Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Legislation at Critical Juncture

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Legislation at Critical Juncture

Article excerpt

Act now to keep key parks and recreation programs funded.

As the summer winds down, action on federal legislation and appropriations heats up. Some of the most important bills affecting parks and recreation in years are being voted on by the U.S. Congress this summer and fall. Information in this update is current at the time of this writing to meet publication deadlines, but some of these bills will have been decided on and others will be in final stages of deliberation by the time you receive this issue of Parks & Recreation.

To keep up to date and find out the most current status of federal appropriations and legislation, go to the NRPA Web site (www.nrpa.org) and select "Public Policy." We encourage you to contact the Public Policy Office in Washington, D.C. for assistance or information on late-breaking news at 202-887-0290 or public_policy@nrpa. org. Also, to receive weekly updates and action alerts, subscribe to NRPAs free online advocacy network, RecreAction. See p. 15 for more information about RecreAction.

Here is a brief summary of the most important legislation that NRPA is currently tracking:

Reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act: A massive, multi-year reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Program, which funds many programs important to parks, recreation and communities, including the $600 million dollar per year Transportation Enhancements grants to states and local communities. The twelve TE categories include more than $300 million per year for bicycle, pedestrian and rail trails, among others.

At this writing, however, it's not clear that there will be a multi-year reauthorization of TEA21. Congress has major problems with the Bush administration's proposed funding levels, which they consider unacceptably low, and there are no adequate sources of new revenues without consideration of a gas tax.

NRPA, in coordination with several coalitions, has supported a full six-year reauthorization of TEA21, prohibitions on establishing new categories of eligibility, maintaining the protections of Section 4[f] (protection for natural and cultural resources) and full funding for transportation enhancements. The reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act is one of NRPA's top legislative priorities. This program is vital to local and state park and recreation agencies across the nation.

Fiscal Year 2004 spending bills: Funding for the departments of Interior, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education covers key park and recreation programs. These include the Land and Water Conservation Fund; 21st Century Community Learning Centers; the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act; the so-called "Conservation Trust Fund" programs, the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA); appropriations for National Park Service and other federal public lands agencies; Special Recreation demonstration grants; and other spending categories.

The House of Representatives approved the Interior Appropriations spending bill, which includes $97.6 million for the state assistance portion of LWCF and $100 for the federal LWCF program. Two floor amendments on the House side to increase the so-called "Conservation Trust Fund" spending failed in the full House. The Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of a bill, which included a mark of $104 million for the state assistance portion of LWCF and a mark of $220 million for the federal side. …

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