The 115th Congress, which began in January 2017 and ends this week, was marked by divisive rhetoric, partisan stalemates, and threats to programs on which local communities rely. And yet, thanks in part to the dedication and efforts of our community of 9,000 planning advocates across the U.S., APA achieved several notable advocacy wins ranging from saving key tax credits to securing increased funding for critical housing and transportation programs.
Here is our look back at the moments when your advocacy made a difference in the 115th Congress.
Planning Advocacy Wins
A comprehensive overhaul of the nation's tax code was a top priority for Republican majorities in the House and the Senate going into 2017. Thanks to an outpouring of outreach from planning and community development advocates, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act preserved most of the vital planning and development tax code tools including Private Activity Bonds (PAB), New Market Tax Credits (NMTC), Historic Tax Credit, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that were originally targeted for elimination in earlier iterations of the legislation.
In the end, Planners' Advocacy Network members sent 495 letters to their members of Congress urging them to reject plans to undermine or eliminate critical tools used to invest in infrastructure, housing, and economic development.
FY 2018 Omnibus
We started 2017 with a presidential budget recommendation that proposed sweeping cuts to funding for essential community development, housing, and transportation programs.
Planning advocates mobilized over the next two years to send 678 letters to legislators warning of the dire consequences for communities should they accept draconian cuts to critical planning programs. Congress ultimately passed an omnibus spending package that met, and in some cases, exceeded APA's FY 2018 funding request.
Funding that supports investment in America's infrastructure through housing and transportation was a central rallying point for Planners' Advocacy Network members throughout the 115th Congress, inspiring more than 200 advocates to come to Washington for APA's Planners' Day on Capitol Hill, the final day of the Policy and Advocacy Conference.
One of APA's top policy priorities in 2018 was for Congress to adopt a Farm Bill that promotes healthy communities, sustainable agriculture, and stronger rural communities. The issue dominated lame duck and August recess advocacy, which saw 15 APA chapter boards write their states' Farm Bill conference committee members in support of Senate Farm Bill language.
The Farm Bill compromise passed both chambers earlier in December with the language APA advocated for and was signed into law this week.
2018 Lame Duck Advocacy
APA asked planning advocates to act on two important issues at the start of this lame duck session, and they exceeded our expectations. In four weeks, Planners' Advocacy Network members together sent 259 letters to Congress urging legislators to fully fund key housing and transportation programs and reauthorize the primary federal source of funding for local parks before time runs out on the 115th Congress.
While an FY 2019 omnibus spending package and LWCF authorization have yet to pass Congress, planning advocates made important progress in affirming our position on these issues. APA will continue to work with advocates and planning champions in Congress in 2019 to push these items across the finish line.
Top image: Planning advocates at the U.S. Capitol for Planners Day on the Hill 2017. APA photo.
About the Authors
Derek Segars is an APA government affairs associate. Emily Pasi is public affairs manager at APA.