BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube Dec. 7, 2015

A new five-year, $305 billion highway bill became law on Friday, the first in 10 years with long-term funding that enables solid planning by states and local governments. The bill became law following overwhelming support in the House and Senate.

The Business Council of Alabama's 2015 Federal Legislative Agenda included support of a dedicated long-term, multi-year transportation reauthorization bill and, if necessary, the transfer to the Highway Trust Fund to maintain federal road funding solvency.

"A good transportation network is the lifeblood of commerce, industry, and access. It requires constant vigilance and oversight to remain modern and safe," said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. "We applaud our federal legislators for setting in motion solid transportation funding that avoids the short-term patchwork of the past decade and allows annual planning for the foreseeable future,"

The BCA's national partners who also fought for long-term funding extolled the virtues of the highway bill.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said the bill "is a big step forward and a desperately needed long-term investment in our nation's infrastructure."

"Finally, we can begin to get back on track and invest in infrastructure to ensure manufacturing competitiveness," Timmons said. "Critical infrastructure funding to repair and modernize our bridges, roads and aging transit systems can now move forward. Addressing growing freight needs and improving infrastructure project delivery are important hallmarks of this bipartisan legislation that will help manufacturers in the United States compete and win in the global economy."

"This five-year reauthorization for our nation's federal transportation infrastructure will enhance our global competitiveness and enable business to plan for the future, creating jobs and strengthening the economy," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said. "This bill also gives Congress time to discuss longer-term solutions for providing consistent funding for the Highway Trust Fund without the looming threat of another short-term extension deadline."

Highway funding depends on gas taxes and $70 billion taken from other areas of the budget. It calls for spending about $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years.

After a long, hard-fought effort, the Export Import Bank of the United State reopened its doors for the business of underwriting foreign trade. Reauthorization of the bank's charter, which Congress allowed to expire in June, was a significant and important part of the BCA's efforts on Capitol Hill for 2015.

The efforts paid off with passage of the five-year highway bill that became law on Friday. In passing the highway bill, Congress also renewed the charter of the Ex-Im Bank. The BCA saw renewal as important for Alabama exporters to remain competitive in foreign markets where competitors have government-backed financing available to them.

The Ex-Im Bank is reauthorized until Sept. 30, 2019.

"Now more than ever Alabama and national businesses need the backstop financing that the Ex-Im Bank provides just as most other countries with any foreign trade back their businesses, most of whom are in direct competition with American exporters and importers," said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. "These exports are absolutely critical to our economic vitality.

"Our heartfelt thanks go out to all who responded to the nearly year-long effort to convince Congress to renew the bank's charter," Canary said. "Alabama's businesses can now remain strong and confident of a future."

The BCA and its national partners, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, cooperated to urge lawmakers to reauthorize the charter in order to support Alabama and American jobs and equip Alabama and American businesses with the tools necessary to compete for global sales.

"In recent weeks, we've seen how American companies are forced to operate at a unique disadvantage in global markets without Ex-Im, resulting in lost sales and lost jobs," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue. "We applaud the determined work of those Congressional leaders who have acted to protect the competitiveness of American companies."

"This is a victory for manufacturers of all sizes as well as for workers here in the United States," said National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons. "Today we move forward, and for the sake of American jobs and the health of our economy, we hope we're never faced with such a difficult situation again."

"The renewed charter now includes revisions that empower the Ex-Im team to rededicate itself to providing a level playing field in the global economy," Canary said.

The Business Council of Alabama's national partner is making it easy to urge Congress to stop a new U.S. Department of Labor retirement rule that could ruin many small business retirement plans offered employees.

The so-called fiduciary rule would restrict the advice financial experts can share with small business owners and employees while at the same time severely limit the types of retirement plans offered to those small companies, according to the U.S. Chamber.

Experts believe the new rule would increase costs for small companies, which cannot afford expensive financial advice as can larger companies, and limit the possibilities of offering retirement benefits.

At a recent House Education and Workforce Committee's subpanel hearing on health, employment, labor and pensions, a small business owner said advice from a trusted adviser allows her to provide retirement plans to her and her employees, but the DOL proposal could end that by reducing competition and creating costs that would have to be passed on to employees and customers.

Led by the U.S. Chamber, small business owners took to Capitol Hill recently to discuss the rule's potential consequences and to encourage their members of Congress to resist the proposal.

"This rule would restrict the advice that financial experts can share with small business owners and employees, raise costs, limit plan options, and perhaps even drive advisors out of this market," U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said at an event coinciding with the November visits to the Hill. "The truth is the Department of Labor rule would end up hurting the small businesses and workers it is intended to protect."

With this link, you can tell Congress to stop the DOL's meddling:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are the BCA's exclusive national partners in Alabama.


Alabama Votes to Stop President's Environmental Agenda
Yellowhammer News (Sims 12/2) "The same day President Barack Obama returned to the United States from a climate change conference in Paris, Republican members of Alabama's congressional delegation unanimously voted to block proposed regulations that are at the heart of the President's environmental agenda.

"The House adopted two resolutions previously passed by the Senate that block Environmental Protection Agency rules limiting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants. Such rules have already had a direct impact in Alabama, where coal-fired plants have been retired due to the costs of upgrading them to comply with more stringent Federal mandates.

"The White House has already vowed to veto the resolutions, but Republicans are hoping to send a message to the international community that American leadership is not likely to fulfill whatever promises President Obama makes in Paris. The economic impact of the regulations ($100 million) would be so significant that Congress was able to use a special procedure in their efforts to block them.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the rules could result in a loss of approximately 224,000 jobs per year nationwide and increase electricity rates for American homes and businesses by $289 billion per year. Electricity rates in Alabama could rise by as much as 20 percent, according to one study."

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