City Officials Take Concerns and Important Issues to Capitol Hill

April 17, 2018

This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
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GMA meets with Rep. David Scott.

March 10-15 was a busy week for Georgia city officials in Washington, D.C. for the National League of Cities’ Congressional Cities Conference. A total of 78 Georgia city officials and GMA staff participated in the conference, which focused on municipal federal advocacy priorities including infrastructure funding and preemption of local authority over telecommunications regulations.
 
On March 12, GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson participated in an NLC Conference session and presented information about the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) and how local representatives on the BDAC and its subcommittees are working to develop model state and local ordinances and establish fair and nondiscriminatory rate structures that facilitate broadband deployment while protecting local authority to regulate and protect public rights of way.
 
On March 13, GMA President and Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, GMA Third Vice President and Union City Mayor Vince Williams, GMA Board Member and Union City Councilmember Brian, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker and Hanson visited members of Georgia’s congressional delegation to discuss GMA’s top federal priorities.
 
Discussions with Sen. Johnny Isakson, Rep. Sanford Bishop, Rep. Austin Scott, Rep. David Scott, and legislative staff from the offices of Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Drew Ferguson focused on municipal infrastructure needs and proposed federal broadband and small cell regulations that would preempt local control of public rights of way.
 
GMA meets with Sen. Johnny Isakson to discuss municipal infrastructure needs and proposed federal broadband and small cell regulations.
At each meeting, city officials described capital infrastructure needs in their communities and noted that statewide, Georgia’s cities will need $11.2 billion over the next five years to complete capital improvements for water and sewer, transportation, public safety and other major categories. “Georgia’s cities need Congress to support federal infrastructure programs that allocate funds directly to local governments,” said Hubbard. “Cities are investing local property and sales tax revenues and incurring debt to complete local projects, but we can’t do it alone.”
 
GMA officials asked members of Congress to fully fund programs like CDBG and USDA Rural Development grant and loan programs. Mayor Williams noted, “Block grant programs like CDBG have a demonstrated track record of creating and retaining jobs and leveraging private infrastructure. These funds are the last piece of the puzzle to support the completion of critical projects in our cities.”
 
“Congress also has to determine how to pay for an infrastructure package,” said Councilmember Jones. “Federal partnership is key, but current resources like the Highway Trust Fund aren’t sufficient to raise the $200 billion in federal dollars proposed in the Administration’s infrastructure blueprint.”
 
The GMA group also shared concerns about proposed state legislation and federal regulations, which would allow telecommunications companies unfettered access to public rights of way.
 
“Many areas of Georgia are unserved or underserved by broadband technology,” said Hanson. “City officials are eager to support broadband deployment, but local input in permitting processes and establishing fair rates is essential.”
 
On Wednesday, March 15, Hanson participated in the FCC BDAC Rates and Fees working group meeting to discuss pole attachment and right of way fees. This group is made up of twelve members, three from local governments and nine representing industry providers. The group was presented with data gained from a review of 950 wireless and wireline agreements from around the country.
 
The proposal that garnered the most interest from members of the group is GMA’s Model Right of Way License Agreement. Industry representatives liked that the agreement is simple and predictable, while local government representatives appreciate that it is fair and non-discriminatory, encourages co-location and incorporates local review of aspects including design, aesthetics and pole height. The group will meet again at the end of March and will include a detailed overview of the GMA model agreement.
 
GMA urges city officials to contact members of Congress to discuss local infrastructure and broadband needs. Over the coming weeks and months leading up to National Infrastructure Week, May 14-21, GMA encourages cities to tell stories about their local infrastructure needs and how they are addressing those needs, using op-eds, ride-alongs with members of Congress, and by creating short video segments that illustrate local needs and also the city’s vision for how federal funds can supplement local, state and private investment. For more information, contact GMA’s Director of Federal Relations and Research Becky Taylor at btaylor@gmanet.com.

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