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Preservation Action, Legislative Update
Volume 16, Number 4 – January 25, 2013

Grassroots Survey Results in: Priorities Set

Every year, the Preservation Action Foundation sponsors a survey of grassroots preservationists to determine their federal legislative priorities. This information is then used by Preservation Action to help assemble a legislative agenda for the year. This year’s results, although fairly consistent with previous years’ surveys, did pick up on a few new trends.

When asked to pick the most important current federal policy issue concerning historic preservation, 28.9% of respondents picked “funding for the Historic Preservation Fund,” followed by 19.8% for “preserving the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit (Historic Tax Credit).” Expanding or improving the Historic Tax Credit was not far behind with 14.9% and 14% of respondents chose “improving the visibility, structure and effectiveness of the federal historic preservation program.”

Ranking thirteen legislative priorities in order of importance yielded some more surprising results. While it was clear that Funding for the HPF and the protection of the Historic Tax Credit were still primary areas of interest, there was a large increase in the ranking for funding related to public lands, battlefields and monuments. Last year this category was ranked dead last but this year it ranked in seventh place. New to the survey was the challenges facing a growing tribal historic preservation program which came in a strong fifth. The full ranking can be seen here:

Protecting the Historic Tax Credit
Funding for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices
Improving/Enhancing Historic Tax Credit
Pressure to bypass or weaken historic preservation laws
Challenges of a growing tribal historic preservation program
Brick & mortar funding opportunities
Funding for public lands/battlefields/monuments
Sustainability/energy efficiency
Implementation of new transportation law
National Heritage Area funding/program language
Increasing diversity
Funding for disaster recovery

Point Score

Sandy Aid Bill Progresses Slowly

As we reported last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $50.5 billion relief bill in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That bill included a provision for up to $50 million in grant money for the Historic Preservation Fund. Thanks to the work of our members we were able to defeat an amendment that would have required those funds to be matched by state and local partners.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it is expected to be voted upon on Monday afternoon. It is likely that Senate fiscal conservatives will again attempt to amend the bill to require spending offsets, or try to eliminate certain provisions. However, at the moment it’s uncertain how many amendments the Democratic leadership will allow. We do know that Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a leading fiscal hawk, will propose an amendment requiring that the cost of the bill be offset with across-the-board reductions in discretionary spending. A similar amendment was proposed to the House bill but failed to pass. Preservation Action will continue to monitor Senate proceedings for any amendments that have an effect on the provisions related to the Historic Preservation Fund.

Debt Limit Showdown Avoided – For Now

This Wednesday by a vote of 285-144 the House passed legislation to increase the debt ceiling. The bipartisan vote included 86 Democrats joining 199 Republicans voting in favor, while 111 Democrats and 33 Republicans opposed the measure.

Dubbed by House Republicans as “No Budget, No Pay” the bill increases the debt ceiling and also requires both chambers to pass a budget—something that, despite being required by law to do, the Senate has failed to accomplish since 2009. If Congress fails to pass a budget by April 15, the salaries of the members of the non-passing chamber would be suspended. The debt ceiling debate will also come to a head on that date, depending on whether the budget bills deal with it or not.

The bill now moves on to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he will bring it up for consideration in the near-term and that he expects it to pass. As a reminder, the government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution through March 27 of this year that results in level funding for SHPO’s, THPO’s, the ACHP, the HPF, and National Heritage Areas. This budget fight could well impact the funding for these programs for the remainder of 2013 in addition to the entire fiscal year 2014, depending on how Congress decides to proceed.

Interior Secretary Hosts Historic Tax Credit Meeting in Detroit

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Detroit, MI this morning to host a meeting of economic development, real estate, and design professionals to go over ways in which the Historic Tax Credit can help communities that have been dealing with major economic problems for an extended period of time.

Detroit, notable for its elegant Art Deco buildings, experienced a population decline of 25% between 2000 and 2010. “Detroit’s historic buildings and neighborhoods hold great promise, and already the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program has helped preserve and restore 70 tax credit projects in Detroit since 2000,” the Secretary said in advance of the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the Secretary Salazar will tour the Odd Fellows Building, itself a Historic Tax Credit project that was brought back to life in 2006 after being declared structurally unsound, without a roof, and on the verge of demolition. Secretary Salazar was joined at the summit by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Federal Housing Administration Commissioner Carol Galante, Michigan SHPO Brian Conway, and Michigan State Housing Development Authority Director Scott Woolsey.

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