BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube Sept. 11, 2015

Fresh from its August recess, Congress returned to Washington, D.C., this week to face crucial issues in the 10 working days scheduled this month. They include extending tax credits, renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and passing a new highway funding bill.

The Business Council of Alabama as part of the Broad Tax Extenders Coalition urges Congress to enhance or make permanent the expired and expiring tax provisions that are critically important to U.S. jobs and the overall economy, the National Association of Manufacturers said.

The BCA was among 2,000 companies, associations and organizations, representing millions of individuals, businesses of all sizes, community development organizations and non-profits, that signed a letter urging Congress to act immediately to extend, enhance or make permanent the expired and expiring tax provisions. These tax provisions are critically important to U.S. jobs and the broader economy.

The entire House and Senate received the letter on Thursday.

"These tax provisions are critically important to U.S. jobs and the broader economy," the letter states. "Failure to extend these provisions is a tax increase. Acting promptly on this matter will provide important predictability necessary for economic growth."

A second issue is renewing the Ex-Im Bank's charter, which expired two months ago. Since then it has been unable to issue new loans or extend insurance, risking jobs at companies dependent on the bank. Meanwhile, foreign export agencies are stepping in.

Right now there's a backlog of $115 billion in much needed repairs to 61,000 bridges, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. But without a federal highway bill, those bridges, not to mention roads leading to and away from them, cannot be made safer.

Before adjourning for the August recess, Congress passed a short-term extension of MAP-21 through Oct. 29. The short-term legislation contained $8 billion in transfers from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to fund the programs through the end of 2015, according to the Federal Update website, developed by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The Business Council of Alabama's national partner, the National Association of Manufacturers, began a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign this week targeting the Obama Administration's ruinous smog reduction rule. The Associated Press reports that the NAM began airing commercials in New Mexico, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and more states later on.

The Hill reported Thursday that major business groups want to grow opposition to the EPA's ground-level ozone regulations. A cost-benefit analysis shows that the cost to industry will reach in the hundreds of billions of dollars with little if any health benefit gained. In western states, Chinese ozone pollution is offsetting air quality improvements.

The NAM seeks to keep the ozone levels at the current standard of 75 parts per billion. Without going to Congress, President Obama ordered a reduction to 70 parts per billion, a nearly 7 percent decrease. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to implement the smog rule on Oct. 1. After that, it will be up to the courts to determine if the president's action was illegal.
Titled, "Above the Fold, What You Need to Know About Policy That Affects Business," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce introduces readers to a cattle rancher, a steel plant, and a coal-fired power operation that will be seriously made uncompetitive by burdensome regulations impressed on American business without congressional approval.

The chamber introduces Jack Field, a Yakima, Wash., cattle rancher who fears what the Environmental Protection Agency's Waters of the U.S. rule will mean when the agency usurps local water regulating and places it in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Field and his wife run a herd of about 120 cows. "We're a small operation, but we're trying to grow it into a something bigger," Field said. Enter the oppressive new water rule that expands the definition of federally protected water and gives federal regulators unprecedented authority over land Field uses for grazing. As Field puts it, anyone with a postage stamp (like anti-business environmental groups) can sue him in federal court forcing him to hire lawyers to prove he isn't violating the WOTUS rule, for example, when heavy rain creates a temporary runoff in a pasture.

The EPA can claim jurisdiction over any "waters" that are deemed to be adjacent to streams, wetlands and creeks.

In Alabama, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said Alabama has joined 17 other states to ask a federal appeals court judge to block the rule, which took effect in 37 states on Aug. 28. The 18-state coalition, filed the motion to stay Wednesday before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio, al.com reported.

In mid-America, the EPA's new "Clean Air" regulation is affecting Ameren's Meramec coal-fired power plant in St. Louis, which the company said will close by 2022 or earlier due mostly to the EPA's stricter carbon emission limits. "The EPA, without ever answering for the steps it skipped in the rulemaking process, issued its final Clean Power Plan carbon emission rules in early August," the Chamber said in its article, "A Power Plant, Zapped by EPA Overreach."

John Cooper supervises systems at the Meramec plant and fears for the thousands of jobs that will be lost. His concern is about the speed at which the changes being implemented by EPA will affect his work and life. He wrote the EPA that, "[Y}ou also need to understand that not only is our environment at stake but also the livelihoods of thousands of utility workers and the tax revenues these facilities provide."

On the East Coast, Drew Greenblatt owns a small manufacturing company, Marlin Steel, in Baltimore. He wants to expand, add good, middle-class jobs and grow revenue. But he told the Chamber that his plans may die due to the "onerous new regulations coming down the pipe from Washington."

Greenblatt believes the EPA's ozone standard rule - a reduction from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb, already a strict limit set just seven years ago - will place hundreds of counties in non-compliance, forcing Marlin Steel customers to increase compliance costs. "Every dollar spent complying with the new rules is one less dollar those manufacturers have to invest back into their firms and purchase new machinery," the Chamber said.

Several longtime clients told Greenblatt that the EPA's new ozone rules will put a freeze on any expansion or investment plans. The result: more manufacturing will export to countries such as China and India, already among the world's leading polluters and which the new EPA rules do not affect.


Bill Filed to Increase Truck Cargo Weights
The HILL (Laing 9/10) "A House Republican lawmaker has filed legislation that would allow states to decide whether they want to allow heavier trucks on their roads in an attempt to end a bitter fight over truck weights that has raged for years in Washington. The measure, from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), would allow states to decide whether they want to increase a current limit of 80,000 pounds for cargo trucks to 91,000 pounds, which is the level being sought by the trucking industry.

"Ribble said Thursday that allowing states to decide for themselves would end a standoff between truck companies and safety advocates that has intensified as lawmakers have sought to include provisions about the industry in a highway bill being crafted by Congress. "The reality is that our roads are already overcrowded with families heading to school and work, and trucks carrying the things we buy across the country," Ribble said in a statement. 

"The trucking industry has pushed to increase the weight limit for years, arguing that it would increase the amount of cargo that can be shipped without requiring drivers to work extra hours. Trucking groups said increasing the weight limit would boost productivity among cargo shippers."

US Chamber of Commerce   National Association of Manufacturers
Sixth District
 U. S. Rep. Gary Palmer