Government Affairs Update
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
Broadband Measure Closer to Ballot: On August 15, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve a broadband measure for the November ballot. Ken Summers was the only Council member who did not support the measure. The question will ask Fort Collins voters to give the City the authority to issue securities and other debt up to $150 million to create a broadband network. It doesn’t stipulate how the service would be provided because that is yet to be determined. The Council is still discussing two models, a retail model in which service would be provided by the City and a third-party model.
The goal of the broadband project is to develop reliable, high-speed internet throughout the community (the Fort Collins GMA). The basic network would take less than five years to build and would be competitively priced. More information is available here: fcgov.com/broadband.
Council Approves NISP Comments: The Fort Collins Council approved comments on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) directed to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission regarding the impact of the proposed water storage project on fish and wildlife resources on the Cache La Poudre River. The letter, which was approved by a 4-3 vote, states that” Fort Collins remains highly concerned about the negative impacts on fish and wildlife resources that will result from the system-wide changes that NISP will cause to the Cache la Poudre River (“Poudre River”). Fort Collins expects various negative impacts to occur even with implementation of the Plan.”
The letter calls for changes to NISP to improve peak flows, water quality, mitigation and (riparian) restoration and calls for independent monitoring for 50 years. Voting against approval of the letter were Ross Cunniff and Bob Overbeck, who didn’t think the letter went far enough in its criticism of NISP, and Ken Summers, who supports the project.
Anti-Growth Ballot Measure Proponents Gathering Signatures: The Colorado Secretary of State’s office this week approved the petition format for proposed Initiative 4, which allows its backers, Daniel Hayes of Golden and Julianne Page of Wheat Ridge, to begin collecting signatures to try to get the measure on the 2018 ballot. Hayes argues growth in Colorado is “out of control.” If Initiative 4 were to be approved by voters next year it would affect all local governments in along the Front Range, from Northern Colorado down to El Paso County, limiting residential housing growth to one percent a year for two years (2019 and 2020). Initiative 4 supporters have until Nov. 30 to collect 98,492 valid voter signatures, including at least 2 percent from each Senate district based on current voter registration figures.
NAR Issues Call for Action on NFIP: The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) needs your help to drive messages to Members of Congress urging them to support H.R. 2874, “The 21st Century Flood Reform Act.”
H.R. 2874 reauthorizes the NFIP and makes a number of critical improvements to the NFIP including increased funds for mitigation activities, caps on overall premium increases, improved claim and mapping processes, as well as removing hurdles for more private market participation in the flood insurance market. Reauthorization of the NFIP will help over 5 million homeowners in 22,000 communities around the country, so it is critical Congress acts now.
If Congress fails to take action to reauthorize the NFIP, it will expire by September 30, 2017. Click here to take action: https://tinyurl.com/yc2shbva
EPA Releases Rule to Withdraw WOTUS: Fulfilling a portion of an executive order by President Donald Trump, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have released a proposal to rescind the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that expanded federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The proposal would nix the 2015 WOTUS rule and reinstate the definition of the streams and wetlands subject to federal oversight under the act that existed prior to its finalization. The publication of the proposal constitutes the first part of a two-step process to meet the Feb. 28 executive order directing the rule’s review. The second step will be “a separate notice and comment rulemaking that will consider developing a new definition” for the extent of federal jurisdiction under the act, say the EPA and Corps in a prepublication copy of the proposed rescission. The embattled regulation was stayed by the 6th Circuit Appeals Court in October 2015. The rule’s opponents have said it defined federal jurisdiction too broadly and granted undue control to the government. NAR will have 30 days to comment on the proposal.
NAR Opposes FHA Flood Insurance Regulation: NAR, as part of a broad coalition of housing, lending, insurance and consumer groups, opposes a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) regulation barring lenders from accepting private flood insurance on FHA insured loans, and urged its immediate reversal. On the same day, NAR wrote the full Senate requesting support and co-sponsorship of S. 563, “The Flood Insurance Market Parity & Modernization Act” (Heller [R-NV]; Tester [D-MT]). The bill would remove additional barriers to the private market, which increasingly, is offering better coverage at lower cost than the National Flood Insurance Program.
Senate Health Care Reform Fails to Advance: On July 28, the Senate Republican leadership’s so-called “skinny” Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill failed to gather the 50 votes required for passage. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John McCain (R-AZ) sided with Democrats in a 49-51 roll call vote. Released a few hours before the vote, the 8-page bill would have repealed the ACA’s individual mandate, suspended the employer mandate for 8 years, repealed an ACA tax on medical devices, increased contribution limits for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for 3 years, expanded the ability of states to apply for waivers of some ACA rules, increased funding for community health centers, and blocked funding for certain health providers who offered abortion services.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that provisions in the bill would have resulted in 16 million fewer persons being uninsured in years 2018-2026 and a 20 percent increase in insurance premiums each year over that same timeframe. A path forward on health care reform now remains unclear. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated Democrats willingness to work to address shortcomings of the ACA through the Senate’s regular bill process. NAR will continue to follow developments with an eye to those provisions that impact the self-employed and small businesses.