Today, President Obama announced a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the initiative, the administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center – housed at the Department of Transportation – to serve cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure.
This week, the House, by a vote of 367-55, approved H.R. 5021, a $10.8 billion Highway Trust Fund patch which provides sufficient revenue to maintain current funding levels through May 2015. The bill also extends MAP-21 authorization for the highway and transit programs for eight more months. It received strong bipartisan support from 181 Republicans and 186 Democrats, while 45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it. Revenue needed to support the patch came from a general fund transfer which was off-set by a variety of tax code adjustments. AGC and our coalition partners in the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) and the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) urged the House to support H.R. 5021 to avoid a disruption in payments to states, while urging Congress to take action to enact a long-term transportation bill by the end of the year.
On July 16, following a hearing on EPA’s expanded Clean Water Act Permit veto authority, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a markup to move several bills to the full House. Among them were three AGC-supported pieces of legislation designed to improve the process for Clean Water Act permits and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall regulatory process. These bills included the Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014, designed to define a clear window for EPA to exercise its veto authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. This would address the issue of retroactive vetoes of the permit years after construction had begun as well as preemptive vetoes, removing large swaths of land from development before a permit has even been requested. The measure was introduced by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio).
On July 15, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to explore the expanded view of authority that the courts have affirmed for EPA under section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act. AGC’s Senior Environmental Advisor, Leah Pilconis was on hand to testify.
Following their respective second place finishes in primary elections, Baptist pastor Mark Walker and Alabama think tank founder Gary Palmer won major upset victories in their respective North Carolina and Alabama Republican congressional run-off elections.
AGC Opposes Automatic Debarment Amendment
On July 16, the House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2015, which funds the General Services Administration (GSA), by a 228-195 vote. The bill includes slight decreases in funding for GSA in FY 2015, as compared to FY 2014. However, the House bill comes in about $700 million less than the president’s request. Of particular note, the House would only fund land port-of-entry projects for Customs and Border Protection through the construction and acquisition account and ignore the facility needs of all other executive agencies completely. To view what projects the House would provide GSA funding for, see pages 57 to 63 of the House Committee Report. To view the president’s request for GSA, click here.
Includes $1 Billion More Than President’s Request
Only July 10, the House passed the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015 on a 253-170 vote. Within that bill, the House approved over $5.1 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works program. That figure amounts to $1 billion more than President Obama requested for FY 2015.
Today, the Senate passed legislation to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) by a vote of 93 – 4. TRIA was initially created after the 9/11 attacks when terrorism insurance was either no longer available or offered, but prohibitively expensive. The program creates a government backstop, should another terrorist attack occur, that would help cover the costs of such an attack once a certain monetary threshold was met. The law is set to expire at the end of 2014 if Congress does not act.