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Catherine Treadwell Perry, J.D., Director of Government Relations
|ASA Advocacy met with Senator Portman's General Counsel
Recently, ASA Advocacy met with Senator Rob Portman’s (R-OH) General Counsel. Senator Portman sits on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Portman is also the Chairman of the subcommittee on Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which handles permitting issues. The conversation centered on the permitted issues for infrastructure projects.
Studies show that infrastructure in the United States is lagging behind other developed countries and has been slipping in worldwide rankings in recent years. A well-developed infrastructure system of roads, bridges, ports, pipelines, and manufacturing facilities attracts investment into our country and provides good jobs to hardworking Americans. While infrastructure projects must comply with laws that protect our environment, it’s also critical that any conflict or duplication between federal permitting requirements that may arise be minimized so that the federal permitting process for major infrastructure projects does not discourage investment in our infrastructure.
In 2015, Senator Portman and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) co-sponsored legislation that ultimately became Title 41 of the FAST Act. FAST-41 requires that one agency serve as the lead agency for covered projects; all agencies involved in covered projects develop a coordinated permitting timeline at the start of the process; and agencies must post the permitting timeline and updates to it on an online Permitting Dashboard throughout the permitting process for each covered project. FAST-41 also established the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council to help implement best practices in the permitting process and serve as a resource for coordinating covered projects. It also, establishes a timeline for permits that has saved over 100 million dollars in avoidable delays to date. There is even an online portal that can track projects and permits. If the deadlines are missed by the federal government, then they is a dispute process for the deadline.
The FAST-41 took some time to fully implement, but is now fully up and running. However, the original bill had a seven year sunset clause. This means that if there is not another piece of legislation that would extend the bill, then it would expire and no longer be effective. The problem is that big projects and the permits needed for these projects usually take many years. If the bill expires, then the projects and permits may not exist either.
There is a solution for this problem. Senator Portman introduced the Federal Reform and Jobs Act (S. 1976). The bill would remove the sunset clause on FAST 41 making it permanent. It also would improve how the council operates and sets a two year goals for permitting projects and if the goal is not met, the federal government has to explain why they failed to meet the deadline. The bill also expands the advising authority on guidance and best practices, which would help the council be more effective and helpful.
This is a bipartisan bill, but with the political environment right now it will be hard to get anything done. Realistically, the bill could be attached to a larger vehicle like NADA or the Highway reauthorization in order to get it passed into law.
ASA Advocacy is dedicated to being your voice in D.C. and on the Hill. Please contact Catherine Treadwell Perry, J.D., Director of Government Relations at email@example.com with any regulatory or legislative issues you may be facing.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden raised $22.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, marking his best fundraising quarter since he launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in April. His fourth-quarter haul is below the $34.5 million raised by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the $24.7 million raised by Pete Buttigieg of Indiana, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced she'd raised $20 million.
- Trump's re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and two joint fundraising committees raised a combined $154 million in the final quarter of 2019, ending the year with nearly $200 million on hand, according to party officials. In all of 2019, the president's political operation raised $463 million, according to party officials, more than doubling the $220 million raised by Obama's political apparatus in 2011.
- Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Marianne Williamson laid off her entire campaign staff, but said she was not ending her bid for president.
- Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, said he will not run for the Republican nomination to challenge New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D).
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will introduce and vote on a "War Powers Resolution" to limit Trump's military actions regarding Iran. The measure - to be led by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) - is expected to be similar to legislation pushed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) which would require a declaration of war or a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force for military action against Iran. (CNN)
- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Senate should change its impeachment rules if Pelosi continues to withhold the House's charges against Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Senate will focus on "ordinary business" in the meantime, and Graham's suggestion could be moot within days, as multiple Democratic officials expect Pelosi to send the impeachment articles to the Senate as soon as this week. (The Washington Post)
- The Trump administration is proposing changes to the National Environmental Policy Act that would allow federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of major infrastructure projects without taking climate change into account, according to a government official who has seen the proposal. The changes would also limit the range of projects that are subject to environmental reviews, making it easier for those projects to receive approval without providing plans to address certain issues like waste discharge, tree removal or air pollution. (The New York Times)
- The Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board released draft letters criticizing the science that the Trump administration used to justify three major rules regarding the Waters of the United States definition, fuel economy and regulatory data disclosures. The findings of the 41 board members, many of whom were appointed under President Donald Trump, could be used against the administration in court challenges, according to legal experts.
- Data released by the EPA over the holiday season shows the backlog of unfunded Superfund clean-up projects under the Trump administration is the largest in about 15 years. The unfunded projects are located in Puerto Rico and 17 states.
- A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad authorized by President Donald Trump killed Iran's top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The decision to kill Soleimani - which had been rejected by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during their tenures - escalated the already tense relationship between Washington and Tehran, and U.S. officials are said to be bracing for retaliatory attacks that potentially include cyberattacks and terrorism on American interests and allies.
- The United States is sending nearly 3,000 troops to the Middle East in the aftermath of the Soleimani strike. Trump said the head of Iran's Quds Force "should have been taken out many years ago."
- A scheme called "syndicated conservative easement" could have cost the Treasury billions, but a crackdown from the Internal Revenue Service, Justice Department and Senate Finance Committee appears to be having a limited effect. The scheme allows wealthy investors to claim tax deductions worth five or more times the value of their stakes in a piece of land by using an easement that's meant to protect that land from development.
- The IRS announced an overhaul in the way it deals with TurboTax following reports that the service has misled customers eligible for free tax filing. Companies are now prohibited from hiding free file programs in search engines, and the IRS can now create its own online filing system.
- The House and a group of 20 Democratic state attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to rule again on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, requesting a ruling before the end of the current term in June. The filings come two weeks after a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled that the ACA's individual insurance mandate was unconstitutional. (The Wall Street Journal)
- House and Senate are in Session.
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Although most competitive Senate races in 2020 involve Republicans defending their seats, it’s a Democratic senator who tops the list of the most vulnerable incumbents in the chamber one year out from Election Day. Alabama’s Doug Jones is running for a full Senate term after winning a special election in 2017, and he faces the difficult task of overcoming the partisan dynamics of a deeply Republican state.
President Trump returned to Washington facing dueling crises that could define his presidency and shape the course of his reelection bid. The president spent more than two weeks at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, where he visited his nearby golf club on a near daily basis, met with top advisers and allies, and — in one of the most consequential decisions of his time in office — approved a military operation that resulted in the death of a top Iranian official.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not adequately managing the equipment needed to respond to emergencies, its watchdog concluded in a recent report. “While the EPA has successfully responded to past incidents, there is a risk that — until it identifies a list of [homeland security and emergency response] equipment it needs to meet its responsibilities during an incident — the agency may not have the correct equipment to respond to future incidents,” the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) wrote.
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