WASHINGTON INSIGHT

APWA's Government Affairs Committee Goes to Washington

Heather McTavish
Government Relations Coordinator
APWA Washington office

The Government Affairs Committee (GAC) of the American Public Works Association met April 8 and 9, 2002 in Washington, D.C. for their annual meeting. A committee of the Board of Directors, GAC is responsible for recommending APWA's public policy goals, priorities and strategies to the Board of Directors and for overseeing the implementation of APWA's public policy advocacy initiatives and external relations. Committee members also play an important role representing the association as member advocates.

The format of the GAC meeting focuses on three agenda items designed to give GAC members more of an insider's view of policy crafting in Washington. First, the committee holds an administrative session where policy is drafted and pertinent issues, often relating to regulatory or legislative concerns, are discussed. Second, a meeting in Washington allows APWA members to meet with staff from Capitol Hill. Third and most important, members are given the opportunity to meet with their respective Congressman and Senators to discuss APWA's priority issues and to convey activities at home to the member of Congress.

This year the GAC was joined by three speakers including staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. Staff from EPA's Office of Wastewater Management has made working with the Office of Homeland Security on wastewater treatment plant security a priority since September 11. EPA has focused their efforts on three areas of security including:

  • Creating tools for plants to use to do vulnerability assessments.
  • Security training for wastewater utilities.
  • Research and development into ways to protect large and small water systems.
Staff from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee discussed Chairman Young's (R-AK) priorities for the rest of the session which include:
  • Restoring RABA Funding
  • Creation of toll-supported truck lanes
  • Intermodalism
  • Streamlining and Traffic congestion
  • Aviation Security/Port Security
  • Bus Security
  • Water Infrastructure Bills
  • Water Resources Development Act
  • High Speed Passenger Rail
Staff from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee outlined similar priorities for the year:
  • Modernizing the highway system
  • Giving communities access to rail
  • Clean Air initiatives
On Tuesday, April 9, GAC members shared breakfast on Capitol Hill with staff from the House Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. GAC members spoke extensively about the TEA-21 reauthorization process.

Armed with APWA's priorities, GAC members roamed the halls of Capitol Hill and met with legislators and their staff. GAC members discussed three APWA legislative priorities for 2002.

  • Restore funding for roads and bridges. APWA supports the bicameral legislation the Highway Funding Restoration Act, S. 1917 and HR 3694. If enacted this legislation would increase funding for roads, bridges, and safety programs by $4.5 billion in 2003, the level authorized by TEA-21.

  • Increase investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. APWA has asked Congress for a $57 billion investment over five years to close a documented funding shortfall to repair and modernize deteriorating water infrastructure. APWA supports both the Water Infrastructure Act, S. 1961 and the Water Quality Financing Act, HR 3930.

  • Increase federal emergency relief funding. APWA supports the First Responder Initiative outlined in the President's proposed fiscal year 2003 budget. If enacted, the proposal would provide $3.5 billion in funding to states and local communities to purchase needed equipment and to provide training for personnel to respond most effectively to disasters. Emergency response is a core responsibility for many APWA members.
For additional information on legislation that APWA is monitoring, log onto APWA's Legislative Action Center on www.apwa.net/govtaffairs.

The Government Affairs Committee's next meeting will be at the APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Kansas City, Missouri in September.

To reach Heather McTavish, call (202) 408-9541 or send e-mail to hmctavish@apwa.net.