Public Policy and Advocacy Outlook for 2017

January 1, 2017, Department, by David Tyahla

2017 January Advocacy 410

It’s a new year following an election, and that means we have a new Congress, new White House administration and all the new challenges AND opportunities that come along with it. Change is to be expected, but the sheer number of new faces and ideas appearing in Washington require much more than a simple “scorecard” to keep track of them all. That’s where the NRPA Public Policy Team comes in to provide a little clarity and a look ahead to what’s in store for 2017.

Since the November Election
President-elect Trump will officially take the oath of office and become our 45th president on January 20. Prior to joining the president in the White House, his nominees for Cabinet-level positions, including the secretaries for key federal agencies, such as Agriculture, Health & Human Services, Interior, Transportation and Education, are required to go through Senate confirmation. The Public Policy Team has been sharing regular updates via the “Open Space” blog and Advocacy Insider newsletter, as well as by hosting webinar programs aimed at providing the most up-to-date information possible. We will continue to provide updates on who has been nominated, as well as confirmed, to key positions within the new Trump administration via NRPA social media.

With regard to Congress, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate remain in Republican control to start 2017 — albeit with reduced majorities compared to last term. The following table shows the pre- and post-election breakdown:

U.S. House Partisan Breakdown U.S. Senate Partisan Breakdown
Party Nov. 2016 Election 2017 Party Nov. 2016 Election 2017
DEM 186 194 DEM 44 46
GOP 246 241 GOP 54 52
Vacant 3 0 Ind. 2 2
Total: 435 435 Total: 100 100

Even with single-party control of the Congress and White House, the checks and balances to the political system established under the Constitution will continue to make it difficult to pass major changes to existing policy. Visit the Advocacy webpage to learn more about key legislative issues and priorities being tracked by the NRPA Public Policy Team.

Overtime Rule Delayed Indefinitely in Federal Court
Just prior to Thanksgiving, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction against the Obama administration’s looming overtime rule, which was slated to go into effect December 1, 2016. This means that employers across the country, including park and recreation agencies, are no longer responsible for complying with the overtime rule. Many park and recreation agencies had been shifting schedules, awarding comp time or adjusting salaries in order to prepare for the pending rule, which would have roughly doubled the salary cap for employees eligible for overtime pay.

The injunction is meant to give the court more time to weigh the merits of the pending lawsuit on behalf of numerous attorneys general. In effect, this indefinite delay means the overtime rule will be overturned once the Trump administration takes office January 20. As we have mentioned in previous blog posts and webinars, President-elect Trump has highlighted the overtime rule as an onerous and burdensome regulation for businesses.

Public Policy Survey and Our New Platform for 2017
In December, we distributed a survey — open to all NRPA members — seeking your input on what issues and policies are most important to you as we begin our work in 2017. Your thoughtful responses are appreciated and have been very valuable as we prepare to introduce our legislative and policy platform for the new Congress and administration. We’ll release the 2017 Public Policy Platform later this month.

Looking Forward
What all these changes will ultimately mean for our key Conservation, Health and Wellness and Social Equity policy priorities is not clear at this point in time. The one thing we know for sure is that your participation in the process will be more important than ever. Here are a few ways to stay connected to what will remain a very dynamic political environment:

  • Follow us on social media and sign up for our Advocacy Insider updates and Action Alerts where we make it simple to contact your elected leaders in Washington, D.C., on the hottest issues. 
  • Become a , and help with this initiative aimed at “Bringing Capitol Hill to a Park Near You.” We’ll provide you with all the tools and support your need to be an effective advocate at the local community level.
  • Join us, later this month, Thursday, January 26 at 2 p.m. ET, for our important webinar on the new Congress and administration and our 2017 Public Policy Platform, which will provide the most up-to-the-minute information on what is happening during these rapidly changing times in Washington, as well as formally introduce our legislative and advocacy agenda for the year.

As park and recreation agencies enter 2017, the Public Policy Team will continue to analyze the “new” politics in Washington, D.C., and looks forward to working on your behalf with the incoming administration (as well as the new Congress) to promote these and other policy priorities before key decisionmakers in our nation’s capital.

David Tyahla is NRPA’s Senior Government Affairs Manager.

Final Legislative Update for 2016
Prior to finally adjourning for the year, Congress approved a short-term spending package (known as a Continuing Resolution) to keep the government operating at existing levels of funding until April 28, 2017. This will mean that the next Congress and administration will be responsible for completing work on the annual budget, which ends September 30.

The House and Senate unanimously approved legislation (Recreation’s Economic Contributions Act or REC Act), which ensures that the outdoor recreation economy, including outdoor industry jobs and their economic impact, are measured by the federal government and accounted for as part of the overall U.S. economy. However, despite earnest efforts from members in both chambers, Congress was unable to complete work on broad energy reform legislation, which would have included permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In addition, efforts to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act were also unsuccessful. Therefore, work will have to begin, anew, on both policy priorities in 2017.