MARCH 29, 2019

Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing to Consider the Nomination of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt

Then, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior, David Bernhardt, speaking during Preservation Advocacy Week 2017.
This week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Acting Secretary Bernhardt was nominated for the role by President Trump earlier this month, after taking over when the former Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, stepped down in January. Acting Secretary Bernhardt faced an, at times, contentious confirmation hearing with multiple democrats questioning his background as a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industry and decisions he made while serving in the Department of Interior. 
Senate and Energy Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman, Lisa Murkowski praised Bernhardt and was open about her support of him serving as the next Secretary of Interior. 

Several programs important to preservationists fall under the purview of the Department of Interior, including the Historic Preservation Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund and historic sites and monuments across the country. Several members of the committee raised questions to Acting Secretary Bernhardt about the Land and Water Conservation Fund and efforts to address the deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service.

Prior to the Trump administration, David Bernhardt served in multiple positions at Interior during the Bush Administration, including solicitor. He's previously worked as a lawyer and lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry. Bernhardt is from Colorado, continuing the tradition of the secretary being from the west.

Acting Secretary David Bernhardt's nomination will need to be reported favorably out of committee before moving to the full Senate for approval. Bernhardt is expected to be confirmed, but could face a contentious confirmation process with most, if not all democrats expected to oppose his nomination. The hearing this week sparked protests from activist both inside and outside the hearing room. You can watch the full confirmation hearing on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.
House Committees Hold First Hearings on President Trump's Budget Request

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) speaking during Preservation Advocacy Week 2019
This week the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee held their first hearings on the administration's budget request that was released earlier this month. Scott Cameron, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management, and Budget, testified before each committee, along with Denise Flanagan, the Director of the Office of Budget at the Department of the Interior. They answered questions from the committee about the administration's proposed budget, which requested a 12% cut to the Department of Interior, and a nearly 70% cut to the Historic Preservation Fund. 

The Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and the Chairwoman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Betty McCollum, both said they planned to invite Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to testify before the committees, pending his confirmation. Members from both parties expressed concern over several of the proposed cuts, including proposed cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Rep. McCollum also mentioned the proposed cuts to historic preservation programs, citing the proposed elimination of the Heritage Partnership Program, which funds National Heritage Areas. 

The hearings this week starts the FY20 appropriations process for Congress. We could expect to see initial Interior appropriations drafts by May or June. Congress has continued to show strong support for historic preservation over the last few years. We are pleased to report that a bipartisan group of 130 representatives signed on to a Dear Colleague Letter in support of $141 million for the Historic Preservation Fund. Stay tuned to Preservation Action's weekly Legislative Update for the latest on the budget process. 
Legislation Introduced in North Carolina to Expand and Extend their Historic Tax Credit Program

Legislation was introduced in North Carolina that would expand the state's historic tax credit program and extend the program through 2030. The bipartisan bill was introduced in the North Carolina House by state Rep. Stephen Ross. House Bill 399 would increase the state's $10 million cap to $15 million for the 15% historic tax credit and increase the cap on the 10% historic tax credit from a $20 million cap to a $25 million cap.  This bill would add an additional 5% credit, capped at $25 million, if the historic property is  i n an area hit by a natural disaster.

North Carolina's historic tax credit program has helped to rehabilitate nearly 1,600 income producing properties, resulting in nearly $2.5 billion in investment. The tax credit was restored in 2015, with the strong support of the previous Governor, Pat McCrory, after the program was allowed to lapse in 2014. Supporters say House Bill 399 will expand a program with a proven track record and help to boost local economies, while breathing new life into historic buildings.   
Thank You for Another Successful National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week!

Congressman Betty McCollum (D-MN) alongside Preservation Action President, Russ Carnahan and MN Deputy SHPO, Amy Spong at the Champions of Historic Preservation reception during Advocacy Week.
Preservation Action along with our partners at the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers just concluded another great National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week in Washington, DC last week. We were joined by nearly 200 participants, representing 40 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Thank you to everyone that helped make Advocacy Week 2019 a huge success. 

Hill Report Forms/Follow-Up

Please submit your Advocacy Week Hill Report Forms. Knowing how your meetings went is critical for our continued advocacy. You can complete your report form online or return completed forms to

As preservationists return to the their home states as Hill veterans, remember to follow-up from your congressional visits. Perhaps you can send a personalized thank you note and invite members and staff to tour a historic tax credit project in-district.

Preservation Action
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Preservation Action is the only national  non-profit dedicated exclusively to lobbying for the best preservation policies at the federal level. We seek to make historic preservation a national priority by advocating to all branches of government through a grassroots constituency empowered with information and training.