NABL Advocacy Center

U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

 

Expanding Tools for Financing Strong, Healthy, and Economically Vibrant Communities Across America.

Who We Are

The National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL) is a specialty bar association of approximately 2,500 lawyers who represent municipal market participants, including:

  • State and local government issuers

  • Nonprofit institutions and other borrowers

  • Underwriters

  • Investors

  • Trustees

What We Do

We promote the integrity of the municipal bond market by providing education to our member attorneys, market participants, and policymakers on the laws and regulations affecting state and municipal bonds. We create a forum for our members and other participants to exchange ideas and learn from one another.

What We Advocate For

We support sensible policies that enable our state and local governments to tap into the municipal market and finance critical infrastructure that builds strong, healthy, economically vibrant communities. We serve as a brain trust and resource for policymakers looking to strengthen financing tools for our communities. We specifically focus on the tax and securities laws governing municipal securities.

About the Municipal Market

Since the first municipal bond in 1812, our market has provided the necessary capital for states, local governments, and non-profit borrowers to finance improvements. Today, the more than $4.0 trillion municipal market continues to serve communities well.

  • About 90 percent of state and local capital infrastructure spending is financed with municipal securities. 
  • More than 50,000 issuers of municipal debt in the country.
  • 74% of the market is held by individual investors through direct investments and funds.  
  • Financing infrastructure such as roads, bridges, rail, airports, water, broadband, hospitals, and schools. 

NABL 2022 Advocacy Primer

Use our new advocacy primer to share municipal bond priorities with your members of Congress and other federal decisionmakers. 

2022 NABL Advocacy Primer 

NABL Priorities in 2022

1. Protect the Tax-Exemption on Municipal Bonds

Above all else, Congress and the administration should reject efforts to eliminate or reduce the tax exemption of municipal bond interest. Holders do not pay federal income taxes on interest paid on qualified municipal bonds, which reduces the interest costs for state and local borrowers. Any effort to reduce or eliminate the tax exemption would result in increased borrowing costs, forcing state and local governments to either cut back infrastructure investment or raise taxes.

2. Restore Tax-Exempt Advance Refunding Bonds

Until 2018, state and local governments could refinance outstanding debt by issuing a tax-exempt advance refunding bond to pay off another previously issued bond. Typically, the new refunding would allow the issue to achieve a lower interest rate and generate savings to the issuer and taxpayer. Between 2007 and 2017, issuers used advance refundings to save more than $18 billion.  While issuers can still use current refunding bonds within 90 days of the call date, permitting issuers to once again issue advance refunding bonds beyond that window would allow state and local governments to take advantage of favorable interest rate environments, save tax dollars, and reinvest savings in additional infrastructure.

3. Create a New Direct Pay Bond Program

In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress temporarily authorized a direct pay bond program known as Build America Bonds, or BABs. Interest paid on these direct-pay bonds is taxable to the bondholder, so the interest rate is higher than a tax-exempt rate. The federal government, however, pays an amount equal to a percentage of the interest payable on the bonds directly to the issuer of the bonds, effectively reducing the financing cost of the project funded by these bonds. The subsidy reduces the cost of financing infrastructure for state and local governments, while the taxable rates broaden the purchaser base by attracting new investors who would not otherwise be interested in tax-exempt bonds. By creating a new iteration of Build America Bonds or a new type of direct-pay bond, Congress and the administration can add an additional and efficient financing tool for state and local governments.

4. Expand Tax-Exempt Private Activity Bonds (PABs)

A private activity bond (PAB) is a municipal bond issued to finance a facility that includes some private use, which can occur, for example, through ownership, facility management, a lease, or another economic interest in the bond-financed facility. Many facilities with a private use provide essential public benefit, such as airports, seaports, waste disposal facilities, 501(c)(3) institutions, and many more. The Internal Revenue Code provides specific categories of PABs that may qualify to be issued on a tax-exempt basis, and in certain instances caps the annual volume of such bonds by state. By expanding certain categories of PABs and raising state volume caps, Congress and the administration can spur greater public-private partnership investment in infrastructure. 
 

5. Modernize the Small Borrower’s Exemption

Banks generally cannot deduct the borrowing costs of holding municipal securities but may deduct up to 80 percent of the carrying costs of “bank qualified” securities, which are bonds from an issuer that issues less than $10 million in a calendar year. This small borrowers exemption allows smaller communities to access tax-exempt rates more easily through bank placements with reduced costs of issuance. These small issuers typically save between an estimated 25 – 40 basis points per transaction.  The current $10 million threshold was set in 1986 and is no longer enough to finance most projects even in smaller communities. By raising the threshold to $30 million in issuance per year, indexing it to inflation, and applying it to the borrower instead of the issuer, Congress and the administration can help small communities, as well as nonprofits, reduce borrowing costs for infrastructure . 
 

Are you interested in public policy? Do you want to help NABL staff educate federal policy makers and their staff on the importance of tax-advantaged bonds? Join NABL's Governmental Affairs Committee!

The NABL Office of Governmental Affairs represents NABL before the federal government, tracks federal legislative and regulatory developments, works with other professional associations, and informs members through NABLNET Alerts and the Weekly Wrap.

The Office of Governmental Affairs works with NABL leadership and committees to submit comment letters to federal agencies and to prepare position statements. Visit the RESEARCH section of the website to search for a particular comment letter or position statement.

If you have any questions or comments or need assistance finding a document, email Alix John.

Restoration of Tax-Exempt Advance Refunding Bonds

House:

The Investing in our Communities Act

The Investing in Our Communities Act, introduced March 29, 2021 by Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), and Steve Stivers (R-OH) would restore advance refunding bonds.

The “Investing in Our Communities Act” enables governments to refinance outstanding bonds for projects such as new roads, schools, hospitals and fire stations, reducing their borrowing costs and freeing up resources for other community improvements.

The legislation reverses changes made under the tax reform law of 2017, restoring the tax-exemption for advance refunding bonds, which are often used by municipalities to pay off another, outstanding bond. The change enables governments to take advantage of lower interest rates, similar to homeowners refinancing their mortgages. The use of tax-exempt advance refunding bonds saves taxpayers an estimated $2.35 billion a year.

Find a press release here.

Find an advocacy template here.

Senate:

LOCAL Infrastructure Act

Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Lifting Our Communities through Advance Liquidity for Infrastructure (LOCAL Infrastructure) Act of 2021 on February 25, 2021.

The legislation would amend the federal tax code to restore state and local governments’ ability to use advance refunding to manage bond debt and reduce borrowing costs for public projects. This initiative could provide a boost to local communities across the nation as the U.S. deals with the economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Among other organizations, the senators’ legislation is supported by several municipal industry leaders, including the National Association of Bond Lawyers.

Find a one-pager of the legislation here.

Find the legislative text here.

Find an advocacy template here.

Direct-Pay Bonds

Senate

Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced the American Infrastructure Bonds Act, legislation that would create a new class of "direct-pay" taxable municipal bonds. 

The use of this tool will help to expand the investor base to include entities that are not traditionally interested in tax-exempt bonds because they are not subject to federal income tax, such as pension funds and foreign investors. The competition among these additional investors lowers the costs of infrastructure financed with the bonds – both to the issuers of the bonds and to the federal government. This results in more investment in public infrastructure and a big achievement in our current pandemic environment.

This is an important legislative step and NABL members can further support this effort. 

Find legislative text here.

Find a one-pager here.

Find an advocacy template here.

Municipal Bond Package: Restoration of Tax-Exempt Advance Refunding Bonds, Introduction of a Direct-Pay Bond Model, and Expansion of Bank Qualified Bonds

House

The Local Infrastructure Financing Tools (LIFT) Act was introduced April 16, 2021 by House Ways and Means Committee member Terri A. Sewell (D-AL).  This legislation would provide a number of flexible financing tools that meet the unique needs of communities across the country, including transportation, public health facilities, schools, and other infrastructure and economic development projects. 

The bill would:

  • Restore the ability of states and localities to refinance existing debt through advance refunding bonds;
  • Authorize American infrastructure bonds, which are taxable direct-pay bonds;
  • Raise the annual issuance limit for bank-qualified bonds from $10 million to $30 million and apply the limit at the borrower level instead of aggregating the bonds of specific conduit issuers.

Find a press release here.

Find the legislative text here.

Find an advocacy template here.

 

 

 

President Joe Biden releases first budget request as president, calling for a raise in annual discretionary spending to $1.52 trillion. The proposal omits details, but offers valuable insights into Biden's priorities. 

  • Find the proposal here.

NABL Activity

When NABL members work in tandem with our Governmental Affairs staff, we can have a greater impact on the issues NABL cares about. Reaching out to your member of Congress, introducing yourself and NABL, and stressing the importance of tax-advantaged bonds is the perfect way to do just that.

Assist in NABL's Advocacy: In order to improve our advocacy efforts, we are asking for information which will assist us in accomplishing more targeted outreach to staff and members of Congress, making our message more impactful. The information we need from you will include your congressional district number and/or zip code, as well as whether you have a relationship with a member of Congress or their staff. 

Update your information in one of two ways:

1. Fill out our survey available here or

2. Update your NABL Profile with your zip code:

  • Follow these steps: 
  •     Log in to the website using your NABL username and password
  •     Hover over the Membership tab (top right)
  •     Click Update your Profile
  •     Scroll down to the Governmental Affairs header
  •     Click the “plus” button to the right
  •     Fill out the required information
For more advocacy opportunities, email Alix John, Governmental Affairs Coordinator.

Have you or your firm worked on a project financed by municipal bonds?

We want to hear about it!

Help us with our advocacy efforts and fill out THIS SURVEY with the details of the project.

Notice: NABL does not take a stance on the pending legislation below. Rather, NABL provides the list to educate the membership of muni focused legislation that Congress is currently discussing. We will keep this list updated to the best of our ability. 

117th Congress

S. 1298 - Clean Energy for America Act

  • Introduced: 4/22/2021
  • Sponsor: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Purpose: Amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for increased investment in clean energy.

S. 1308 - American Infrastructure Bonds Act

  • Introduced: 4/22/2021
  • Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Purpose: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a credit to issuers of American infrastructure bonds.

H.R. 2737 – Modernizing Agricultural and Manufacturing Bonds Act

  • Introduced: 4/21/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-7)
  • Purpose: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify certain rules applicable to qualified small issue manufacturing bonds, to expand certain exceptions to the private activity bond rules for first-time farmers, and for other purposes.
H.R. 2634 - Local Infrastructure Financing Tools (LIFT) Act 
  • Introduced: 4/16/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL-7)
  • Purpose: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a credit for American infrastructure bonds, and for other purposes.
H.R. 2573 - The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021
  • Introduced: 4/15/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1)
  • Purpose: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reform the low-income housing credit, and for other purposes.
H.R. 2288 - The Investing in our Communities Act
  • Introduced: 3/29/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-2)
  • Purpose: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reinstate advance refunding bonds.
S. 914 - Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021
  • Introduced: 3/23/2021
  • Sponsor: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Purpose: This bill reauthorizes through FY2026 or establishes a variety of programs for water infrastructure. Specifically, it supports programs to provide safe drinking water or treat wastewater, such as sewer overflows or stormwater. For example, the bill reauthorizes and revises the clean water state revolving fund (SRF) and the drinking water SRF.

H.R. 1915 - Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021

  • Introduced: 3/16/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR-4)
  • Purpose: This bill creates, reauthorizes, and revises several grant programs for infrastructure to treat water pollution, such as wastewater or stormwater.
S. 479 - LOCAL Infrastructure Act
  • Introduced: 2/25/2021
  • Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Purpose: Reinstates tax provisions relating to advance refunding bonds.
H.R. 1321 - New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act of 2021
  • Introduced: 2/25/2021
  • Sponsor: Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
  • Purpose: This bill makes the new markets tax credit permanent. It also modifies the credit to (1) provide for an inflation adjustment to the limitation amount for the credit after 2021, and (2) allow an offset against the alternative minimum tax for the credit (determined with respect to qualified equity investments initially made after 2020).
  • Corresponding Leg: S. 456, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).