received level funding despite a 33 percent reduction in LWCE This was an astounding achievement and resulted from the advocacy efforts of State Assistance advocates. FY12 funding will only be saved with the same level of advocacy.

On a related note, the National Park Service released a report in August that recommends changing the way LWCF Stateside funds are distributed. Rather than the current model which allocates funds to states by formula and then to local governments through a state competitive process, NPS is recommending awarding grants through a competitive process where the Department of Interior would ultimately select which projects would be funded. This would significantly impact the number of communities receiving stateside funding.

NRPA public policy staff is working diligently to protect current funding levels for LWCF Stateside as well as the distribution model that has resulted in 98 percent of American counties receiving funds. …

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