APWA launches redesigned Advocacy web page

Elizabeth Kelsey
Government Affairs Assistant
APWA Washington Office

Public policy decisions affect public works professionals and their day-to-day jobs in dramatic ways. Often, they are the first to see the outcomes of policies on public infrastructure and local communities. That's why APWA members are important stakeholders in legislative issues related to transportation, environment, emergency management and other areas. Government officials need to hear from qualified experts in order to make informed policy decisions, and APWA's Advocacy web page facilitates that process by making it easy to get informed and get involved.

APWA has introduced a redesigned Advocacy web page, available at www.apwa.net/advocacy. The new site helps APWA members become more active and involved in ongoing advocacy efforts and provides opportunities to contact Congress or federal agencies about current legislation and regulations affecting public works at all levels of government.

Get informed
APWA members are already experts on public works, and now APWA's Advocacy page empowers you to translate that expertise into public policy recommendations. The Advocacy home page helps you stay up-to-speed on policy issues by featuring real-time updates on APWA advocacy activities and other legislative and regulatory news. You can check the Advocacy and Public Affairs home pages frequently for the most recent advocacy news, or conduct in-depth research on specific bills and rules APWA has targeted for action. Under each bill on the Federal Legislation page and under each rule on the Federal Regulation page, click to find one or more resources representing legislative information, APWA's actions and opportunities for member involvement.

The new site also makes it easy to research APWA's own committee-driven positions on public policy, existing laws and regulations affecting public works, and other organizations that support public infrastructure. The APWA Positions page lists current documents and offers information on the position development process and how to submit changes. The Resources page has links to federal research tools as well as information on related agencies, coalitions and associations.

Get involved
You can craft messages to send directly to your Member of Congress via "i-mail," the preferred method of congressional communication, by sending a letter through the Legislative Action Center. This form of submission guarantees that messages not only arrive in your Congressional Member's inbox in a timely fashion, but also contain all the "talking points" he or she needs to make an informed decision on legislation affecting public works. Access the Legislative Action Center by clicking on any flashing "Action Alert" on the site, or by visiting the "Get Involved" section at any time to send a self-written message on other legislation of interest.

Other sections of the newly-designed site offer additional ways for you to get involved and make an impact in public works advocacy. The Federal Legislation section, for example, simplifies the process by which you can submit comments on proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Homeland Security. You will also find helpful tips and resources for advocacy on the State/Provincial level and you can even request APWA advocacy assistance on the State and Provincial Advocacy pages.

APWA Advocacy: The power to change is online!
You have an important role to play in the public policy process. With the redesigned Advocacy web page it is easier than ever to take the lead on legislative and regulatory issues by visiting www.apwa.net/advocacy.

Questions and comments regarding the new site should be directed to Elizabeth Kelsey, APWA Government Affairs Assistant, at ekelsey@apwa.net or (202) 218-6732.

President Verkest testifies before National Transportation Commission

President Bill Verkest testified on behalf of APWA before the congressionally-chartered National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission at a field hearing in Washington, D.C. in March. Verkest was invited by the Commission to present APWA's recommendations on approaches and mechanisms for ensuring future funding and revenue stability of the surface transportation system in the United States. Senior transportation and policy experts selected by the President and Congress, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, heard testimony from key national transportation stakeholder groups during the hearing.

APWA President Bill Verkest (second from right) offers transportation financing recommendations in testimony at a hearing in Washington, D.C.

"Increased state and federal funds are urgently needed for local transportation system improvements," said Verkest. "A funding and financing crisis looms, and we must act accordingly. Our local officials need support to make our transportation system safer for all users, motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists."

In his testimony, Verkest offered several key recommendations to the Commission, including raising the current federal motor fuel tax rate to restore the purchasing power lost to inflation since it was last increased in the early 1990s. He also urged the Commission to expand the use of financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, tolling, congestion pricing and pass-through financing.

Additionally, Verkest recommended that transportation funding solutions include utility system and enterprise fund models; that incentives be developed for technology-based approaches such as vehicle-mileage fee systems; and that local governments be given the right incentives to begin or continue generating funds in their communities (through voter-approved sales tax and bond programs, transportation fees, increased maintenance programs and dedicated taxes).

Many factors are creating downward pressure on revenues that fund highways, bridges and transit programs. Most notable among them are increasing vehicle fuel efficiency, wider use of alternative fuels and non-fuel based technologies to power vehicles. The effects of inflation and the escalating costs to build and maintain the transportation network also are major contributing causes. Current forecasts indicate that the Federal Highway Trust Fund will have a negative balance as early as 2008, and the long-term outlook shows continued diminishing revenues.

The Commission comprises 12 members, representing: federal, state and local governments; metropolitan planning organizations; transportation-related industries; and public interest organizations. The Commission is working to examine not only the condition and future needs of the nation's surface transportation system, but also short- and long-term alternatives to replace or supplement the fuel tax as the principal revenue source to support the Highway Trust Fund over the next 30 years. It will present its findings to Congress later this year.

APWA's SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization Task Force has been developing recommendations to address transportation funding shortfalls as part of its work drafting APWA's positions for the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU. The task force met in Washington, D.C. in January and continues to meet regularly. It plans to have a comprehensive reauthorization position statement finalized later this year. SAFETEA-LU expires in September 2009.

President Verkest's testimony is posted on APWA's website at www.apwa.net/Advocacy/resources.asp.