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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties www.naco.org


National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 coun- ties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innova- tive solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.


Senators urge full economic study of critical habitat designations U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) in-


troduced the “Private Landowner Protection Act” on July 31. Senate Bill 2729 would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take the full economic impact of proposed critical habitat designations into account. NACo supports such legislation that would require the USFWS to perform appropriate economic analysis, prior to the desig- nation of critical habitat, that would measure the effects of such a des- ignation on all affected stakeholders — not just on federal agencies — and would include effects on possible uses of land and property values, employment and revenues available for state and local governments. Last year, USFWS issued a final rule that would implement an


“incremental approach” to analyzing the economic impact of criti- cal habitat designations vs. a “quantitative analysis.” Tis approach would require USFWS to only consider the cost to the government of consulting on critical habitat, instead of considering costs to all stakeholders. Te senators’ bill would implement a comprehensive ap- proach, requiring consideration of the costs to agriculture producers, businesses, county and city governments and other local entities. It would also require the U.S. Department of Interior to publish the economic analysis for public comment.


House bill to stop “Waters of the U.S.” rule moves forward Te House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the


Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, H.R. 5078, by a voice vote on July 16. H.R. 5078 would prevent the administration’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule from moving forward. It also would require the agencies to consult and collaborate with state and local governments on the rule development process and to document the interactions and submit the final report to Congress.


Te proposed rule that prompted the introduction of H.R. 5078 —


Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act — was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on April 21. Te proposed rule amends the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and expands the range of waters (and their conveyances) that would fall under federal regulatory authority. Te proposed rule would impact county-owned and maintained roads and roadside ditch- es, flood control channels, drainage conveyances, stormwater systems, green infrastructure construction and maintenance. Te public com- ment period for “Waters of the U.S.” is open until October 20.


President signs Veterans Access overhaul act On August 7, President Barack Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Te measure reforms the U.S. De- partment of Veterans Affairs (VA) and includes changes allowing veterans to seek private care in their communities. $10 billion of the $16.3 billion agreement is allocated to allow vet- erans to receive care from non-VA providers if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or if VA doctors cannot see them within 30 days. Tis authority expires after three years and payment is gener- ally limited to Medicare rates, with exceptions for veterans living in “highly rural areas” — defined as areas located in a county that has fewer than seven individuals residing per square mile. Besides allowing for alternate service delivery, the act provides ap-


proximately $5 billion for hiring more doctors and nurses and $2 bil- lion for the leasing of 27 new medical facilities across the country. It also gives the VA secretary broader authority to fire or demote senior officials and limits employee bonuses. All of the funding in this measure is categorized as emergency spending, and the VA would have to rely on the annual appropriations process once these resources are depleted.


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COUNTY LINES, SUMMER 2014


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