• Back at the office or school? Still working from home? Need to vent, or just connect with other planner and built environment types? Come join us!

    Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing or masks required.

APA's Legislative e-Update -- 03.25.02


A shadow of my former self
Staff member
The American Planning Association's biweekly
update on legislative and public policy issues

March 25, 2002 Vol.3, No. 6
Check out APA's new, updated online action center:

Track key legislation in Congress with APA's online
"Hill-at-a-Glance": www.planning.org/fromwashington/thehill.htm

Missed an Issue? Check out the online archives:
In this issue ...

* Communities Press for Restoration of Urban Parks Funding
* Farm Bill Conference Committee Makes Progress
* Fast Track for House Water Infrastructure Bill
* Housing and Homelessness Issues Reemerge

Communities Press for Restoration of Urban Parks Funding

For the second year running, the Bush Administration has proposed eliminating set aside funding for the nation's only urban parks program, the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). In the 2000 compromise that led to the establishment of a land conservation trust fund, in lieu of passage of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, UPARR was guaranteed funding through FY06 with appropriations starting at $30 million in FY02.

Last year the Bush Administration asked Congress to remove UPARR funding from the federal budget and simply allow urban parks to compete with other projects as part of the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This budget gimmick was designed to allow the Administration to fulfill its promise of "full funding" for LWCF by shifting money from other programs into LWCF instead of increasing funding available for the traditional range of LWCF projects.

Despite being rebuffed by Congress last year, the Administration again targeted UPARR in its FY03 budget proposal. As appropriations activities swing into high gear on Capitol Hill, many lawmakers and communities receiving urban park assistance are mounting a campaign to restore full funding to UPARR, a request of at least $35 million for FY03. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Minority Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Chairman of the House Hispanic Caucus, are circulating a letter to Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Joe Skeen (R-NM) and Ranking Member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) urging the Subcommittee to approve full funding. Reps. Miller and Reyes are asking their House colleagues to co-sign the letter to Skeen and Dicks as a way of indicating broad support for the critical program.

The efforts of Reps. Miller and Reyes are being promoted by UPARR recipient communities who understand the vital contributions UPARR has made to improving recreation opportunities, environmental quality, child welfare, and general quality of life in distressed neighborhoods. Last year alone, UPARR grants supported urban parks restoration, improvement, and planning
for 95 local projects. Since the its inception in 1979, UPARR has assisted over 1,400 projects in 400 communities in 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Also backing the effort to restore UPARR funding is the broad-based Smart Communities for Outdoor Recreation and Entertainment (SCORE) coalition. This coalition includes APA, Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, National Recreation and Park Association, U.S. Soccer Foundation, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Now is the time to urge your Representative to co-sign the Miller-Reyes letter and support full funding for UPARR. For more information, please contact APA's Government Affairs office at 202.872.0611 or govtaffairs@planning.org <mailto:govtaffairs@planning.org>. You can also
voice your support for UPARR funding through APA's online legislative action center at <http://capwiz.com/amplan>.

Farm Bill Conference Committee Makes Progress

A House-Senate Conference Committee must resolve the differences between the competing House and Senate bills. The Conference Committee has begun meetings and appears to have reached agreement on overall funding levels for the various sections, or titles, of the reauthorization. However, conferees must still reconcile a variety of policy disagreements and set funding levels for specific programs within each title of the bill. The Conference Committee is schedule to reconvene on April 9. A final bill must be enacted this year.

The job of the conferees was significantly complicated by revised Congressional Budget Office estimates of the costs of the Senate bill. The revised CBO scoring forced conferees to find reductions of more than $6 billion to keep the overall bill within the $73.5 billion budget cap.

The Conference Committee settled on an overall spending level of $73.5 billion with $46 billion for commodity support, $17.1 billion for conservation, $6.4 billion for nutrition, $3.3 billion for research and development, and $2.6 billion for diary and assorted crops not included in the commodity section. The conservation spending represents a reduction of $4.4 billion from the Senate-approved spending level. Conservation advocates immediately criticized the spending levels as a concession to the commodity interests.

It is not yet certain whether the $600 million for rural planning included in the House bill will survive in the final compromise. Given the tentative level of spending established for the rural development title of approximately $1.5 billion, it seems likely that funding for the planning
program will be reduced, but the final level remains to be determined. Conferees are considering compromise language on rural planning, tentatively dubbed the Rural Strategic Investment Program, which would maintain the planning grant program. APA supports full funding at the House-adopted level and has urged the conferees to keep the new planning program in the
final bill.

Fast Track for House Water Infrastructure Bill

Water infrastructure is shaping up to be the premier environmental initiative before Congress this year. A bipartisan group of key Senators recently introduced legislation that would boost authorization levels for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure by $35 billion. This legislation, S. 1961, would reauthorize key sections of the Clean Water Act, increasing funding for the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF).

Following close on the heels of the Senate bill, came the introduction of H.R. 3930 by Reps. John Duncan (R-TN) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources respectively. The House bill was cleared in the Transportation Committee last week by voice vote. H.R. 3930 addresses
wastewater infrastructure by providing a $20 billion reauthorization of the Clean Water Act's SRF. The House will deal with DWSRF through separate legislation being drafted by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The only amendment to H.R. 3930 to emerge during the committee mark-up addressed Davis-Bacon prevailing wage issues. Davis-Bacon emerged as a threat to the Senate bill, so House supporters sought to head off controversy by dealing with it early in the committee mark-up. Davis-Bacon issues have been thorny in the 107th Congress, holding up final passage of the landmark brownfields reform bill for months before final resolution. The amendment revised the original bill to include prevailing labor wages for both SRF first-time capitalization grants and the subsequent work that comes with the funds generated after states have paid back into the SRF their debts on the infrastructure loans. It is unclear whether attempts will be made to strip this language from the measure on the floor.

The bill's quick movement is testament to broad support from industry, local government, and environmentalists. Under H.R. 3930, the SRF account's funding authorization would ramp up by $1 billion per year, from its current $1.35 billion level, until it reaches $6 billion in 2007. Elsewhere, the bill would require states to develop within a year a method for prioritizing water infrastructure projects based on water quality benefits and affordability. With that, states would be required to develop an integrated priority list of all projects and activities that seek SRF assistance, including nonpoint source and treatment efforts.

Key provisions leading to support among environmentalists are directives for state to first fund the most environmentally friendly projects and using 25 percent of their SRF money above an annual $1.4 billion threshold for additional infrastructure subsidization. The bill also would authorize $15 million a year for a new program for rural and small community technical
assistance; reauthorize the Clean Water Act Section 106 state pollution control grant program to $250 million a year; and require states to use at least 15 percent of the federal contribution to the SRF for assistance to communities with populations smaller than 20,000 people. The Senate bill
contains provisions that force states to certify that water infrastructure projects are coordinated with local and regional plans.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to take up S. 1961 following the spring recess. Similarly, the House Energy and Commerce bill addressing drinking water is likely to be introduced after the recess. Pressure is already mounting on appropriators to provide additional water infrastructure funding this year. However, the Bush Administration has thus
far balked at the cost of all the various water proposals, characterizing them as out of step with the President's current priorities. But, thus far the Administration has stopped short of any veto threat.

Housing and Homelessness Issues Reemerge

Appearing before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, HUD Assistant Secretary Roy Bernardi asserted the Bush Administration's goal of eliminating chronic, or long-term, homelessness in ten years. Secretary Bernardi testified at a hearing on the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act programs. Addressing how HUD would achieve this bold objective, Secretary Bernardi outlined four initiatives.

"Currently HUD is actively pursuing four major policy initiatives to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness established by Secretary Martinez. The first is a joint task force made up of HUD, HHS, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The second initiative is Policy Academies for States and local leaders. The third initiative is improving the annual competition to help drive this effort. Fourth, HUD proposes to consolidate its homeless assistance programs."

Also appearing at the hearing was the National Alliance to End Homelessness who addressed draft legislation from Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI). The yet-to-be-introduced legislation, provisionally titled the Community Homeless Assistance Act, aims to improve homeless assistance by simplifying and codifying the largest federal homeless program, the HUD Homeless Assistance Grant program.

The hearing and forthcoming legislative and HUD initiatives mark the return of homelessness issues that have received scant congressional attention in recent years. McKinney Act reauthorization will not be the only housing action on Capitol Hill this year as legislators are awaiting completion of the Millennial Housing Commission (MHC) report. The 22-member bipartisan commission was established by Congress in 2000 to present a comprehensive
report and recommendations on changes to federal policy for affordable housing. Action on several affordable housing proposals has been held up pending the MHC recommendations.

Interest in housing issues is clearly on the rise both on and off Capitol Hill. The Brookings Institution Center on Metropolitan and Urban Policy just released a key new study examining the impact of growth management initiatives on affordable housing. The much anticipated study, a
comprehensive review of academic literature on the link between growth management and housing affordability, concludes that the market is the primary determinant of housing prices, and that sound growth management policies provide more affordable housing than traditional land use policies.

APA will address the issue at the upcoming National Planning Conference in Chicago with a session on smart growth and affordable housing on Wednesday morning, April 17. Speaking at the session will be MHC Executive Director Conrad Egan, Deputy Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Center Amy Liu, and Danielle Arigoni from EPA's smart growth office.

Plan to Attend the National Planning Conference:
Chicago, April 13-17, 2002.
For more information, visit our website at www.planning.org.

To unsubscribe or change your subscription, send email to jjordan@planning.org.

For more information about APA's government affairs activities, contact Jason Jordan (jjordan@planning.org) or Devin Cahill (dcahill@planning.org) at 202.872.0611.
The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in community planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to effect positive change.

APA ... Making Great Communities Happen