Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming in the local parks and cherry blossoms will soon be out in D.C. Help plant the seeds or cultivate current ones with your congressional members. Our political leaders need to hear from you, their constituents, to know what issues are important in their communities. Join your colleges and the NRPA Public Policy team at NRPA’s Legislative Forum in D.C. on March 25 and 26 to advocate for the issues that are critical to your agency. Our team will help provide all the training and information you need to have successful meetings and become the valuable resource to Congress, which you already are.
The issues that are most important to your individual agencies may vary slightly, but we all share the end result of improving opportunities to make the communities we live in a better place for all. The NRPA legislative priorities are below to help provide guidance on the important issues that support our park and recreation community.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State Assistance Program: In addition to supporting full and dedicated funding for the LWCF, H.R. 2727 is a piece of bi-partisan legislation introduced by Congressman McKinley (R-WV) which would require a minimum of 40 percent of annual LWCF appropriations be allocated to the State Assistance Program.
No Child Left Inside (S. 1306/H.R. 2702): Introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD), this legislation would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). It would strengthen and expand environmental education in classrooms by providing funds to encourage partnerships between school districts and parks, as well as other community based organizations.
“Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (HKOA)”: This legislation is expected to be reintroduced in 2014. It provides funding to states for the development of comprehensive state strategies related either to expanding environmental education through the school system and finding other means of getting kids and families more physically active in the outdoors.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Health and Human Services Appropriations: Funding for prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control that create substantial and sustainable community level programs that prevent and control obesity and other chronic diseases through physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco-free living and community preventive services. These grant programs support state and local government entities such as park and recreation agencies.
Agriculture Appropriations and Child Nutrition Act /Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Reauthorization: Support for funding of the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Programs and support for the bill that would authorize funding for the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program which are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These programs provide free meals to low income children while school is out of session and will be up for renewal in FY 2015. Park and recreation agencies are the largest provider of healthy meals and snacks to children outside of schools.
Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act (S.1562): Legislation introduced by Senator Sanders (I-VT), to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which addresses the health, welfare and economic needs of older individuals by promoting senior center modernizations and evidence based chronic disease management and falls prevention.
Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 956): Introduced by Congressman Kind (D-WI), this bill would expand the IRS definition of medical expenditures to include physical activity as preventative medicine. This would allow individuals to use the pre-tax dollars in Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts to include expenditures such as: membership at a recreation or fitness facility, youth and adult sports league fees, exercise classes, youth camps, organized running event registration fees and other physical activities.
Urban Parks and Recreation: Community Parks and Revitalization (CPR) Act (H.R. 2424): Sponsored by Representative Sires (D-NJ), this legislation would provide matching federal grants for park and recreation infrastructure in metropolitan areas. Specifically, it will authorize the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide funding to local park and recreation agencies, through three grant programs: Rehabilitation and Construction, Innovation and Recreation, and Recovery Action. The bill also includes innovative financing for park infrastructure (known as PIFIA).
Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program: Support UPARR’s inclusion in the FY 2015 Interior Appropriations package. However, funding for UPARR should not be done at the expense (or “in lieu of”) of support for LWCF State Assistance.
Transportation: Dedicated funding for “Active Transportation” options, including trails and pedestrian projects as part of the federal surface transportation act, currently known as “MAP-21.” These programs, primarily the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), provide approximately $800 million annually for bike and pedestrian projects and to promote pedestrian and bicycling safety in local communities. MAP-21 is due to expire in September of 2014.
Transportation: The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act (H.R. 3978): Sponsored by Representative Sires (D-NJ), this bill would provide local communities with low-cost loans to build networks of sidewalks, bikes lanes and paths as part of the federal transportation financing program known as TIFIA. Twenty-five percent of the loan financing for this program must be used to help low-income communities.
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): Continue to support funding for CDBG which historically provides up to $100 million annually for park and recreation infrastructure.
Which pieces of legislation have helped support your communities in the past? Share the importance of these programs with us (in the comments below) and with your representatives (at Legislative Forum). Find out more tips about attending Legislative Forum and speaking with your representatives in the February issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine.