August Recess Is Here – Are You Ready?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Throughout the month of August, your congressional delegation typically puts business on hold in Washington D.C. and heads home. The “August recess” is designed to give members of Congress and their staff some time to reorient, so it’s one of the very best times for constituents to meet with their members of Congress. Your advocacy during this period of time means the most because it allows your senator and representative to come face-to-face with the impact of federal preemption legislation, especially because of the deep fiscal effects they have on localities within their districts. In the next several weeks, please consider meeting with your U.S. senator and representative to discuss the key 2017 issues below. Moving into the 115th Congress, elected officials are thinking about health care, tax reform, and infrastructure.
What are our issues?

Tax Reform
Congress and the White House have already proposed an aggressive timeline that would put a tax reform bill through the entire lifecycle from introduction to the president’s desk within a matter of four months. Now is the time for state and local governments to make sure Congress understands the issues that are of crucial importance to their communities, such as preserving the tax exemption of municipal bonds. The tax exemption on municipal bonds is an essential tool for jurisdictions across the United States for the creation and maintenance of infrastructure.

Here’s what you can say to your senator and representative:

  • It is essential for my jurisdiction that you preserve the municipal bond interest exclusion. The municipal bond is a critical public financing tool to promote job creation and improve the nation’s infrastructure; and 
  • We request that you ensure that state and local governments retain the authority to set their own tax policies. 

Tweet #builtbybonds! Tell your story in 140 characters or less! What have bonds built in your community?

Health-Care Reform
In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, the GOP effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) suffered a major setback when Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John McCain (R-AZ) voted against the last ditch effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pass some form of repeal. The measure, also known as the “skinny repeal,” was a slimmed-down version of prior bills that sought to make changes to the ACA. It included a handful of provisions, like eliminating the individual mandate and delaying the employer mandate for a minimum of eight years. Earlier in the day, more sweeping repeal bills failed, with even more Republican senators voting against them. Now that the Senate has adjourned for its delayed August recess, the chances that the ACA will be repealed and replaced before the end of the year remain highly questionable.

GFOA urges its members to continue reaching out to their U.S. senators and representatives, and ask them to cosponsor the bipartisan Cadillac repeal bills, H.R. 173, led by Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), and S. 58, led by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

Marketplace Fairness Legislation
State and local governments still find themselves without the ability to enforce existing sales and use tax laws on remote, online purchases –state and local governments fail to collect an estimated $23 billion annually on remote transactions. This is a long-standing priority for state and local governments, and GFOA remains optimistic that federal remote sales tax legislation will advance in the new Congress.

Passing the Marketplace Fairness Act or the Remote Transactions Parity Act would finally bring federal law into the digital age by enabling state and local governments to collect sales taxes on online purchases that are already owed to them but are not being paid. Further, modernizing tax law to reflect the impact of e-commerce sales will level the playing field for brick and mortar retailers who are currently at a 5 to 10% competitive disadvantage versus remote sellers.

Your direct outreach to your member of Congress is critical to advancing this legislation through the federal legislative process this year. GFOA provides a sample resolution and a sample op-ed piece to help you with this outreach (links below). If you are able to correspond with your U.S. senator and representative, please e-mail a copy to GFOA’s Federal Liaison Center.

What You Can Do
Step 1. Figure out where your senator and representative will be during August, and when; they frequently travel around the district when they’re home. Ask to set an appointment, preferably when you can sit down in a relaxed setting. This link will direct you to the local contact information for your senator and representative.

Step 2. Draft an op-ed piece and send it to your local newspaper, a powerful way to communicate with your senator and representative. An op-ed that articulates your position on current legislation will be widely distributed for your entire district to read. GFOA’s sample op-ed will help you craft a general message, but be sure to emphasize the infrastructure that is unique to your jurisdiction.

Step 3. If you do schedule an appointment with your senator or representative, or their staff, or if you plan to see them at a local event, take a look at GFOA’s talking points.

Please contact Emily Brock, director of GFOA’s Federal Liaison Center, if you need any additional information, when your op-ed goes to print, or if you have a discussion with your senator or representative. We look forward to working with you during the August recess.