1. GOP Tax Package Includes NECA-supported Cadillac Tax Delay and 529 Reform
Earlier this week, House Republicans released their much-anticipated end of year tax package. This package, seen by many as a last hope for Republicans to solidify the gains made earlier this Congress, includes multiple NECA priority issues. In addition to a one-year Cadillac tax delay, the legislation also included 529 legislation advocated by NECA earlier this year. One surprise about the package is that the retroactive extension of the usual expired temporary tax provisions known as “extenders” is not included in this version of the bill.
NECA’s Look Ahead: NECA is greatly encouraged by the inclusion of an additional one-year delay of the Cadillac tax and the NECA-developed529 OPTIONS Act. It is unclear as to whether the extenders will be tackled in a separate bill this year or bumped into early 2019. Action is expected to take place on the legislation next week. While the pathway for enactment is questionable given the current political climate, NECA will continue to advocate for passage of this legislation before year’s end.
2. One-Third of Federal Government May Shutdown on December 21
Funding for about one-third of the federal government is expected to run out on December 21, 2018 if Congress and the White House do not reach a funding agreement. President Donald Trump hosted a meetingwith the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on this issue.
NECA’s Look Ahead: As a result of the passage of previous appropriations bills, only some agencies would be closed if funding runs out, and even in those agencies, essential employees would still report to work. At this stage in the negotiations it seems more likely than not that the government will face a partial shutdown, if the White House and the two chambers cannot agree on a funding agreement, specifically for the Department of Homeland Security. NECA will continue to advocate for a solution to avoid a partial shutdown, as members negotiate throughout the weekend and into next week.
3. EPA and Army Propose New "Waters of the United States" Definition
On December 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army are proposing a clear, understandable, and implementable definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act. Unlike the Obama Administration's 2015 definition of “Waters of the United States,” the new proposal contains a straightforward definition that would result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth, and reduce barriers to business development.
NECA’s Look Ahead: The agencies’ proposal is the second step in a two-step process, as advocated by NECA, to review and revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” consistent with the NECA-supported Executive Order entitled “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” The Executive Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the states under the Constitution. The agencies will take comments on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA and the Army will also hold an informational webcast on January 10, 2019, and will host a listening session on the proposed rule in Kansas City, KS, on January 23, 2019. More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice, the supporting analyses and fact sheets are available at: https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.