1. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. The bill, introduced by Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), was approved by a vote of 32 to 26. NECA joined the Transportation Construction Coalition in supporting
additional funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and an increased cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFC), both of which are used to fund airport infrastructure projects. Additionally, NECA helped defeat an amendment
by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) that would have raised the threshold for Davis Bacon projects.
NECA’s Look Ahead: Opposition to the overhaul of air traffic control services makes passage of this legislation, as written, very unlikely. With the current FAA extension expiring at the end of March, it is all but certain that Congress will have to pass another shot-term extension to avoid a shutdown of the FAA.
2. On February 9, President Obama presented his FY 2017 budget. The proposal includes approximately $144 billion for federal construction projects. There are multiple policy proposals of interest to NECA contractors. The budget proposes the creation of a $2 billion mandatory Apprenticeship Training Fund to help meet the President’s goal to double the number of apprentices. The budget also includes funding to investigate illegal classification of employees as independent contractors, including $10 million to address misclassification specifically. Most notably, it directs the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to raise an additional $15 billion for the Multiemployer Pension fund by raising premiums, and enacting a variable rate premium based on a plan’s underfunding and an exit premium.
NECA’s Look Ahead: While Congress has not yet scheduled a vote on the President’s budget, it has been declared dead on arrival by leaders in both the House the Senate. As always, Congress will also prepare and vote on its own budget proposal. NECA will lobby aggressively against the President’s proposed increase on PBGC premiums, support increases to the aforementioned programs relating to apprenticeship training, support increased misclassification enforcement, and advocate for additional construction project funding.
3. The Supreme Court on February 9 granted a stay of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
NECA’s Look Ahead: Under the court stay, EPA will likely be permitted to complete the rulemaking process, but as long as the stay remains in place, it will be unable to impose a federal implementation plan on any state. EPA may choose to halt the rulemaking process voluntarily so it does not create a rule that it then must revise or withdraw in light of pending proceedings. The D.C. Circuit courts will next hear this case on June 2, with a decision likely later this year. Depending on how quickly the D.C. Circuit issues its decision, it is possible the Supreme Court could hear arguments in the case in early 2017.