1. Two major NECA priorites, reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and comprehensive tax reform, are widely expected to be addressed during the first several months of 2017. Both these items would undoubdedly be controversial and would be subject to opposition and delay, particularly in the Senate where any controversial bill with less than 60 votes of support would be subject to a filibuster.
NECA’s Look Ahead: So far leading indicators say that Congress would try to achieve these goals through the budgetary process known as reconciliation. Under this scenario, Congress would need to pass a budget resolution with “reconciliation instructions” to particular committees to make specific tax and spending changes to the law. This process is appealing to Republicans because a simple majority (50 votes plus the Vice President’s support) is all that’s necessary for adoption. Congressional Democrats used the same procedures to pass the ACA back in 2010. It is likely the Senate will seek to move the tax reform package without using reconciliation first, while holding the possibility of reconciliation as a backstop if negotiations fail to attract the necessary number of Democrats to cross over and support the package.
2. On December 10, Congress gave final approval to NECA-supported legislation, the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer (FAST) Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA). This measure is designed to reduce the size of the federal government’s real estate footprint and streamline the disposal of excess or underutilized federal buildings. NECA has long advocated for passage of this legislation as it could encourage the flow upwards of billions of dollars in private and federal construction work for NECA contractors nationwide.
NECA’s Look Ahead: According to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) most recent Federal Real Property Summary, the government owns more than 254,000 buildings, comprising 2.5 billion square feet of space, costing the taxpayer $14.4 billion annually. Recent estimates show 77,000 buildings are underutilized, costing $1.7 billion annually. The FAST Act establishes a Public Buildings Reform Board of members that will be responsible for identifying opportunities to reduce the real property inventory and making recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the sale of underutilized and vacant properties. Under the FAST Act, the board would be required to recommend selling properties of at least $8 billion in value over six years. After six years, the board would be terminated and agencies would then have six years to implement their recommendations.
3. New House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) has given President-elect Donald Trump a list of 228 regulations to remove in his first 100 days in office.
NECA’s Look Ahead: Several of the regulations recommended for disapproval would be helpful to NECA contractors, but there are a few – such as repeal of Davis-Bacon requirements – that would be detrimental as well. NECA has identified several key regulatory issues affecting the electrical construction industry and we will present our findings to the incoming Administration in the next few weeks.