American Policy

Everyday policy makers at the federal, state, county and municipal level make decisions that greatly affect downtowns. It is important that IDA’s members have their voices heard when elected officials and senior administrators debate issues core to the well being of our nation’s downtown. Downtowns are greatly affected by the decisions policy makers make regarding land use planning, transportation projects, public safety & social services and countless other issues. Members of the IDA have a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges and opportunities that our nation’s downtowns face, and can offer important insight as policy is formed.

The International Downtown Association continues to be a strong advocate for our downtowns, both at the federal and state level. But it is also critically important for local organizations dedicated to encouraging the viability and development of downtowns to effectively participate in the policy making process directly. Elected officials cannot take into account your organization’s critical perspective unless they hear from you, so never miss an opportunity to be a committed advocate for your downtown!


Urge your Member of Congress to Pass Efairness Legislation This Year

The clock is ticking for Congress to act on efairness legislation this year. Since 1992 a pre-Internet Supreme Court case has guided our sales tax collection system. More than 20 years later, Congress now has the opportunity to modernize our law to reflect the omni-channel retail environment we live and work in today. Learn how to take action today!

T4America Handbook & Webinar

IDA partner, Transportation for America, published a new handbook to help communities understand the ins and outs of the new federal transportation law, MAP-21. On Thursday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. EST, T4America staff and representatives from metropolitan planning organizations will host an online presentation reviewing the new law and detailing new policies and funding opportunities. Under MAP-21 more decision-making has shifted to the state and local level, offering critical new ways for downtown organizations to engage. This online presentation will explain ways you can help shape your downtown, including new federal grant programs and other ways to fund projects in your community like bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, transit projects, and bridge and road repair.

Download your free copy of Making the Most of MAP-21 and sign up to participate in the online presentation.

Contacting Elected Officials

Elected officials need to hear directly from you when an issue affecting your downtown is under consideration! Below, find helpful tools that allow you to easily connect with your elected officials, as well as more information on how to be an effective advocate.

To identify and contact your U.S. Congressional Representative, provide your zip code in the upper right hand corner of the House of Representatives website.

To identify and contact your U.S. Senators, use drop down menu in the upper right hand corner of the U.S. Senate web site.

Writing to your elected official (PDF) – By Robert Longley

Policy Matrix

The IDA’s American Issues Task Force, after consultation with members from across the country concluded that the most pressing issues facing downtowns today are transportation, development and finance, and viability of the nation’s downtown’s environment. Illustrated in this matrix, information is available on resources, best practices, our coalition partners. This initial draft matrix will be updated as the new congress begins work in 2013 and as the IDA American Issues Committee continues its work.

Click here (Excel) to view Federal Grant Programs in each of the below policy areas.

Policy Updates

Key Proposals in the Administration's FY15 Budget for USDOT

A review of President Obama's FY15 Budget reforms at USDOT. Click here to view.


Transportation Reauthorization Bill

July 1, 2012

It almost came down to the last minute, but Congressional leaders managed to find a compromise on the Transportation Reauthorization Bill before authorization expired over the weekend. It looks like Congressional leaders will combine the Transportation bill with bills regarding student loan interest rates and flood insurance for the sake of expediency. While a five or six year reauthorization was not possible, this compromise bill runs through September 2014, longer than the expected.

Both sides compromised, with Congressional Republicans losing out on the expedited approval of the Keystone pipeline and loosening coal ash regulation, and Democrats giving some ground on expedited environmental review and ensuring that localities are given Transportation Enhancement funds (now called Transportation Alternatives). The bill maintains funding levels at the current level (with adjustments for inflation). The bill does not address the growing shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, and requires general fund money, primarily from “pension smoothing” which will allow employers to contribute less to pension funds, and therefore increase taxable income.

Specifically regarding bike and pedestrian funding, this compromise bill nearly splits the difference between the House Republicans proposal and the Cardin-Cochran amendment language that was part of the bill that passed the Senate. 50% will go to local Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and 50% will go to the states. Unfortunately states will have the option of shifting that money to other transportation projects, and inevitably some will. States are also able to transfer funds away from MPOs if funds are not spent quickly enough, or under certain emergencies. It’s inopportune that that not all of the funds are guaranteed for pedestrian and bicycle projects, but this language is still an improvement over the original House proposal and even the original Senate language (before the Cardin-Cochran amendment). House Republicans also won language that will allow expedited environmental review of projects, such as concurrent reviews and hard deadlines for federal approval. While the language is not as extensive as originally proposed, it should still significantly reduce the timeframe between a plan’s conception and groundbreaking.