D.C. Watch

September 30, 2021

Legislative News

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Treasury Delays Release of ARPA 'Final Rule'

The U.S. Treasury Department did not issue its "Final Rule" on acceptable uses for the American Rescue Plan Act at the end of September as expected because of the thousands of public comments it has yet to review. Treasury now expects to release its "Final Rule" as late as this winter. Until that point, the department says its "Interim Final Rule" will continue to be the guiding document on acceptable uses and reporting. Funding used in accordance with the Interim Final Rule will not be subject to a recoupment or "clawback." Counties are encouraged to consult Treasury’s FAQ section or submit questions here; however, the department will not provide any preapproval of specific projects via email.

Additionally, the Treasury has recognized some of the difficulties metropolitan counties and cities have experienced in meeting the reporting requirements ARPA originally set. For metropolitan counties and cities, the first Project and Expenditure Report will now be due on Jan. 31, 2022, and will cover the period between the award date and Dec. 31, 2021. This is a change from the previous due date of Oct. 31, 2021. Further instructions will be provided in the near future, including updates to existing guidance as well as a user guide to assist recipients to gather and submit the information through Treasury’s Portal. Follow up questions can be asked of the Treasury directly, here.

Please continue to monitor TAC’s American Rescue Plan Information & Resources page for the latest updates.

Passage of Infrastructure Bills in Limbo

As moderate Democrats and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus continue to debate the price tags on dual infrastructure bills, the self-imposed Sept. 27 deadline for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the $1.1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has come and gone. It is uncertain if Congress will have enough time to pass the IIJA or the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill before the end of the year. The budget reconciliation bill would focus the bulk of its funds on carbon reduction, universal preschool, border security, extending the child tax credit and various social reform issues.

The IIJA contains more than $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, broadband internet, water pipes and other public works systems. The bill would allocate $284 billion for all modes of transportation, $55 billion for water projects, $65 billion for broadband expansion, $73 billion in energy and power projects, $21 billion in environmental remediation, $8.3 billion in Western U.S. water infrastructure and $46 billion in resiliency projects. The IIJA would be particularly impactful for counties, which maintain 44% of U.S. roadways (over 1.8 million road miles), 38% of bridges nationwide (229,529 in total), and 78% of all public transit systems. This bill is a top priority for the National Association of Counties.

The passage of these bills has been thrown into question due to pledges by the White House, as well as House and Senate leadership, to pass the bills in tandem, or not at all. At the time of this newsletter’s publication, moderate Senate Democrats and progressive House Democrats have not agreed on a final version of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation proposal. Progressives see it as essential to providing services to the economically disadvantaged, while moderates would prefer a slimmed-down version, potentially up to $2 trillion less than proposed, to accompany the IIJA. Republicans have supported the $1.1 trillion IIJA, but not the larger budget reconciliation bill.

Bipartisan Policing Reform Efforts End in Disagreement

After months of effort, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-California) announced Sept. 22 that they had failed to agree on a bipartisan framework for a national policing reform bill. In March, legislation passed the House to ban chokeholds, mandate an officer’s duty to intervene and render aid and eliminate qualified immunity, but the bill has not received a vote in the Senate. Barring rule changes, the Senate will not have time to pass policing reform in the 117th Congress.

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) worked closely with Booker, Scott and Bass as they attempted to craft a compromise. NSA Executive Director Jonathan Thompson says the Association remains committed to building consensus.

Absent a reform bill, the U.S. Justice Department has announced a number of significant policy changes for departments under its jurisdiction, including banning the use of chokeholds and no-knock entries absent prior authorization.

Texas lawmakers passed a series of bills during the 87th Legislature addressing these issues, with the exception of qualified immunity, which was not modified. The Sheriffs’ Association of Texas worked closely with a bipartisan group of legislators to pass legislation to enhance the professionalism of law enforcement in Texas.

For information about this article, please contact Austin McCarty.