This Week. The House passed their version of legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax code while the Senate confirmed a slew of nominations.
Next Week. The House and Senate are in recess until after Thanksgiving.
Tax Reform. The House of Representatives passed their tax reform bill. Under the measure, the corporate income tax rate would be cut to a flat 20%, the current system of taxing U.S. companies’ worldwide income would end, and dozens of breaks would be modified or eliminated. Hours after the House passed their tax bill, their colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee approved a far different version. Some of the biggest differences between the plans include the number of individual income tax brackets, the timing of a corporate income tax rate cut, the future of the estate tax, the taxation of passthrough businesses, and the process for taxing businesses’ international income. Almost all of the Senate’s individual tax changes would be temporary, while most of the House’s changes would be permanent. The Senate is scheduled to vote on their version of the tax reform bill the week of November 26.
Congress to Send Trump His First Defense Policy Legislation. President Donald Trump will receive his first $700 billion defense policy bill, legislation that exceeds legal spending caps, after the Senate cleared the measure this week. The fiscal 2018 defense authorization measure (H.R. 2810) includes $66 billion for war operations in the year that started Oct. 1. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. would see a boost in the Pentagon’s aircraft orders. The bill also would authorize a 2.4 percent pay increase for the military, extends bonuses for service members, and would make permanent a program to pay military widows and widowers $310 a month. The bill marks lawmakers’ determination to put more money into the military even though they have yet to agree on how to address the spending limits that Congress set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (Public Law 112-25). Actual spending decisions will be made later in appropriations legislation.
Water Contamination on Military Bases. The House and Senate included provisions on drinking water contamination in a military spending bill that had been in conference between the two chambers. The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $7 million to study the health effects of perfluorinated chemicals. An ingredient in foams that are used to put out oil fires, these chemicals have been found in groundwater on military bases and in wells in nearby communities. The study is due five years after the bill is enacted. The Defense Department will be required to submit a report within 180 days that outlines alternative fire fighting foams. The bill also orders the Defense Department to report on radium in groundwater near Bethpage, New York. The radium is linked to a Naval weapons facility. In addition, lawmakers considered a rider to adopt a wastewater drainage settlement with a large and powerful irrigation district in California. In the end, they did not include in the final measure.
EnergyStar. House Energy and Commerce Sub-Committee held a hearing last week on
possible legislation that could lead to major changes to the Energy Star program.
The bill’s biggest proposal would transfer the program’s leadership from the EPA to
the DOE. “This hearing... is a starting point for reforming the Energy Star
program,” said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, the author of the proposed bill, which hasn’t
been formally introduced into Congress. Democrats on the subcommittee were much less
enthusiastic. While the Energy Star Reform Act of 2017 would make DOE the lead
agency for Energy Star, it would allow for some responsibilities to be delegated to
the EPA. Witnesses who testified at the hearing said swapping agency leadership
could create confusion and generate extra costs. The draft bill would also require
the program to adhere to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). That would treat
every change to an Energy Star specification as agency rulemaking. Because of that,
proposed changes would be published in the Federal Register and face a lengthy
public-comment period. Critics worry that delays could leave standards lagging far
behind product innovation. That, in turn, would undermine consumer confidence in
Energy Star, and it could lead to fewer companies participating in the program,
which has been called a model of public-private energy-efficiency programs. The
draft bill also provides exceptions from the requirement that all products
participating in Energy Star be tested by a third-party certification body. It would
allow self-certification for makers of electronics products that are in good
standing under the program. The High-Performance Buildings Coalition, which IAPMO
chairs, has identified Energy Star as an industry priority, and issued a Coalition
EPA's Timeline to Rewrite Water Rule May Be Tough to Meet. The Trump administration's “aggressive timeline” to rewrite a regulation clarifying the geographic reach of the Clean Water Act by the end of 2018 will be hard to meet, according to EPA officials. The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the midst of a two-step process that first involves the withdrawal of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule, followed by its rewrite. The undoing of the 2015 rule will involve the reinstatement of a 1986 jurisdiction rule and related guidance that the EPA said was in place prior to the Obama-era regulation. Waters and wetlands that fall under Clean Water Act jurisdiction are protected from pollution by a number of tools, including federal permits, oil spill prevention requirements, and state water quality certifications. The EPA expects to issue the final rule reinstating the 1986 regulation and the proposed rewrite of WOTUS by the end of March. The agency expects to receive at least 100,000 substantive comments on the proposed rewrite, which will take time to address in the final rule. The delay is good news to local policymakers. State water officials have repeatedly asked the EPA to include them in the rewriting of the WOTUS because they said they were left out during the crafting of the 2015 rule.
CDC Releases New Reports on US Waterborne Disease Outbreaks - Legionella Main Culprit. The United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, but outbreaks of disease associated with drinking water and other types of water still occur. CDC released two new reports that describe 69 waterborne disease outbreaks reported from 2013 and 2014. The outbreaks were associated with drinking water, environmental exposures to water (such as water from cooling towers, decorative fountains, or back-country streams), and undetermined exposures to water (where an exposure to a single type of water could not be identified). Most of the outbreaks (61%) were associated with drinking water. The studies identified a total of 42 drinking water–associated outbreaks that were reported to CDC, resulting in at least 1,006 cases of illness, 124 hospitalizations, and 13 deaths. Legionella was responsible for 57% of outbreaks and 13% of illnesses, and chemicals/toxins and parasites together accounted for 29% of outbreaks and 79% of illnesses.
NAFTA Negotiations Resume. The U.S., Mexico and Canada kicked off the latest round of NAFTA talks this week. A new development so far is that Mexico indicated that it is willing to review NAFTA every five years, accepting part of a U.S. proposal, while insisting that there must not be any clause that would lead to automatic termination of the deal. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Guajardo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that they’ll skip the talks for the first time and leave discussions to their negotiating teams. They held “substantial” discussions at a Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in Vietnam last week, according to a joint statement Wednesday. This round of talks is scheduled to run through next Tuesday. Meanwhile, three Republican senators yesterday urged Lighthizer to back away from the focus on trade deficits during renegotiations. “[I]f the desired result of current trade agreement renegotiations is job growth, concern over a negative trade balance should not be part of those discussions,” the lawmakers wrote. They pointed out that over the last decade, the U.S. unemployment rate was the highest in the same year that the U.S. trade deficit was the lowest.
California’s Famed Cancer Warnings Threatened by Federal Push. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and dozens of other trade groups are pushing for a federal law that could override state ingredient-disclosure rules and warning labels, including California’s landmark Proposition 65. About 50 trade organizations have backed an effort for a national labeling law, saying a unified rule is needed instead of a patchwork of differing state requirements. They contend that the chaos of state legislation has become too much for businesses to bear. The effort could challenge laws like Proposition 65, a set of rules that’s been immortalized in signs and labels across California -- and frequently outside the state as well. The California proposition, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, took effect in 1986. It requires the state to maintain an updated list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm and for businesses to give “clear and reasonable” notice of exposure to those chemicals. That’s usually in the form of signs and labels. Critics say such warnings can be excessive. They point to a current lawsuit that seeks to add warnings about a chemical in coffee. But proponents say the law has been successful in alerting consumers to hazards like lead. Proposition 65 has served as a template for other states. In recent years, a number have enacted or weighed legislation regulating the use of certain chemicals in products. About 35 states have passed 173 measures, and more than 100 other bills are under consideration in two dozen states. Efforts to override state disclosure requirements for consumer products come on the heels of a battle last year over whether to require labels of genetically modified ingredients in food. Industry groups sought a national law that would supersede individual state mandates such as Vermont’s.
Oregon's Governor Orders Water-Saving Improvements. Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a two ground-breaking Executive Orders this week directing state agencies to adopt new policies on climate change that also provide a big boost for urban water efficiency. Among the many new directives for efficiency in buildings, the Governor is ordering the Building Codes Division of the Department of Business and Consumer Services to strengthen the state building code to require high-efficiency fixtures in all new buildings. The EO further calls for standards for on-site reuse to be adopted for all new commercial buildings. The Governor’s action comes less than four months after the State of New York gave final approval to its own building code revisions that will require water-efficient fixtures in new buildings. One-third of the U.S. population now resides in jurisdictions where the water consumption of plumbing products in new construction is required to more efficient than the minimum federal standards.
Dain M. Hansen
Senior Vice President
The IAPMO Group
101 Constitution Avenue, NW Suite 825 East
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 445-7514 www.IAPMO.org/GR<http://www.