New Year, New Congress, New Resolutions

January 1, 2015, Department, by Sage Learn

2015 presents a fresh opportunity to advocate for parks and recreation on Capitol Hill.The start of every new year gives us a chance to both reflect and think about goals or resolutions for change. Now that 2014 has drawn to a close, NRPA’s public policy team is taking the opportunity to think of our own resolutions for 2015, which looks to be an exciting and challenging year on Capitol Hill. 

We saw many successes, but after reflecting upon the past year and past Congress, there is much to look forward and aspire to in the new year and the beginning of the 114th Congress. We will see a Republican majority in both the Senate and House, and President Barack Obama will move into his final two years of office. We saw some of our champions retire in December, and with so many new congressional members coming into office, we will have the task of educating old and new leaders about why parks and recreation is so important, using as examples all the great work that is done in communities across the country at agencies every day. We need our politicians to see the children in our cities who, without their local park, wouldn’t have access to nature or a place to be physically active. They need to hear about the teenager who may not get a daily, healthy meal in the summer months without the food he receives at the park or recreation center in his neighborhood. They need to know about the senior who battles crippling arthritis, but because of the arthritis walking program in his park is able to get around the block. You know these stories better than I do, but do your elected leaders? Let’s make sure we sure we are sharing the stories of our communities to support passage of the legislation that provides funding for these types of programs and so many more. Below you will see our top 10 policy resolutions for the new year and new Congress, not in any particular order. These are important pieces of legislation that support park and recreation agencies across the country on a range of issues. I have often found that resolutions are easier to adhere to and sustain when shared with others. Will you join me in these goals and resolutions?

New Year’s Top Ten Resolutions for Public Policy

1) New congressional champions for park and recreation issues. New members equal new opportunities.

2) Return to the regular budget process. It serves park and recreation agencies better when Congress passes appropriations bills instead of scrambles to pass continuing resolutions or omnibus spending bills.

3) Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF expires in September, and its State Assistance Program funds state and community park and recreation projects across America.

4) Reauthorization of MAP-21/Transportation Bill. This expires in May and serves as the primary source of federal funding for active transportation, such as bicycle and pedestrian projects.

5) Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. This act expires in September and authorizes the funding for critical USDA after-school and summer feeding programs.

6) Reintroduction/Passage of the Personal Health Investment Today Act. PHIT would allow use of pretax dollars in Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts for physical activity expenses, such as fitness facility, sports leagues and exercise class fees.

7) Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. This act authorizes funding for health and welfare programs for older individuals, such as senior center modernizations, chronic disease management and falls prevention. 

8) Reintroduction/Passage of the Community Parks and Revitalization Act. CPR provides matching grants for park and recreation infrastructure in metropolitan areas and includes innovative financing for park infrastructure.

9) Reintroduction/Passage of No Child Left Inside. This act would strengthen and expand environmental education in classrooms by providing funds to encourage partnerships between school districts and parks.

10) Continued funding for the CDC Arthritis Program in the HHS/Labor/Ed Appropriations. This program provides funding for the sub-awards given to community park and recreation agencies to implement the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and Walk with Ease Interventions.

We will need your help to put these important policy goals into action and to see the resolutions fulfilled. To work toward this, we will provide educational tools and resources to make it easier for you to advocate with your Congressional leaders. NRPA will hold more public policy-related webinars this year and provide congressional site visit toolkits for some of the critical legislative issues to help guide you through the process of building and strengthening your relationships with your senators and representatives.

Let’s make 2015 a year to remember with resolutions fulfilled. To quote the English author Edith Lovejoy Pierce, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

Sage Learn is NRPA’s Government Affairs Manager.