District 11 - Spring Newsletter 2014
Dear Friends in District 11,
This issue of my periodic report will focus on my recent trip to Washington, DC. I travelled with the Dallas Delegation to the National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional Cities Conference from March 9 to March 12. There were nine Council Members along with the City Manager and the Director of Inter-governmental affairs who attended this conference. The objective of this trip was to learn about the federal issues and legislation that are of common concern to cities and other local authorities. After a few days of seminars on various topics, we made the trek to Capitol Hill to meet with the Dallas congressional representatives to lobby for important issues.
We met with the following Congress or their staff members:
Eddie Bernice Johnson - We had a very warm welcome from Rep. Johnson. She has been a stalwart supporter of funding for Dallas Projects. She listened carefully to our issues and assured us she will continue to work with the Texas Delegation to make sure Dallas gets its share of federal monies.
Sam Johnson (staff) - Rep. Johnson was not available because he was on the floor of congress. Nevertheless, his staff took copious notes. He has also been a great supporter of our initiatives in Dallas.
Kenny Marchant - Rep. Marchant greeted us warmly and listened to our concerns. As the previous Mayor of Carrollton (his son is the current mayor), he is acutely aware of the issues local legislators face. He understands our issues and advocates for local control and that the local leaders know what is best for their municipalities.
Jeb Hensarling - Initially we met with staff, but were joined by Rep. Hensarling near the end of our time. He listened patiently to our concerns. We had a pleasant and cordial meeting with him.
Pete Sessions - Arriving at Rep. Sessions office is like finding a little bit of home in a foreign land. We were greeted with warm smiles, big hugs and Dr. Pepper. Rep. Sessions was familiar with our issues and understands why they are important to Dallas. He has been effective at taking strong positions on federal issues while being aware of the effects back in Dallas.
Marc Veasey - Rep. Veasey is the newest member of our delegation, but after 8 years in the Texas House, he was well prepared to take on Washington. He listened intently and will work to support our legislative agenda.
The national topics of local concern are:
MAP-21 Transportation Funding - We encourage congress to pass funding for transportation projects with an emphasis on local priorities. In North Texas, our transportation policy is set by our Municipal Planning Organization (MPO), the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). This 16 county planning organization sets the priorities for regional transportation and provides the local distribution of funds. We prefer to receive block funding and make our own decisions as opposed to the federal government telling us how to spend the funds. Note that Dallas has 6 of 44 seats on the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). I have been appointed to the RTC by the Mayor to represent Dallas' interest. Dallas also asked legislators to restore funding for alternative transportation such as streetcars, bike lanes, trails, etc.
Tax Treatment for Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds - We encourage congress to maintain the current tax-exempt status for municipal bonds. Dallas uses these bonds to build out new infrastructure and replace aging infrastructure. This includes roads, sewers, water mains, recreation centers, police and fire stations, etc. Because these bonds are tax-exempt, the City is able to borrow money at a substantially lower rate, saving us millions in annual interest payments. Removing the Tax-exempt status would also decrease the City's borrowing ability in order to maintain its high credit rating. This borrowing is controlled at the local level through bond referendums.
Marketplace Fairness Act - Internet retailers have benefitted from sales tax rules that allow them to ship out of state without collecting sales tax. In theory, the consumer would self-report to the local state and pay the use tax. The reality is, no one does that and the local tax base suffers. In addition, our local "brick and mortar" retailers are at a price disadvantage and become showrooms for shoppers who order on-line. These brick and mortar retailers not only collect sales tax, but also pay property tax in Dallas. When internet shopping was a fledgling industry, a tax advantage was warranted. Now, cities are asking for fairness in tax treatment, regardless of the method of purchase.
Trinity River Corridor Project - We spoke directly to our legislators about this important project. This is the largest public works project Dallas has ever undertaken. The primary objective is flood risk management and control. Other objectives include recreation, environmental restoration, economic development and transportation. Our elected officials were very familiar with the project, so we provided an update of our progress. These include levee repair, establishing wetlands, development of the Trinity Audubon Center, the Margret Hunt Hill bridge and Trinity Groves development.
Read more about these and other positions here:
Click here for more details
Please contact my office if you would like any more information on our national legislative agenda.
Lee M. Kleinman