States should look to P3’s – Standard & Poor’s.

Those who follow us on Social Media know we have been staunch advocates for P3s. Firm members have served on many public-private partnership panels. We are persuaded on P3’s as evidence mounts of public-private partnership success.

According to a new report from the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) credit ratings agency, states will have difficulty maintaining high credit ratings if they rely too heavily on issuing tax-exempt bonds to pay for expensive, but badly needed, infrastructure projects. Given that  locally owned roads are mostly ineligible for federal funding and the uncertain prospects for receiving long-term federal funding for eligible projects, states should look to alternate financing strategies, such as public-private financing says Standard & Poor’s.

The agency estimated that states would be forced to issue $1.19 trillion in debt though 2020 to cover their share of the $3 trillion in infrastructure investment the American Society of Civil Engineers predicts will be necessary to meet current and future transportation needs, reported the Bond Buyer.

“We anticipate that both, because of what it would do to their direct debt levels and because of the O&M implications of funding the nation’s infrastructure needs with tax-supported debt alone, states will increasingly consider alternative financing strategies. P3s are one such avenue,” the S&P report says.

State and local governments have reduced the issuance of tax-exempt, new-money bonds from an average of $234 billion per year from 1996 through 2010 to an average of $151 billion per year since then. This reflects their recognition that infrastructure projects require outlays, not only for construction, but for decades of operations and maintenance (O&M) as well.

However, tax-exempt debt cannot be used to pay for O&M and federal grant funding only covers the costs of major maintenance projects, an Oct. 27 Infra Insight blog post points out.

The growing popularity of fuel efficient cars and a consistent drop in long-distance road travel are reducing the amount of gas tax revenue states would typically spend on such projects, another S&P report says. The federal government’s refusal since 1993 to raise the gas tax has been widely questioned and many states are reluctant to take this step as well.

Some experts, including Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, have called instead for the imposition of user taxes as a more reliable means of funding.

Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., is senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC.

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1

https://www.facebook.com/martin.milita

http://www.dmgs.com/

BLOGROLL

Martin Milita – About.me

Martin Milita :: Pinterest

Martin Milita @ Twitter

Martin Milita at Slideshare

Martin Milita on Google+

Martin Milita Yola Site

Martin Milita | Xing

The Public-Private Partnership Infrastructure Investment Act

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is a prime sponsor of a Bill that calls for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to assist  state and local agencies that receive DOT grants develop and implement “best practices “ in procuring projects through public-private partnerships, under legislation introduced by him on Sept. 9.

The Public-Private Partnership Infrastructure Investment Act calls for USDOT’s senior procurement executive to develop guidance that will encourage standardization of “state P3 authorities and practices,” including those used to consider unsolicited bids, non-compete clauses and other details in P3 and other types of agreements.

The legislation also calls for the executives to work with agencies to implement best practices governing model contracts and other procurement approaches.

In an article published by the Hudson Valley News Network, Maloney’s office says that the bill instructs USDOT to establish a transportation procurement office to help agencies implement these best practices.

Maloney has been a staunch advocate for P3s. He served on the public-private partnership panel charged with advising the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on potential P3 legislation and said he helped create a public-private partnership commission while working in the New York Governor’s office.

Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., is senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1

https://www.facebook.com/martin.milita

http://www.dmgs.com/

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

This Week In Congress: Trade And Transportation

The House and Senate are expected to send Trade Promotion Authority legislation to the president this week for signature. The trade legislation is a top priority for President Obama and his administration. Both chambers have a busy week scheduled before they adjourn for the Independence Day recess next week.

The Senate returns today with votes expected on the nominations of Peter Neffenger to be administrator of the Transportation Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Daniel Elliott III to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board. Following these votes, the Senate will resume consideration of trade-related legislation, as passed by the House of Representatives last week. The Senate had previously voted to approve jointly Trade Promotion Authority, which grants expedited congressional consideration of trade agreements, and Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to assist domestic workers whose employment is affected by trade, in May. The rule governing consideration of the bill in the House of Representatives allowed for separate votes on each portion of the bill, and the TAA provision was defeated. As a result, the House last week passed the legislation as individual measures, sending the bills back to the Senate for further consideration. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed cloture on H. R. 2146, a bipartisan public-safety retirement bill with the House-passed TPA legislation attached. A cloture vote on the TPA bill is expected as early as Tuesday morning. If 60 votes are achieved on the cloture motion, up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate time would precede a simple majority vote on the “fast-track” trade legislation. Following that vote, the Senate will proceed to a cloture vote on H. R. 1295, the Trade Preferences Extension Act with an amendment adding TAA and the Leveling the Playing Field Act. A third bill, dealing with customs requirements, is also part of the trade package and will be considered by a Senate-House conference committee in order to resolve differences between the two versions of that bill.

Once the Senate has dispensed with the trade legislation, it is unclear what will be next on the agenda. Democrats and Republicans are still locked in a stalemate over the fiscal year 2016 budget framework. Last week, Senate Democrats successfully filibustered consideration of the FY 2016 defense appropriations bill and have pledged to block any other appropriations bills from floor consideration until the spending limits established by the 2011 sequester are raised. With the support of President Obama, Democrats are hoping that their obstruction of the entire appropriations process and threat of a government shutdown will bring Republican leaders to the negotiating table. So far, Republican leadership has not indicated a willingness to agree to a budget summit.

The House returns on Tuesday and tackles 14 suspensions. The bulk of the bills to be considered under suspension of the rules come from the Homeland Security Committee and touch on a variety of issues at the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, to the Homeland Security bills, the House will tackle a handful of other bills. Most prominent among these is the bipartisan revision to the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Following consideration of the suspension bill, the House will take up H.R. 1190, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., to repeal the controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act establishing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel that makes recommendations on Medicare cuts. The legislation had been scheduled for last week but was displaced by reconsideration of the trade bills. The vote to repeal the IPAB comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the next two weeks in the King v. Burwell case, regarding subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If the court strikes down the legality of subsidies for health insurance purchased through federal exchanges, Congress will have to deal with another highly contentious health care debate during July, when highway funding and the Export-Import Bank will also have to be addressed.

The House will then tackle H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. This bill would allow for judicial review of any final ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on carbon dioxide regulations for existing power plants, a highly contentious issue focused on the administration’s effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The House will complete the week and head into the Independence Day recess by considering the FY 2016 interior and environment appropriations bill, a $30 billion funding measure that would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 9 percent and include a number of policy riders aimed at preventing many of the agency’s policies from going into effect. Passed in the House Appropriations Committee on June 16 on a party-line vote, the interior and environment bill has become one of the most controversial of the 12 annual appropriations bills because of the policy riders. Among other things, this bill includes provisions that would bar EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, amend the designation for automatic Clean Water Act protection, prevent the listing of certain animals under the Endangered Species Act, and block funding for rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. These riders are all opposed by congressional Democrats and the administration.

The House schedule also allows for consideration of trade-related legislation that it might need to consider accompanying TPA to the president’s desk for signature.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue their work on reporting out FY 2016 spending bills. This week the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will mark up their respective bills. The House Appropriations Committee will markup its FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill on Wednesday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on evaluating the key components of an international nuclear agreement with Iran on Thursday. President Obama signed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which provides Congress the authority to review of any international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The deadline for the international negotiations is the end of the month and Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., last week wrote a letter to President Obama expressing concerns over reports of concessions that the United States and its allies are making in those negotiations.

The recent data breach at the Office of Personnel and Management that exposed the personal information of millions of active and retired federal employees remains the subject of congressional scrutiny this week. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will hold a hearing on OPM data security on Tuesday. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold its second hearing on the data breach on Wednesday.

Also on the hearing agenda this week will be proposals for federal transportation spending. The current short-term surface transportation authorization expires in July, and lawmakers continue to struggle with finding bipartisan agreement on a long-term solution for funding shortfalls for the Highway Trust Fund. Democrats are insisting on a long-term fix (though inclusion of the Export-Import Bank reauthorization may, as noted above, secure Democratic support for another short-term fix). Last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., publicly ruled out any increase in the gas tax as a solution for HTF insolvency. The Senate Finance Committee meets on Thursday to discuss state innovations in funding transportation infrastructure, while the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures will hold a Wednesday hearing on the potential use of revenue from the repatriation of earnings as a source of highway funding.

A full schedule of congressional hearings for this week is included below.

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., Sr. Director.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC (DMGS):

Comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels, DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

CALENDAR

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

House Committees

GSA Leasing in the Northeast

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management

Subcommittee Panel Discussion

June 23, 11 a.m., Conference Rooms A/B, Sixth Floor, Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, N.Y.

VA Small Business Goals Reporting

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; House Small Business – Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations

Committee Joint Hearing

4 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Senate Committees

OPM Data Security Review

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Transportation-HUD

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

10 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

National Flood Insurance Program

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Full Committee News Conference/Briefing

10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Regulatory Overhaul Costs

Senate Budget; Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.

Takata Air Bag Recall and Vehicle Safety Update

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Carbon Regulation Impact on Energy Costs

Senate Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Ambassador Nominations

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Confirmation Hearing

11 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

3 p.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

American Energy Export Opportunities

Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions and International Economic, Energy and Environmental Policy

Subcommittee Hearing

2:45 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

House Committees

U.S. International Food Aid

House Agriculture

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education

House Appropriations

Full Committee Markup

10:15 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Child Nutrition Assistance Compliance

House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Medicaid Demonstration Project Approval

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Syrian Refugee Admission

House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

BLM Wind and Solar Reclamation Bonds

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

OPM Data Breach

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

EPA Clean-Power Plan Analysis

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Energy; House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Environment

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Train Control Implementation

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Veterans Affairs Legislation

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Health Law and Insurance Premiums

House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Oversight

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Islamic State Assessment

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Financial Sector Security

House Financial Services

Full Committee Hearing

2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Colombia and the FARC

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Subcommittee Hearing

3 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

DHS Federal Cybersecurity Efforts

House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Puerto Rico Political and Economic Assessment

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

2 p.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Rural Transportation Issues

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Repatriation Tax and Highway Funding

House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Senate Committees

Flood Insurance Management

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Governmental Affairs Measures and Nominations

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Markup

10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Native American Youth Suicide Prevention

Senate Indian Affairs

Full Committee Oversight Hearing

2:15 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Work in Retirement

Senate Special Aging

Full Committee Hearing

2:15 p.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.

Veterans Health Care and Benefits Legislation

Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Full Committee Markup

2:30 p.m., 418 Russell Bldg.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

House Committees

Welfare and Work Issues

House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Nutrition; House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Human Resources

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Nuclear Deterrence Policy

House Armed Services

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Public Health Bills

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

CFPB Misconduct Allegations

House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

State Department and Religious Freedom Bills

House Foreign Affairs

Full Committee Markup

10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Mineral Production Legislation

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.

Water Use and Infrastructure Bills

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

IRS Inspector General Update

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

9 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

National Science Foundation Employee Ethics Issues

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Oversight; House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

GSA Proposed Transactional Data Rule

House Small Business – Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2360 Rayburn Bldg.

VA Fiscal 2015 Budget Assessment

House Veterans’ Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Food Labeling Bills

House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research

Subcommittee Hearing

1:30 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Defense Department Nuclear Enterprise Review

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

China and U.S. Universities

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Criminal Justice Proposals

House Judiciary

Full Committee Panel Discussion

June 25 TBA, TBA

VA Major Lease Procurement

House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Veterans Affairs Measures

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Subcommittee Markup

2 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Senate Committees

COOL and Trade Retaliation

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.

Transportation Infrastructure Financing

Senate Finance

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Iran Nuclear Agreement

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Cybersecurity and OPM Data Breach

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Veterans and Economic Opportunity Policy

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Full Committee Hearing

9:30 a.m., 428A Russell Bldg.

Impact of a Greek Default

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance

Subcommittee Hearing

1:30 p.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Friday, June 26, 2015

House Committees

Public Shipyards and Navy Operations

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness

Subcommittee Hearing

8 a.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Space Security

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

Eminent Domain and Property Rights

House Judiciary – Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

Subcommittee Hearing

9 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Astrobiology Outlook

House Science, Space and Technology

Full Committee Hearing

9 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

This Week In Congress: National Security & Health Care

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq.

This week the Senate is focused on national security issues. It will attempt to complete work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and begin consideration of the fiscal year 2016 defense appropriations bill. On the other side of the Capitol, the House is expected to take action on a number of health care-related bills, even while Congress and the president await the Supreme Court’s impending ruling in King v. Burwell, regarding subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate is scheduled to return today, with votes expected on two noncontroversial nominations. Following these votes, the Senate will resume consideration of the NDAA. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed a motion on Thursday to invoke cloture and cut off debate on the bill. The cloture vote is expected on Tuesday morning. Needing the support of 60 senators in order to be successful, the cloture vote is not guaranteed to pass easily on Tuesday, because Senate Democrats have pledged to block the bill over the inclusion of funds for U.S. Department of Defense activities that exceed the spending limits established by the 2011 sequester. The NDAA provides an additional $38 billion in funding for the Pentagon through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, an account for war-related expenses which is exempt from discretionary caps. Democrats call the move a budgeting gimmick and have tried unsuccessfully to alter the spending framework. Last Tuesday the Senate rejected (46-51) an amendment offered by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I., to block the additional $38 billion in OCO funding until Congress lifts the sequester. If cloture is invoked on Tuesday, the Senate will have 30 hours to complete work on the NDAA. The amendment process moving forward is unclear, because more than 100 amendments have been filed to the bill, but bill managers do not seem to have an agreement in place on the amendments that will be considered. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., indicated to reporters last week that the Senate will consider at least two amendments following the cloture vote on Tuesday.

The debate over defense funding and sequestration levels will continue after work on the NDAA is wrapped up. Consideration of the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations bill is expected to be the next bill on the Senate agenda. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the $576 billion defense spending bill. While only three Democratic committee members opposed the bill at the markup, Democratic leaders have pledged to block any vote to begin considering the 2016 defense appropriations bill on the floor as long as it contains the OCO funds for the Department of Defense, while the other appropriations bills are capped at sequester levels. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week told reporters that a government shutdown is already looming if congressional Republicans do not negotiate a new budget framework for FY 2016 that lifts the spending caps. President Obama has also threatened to veto the appropriations bills at their current levels. So far, Republican leadership has not indicated a willingness to agree to a budget summit, but neither chamber would have the necessary votes to overcome a presidential veto on any of the appropriations bills.

Consideration of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in the Senate is also possible later this week. Majority Leader McConnell tried unsuccessfully to attach the measure as an amendment to the NDAA last week, but his effort was met with resistance from Senate Democrats who want to take up the bill independently and offer amendments. The legislation would encourage greater sharing of cyber-threat information between the private sector and government by offering companies expanded liability protections. The measure has bipartisan support, especially in light of the recent high-profile data breaches, and similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in April.

The House will return on Monday and consider several bills naming post offices and other federal facilities, along with a resolution calling on Iran to release the Americans it is holding. The main legislative work starts on Tuesday, when the House tackles the Intelligence Authorization Act, which authorizes a variety of intelligence, cybersecurity and anti-terrorism programs. The legislation had been scheduled for last week but was displaced by Friday’s vote on the so-called “fast-track” trade legislation. That legislation too is likely to return to the House floor early this week. On Friday, two of the three elements of the bill were approved by the House in separate votes. A third component of the bill, however, to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, was defeated. Under the rule, however, all three elements of the bill had to be approved for the entire package to get adopted. After the defeat of the TAA portion of the package, the Majority Leader moved to reconsider that vote, and the House is likely to take up that motion early in the week.

The House will spend the remainder of the week on health care-related legislation, including measures that would repeal two contentious provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The first four of these health care-related bills will be considered under suspension of the rules. The bigger debates will follow on the other two bills. Reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee, the first bill would repeal the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers that was included in the Affordable Care Act as a revenue source to help pay for the law’s implementation. A second bill would repeal the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel which makes recommendations on Medicare cuts. Other legislation up for consideration from the House Ways and Means Committee include proposals requiring more transparency at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and promoting improvements to the Medicare Advantage program for seniors.

The House may also consider H. Con. Res. 55, a resolution directing the president to remove any U.S. troops deployed to Syria or Iraq after Aug. 7, 2014, other than those troops required to protect U.S. facilities and personnel, from those two nations. If it does come to the floor, the resolution is likely to prompt heated and partisan debate.

Appropriations markups for FY 2016 continue in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, even though there is uncertainty about spending levels and the process moving forward. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up its Interior and Environment spending bill on Tuesday. Two Senate Appropriations subcommittees will consider their Interior and Environment and Homeland Security bills. The House of Representatives has passed six of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Senate has yet to consider a single appropriations bill on the floor. The full Senate Appropriations Committee has approved five of the 12 annual bills.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meets on Tuesday for a hearing on the recent data breach at the Office of Personnel and Management that exposed the personal information of millions of active and retired federal employees. The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations also meets on Tuesday for a hearing on global cybersecurity and cyberthreats.

The surface transportation authorization and Highway Trust Fund financing remain at the forefront of congressional priorities because the current short-term surface transportation authorization adopted just prior to Memorial Day expires in July. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss long-term financing for the Highway Trust Fund, while the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday on the challenges of highway funding, with former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appearing before the committee as a witness.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this week’s legislative session  and what it may mean to you.

A full schedule of congressional hearings for this week is included below.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC

DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia.

DMGS is comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS draws on decades of experience in building public support and positioning clients’ issues to achieve maximum success through the often-complex governmental decision-making process. DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

DMGS’ diverse client list includes non-profits, educational institutions, social service organizations, health care organizations, technology companies, life sciences companies, manufacturers, municipalities, construction companies/engineering companies/developers, economic development agencies, and defense contractors.

For more information, please visit http://www.dmgs.com

CALENDAR

Monday, June 15, 2015

Senate Committees

Iran Sanctions

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Closed Briefing

5 p.m., S-116 Capitol Bldg.

TSA and Postal Service Nominations

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Markup

5:30 p.m., S-216 Capitol Bldg.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

House Committees

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Interior-Environment

House Appropriations

Full Committee Markup

10:15 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Child Nutrition Assistance Rules and Regulations

House Education and the Workforce

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

EPA’s Proposed Ozone Rule and Manufacturing Impact

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade; House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Committee Joint Hearing

10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Mental Health Legislation

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Global Cybersecurity Issues

House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Interests at the United Nations

House Foreign Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

TSA Aviation Workforce Vetting

House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Transportation Security

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Federal Lands Bills

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Federal Lands

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Arctic Resources

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.

OPM Data Breach

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Public Safety Broadband Network Update

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Business Development and Investment

House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Europe and Eurasia Budget Request

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Merger and Acquisition Regulatory Legislation

House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

International Shipping Competition

House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Genetically Engineered Human DNA

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Federal Government Real Estate Investment

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management

Subcommittee Hearing

1 p.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Drug Interdiction in the Western Hemisphere

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2253 Rayburn Bldg.

SSA Disability Benefits Management

House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Social Security

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., B-318 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Homeland Security

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Homeland Security

Subcommittee Markup

10:30 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

Energy Department Nominations

Senate Energy and Natural Resources

Full Committee Confirmation Hearing

10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Electronic Health Record User Experience

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Federal Real Property Overhaul

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Interior-Environment

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

2:30 p.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Asia-Pacific Region Trade Issues

Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy

Subcommittee Hearing

2:30 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Native American Economic Issues

Senate Indian Affairs

Full Committee Panel Discussion

2:45 p.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

House Committees

Smithsonian Institution Assessment

House Administration

Full Committee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1310 Longworth Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education

House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

9 a.m., 2358-C Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Financial Services

House Appropriations

Full Committee Markup

10 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Middle East Policy

House Armed Services

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Balanced Budget Issues

House Budget

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 210 Cannon Bldg.

Financial Advice Access

House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Financial Stability Oversight Council Report

House Financial Services

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Syria and Chemical Weapons

House Foreign Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Tribal Land Legislation

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs

Subcommittee Hearing

11 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Drones and Commerce

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

9 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Energy Innovation Hubs

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Energy

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

10:30 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Small Business and Crude Oil Issues

House Small Business

Full Committee Hearing

11 a.m., 2360 Rayburn Bldg.

Highway Trust Fund Financing

House Ways and Means

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

U.S. Navy Surface Combatant Capacity

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

International Monetary Fund Assessment

House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

China’s Economic and Military Growth

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2200 Rayburn Bldg.

Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Immigration Policy Executive Actions

House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security; House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules

Subcommittees Joint Hearing

2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Federal Government Fiscal Challenges

Senate Budget

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 608 Dirksen Bldg.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Coal Ash Disposal Rule

Senate Environment and Public Works

Full Committee Oversight Hearing

9:30 a.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Higher Education Reauthorization

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Economic and National Security Policy

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

USAID Administrator Nomination

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Confirmation Hearing

2 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

GSA Inspector General

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Confirmation Hearing

2 p.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Capital Access Issues

Senate Indian Affairs

Full Committee Oversight Hearing

2:15 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Joint Committees

Federal Credit Programs

Joint Economic

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

House Committees

Optimized Fleet Response Plan

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness

Subcommittee Hearing

8 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Biotechnology Food Labeling Standards

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Cuba Property Rights Outlook

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Rapid DNA Act

House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

9 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Renewable Fuel Standard Program Management

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management

Subcommittee Hearing

9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Future of Highway Funding

Senate Finance

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Water Related Measures

Senate Energy and Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water and Power

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

House Panel Advances $579B Defense Funding Bill For 2016

A House panel on Tuesday advanced its nearly $579 billion Pentagon spending bill for 2016, leaving the legislation effectively unchanged from a draft version, including a contentious clause allowing the use of billions of dollars in wartime funding to circumvent sequestration-level spending caps.

The House Appropriations Committee agreed by voice vote to send the fiscal year 2016 Defense Appropriations Act on to the full House, after a two-hour markup hearing that ultimately saw it adopt only two amendments.

The adopted amendments included one with minor technical changes put forward by Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and another put forward by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to offer a “sense of Congress” that it has the constitutional duty to debate and then determine whether to authorize any use of U.S. military force against the Islamic State group. That amendment passed in a 29-22 vote.

Overall, the bill provides $578.6 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Defense, $24.4 billion up on FY2015 and about $800 million up on the presidential budget request. About $88.4 billion of this would come from Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funding — referred to by the committee as Global War on Terrorism funding — which is supposed to be used to fund war spending.

Of that overall funding, $116.7 billion would go to procurement, $12.5 billion more than in 2015, with planned acquisitions including two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers and three Littoral Combat Ships for the U.S. Navy, 65 F-35 Lightning II jet fighters across the services — among other jet acquisitions — and a number of large aircraft, including 16 P-8A Poseidons and 12 KC-46 tankers.

Pentagon research and development efforts would receive $67.9 billion, a $4 billion increase, much of which is intended to support aircraft development, including the continued development of the F-35 and the RQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a new U.S. Air Force bomber and the next-generation Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System command and control plane.

The bill would also provide a 2.3 percent pay raise for troops, higher than the 1.3 percent increase suggested in the administration’s proposal, and would maintain funding for the A-10 close air support aircraft, which has been put on the chopping block by the Air Force several times in recent years, drawing strong pushback from lawmakers in both chambers, who argue that there is no adequate replacement available for the “Warthog.”

Although the bill, unlike other House appropriations bills put forward for 2016 so far, meets and even exceeds the presidential budget request, it has drawn criticism from both Democratic lawmakers and the administration, particularly for its extensive use of OCO funding — about $38 billion more than requested in the presidential budget — to get around the strict sequester budget cap.

The White House had yet to issue an official policy statement on the legislation as of Tuesday, but has previously threatened to veto the similar 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which is used to authorize budget authority for the DOD, citing its heavy use of OCO funds, among other factors.

$579 billion draft Defense budget draft.

A House panel issued its $579 billion draft Defense budget earlier this week, that includes pay raises for troops, saving the A-10 Warthog and billions of dollars in wartime funding to circumvent sequestration caps.

Those measures, along with increased funding for research and acquisitions such as the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, go against President Barack Obama’s request, particularly the subcommittee’s use of $88.4 billion in wartime funding. In using those funds to get around the sequestration cap, the $579 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 is a $24.2 billion increase over this year and $800 million above the administration’s request.

House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said in a statement that the panel’s bill would meet the needs of the American military in the next year. The bill heads for a closed-doors markup on Wednesday.

“This legislation recognizes that it is an increasingly dangerous world and we must guarantee that our military and intelligence community have the strength and capability to meet the rise of Islamic terror groups and other emerging threats and deter would-be aggressors like Iran, China and Russia and North Korea,” Frelinghuysen said. “I am proud that we have kept faith with the brave men and women, and their families, who selflessly serve our country.” (Credit AP).

The bill tees up fights over the specifics passed in the broader National Defense Authorization Act passed last week. Representatives voted 269-151 for the bill, H.R. 1735, which sets out broad funding limits and priorities for the DOD and certain programs at the U.S. Departments of Energy and State for fiscal year 2016.

The House’s passage of the broader NDAA came in the face of a veto threat from the Obama  and the subcommittee’s draft contains many of the same provisions for the DOD.

Among other clauses, the bill would revive funding for the A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft, the intended retirement of which has been a perennial source of fighting between the administration and Congress in recent years.

The bill would also give troops a 2.3 percent pay raise, higher than the 1.3 percent requested by the administration.

In addition to the increases, the draft language would cut outlays for foreign currency fluctuations, as well as health programs. The statement accompanying the bill’s release said that the funding for those programs, $31.7 billion, would be sufficient.

“While below the current year, this level is sufficient to meet the entire scope of all estimated needs and requirements in the next fiscal year,” the statement said, explaining the cut to health programs. (Credit AP).

House Passes Iran Nuclear Deal Review Bill

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation allowing Congress to review any nuclear agreement reached between the executive branch and Iran, as well as a bill to impose sanctions on any financial institution that does business with terrorist group Hezbollah.

Lawmakers easily agreed to both bills, voting 400-25 in favor of H.R. 1191, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and passing H.R. 2297, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, in a 423-0 vote, with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., describing the Review Act as a way to keep pressure on Iran as nuclear negotiations continue.

“This legislation [will] ensure that Congress is positioned to effectively and decisively judge and constrain President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, should a bad deal be struck,” Royce said on the House floor Thursday. (Credit AP).

Under the terms of the review bill, first passed by the Senate on May 7 — with senators using an unrelated bill previously passed by the House as a legislative vehicle — Congress would have 30 days to review any deal reached between Iran and the administration regarding Iran’s nuclear program and then pass a resolution either approving or rejecting the deal.

The bill would also require the White House to keep Congress in the loop regarding Iran’s ongoing activities, including regular reports on the country’s support of terrorist groups, among other issues. President Barack Obama would retain veto power over any resolution that Congress reaches.

The legislation had stalled in the Senate amid opposition led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who had previously stated his opposition to any nuclear deal being reached with Iran. Cotton was the only ‘no’ vote in the 98-1 tally in the Senate.

Cotton had held the legislation up with various proposed amendments that he had been a sponsor of, including a clause requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist — an amendment that some House lawmakers had also urged their leaders to consider before the bill was brought to the House floor.

Another proposed Cotton amendment would have required that any nuclear deal be considered a treaty, subject to the approval of two-thirds of the Senate, a stance he reiterated following the bill’s passage in the Senate.

The current proposed framework for a nuclear deal with Iran, which involves several other world powers in addition to the U.S., would see Iran heavily reduce the number of centrifuges in use at its nuclear facilities and make other changes to some of those centrifuges, limiting its ability to make weapons-grade nuclear material.

In exchange, some current U.S. and European Union sanctions on the country would be lifted, subject to continued compliance with the deal.

Under the Hezbollah Financing Prevention Act that also passed the House on Thursday, banks and other financial companies that knowingly do business with the Islamist militant and political group — officially considered by the U.S. and several other countries to be a terrorist group — its television station al-Manar TV, or any agent acting on its behalf would be subject to U.S. sanctions, among other provisions.

Although Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, Iran has been a major funding source for the group since its inception in the 1980s, with Royce describing the country as a “radical state sponsor of terrorism” on Thursday.

House Approves Bicameral 2016 Budget Deal

Thursday the US House of Representatives agreed to a $1.12 trillion bicameral 2016 budget deal that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act and broadly cut federal spending over the long-term, with the exception of defense spending.

House lawmakers voted 226-196 on the measure — officially, a conference report to accompany the Senate budget resolution — which was brought to the floor quickly after House and Senate negotiators announced Wednesday that they had reached a final compromise between their competing budget plans. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan on Monday.

The plan is intended to “get Washington’s fiscal house in order” through imposing necessary limits on spending while still ensuring investment in national priorities and shoring up national defense and other important programs, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said on the House floor Thursday. (Credit AP).

But the compromise deal, put together with limited Democratic input, was slammed by Democratic House lawmakers, who criticized its spending priorities and alleged use of “gimmicks” to help bolster defense spending, among other issues.

Under the compromise budget resolution, federal discretionary spending for fiscal year 2016 would be $1.12 trillion, closer to the proposed House budget than the Senate one, which had floated a discretionary spending level of about $1.16 trillion.

Baseline defense spending would be capped at $523 billion and nondefense spending at $493 billion, with an additional $96 billion going toward defense Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funding. Overall spending, including mandatory programs and interest on outstanding debt, would be about $3.87 trillion.

Over the long-term, the compromise budget seeks to bring the federal budget back into surplus by 2024 and ensure those surpluses continue by calling for a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

This would be the result of more than $5 trillion in planned spending cuts over the next decade, across a wide variety of federal programs, although defense spending would receive a significant boost over that period.

These cuts include the repeal of the ACA in order to “start over with patient-centered reforms,” Republican budget negotiators said Wednesday, with a policy statement in the budget plan arguing the health care bill is “unaffordable, intrusive [and] overreaching.”

Planned cuts and changes to federal funding would not be limited to discretionary spending, with changes planned for mandatory spending programs such as Social Security and Medicare, although a plan to effectively privatize Medicare by using a voucher system, included in the House budget, was removed from the final bicameral plan.

Although not binding and not strictly necessary for the congressional spending process, the budget resolution is intended to be used as broad template for the appropriations bills Congress considers each year.

It also offers the congressional majority the benefits of using the budget reconciliation process, allowing the passage of certain spending-related policy measures without the opportunity of filibuster by the minority party.

The House has already started its appropriations process and began debate on Wednesday on 2016 funding bills covering military construction and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as energy and water development, having used its own budget plan as a guide to allow the process to move forward before lawmakers had agreed to the bicameral deal.

A Rising Need

New Jersey needs to join the ranks of more than 30 other states with broad legislation permitting public-private partnerships (P3s) for transportation projects.

There are many models out there to choose from- including Virginia and Florida and Pennsylvania.

A Public and Private Partnerships for Transportation Act should minimally allow for the Department of Transportation DOT and other public transportation entities to partner with private companies to finance, deliver, operate and maintain transportation-related projects. P3s may receive all or a portion of the revenue generated (such as via tolls or user fees) in exchange for providing services or facilities. The law should apply to the construction of new transportation facilities and the improvement of existing facilities.

Under the law, the state would, for instance, retain ownership of a busy roadway while a private firm in a P3 would build new express lanes along that roadway. Following construction, the private firm would receive a return through tolling drivers who use the express lanes.

The law should create an independent Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board, to review and approve P3 projects. Private investors ought to be able to pitch their ideas to the board, in a manner prescribed in approved guidelines for considering both solicited and unsolicited proposals. If the board determines that a state operation would be administered more efficiently by a private company, the private company will be authorized to submit a proposal and enter into a contract to either completely or partially take over that operation for a defined period of time.

Proposals for P3s will be evaluated on the basis of pre-established criteria with assigned weights, including: cost; financial commitment; innovative financing; technical, scientific, or socioeconomic merit; public reputation, qualifications and financial capacity of the private entity; ability of the project to improve economic growth, improve public safety, reduce congestion, increase capacity or rehabilitate, reconstruct or expand an existing transportation facility; and other factors deemed appropriate by the public entity.

For unsolicited proposals, private entities are encouraged to request one-on-one meetings with DOT’s P3 office and/or a public transportation entity to discuss potential proposals before submission. As part of such one-on-one meetings, the P3 office and/or public entity may provide informal feedback. A formal review of an unsolicited proposal will only be undertaken once a private firm makes a formal submission.

An unsolicited proposal must contain information that is sufficient for the P3 office and/or public entity to evaluate the merits of the proposed project. Such information includes the capability of the private entity to deliver the project, the financial viability of the project and the benefits to the state of New Jersey and the public entity of a P3 delivery method over a conventional method. The board would need to promulgate an implementation manual identifying  any additional categories of information that all unsolicited proposals must contain.

It would seems prudent that the board and the P3 office established limited times- say, May and October as the only two months the state will receive unsolicited proposals.

In addition, New Jersey should seek sponsorship proposals for the state’s welcome centers and rest areas, environmental and engineering services, including project management services.

The law provides unique opportunities for private companies in various industries, including construction and communications. P3s should stimulate private investment in public highways, bridges and other facilities, where governments confront funding restraints.

Summary of Benefits and Limitations of Public-Private Partnerships

Potential Benefits

  • Transfer project risks to private partner.
  • Greater price and schedule certainty.
  • More innovative design and construction techniques.
  • “Free up” public funds for other purposes.
  • Quicker access to financing for projects.
  • Higher lever of maintenance.
  • Keep project debt off government’s books.

Potential Limitations

  • Increased financing costs.
  • Greater possibility for unforeseen challenges.
  • Limits government’s flexibility.
  • New risks from complex procurement process.
  • Fewer bidders.

Major Risks Transferred in Public-Private Partnership Agreements

Financing Risks

  • Changes in financing costs.
  • Estimated and actual inflation.

Design and Construction Risks

  • Interface between design and construction.
  • Discovery of endangered species.
  • Discovery of archeological, paleontological, or cultural resources.
  • Discovery of hazardous materials.
  • Unknown utility lines.
  • Delays in getting permits approved.

Operation and Maintenance Risks

  • Facility requires more maintenance than planned.
  • Facility is more costly to operate than planned.
  • Standards or requirements imposed in the future.

Revenue Risks

  • Usage of the facility is lower than predicted.
  • Public less willing to pay user fees than projected.

Tough times often lead to a new way of viewing common problems: how to create jobs, for example, and how to keep the economic machine moving. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is just one of several indicators suggesting that the U.S. government is seriously considering the need to look to novel programs to both update crumbling infrastructure and stimulate the economy. These alternatives may be all the more attractive when the public sector is faced with more and more debt and competing priorities for borrowing capacity.

Greek Syriza Party Leading in Polls Ahead of Today’s Election

Greek Syriza Party Leading in Polls Ahead of Today’s Election

Greek Syriza Party Leading in Polls Ahead of Sunday’s Election… The left-leaning Syriza party looks poised to take control of parliament in Greece.

What it means — As mentioned last week, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, has toned down his calls for dramatic change as the elections get closer. But he is still advocating for reversing many of the austerity measures currently in place and reducing the debt that Greece owes to outside lenders.

The Troika of lenders who bailed out Greece — the ECB, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Commission — have drawn a line in the sand. They demand Greece maintain all austerity measures and make good on their debt. The IMF leader, Christine LaGarde, stated that: “A debt is a debt,” which is just a touch hypocritical since she helped orchestrate Greece’s write down of bonds three years ago, costing private investors hundreds of millions of dollars.

If Syriza wins on Sunday, the question is will Tsipras use the possibility of Greece leaving the euro to extract some reduction in the debt Greece owes. This seems the most likely scenario. The Troika would much rather “assist” Greece by easing repayment terms or reducing their debt outright than create a precedent by which a country leaves the euro.