Congress Passes Continuing Resolution to Avoid Shutdown
On September 29, and just two days before all federal agencies were set to run out of money, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until December 9. Two days later, the President signed the CR into law. With Congress on recess until after the November 8 General Election, there are still two remaining legislative issues of importance to NASBP yet to be resolved.
The first issue of concern to NASBP is the reauthorization of the 2013 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a two-year appropriations bill dedicated to state and local water infrastructure projects. Beginning in late 2015, NASBP began meeting with members of Congress and key committee staff in an effort to persuade them to include bonding requirements on public-private partnership (P3) agreements contemplated in WRDA where federal loans and grant funds were used through a program commonly known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). NASBP was unsuccessful with this legislative approach, not based on policy arguments but rather because the House leadership and committee staff believed that, as WIFIA had yet to be funded, bonding requirements might be premature.
Subsequently, as reported in the last issue of Pipeline, NASBP decided to pursue a regulatory solution. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of drafting interim rules to address the WIFIA program, NASBP continues to encourage members of Congress to send letters to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for bonds on WIFIA agreements. Since the last edition of Pipeline, Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM 1st) and Reid Ribble (R-WI 8th) have submitted letters per NASBP’s request to EPA. View Lujan-Grisham's September 14, WIFIA letter and Ribble's September 12, WIFIA letter. In April 2016, the EPA announced that rules would be issued within a year concerning WIFIA. NASBP will keep you apprised of this effort.
In the meantime, the House leadership agreed to provide funding in WRDA dedicated to contaminated lead pipes in Flint, Michigan. The Senate had previously approved funding for Flint in its bill passed earlier this year. A House-Senate conference committee would have to reconcile the two competing bills, setting the stage for final approval of the WRDA bill in December.
The second issue NASBP is closely watching is the amendment offered by Representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV 2nd) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA 3rd) to the Financial Services General Government (FSGG) funding bill, which defunds the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) enforcement of the prior approval requirement imposed on political action committees of trade associations. Specifically, the Amodei/Westmoreland amendment removes the requirement that trade associations must have written authorization prior to soliciting their members for PAC contribution.
As reported in the previous Pipeline issue, the Amodei/Westmoreland amendment was included in the House FSGG bill but not in the Senate version. With the passage of the CR as noted above, there likely will be a lame duck-omnibus spending bill, which will include policy riders (because they “ride” along on unrelated legislation and would not pass on their own) like the Amodei/Westmoreland amendment. NASBP is one of over 50 trade associations that comprise the Prior Approval Reform Coalition (PARC) and that have worked this issue on the Hill for over a year in an attempt to persuade lawmakers of the unfairness and burden this rule places on the free speech rights of trade associations. For those of you who attended the NASBP Legislative Fly-in, this was an issue you were asked to discuss during your Hill appointments. PARC has begun to meet with Senate Appropriators and members who serve on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on FSGG, asking that the Senate accept the Amodei/Westmoreland prior approval rider amendment.
NASBP will keep you apprised of this issue, and you may be asked to engage in grassroots activities with targeted Senators once Congress reconvenes after the General Election. For more information, contact NASBP Director of Government Relations Larry LeClair at email@example.com.
Interested in Becoming an Advocate? NASBP Has the Tools for You!
At the NASBP 8, 9, 10 & 11 Regional Meeting in Nashville, a panel session focused on how NASBP Members can become surety advocates in their respective states and at the local level. The panel discussion was expanded to include tips on how to become an advocate at the federal level, as well. The discussion began with the panelists describing a particular state issue, which in turn led to how they built relationships with state legislators and or industry stakeholders to successfully advocate in opposition to or in support of a particular bill.
For those of you who are not aware, NASBP created the State Government Affairs Representative Program to encourage members to become advocates. NASBP has a wealth of information and tools available for advocates who may be need to attend legislative committee hearings, to attend in-person meetings with state legislators and local officials, and to testify before a state or local committee.
If you have not done so, please access the NASBP GAR Tool Kit, a valuable 76-page resource of information, including a list of NASBP action issues and comment letters NASBP has sent to government officials to address issues of concern to NASBP and the industry. NASBP also encourages advocates to become involved in federal issues by attending the annual NASBP Legislative Fly-in--next year's NASBP Fly-in will be June 6-7, 2017. However, there is no need to wait for next year’s Fly-in to meet with your members of Congress. Please consider meeting with your Senators and House of Representative now. Congress is on recess until after November 8, and all House seats are up for re-election, which means congressional candidates are in their districts meeting their constituents and campaigning for votes.
So become active, attend a town hall meeting and introduce yourself, and tell the members what industry you represent and what value it provides the economy. Get to know your members of Congress. They want to know who you are and the industry you represent. Always remember, they represent your interests. For more information, contact NASBP Assistant Director of Government Relations Shannon Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.