Capitol Hill Adopts PICP Appropriations Report Language, Passes the same into Law on FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Act
Congress has passed the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which will fund the U.S. government through September 30, 2018.
The legislation includes report language that was recommended by ICPI to Congress for the THUD Appropriations Bill for FY18, which funds operations for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The report language offered by ICPI, and adopted in the Omnibus, is as follows:
Permeable pavements.—The Committee encourages the Secretary to accelerate research, demonstration, and deployment of permeable pavements to achieve flood mitigation, pollutant reduction, stormwater runoff reduction, and conservation. Projects may include roadway shoulder load testing and documenting lifecycle cost efficiency.
The language encourages FHWA to conduct comprehensive work on permeable pavements for flood mitigation and other public policy priorities. Further, it encourages FHWA to conduct work on permeable pavements for low-speed use on road shoulders, particularly to make use of the water absorption benefits of PICP. ICPI hopes this work can generalize to other Transportation uses as well.
Further, it dovetails with the authorization language offered by ICPI and included in the MAP-21Act passed into law in a previous Congress, and which remains the law of the land.
The language offered by ICPI connects PICP with issues that are becoming increasingly important across all federal policy, including Transportation. The stated benefits that resonate in environmental policy are “green” construction/landscaping, and water quality/stormwater runoff.
ICPI wishes to commend Senators and Representatives who supported including the permeable pavements report language in the THUD bill, and later in the Omnibus. ICPI would further thank members of the association who made timely grassroots contacts to their elected representatives urging their support for the language.
We would remind that the ICPI demonstration of PICP for House THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-NC), and strong constituent presence and support, was helpful to ICPI in advancing key congressional knowledge of the public policy benefits of ICPI.
We would further note that much of ICPI’s government affairs advocacy involves educating Members of Congress and their staff on how PICP technology works and how it can benefit the public interest. There have been some important staffing changes on the Hill requiring ICPI to conduct a new round of briefings with the new staff. Staff turnover on Capitol Hill is a constant factor, requiring ongoing education efforts with new staff who have no prior understanding or awareness of PICP. In response, ICPI has conducted new briefing meetings, and more are being scheduled.
Meanwhile, ICPI has already submitted language suggestions to both House and Senate Appropriations Committees for FY19. There is some interest on the Hill in passing the FY19 THUD Appropriations bills separately and not as part of an overall omnibus. This factor may not impact ICPI directly, but might move THUD Appropriations to the top in priority in terms of legislative scheduling.
As mentioned previously, the following language, taken from H.RPT. 114-606, provides some insight into FHWA’s funding nexus with state and local applications of technology, and may offer guidance:
“The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides financial assistance to the states to construct and improve roads and highways. It also provides technical assistance to other agencies and organizations involved in road building activities… Funding is provided by contract authority…
The federal-aid highways program is designed to aid in the development, operations, and management of an intermodal transportation system that is economically efficient and environmentally sound, to provide the foundation for the nation to compete in the global economy, and to move people and goods safely…State highway departments have the authority to initiate federal-aid projects, subject to FHWA approval of the plans, specifications, and cost estimates.”
The mention of help with technical assistance might be an avenue for PICP research at the state and local level. This is worth discussion with willing and interested FHWA staff.
We encourage interested ICPI members to join the technical staff at ICPI in this effort. With the legislative advocacy element largely in place, member involvement in exploiting the Hill language will be important, perhaps determinative.
ICPI Joins Industry Comments to Repeal or Revamp Ambush Election Rule
During the previous Administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) produced a new unionization rule that has several impacts opposed by the business community, including making it more difficult for management to communicate with its workforce regarding the negative aspects of unionizing.
The current Administration pledged to repeal or revise the rule.
At press time, ICPI and more than 70 other organizations working together in the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) have filed extensive comments with NLRB to repeal or revise the rule. Among other things, the comments seek to increase the amount of time that employers have to talk with their employees before a vote is held. Further, the comments seek to allow employers greater freedom to engage consultants to assist them in this process.
Since the 2016 elections, the NLRB membership has changed substantially. It is hoped that the business comments will be taken seriously and will achieve a modification that will be favored by the business community.
Following the previous rulings that went against the Silica Coalition position, voluntary discussions between the Coalition representatives and OSHA have been taking place. The general point of the discussions has been to improve the feasibility of compliance with the rule. OSHA plans to issue a Request For Information on various points in the rule, and the feeling is that the discussions with the Coalition will help shape the RFI in a manner that will better reflect industry concerns with the rule.
ICPI continues to participate with the Silica Coalition for the purpose of working on a voluntary basis with OSHA.
ICPI and H-2B Coalition Seek Visa Program Changes from Agencies, Hill
ICPI has been a consistent supporter of the H-2B worker visa program and the association regards the issue as a priority,
ICPI joined other pro-H-2B organizations in sending a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen and DOL Secretary Acosta asking both departments to immediately begin processing visa applications following passage of the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Act, and to commit to issuing the full number of visas allowed under the Act.
ICPI and its coalition members state that, especially with the upswing in the economy, H-2B workers are needed to keep pace with workforce needs, and failure to meet these needs will work a hardship on employers, their customers and the national economy overall. The comments identify the need for more visas and for them to be allocated in a way that better reflects the seasonality of the jobs for which applicants are needed.
At the same time, ICPI and its coalition members are asking Members of Congress to cosponsor S792, the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, and HR1627, the Small Business Assistant Act, and HR2004, the SEASON Act. These bills would address various problems in the H-2B worker visa program, including helping returning workers to access the program again and to omit returning workers from counting against the national visa cap.
Earlier in 2018, ICPI issued a Legislative Alert to its membership to spur congressional attention and support for the H-2B program.
We expect these efforts to be ongoing. While the Administration has indicated prior support for the H-2B program, the full extent of this support and what it will mean in terms of the total number of visas to be allocated remains to be seen.
WOTUS Rule Update
EPA is moving forward with its efforts to replace the WOTUS rule created during the previous Administration. EPA leaders seem to prefer to generate a new rule rather than simply revoke the current rule. A permanent revocation might not be an option under existing court rulings.
The greatest impact of the rule surrounds geography, and where EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have jurisdiction to enforce the Clean Water Act. The underlying policy favoring stormwater mitigation, and the commensurate utility of PICP in achieving this goal, remains.
ICPI has commented in the past that if the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act is increased by a WOTUS rule, permeable pavements using PICP can play a significant role as a proven, successful, off-the-shelf technology to help mitigate stormwater runoff, improve water quality, reduce flooding and enhance green infrastructure.
Outlook for an Infrastructure Bill
The President campaigned on passing a major job-creating infrastructure bill to pump more than $1 trillion into the construction economy.
The White House has offered a plan but it seems more of an aspirational document than a plan that could be enacted as legislation. The White House plan offers strong support for Public-Private Partnerships to address the key problem in any meaningful infrastructure, which is how to pay for it.
On Capitol Hill, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018, in part so that he can concentrate on passing a major infrastructure bill.
Members of both parties say that they support infrastructure development and would like to pass a bill, but the differences are many, and once again there is no consensus on a funding plan that is both politically acceptable and would also pay for a robust construction bill.
At press time, while the talk in favor of a bill remains consistent, there seems to be little opportunity for an important bill to be developed and passed before the midterm elections.
ICPI is positioned to work with the authorizing committees on both sides of Capitol Hill if and when a bill can break out.
In the meantime, Hill insiders continue to consider ways to return to some form of policy-defensible earmarks to help attract floor votes for passage of any bill.
At press time, it is rumored that NAFTA talks among the U.S., Canada and Mexico may be turning positive in favor of some manner of agreement. The rumors are fresh and details are not available at this time, but they appear to be accurate.
Since the President expressed his dissatisfaction with NAFTA and said the U.S. would withdraw, much of the business community has prevailed upon the Administration to make sure that the fundamental trade agreement might be modified to some extent but remain in place.
ICPI has been among organizations supportive of a close and comfortable trading relationship between the U.S. and its NAFTA partners.
At this time, unless there is a surprising collapse in talks, it seems unlikely that the U.S. would withdraw from this trading relationship.
At press time, more current Members of Congress have announcing their intentions to not seek re-election and to retire at the end of the current Congress, with the bulk of retirements coming among the GOP.
The President’s approval numbers continue to track below 50%, and generic polling favors Democrats over Republicans. In special elections, Democrats have performed better than party registration numbers and prior voting would predict. And, typically, midterm elections tend to lose seats for the party in power in the White House.
The general feeling inside the Beltway among most unbiased observers is that the House is probably more likely than not to shift from Republican to Democratic control after the midterm elections.
We are watching these developments closely, particularly in swing districts.
ICPI is aware of these trends and is ready for any outcome of the elections. ICPI has been and continues to be bipartisan and to support good candidates for public office regardless of party affiliation.