Twenty-three city officials from all over the state recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2024 Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) Fly-In held by the Florida League of Cities (FLC). This two-day delegation trip is an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Florida’s congressional members and their staffs to discuss important issues facing Florida’s cities.

FLC President Greg Ross, Mayor of Cooper City, has participated in the FAST Fly-In for the past 10 years. “The FAST Fly-in is a tremendous opportunity for Florida’s congressional delegation to hear unique perspectives from different cities,” Ross said. “Illustrating the real-world examples and challenges cities are facing helps our congressional leaders better understand the effects of these issues.”

The Fly-In kicked off with a federal briefing at the National League of Cities (NLC) office. Clarence E. Anthony, NLC CEO and Executive Director, emphasized the importance of meeting with members of Congress so they better understand the issues impacting their communities back home. The NLC federal advocacy team provided a federal update so participants were up to speed before their congressional meetings.

Florida has a large congressional delegation with 28 members in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. For this trip, participants broke into groups for 22 meetings with congressional members and/or their staff, including meetings with Rubio and Scott. Discussions focused on three key issues. (See FLC Federal Agenda.)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a final rule designating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This new rule will have significant financial implications to monitor and treat these “forever chemicals.” FAST Fly-In participants discussed the increasing costs of testing and emphasized the importance of working with all stakeholders to find comprehensive solutions to minimize the release of these contaminants in our drinking water. With this new CERCLA designation, municipal utilities, in particular, can be exposed to significant litigation costs. The group asked Congress to clarify that cities are shielded from liability so that taxpayer dollars can be used for cleanup efforts rather than costly lawsuits.

Streamlining the federal grants process also resonated with the congressional delegation. Most Florida cities don’t have the staff or resources to navigate the cumbersome process of applying for federal grants. Rubio and U.S. Representative Scott Franklin have pursued legislation to streamline this process so smaller and medium-sized cities can compete for these federal dollars.

Finding a comprehensive long-term solution to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was also discussed. Florida has more NFIP policies than any other state, and Congress has passed 30 short-term NFIP extensions since 2017. The FLC Federal Action Agenda is asking Congress to support a longer-term solution that would provide more accurate flood mapping, affordable flood insurance for existing and future policyholders and incentives to make structures more resilient to future flooding. The group expressed support for the NFIP Reauthorization and Reform Act, which would provide a five-year reauthorization of the NFIP. Rubio and U.S. Representative Carlos A. Gimenez are co-sponsors of the respective Senate and House legislation.

Parkland Commissioner Bob Mayersohn, Chair of the FAST Committee, rated the trip a “resounding success.” “Our solution-oriented advocacy is not only centered around discussing our key priority issues and the critical impact it has on our communities and residents, but partnering with our delegates as we also inquired with an ask: ‘How can we help you?’” Mayersohn said. “As Chair, I am very proud of our FAST Team, as was evident by the promising feedback we received during our meetings.”

The next FAST Fly-In is tentatively scheduled for February 2025.