BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube August 1, 2014




Business Council of Alabama Environmental Committee member Trey Glenn testified Wednesday at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on proposed regulations concerning carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Glenn, a former director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, said proposed EPA rules would increase electricity prices and hinder economic growth.


Glenn said the EPA's proposals will impose enormous costs and burdens on Alabama workers and their families and hinder global economic competitiveness. The impact of the regulations would be felt the most in states such as Alabama where fossil fuels provide a significant share of our electric generation. If coal plants were closed, the price of electricity will increase.


"The Administration's claims that energy costs will not be impacted by this proposal ring hollow to most Alabamians who recall President Obama's commitment in 2008 when he was campaigning for the presidency, that under his climate change plan, 'electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket'," Glenn said.


So far the EPA has received more than 300,000 written comments on its costly carbon emissions reduction plan.


"Neither consumers, nor small businesses or our critical manufacturing industry can afford 'skyrocketing' rates and certainly not 30 percent higher rates," BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said. "The BCA supports efforts to delay implementation of EPA's greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act and opposes caps or taxes on carbon emissions that would put Alabama businesses at a competitive disadvantage with other states or nations."



On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to keep the Export-Import Bank open for another five years. The bill was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) along with fellow Democrats Joe Donnelly, Mark Warner, Maria Cantwell, Tim Johnson and Tim Kaine and Republicans Mark Kirk and Roy Blunt.


A spokesman said the Senate could begin considering the bill when Congress returns from its five-week recess that begins Saturday. The bill would slightly raise the bank's lending cap to $160 billion from $140 billion over a four-year period and require the Bank to report to Congress on its business plan and risk exposure, CNBC reported.

Manchin said that he would also introduce separately an amendment that would ease restriction on Ex-Im financing overseas coal-fired plants. 

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons at a recent roundtable discussion featured major business leaders who urged Congress to reauthorize the bank that finances foreign trade deals.

"If Congress eliminates the Ex-Im Bank, these other nations will jump in and fill the void, and manufacturers in the United States stand to lose tens of billions of dollars in business," Timmons said.

The NAM is part of an effort of American businesses and organizations including the Business Council of Alabama that seeks renewal of the bank's charter so that manufacturers can sell overseas and grow manufacturing jobs in the United States.

In Alabama, the Ex-Im Bank supports $622 million in exports and nearly 4,000 jobs. The BCA strongly supports the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank and is a member of the Ex-Im Coalition.

The executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Myron Brilliant, wrote in Roll Call that the Ex-Im Bank is "indispensable" for U.S. business. Brilliant said that the private sector sometimes cannot finance exports because bids often require financing or guarantees from an official export credit agency, which is not always available.

The BCA is the exclusive representative of the NAM and U.S. Chamber in Alabama.



The Senate voting 81-13 on Thursday approved the House-passed, $10.9 billion short-term highway funding bill to pay for road and bridge projects through May.


Passage of the bill, which now goes to President Obama for consideration, averts a potential proration of highway funds to states beginning this month. Obama's office said it would accept the House version, which passed, but would have preferred a $302 billion, four-year extension, The Hill reported.


The Business Council of Alabama supports a long-term, multi-year transportation bill but recognizes that prorated funding would have occurred as U.S. 


Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned would occur should Congress not pass a short-term funding bill.


"We urge Congress to take up and pass long-term highway funding in order to give stability to this important segment of our economy and to a vital component of successful manufacturing and general business operations," said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary.


Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said if the Senate had not acted, the Highway Trust Fund would have gone broke in August when Congress is not on its summer recess, The Hill said.


The House's nine-month extension relies on so-called "pension smoothing" - a proposal that budget experts across the ideological spectrum have dubbed a budget gimmick - and boosting customs user fees to extend highway funding, The Hill reported.


The federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon funds the Highway Trust Fund. But the tax hasn't been changed in more than 20 years, an era of more efficient automobiles and thrifty driving habits that have limited the per-gallon tax's effectiveness and its ability to keep pace with rising construction costs.


The transportation industry has been near-monolithic in urging Congress to pass a multi-year reauthorization. "ATA believes that quickly passing a long-term, well-funded highway bill is in our national interest and we believe that a short-term patch to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent is the best way to achieve that," American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said.


A six-year bill would dedicate about $100 billion to highway projects. Congress last passed a full six-year bill in 2005, Politico said.


Alabama Rep. Byrne Supports Bill to Reform Endangered Species Act

Byrne's Office (7/29) "Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) today voted in support of H.R. 4315, the Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act. The legislation represents the first attempt in 26 years to renew and reform the Endangered Species Act, which was created in 1973 to protect and recover key domestic species. Over the years, the Endangered Species Act has resulted in excessive litigation without any real successes.


"In 2011, the Obama administration held closed-door negotiations on the Endangered Species Act which could lead to more than 750 new endangered species throughout the United States. Alabama would be hit especially hard with 22 new proposed species, one of the largest increases in the country.


"Congressman Byrne, Alabama's only House member on the Natural Resources Committee, worries about the economic and ecological impact of the new species additions. Byrne said: 'This commonsense, bipartisan bill represents a much needed update to a law that is profoundly outdated. The Obama administration held closed door negotiations in 2011, and now Alabama would be saddled with over 20 new endangered species without any accountability or input from Congress.

"The lack of transparency so far in the process is really alarming. The declaration of endangered species is a critical decision that could have massive economic and ecological impacts. This bill would bring further negotiations on the Endangered Species Act into the spotlight for all Americans to see and allow Congress to fulfill its oversight function'. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 233 to 190."

Obama act seen as pro-union in federal contracts

The Hill (Goad 7/31) "President Obama (was to sign) an executive order Thursday aimed at improving workplace conditions for employees of federal contractors by pushing companies with shoddy records out of the government procurement process. 'The Executive Order will ensure that the worst actors, who repeatedly violate the rights of their workers and put them in danger, don't get contracts and thus can't delay important projects and waste taxpayer money', the White House said.


"The action comes six months after President Obama effectively raised the minimum wage for workers at companies that do business with the federal government. There are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers, according to Labor Department estimates.

"Under Thursday's order, companies seeking federal contracts must disclose labor law violations over the previous three years. That includes statutes covering pay, safety, health and collective bargaining - as well as past civil rights violations. The order also contains provisions meant to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages and adding new requirements related to the information appearing on pay stubs."

Congress will not meet in August. Washington Briefing will resume in September.


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