Association News

TAUC Legislative and Regulatory Update, January 2018

TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update, January 2018

Now that sweeping tax legislation has been passed, the focus in Washington next turns to completing the fiscal year 2018 budget process - the federal government continues to operate under a series of short-term continuing resolutions (CR) until final appropriations bills can be enacted.

Complicating efforts to finalize a budget agreement are the need to adjust statutory budgetary caps, address immigration and border security concerns, extend children's health care coverage and stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) markets. In addition to these challenging issues, House and Senate Democratic leaders have called for the inclusion of legislation to address troubled multiemployer pension plans such as Central States and the UMWA fund (see related article below) in any final agreement. The current CR expires on January 19th, and another short-term bill will be necessary to keep the government operating until a final deal is completed.

Here is an exclusive update from TAUC on policy and regulatory issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry.

Multiemployer Pension Reform

At a bipartisan roundtable on Capitol Hill on January 9, Congressmen Phil Roe (R-TN) and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) announced their intention to introduce multiemployer pension reform legislation. The bill, called the "Growing Retirement Options for Workers Plan" (GROW Plan), would authorize the voluntary use of hybrid "composite" plans. They were joined at the roundtable by Michael Scott, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP); Carol Duncan, chief executive officer for General Sheet Metal (GSM); Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU); and Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The bill is based on recommendations in the "Solutions Not Bailouts" proposal developed by the joint labor-management Partnership for Multiemployer Retirement Security in 2013. The legislation, which should be formally introduced the week of January 15th, would modernize and strengthen multiemployer pension plans by providing local joint labor-management trustees a new voluntary - not mandatory - tool to ensure the long-term viability of their funds by authorizing more choices in retirement plan models. The legislation would provide these benefits at no cost to the federal government or pension plan participants.

Roe and Norcross hope to have their legislation considered during final negotiations on the FY 2018 budget and appropriations bill. As mentioned earlier, Democrats have made addressing failing multiemployer pension plans a priority during the budget negotiations. Roe and Norcross believe that beyond addressing failing plans, Congress should take steps to put in place policies to strengthen all multiemployer plans.

TAUC and other members of the Construction Employers of America have been aggressively pushing for consideration of this composite plan legislation this year.

Infrastructure

The Trump Administration is expected to introduce its long-awaited principles for its infrastructure proposal soon. The proposal will focus on streamlining reviews and Federal permit reform, ensuring that environmental reviews and the permitting process for projects do not take more than two years. The plan is also expected to call for using $200 billion in federal dollars to incent $800 billion in new non-federal (local, state, and private) investment in all asset classes of infrastructure. While some in the Administration have mentioned that they would not necessarily be opposed to a gas tax increase or some other means of paying for infrastructure investment, the proposal is not expected to include a specific funding mechanism.

There is interest from key Congressional leaders in moving infrastructure legislation in 2018. Here are some of the latest developments:

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Schuster (R-PA) recently announced his plans to retire at the end of this Congress, and stated that he plans to focus the remainder of his term on passing infrastructure legislation.
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barroso (R-WY) has been widely reported to have developed a legislative proposal that includes $100 billion in direct federal investment, as well as environmental and permit reforms for infrastructure projects. 
  • Senate Democrats announced a plan for $1 trillion in direct Federal investment in infrastructure.
  • Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced legislation to investment $75 billion over the next decade into a new competitive grant program for repairing the nation's structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges. 
  • The House bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus plans to release its infrastructure plan hoping to "shape the conversation" ahead of a White House blueprint expected sometime this month. The caucus, which has an equal of number of Republicans and Democrats, will release a report recommending increasing the gas tax and indexing it to inflation, as well as other options for raising revenue. Serious legislative action on infrastructure is expected to pick up once the Administration releases its principles.

Clean Power Plan

The U.S. EPA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking for public comment on replacing the Obama administration's signature climate rule, the Clean Power Plan. The agency is asking for public for comment on a replacement rule for emission guidelines to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing electric utility generating units.

Previously, the Trump administration argued that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act and has signaled that it would like to replace the Clean Power Plan. In the ANPRM, EPA signaled that a replacement rule would be much narrower and aimed at boosting the efficiency of plants, instead of the broader approach taken by the Obama administration that targets specific power plants' emissions.

An EPA regulatory planning document stated that the agency plans to release a proposed replacement rule in June 2018.

01/09/2018