On the Hill: Key Legislative Priorities Advancing as Clock Winds Down on the 115th Congress

By Forum Online posted 10-10-2018 16:33


By Government Relations Staff

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“It’s a Good Day for Public Lands”

On October 2 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced two bills—the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172) and the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act (S. 569)—that would make tremendous investments in preserving historic and cultural resources on our public lands. The committee’s ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., discussed the value of addressing both national parks deferred maintenance and LWCF in terms of the outdoor economy and providing opportunities for Americans, saying “it’s a good day for public lands.”

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

  • National Parks Deferred Maintenance: The Restore Our Parks Act—introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Angus King, I-Maine—received overwhelming bipartisan support in the committee, advancing by a vote of 19-4. The bill would make perhaps the most substantial investment in our national parks in a half-century, establishing a dedicated fund of up to $6.5 billion over five years for the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service (NPS).The House Natural Resources Committee advanced a version of public lands deferred maintenance legislation on September 13.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been closely involved in developing and advancing this legislation. Over the past 18 months, we hosted six fly-ins with more than 50 advocates who visited Capitol Hill to talk about the $11.6 billion backlog of deferred maintenance in our national parks. Eleven of the participants came from Main Street communities to share with legislators the direct ties between their “local gateway” economies and the tourists that visit national parks. Renee Kuhlman, director of policy outreach at the National Trust, wrote for Main Street about their Hill experiences and why this issue matters.

In addition to working toward dedicated funding, the National Trust advocates for complementary policies like historic leasing to maintain and preserve historic resources in our national parks. On September 17 Tom Cassidy testified on behalf of the National Trust at a House Natural Resources Committee field hearing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which is home to several successful historic leasing projects. The National Trust has long advocated for historic leasing and published a 2013 report with recommendations and case studies.


Members of Congress—including, second from left, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R.-Utah—and historic leasing hearing witnesses gather on the steps of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas, during a site tour. |  Photo credit: Pam Bowman

TAKE ACTION! Help ensure that legislation to address deferred maintenance is enacted this year! Use our online tool to send your House member and Senator a letter to urge their support of the deferred maintenance bills. 

  • Land and Water Conservation Fund: Though the LWCF lapsed as of October 1—meaning new funds from offshore energy development currently are not being set aside for LWCF—efforts to reinstate the program took a major step forward with the committee’s action on October 2. Overwhelming public support helped Senator Cantwell’s bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF at $900 million annually advance through the committee by a vote of 16-7. Several amendments to limit the flexibility, resources, and timespan of the program were defeated along similarly bipartisan lines. In the House, the Natural Resources Committee came together to approve a bill permanently reauthorizing LWCF (R. 502) on September 13.

TAKE ACTION! The work of saving historic places is far from over. Join us in urging Congress to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in saving places with tremendous historic and cultural resources.

African American Historic Sites

Several bills promoting the preservation of African American historic sites took steps forward in Congress in recent weeks, including Rep. Jim Clyburn’s, D-S.C., Reconstruction Era Historical Park Act (H.R. 5532), which was approved by the House on September 12. On October 4 a key Senate committee advanced the Medgar Evers Home National Monument Act (H.R. 4895). 

TAKE ACTION! The National Trust is also advocating for legislation to reauthorize the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) preservation program, which in August provided $8.6 million in NPS grants to projects such as Howard University’s Founders Library, one of our National Trust National Treasures. Congressman Clyburn’s HBCU reauthorization legislation (H.R. 1135) passed the House in June 2017, while companion legislation (S. 1446) introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., currently awaits consideration by the full Senate. Join us in urging Congress to pass this important legislation! 

Appropriations Update

Despite significant progress, FY 2019 began on October 1 without new funding levels for most of the federal programs that impact historic preservation. A continuing resolution signed into law on September 28 keeps funding at FY 2018 levels for programs within the Department of the Interior (and several other departments and agencies) through December 7, 2018. In the meantime, we remain optimistic about preservation priorities like the Historic Preservation Fund and deferred maintenance in our National Parks as negotiations between the House and Senate on a final FY19 Interior appropriations bill continue. 

Historic Tax Credit Corner

On Friday, September 28, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., provided the keynote address to the Novogradac 2018 Historic Tax Credit Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Senator Cassidy, a key champion of the historic tax credit (HTC), spoke about the importance of preserving our nation’s irreplaceable historic buildings and called attention to the ability of the federal HTC to catalyze reinvestment in communities of all sizes. He urged the many historic preservation leaders and professionals in the room to support passage of the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act (S.3058 / H.R. 6081) before the end of the 115th Congress. The bill would eliminate the requirement that HTCs must be deducted when calculating a building’s basis (a property’s value for tax purposes), which would increase the credit’s value and preserve most of the savings associated with changes to the program during tax reform.

TAKE ACTION!Urge your legislators to cosponsor the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act of 2018.

September’s policy webinar explained how Colorado’s historic tax credits help transform buildings like this former 140,000 square vacant factory which became the Stanley Marketplace. The Marketplace, as described by Preservation magazine, is now “a food hall, shopping hub, recreational destination, and, yes, a beer hall.” | Credit: Colorado HIstory

Learn more about HTC Advocacy 

  • Watch last month’s webinar for an update on the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act as well as Colorado and New York’s state HTCs. Speakers included:
    • Daniel Mackay, New York deputy historic preservation officer; 
    • Patrick Robertson, managing director of FTI Consulting; 
    • Mark Rodman, Colorado deputy historic preservation officer; and 
    • Erin Tobin, vice president of the Preservation League of New York State.

  • Download our latest listing of state HTCs.
  •  Hear how your advocacy makes a difference on a recent episode of Preservecast, powered by Preservation Maryland and featuring Renee Kuhlman.

National Treasures Updates 

  • Bears Ears National Monument: On September 24 a federal judge ruled that litigation challenging the Trump administration’s drastic reductions of the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will stay in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, rather than moving to Utah as the federal government had requested. This venue decision, along with a requirement that the federal government provide advance notification of any ground-disturbing activities, was welcome news to the National Trust and other plaintiffs in the consolidated cases.

Meanwhile, the administration is moving forward with management plans for the reduced national monuments and seeking the least restrictive management as its preferred alternative, placing fragile cultural resources at risk. The public comment period on the Bears Ears management plan is open through November 15.

The National Trust is also working proactively to enhance protections for the broader cultural landscape. Join us in calling on Congress to support the Bears Ears National Monument Expansion Act (H.R. 4518) to protect the full 1.9 million acres originally recommended by the coalition of five tribes that proposed the Bears Ears National Monument designation.

  • Ocmulgee National Monument: The National Trust works closely with our partners on historic preservation issues at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia. This includes supporting legislation that would expand the boundary of the park and authorize a special resource study. The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act (R. 538) has already passed the House by a 396-8 vote, and it was also approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

TAKE ACTION! Sign the petition in support of the Ocmulgee legislation to help us get a Senate vote that would send this legislation to the president’s desk for enactment before the end of the year.