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Federal Legislation Issues S/P Legislation Web Meeting

Quarterly webinar gives annual overview of federal, state/provincial legislation

Members of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus got their annual update on federal, state and provincial legislation in a June 5 webinar.

Matthew McKenna, director of the Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, provided an overview of recent and pending federal legislation in the U.S. Congress, starting with the reality that “we’re in uncharted territory here with the (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Congress has already committed $2 trillion through four bills (now laws) to myriad forms of pandemic relief, and a fifth bill is pending – the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, approved by the House of Representatives on May 15, just three days after it was introduced.

This bill, H.R. 6800, would direct $500 billion to state governments and $375 billion to local governments in two segments: $250 billion immediately followed in a year after passage by $125 billion.

While the U.S. Senate has not yet taken up H.R. 6800, it is working on America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S.3591) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act (S.3590), the former of which includes $375 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for Fiscal Year 2022, and final authorization of the Brandon Road project (along with an improved federal/non-federal partner cost share to 75 percent/25 percent [from 65/35]). Both bills have been reported in the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.

McKenna also shared a section-by-section analysis of the DWIA along with highlights of the bill.

Also pending in the Senate, he said, is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 (S.2295), which would re-authorize the GLRI for five more years and ramp up funding by $50 million per year to $475 million annually by Fiscal Year 2026. (An identical bill, H.R. 4031, passed the House 373-45 on Feb. 5.)

Moreover, the House’s version of a new surface transportation authorization bill focuses on climate change mitigation and resilience, so may provide additional funds for programs to benefit the Great Lakes, McKenna said.

Attendees got a roundup of recent developments in state and provincial legislatures from the Caucus’ Executive Committee. Illinois Sen. Laura Fine said HB 2650, which became law last July, prioritizes disadvantaged communities for lead pipe removal funding. Minnesota Rep. Jennifer Schultz said the state became the first to ban trichloroethelyne (TCE), an industrial solvent linked to cancer, when SF 4073 was signed into law on May 16.

The webinar included a brief business session.

Caucus Director Lisa Janairo provided a brief business update including cancellation of the Annual Meeting which had been scheduled for Sept. 18-19 in Detroit, renewal of The Joyce Foundation’s grant, and launch of the Caucus’ new website.

Wisconsin Sen. André Jacque reported the Task Force on Nutrient Management in its May 8 conference call discussed ideas for a list of policy priorities to advance in next year’s legislative sessions, while acknowledging the reality that, with the states and provinces grappling with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, expectations must be tempered for what can be accomplished in 2021.

A summer workshop to continue hands-on education about nutrient pollution will be postponed until 2021, he added.  

Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest reported the Nominating Committee will make arrangements to replace the in-person voting that would have taken place at the Detroit meeting, and that the nominating period will open from June 15 through July 13. The GLLC will elect two officers and 10 members of the Executive Committee to serve two-year terms starting on Jan. 1, 2021.

The Nominating Committee includes Reps. Tim Butler and Jonathan Carroll from Illinois, Sen. Tina Maharath and Rep. John Patterson from Ohio, MNA Gilles Bélanger from Québec, and Sens. Rest and Dave Senjem from Minnesota.

The slidedeck and recording of the web meeting are available.


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Issues Web Meeting

ICYMI: Blue Accounting Web Meeting, April 17

On April 17, 2020, the Great Lakes Commission gave a virtual tour of its Blue Accounting website and the kinds of data available there.

Eric Brown, senior advisor for external relations, gave an overview of the commission’s history and the history of the Blue Accounting effort, followed by in-depth presentations/looks at pages presented by Program Managers Nicole Zacharda, who spotlighted the page on Lake Erie, and Erika Jensen, who spotlighted the page on Aquatic Invasive Species.

CIO Rhonda Wille also discussed how the website was developed, stressing the importance of feedback from legislators who are the site’s primary audience, and asked legislators for ongoing feedback to help the site’s continuing development.

Sen. Janet Bewley of Wisconsin asked if adequate attention is being paid to hydrology and flood prevention or recovery as climate patterns shift. Zacharda said Brown is working on resilience around the Great Lakes region; hydrology is an apt topic for consideration as a better understanding of how water moves through the entire system is needed. The Commission is also working on restoration of natural features, which will ultimately aid flood prevention.

Rep. Michael Sheehy of Ohio asked if it’s true that Great Lakes high and low water levels are cyclical on a 15-year basis. Brown said yes, and that the cycles’ high- and low-water marks are not only becoming more extreme, but the cycles are starting to come faster.

Rep. Tim Butler of Illinois asked how and why the name “Blue Accounting” had been chosen. Brown said the name was developed during branding work done in the project’s early days.

The slidedeck and recording of the web meeting are available.

Categories
Events Web Meeting

ICYMI: Recap of December 13 Web Meeting

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus’ 2019 Fourth Quarter web meeting on December 13 included summaries of recent work by the Task Force on Lead and the new Task Force on Nutrients.

The meeting also announced the Caucus’ 2020 annual meeting will be Sept. 18-19 in Detroit, Michigan, at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. Early registration for GLLC members will open on June 1, 2020; general registration will open on July 1. Travel scholarships may be available for active Caucus members. The 2021 meeting will be in Québec City, Québec (dates and location to be determined), hosted by the National Assembly of Québec/Assemblée nationale du Québec.

Featured speaker Joel Brammeier, President & CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, discussed the group’s policy initiatives for 2020. Mr. Brammeier shared several ideas for potential actions that members of the GLLC might wish to take in support of the Great Lakes in 2020:

  • Progress on new Asian carp barriers at Brandon Road Lock & Dam: Urge Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign the “design agreement” with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project, support its federal authorization in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act, pending in Congress, and pass resolutions in their states and provinces supporting the project.
  • Tighter regulation of ballast water in ocean-going vessels entering the Great Lakes system: Comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s updated Vessel General Permit when it is published, support funding for the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Invasive Species Program at $50 million annually, and support Minnesota’s new water quality standards for “lakers” (lake-bound vessels).
  • Continuing action to reduce algae blooms: Hold pollution sources to account for successful implementation of “pollution diet” plans, tie state water conservation programs to water quality outcomes, and pay only for programs showing success.
  • Ensuring access to clean, safe drinking water throughout the region: Support passage in Congress of H.R. 1497, the Water Quality and Job Creation Act.
  • Planning for shoreline erosion: Urge funding of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Coastal Resilience Study, which needs only $1.2 million to begin; the study will identify opportunities for investments in shoreline infrastructure that can be done when lake levels are lower, to prepare for the next high-level cycle.

The next quarterly web meeting will be March 6, 2020, at 9 am Central. The featured topic will be improving nutrient management to better protect the region’s water bodies. Registration will open on February 3.