Revisions to Federal Transportation Project Grant Program Encourages Use of P3s

The federal grant program that provides funding for freight and highway projects throughout the country has been revised to support projects that use funding from the private sector or other nonfederal sources.

The Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) program has been renamed the Infrastructure for Rebuilding American (INFRA) program, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau announced recently. Congress authorized FASTLANE to receive $4.5 billion over five years under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 to provide competitive grants or credit assistance to nationally and regionally significant freight and railway projects beginning in 2016.

The INFRA program will provide approximately $710 million in FY 2017 and up to $855 million in FY 2018, according to a July 5 Federal Register notice. The INFRA program will evaluate projects using updated criteria to ensure that they meet national and regional economic vitality goals and encourage the use of nonfederal funding and innovation in the project delivery and permitting processes, including P3s. The program’s revisions could provide some insight into the approach President Trump could take in proposing a $1 trillion infrastructure funding package later this year, reported The Hill.

Each large project that is selected for funding will receive at least $25 million; each small project will receive a minimum of $5 million, and 10 percent of available funds will be reserved for small projects for each fiscal year of funding. The INFRA program preserves the FAST Act’s statutory requirement that at least 25 percent of funding be reserved for rural projects.

Projects eligible for funding include reconstruction, rehabilitation, property acquisition, environmental mitigation, equipment acquisition and operational improvements that affect system performance.

Applicants can resubmit previously submitted FASTLANE applications but must explain how these projects competitively address the INFRA grant criteria. Applications are due Nov. 2.

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What GOP Plan For Health Care Reform May Mean For You?

The House GOP Health Care Reform Plan provides a blueprint for eliminating important elements of the ACA and replacing them with a more market-oriented approach.

On Wednesday key Capitol Hill committees started debate on the controversial new Health Care legislation

Both President Trump and the House GOP plan contemplate using tax credits to subsidize the purchase of health insurance.

Hearings on the “American Health Care Act” (AHCA) stretched overnight at the House Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee. Ways and Means approved its portion of the AHCA at around 4 a.m. on Thursday, while discussion continued at Energy and Commerce

While partial details on the AHCA’s costs are available, the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet estimated how the AHCA would affect the uninsured rate or how much it would cost overall. CBO would not have a “score” — a report on the effects of the bill — before next week, when the measure could go to the Budget Committee.

The Plan has not yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, so it is unknown how much the plan will cost and what its impact will be on the number of people who are insured. Additionally, despite the Republican majority in the Senate, it is unclear whether all the Republican senators will support the bill.

It is far from clear, however, whether the Medicaid provisions of the House GOP plan have sufficient support to pass the Senate. Four GOP senators recently warned that they would not support any plan that does not protect the Medicaid expansion population. Moreover, in his speech last week, President Trump argued that Congress should give governors the “resources and flexibility with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.” It is not clear what Trump meant by this statement and whether he supports the House GOP plan’s Medicaid changes could very well cause some people to lose coverage.

One way of shedding light on what a final law may look like is to look at its putative winners and losers. Although it is hard to assess the ultimate impact of health care reform until more details emerge, what’s now known suggests that particular subsectors of the industry could be winners or losers:

1. Hospitals:

To the extent health care reform results in significantly more uninsured patients, hospitals will likely bear increased costs. Because hospitals often treat patients regardless of ability to pay, more uninsured patients means increased charity care and bad debt write-offs. This burden would fall heavily on disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) — hospitals that treat a large percentage of the indigent population. The ACA had reduced government funding to DSH hospitals under the theory that they would offer less uncompensated care as the number of uninsured people drops. The House GOP plan would benefit DSH hospitals by repealing the ACA’s funding cuts.

2. Pharmaceutical Industry:

The plans contemplated by the Trump administration and House GOP will have a mixed impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

The ACA reflected a complex bargain between the Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry benefited from more insured people who could afford to purchase more drugs. It also benefited from the closing of the “doughnut hole,” the coverage gap between an initial threshold of drug costs that would be covered by Medicare Part D and a much higher catastrophic maximum after which Part D coverage would resume. In return, the branded pharmaceutical industry agreed to an annual tax of about $3 billion (allocated among branded pharmaceutical companies based on their share of the branded pharmaceutical market) and cutbacks on Medicaid reimbursements for prescription drugs.

The House GOP plan partially unwinds this bargain. The plan benefits the pharmaceutical industry by repealing the $3 billion annual tax and maintaining the closure of the doughnut hole. Additionally, repealing the “medicine cabinet tax” may boost the sale of over the counter drugs. But the pharmaceutical industry will lose to the extent that people reduce purchases of prescription drugs because they lose their health insurance or are covered by plans that provide only limited coverage for expensive drugs, even while the ACA’s cutbacks on Medicaid rebates are left intact.

3. Medical Device Manufacturers:

Health care reform will likely be a major boon to device manufacturers because there is strong GOP support for lifting the excise tax on devices. Device manufacturers may also benefit from greater flexibility in patients’ ability to use HSA money on devices that would not typically be covered by insurance. That being said, device manufacturers may suffer lost sales to the extent people lose insurance coverage or purchase only thin coverage that leads them unable to afford certain devices.

While the House GOP plan reflects the bill that the House GOP leadership would like to pass, it is likely to be just the start of a heated health care reform debate. Different health care industry subsectors may yet have a significant role in shaping whatever bill, if any, ultimately passes in Congress and is signed by the President.

Republican leaders have emphasized that the objective of the law is to lower the cost of coverage and reduce government mandates, not necessarily to increase or even maintain the number of people covered.

One thing remains clear: the changes contemplated by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are likely to have significant implications for just about every sector of the health care industry.

Republicans hope to send the AHCA to the full House within the next month.

This week in Congress.

The Senate will consider resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and confirmation of the president’s appointees to federal agencies. The House will be taking up litigation reform legislation and appropriations legislation to fund the Defense Department through the remainder of fiscal year 2017. The highest profile activity in Congress this week, though, is expected to take place in the House which plans to mark up the legislation to begin to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate will return on Monday afternoon, when votes are expected on two resolutions of disapproval of federal regulations issued in the final months of the Obama administration under the CRA. The first vote will be on H.J. Res. 37 to disapprove a rule from the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration revising provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require federal contractors to disclose findings of noncompliance with labor laws. The Senate is then scheduled to vote on the motion to proceed to H.J.Res 44, a resolution of disapproval of the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Planning rule, finalized in December 2016. The regulation establishes the procedures used to prepare, revise or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, but congressional Republicans, state and local governments, and affected property owners have argued that the new process creates more confusion and greater uncertainty. The White House has announced support for both resolutions of disapproval, indicating the president would sign them into law upon Senate passage (both resolutions have already been approved by the House).

Senate floor activity for the remainder of the week is uncertain. It is possible the majority leader will initiate action on the nomination of Seema Verma to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The nomination was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday on a straight party-line vote.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House will return to legislative business on Tuesday, when members will consider seven bills, including five measures under the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, under suspension of the rules.

On Wednesday, House members will consider three additional bills under suspension of the rules, all reported by the Natural Resources Committee.

The House will then take up H.R. 1301, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for FY 2017, subject to a rule. The funding bill would replace the Department of Defense provisions of the current continuing resolution for FY 2017, which is set to expire on April 28, and provide funding through the end of this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The legislation meets the overall defense spending limits set by law for FY 2017, providing $516.1 billion for base budget needs. The bill also provides $61.8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding, which is the level allowed under current law. These amounts are also in line with the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Obama in December. Unlike the Defense Appropriations bill that passed the House on a party-line vote last summer, this version of the defense spending bill maintains statutory budget limits. As a result, it is likely to garner more bipartisan support for House passage in this session of Congress. Press reports indicate the Trump administration is preparing to request an additional $30 billion in supplemental funding for the Department of Defense in FY 2017, largely for readiness spending, but it remains unclear how Congress will respond to any supplemental appropriations request. It also remains unclear how or when Congress will deal with funding for the 10 remaining FY 2017 spending bills before the continuing resolution expires on April 28.

During the remainder of the week, House members will consider three pieces of litigation reform legislation reported out of the House Judiciary Committee. Each will come to the floor under a rule.

On Thursday, the House will take up two of these measures. H.R. 725, the Innocent Party Protection Act, limits the ability of federal courts to remand cases to state court under certain circumstances. Members will also consider H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. The bill includes language from a previous class action reform proposal, which passed the House in 2016, to prohibit federal courts from certifying any proposed class under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure unless the party seeking to maintain a class action demonstrates that each member of the proposed class suffered an injury of the same type and scope. This version of the legislation also includes some additional provisions related to class action litigation, including disclosure requirements on third-party litigation financing.

The third litigation reform bill will be considered on Friday. H.R. 720, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017, would amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to make the imposition of sanctions for violations of the rule mandatory, not discretionary as under current law.

Also this week, House Republican leaders are expected to release their proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Once the bill is released, committee action is on tap, with markups this week, and prompt floor action can be expected as early as next week.

With all committees now organized, both chambers are facing busy hearing schedules.

 

In Congress: Votes on several Cabinet nominees Expected

Today the Senate is scheduled to resume legislative business with an afternoon vote scheduled on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to serve as the Secretary of State under President Trump. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up the nomination of Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to serve as the Secretary of Transportation.

Votes on several other Cabinet nominees can be expected throughout the week as the nominations are reported by their respective Senate committees. On Monday, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Linda McMahon to serve as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, and the Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary. The nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to serve as attorney general is expected to be considered by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. That same day the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is scheduled to vote on the nominations of Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., to serve as Interior Secretary and former Texas Governor Rick Perry to serve as the Secretary of Energy. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to meet on Wednesday to consider the nomination of Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Also on Wednesday, David Shulkin is scheduled to appear before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee regarding his nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In Congress this Week.

The Senate this week will continue to move forward on the consideration of the New and 45th president’s cabinet picks while committees on both sides of the Capitol begin to conduct their formal organizational proceedings for the 115th Congress.

On Monday members will take up 11 legislative measures under suspension of the rules, all within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which had reported them in the last Congress.

On Tuesday, the House will consider three additional bills under suspension of the rules before considering H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. Identical to a bill passed by the House early in the 114th Congress, the legislation would broaden the existing language of the Hyde Amendment and ban the use of any federal funds to pay for abortions. Consideration of H.R. 7 will be subject to a rule.

The Senate will resume legislative business on Monday when members will debate and vote on the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Senate floor schedule for the remainder of the week is unclear, but look for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule votes on other cabinet nominees as they are reported by their respective Senate committees. Several committees have scheduled votes throughout the week. On Monday afternoon, the Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State. On Tuesday, the Banking Committee will meet to consider the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. That same morning the Judiciary Committee will consider the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to serve as attorney general. A meeting of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos scheduled for this week has been postponed.

Other Senate committees will continue to review the qualifications of President Trump’s cabinet appointees. The Finance Committee is scheduled to resume its consideration of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Much of the first day of the Price hearing was given over to questions about the nominee’s stock trading. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., whom the president has tapped to serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is scheduled to appear before two Senate committees on Tuesday; in the morning, he will provide testimony to the Budget Committee before an afternoon appearance before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Rep. Mulvaney is dogged by questions over his failure to pay requisite taxes for a household employee from before he was elected to Congress, and some Democrats have called for his nomination to be withdrawn. The Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will hear testimony from Linda McMahon of Connecticut on her nomination to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Also on the schedule this week, and in keeping with the Republican initiative currently underway to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the House Budget Committee is set to host a Tuesday hearing regarding the “Failures of Obamacare.” The hearing will be the first under its new chairman, Diane Black, R-Tenn., who was named to succeed Rep. Price following his nomination to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

On both sides of the Capitol, a number of committees are meeting for the first time this week to organize for the 115th Congress and adopt the rules for official proceedings. The full schedule of events for the week ahead is detailed below.

The election of Donald Trump creates a drastic shift in government relations strategies in DC.

With a new year, companies and not for profits should be reevaluating their government affairs programs just as they will review their tax, marketing and financial planning. More significantly, this year, a new U.S. government will form, and a new presidential administration commence.

U.S. and foreign businesses and industries should accordingly carefully review their government relations, lobbying, and public affairs strategies in Washington, DC. Companies that have engaged in government relations during the Obama years now need to fully re-write their government relations plan in a city soon to be led by President Donald J. Trump. Those engaging in government affairs for the first time need to move fast.

Trump’s executive team promises to be very different in governing philosophy, public policy, and management than President Obama’s team; but based on Trump’s cabinet picks; it will be substantially different than President Bush’s as well.

Based on that absolute shift, business and industry must reevaluate its government relations strategy for 2017. With a new pro-business focus, no company or industry will want to be on the sidelines for the next four years. Those businesses that have existing government affairs efforts in Washington need to reassess and revise old plans and write a new ones. And those that want to engage in a first-time government relations program need to get in the game now. Based on President-elect Trump’s cabinet choices thus far, the policy and management differences with the outgoing Obama Administration will be substantial; aimed at systemic change in nearly every area of government policy that affects business:

 

  • Appropriations, budget, tax, trade
  • Energy, oil/gas, renewable energy, energy management
  • Transportation, infrastructure, air and shipping transport
  • FCC and telecom
  • Financial services, Dodd Frank, digital assets
  • Healthcare, life sciences, pharma, medical technology
  • Gaming, hospitality
  • Education
  • Municipality
  • Labor, immigration
  • Ocean technology, environment, climate
  • Internet, cyber, privacy, social media
  • National security & defense
  • International Relations

 

Thus, if your company has had a government relations effort during the Obama Administration, then a re-evaluation is critical because what was advocated by the U.S. government between 2009-2016 will now be substantially dismantled and replaced with a new governing philosophy and public policy agenda.

For instance, President-elect Trump has chosen conservative U.S. Rep. Tom Price to serve as his Secretary of Health and Human Services and to overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Obamacare). Price is the former chair of the Republican Study Committee, the group of movement conservative members of the House of Representatives. Moreover, in 2013, he introduced in Congress a substantive bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Trump’s choice of Price to head HHS will stand in exact contrast to the political ideology and pro- ACA position of the current HHS Secretary, Sylvia Burwell.

Other members of his cabinet also come from a more conservative, pro-growth, limited government, less government regulation philosophy including Governor Rick Perry, as the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Andrew Puzder, CEO, Hardee’s, to be Secretary of Labor, Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Linda McMahon, a principal with the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, as the new Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Dr. Ben Carson, the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Rep. Rep. Ryan Zinke, the next Secretary of the Interior, United States Marine Corps General James Mattis (ret.) as Secretary of Defense and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

To be fully prepared, companies need to take the time necessary to strategize a new plan, hire the right professionals in Washington, identify the right issues for the company, and be a ready to educate the “new” U.S.  Federal  government.

Duane Morris Government Strategies has a Washington, DC-based government relations and lobbying office for U.S. and foreign companies, organizations, and governments that want to develop a more professional and interactive relationship with the U.S. federal government; Congress, the Executive Branch and regulatory agencies.

We can assist with congressional relations, regulatory affairs, developing positive brand equity for your company throughout the U.S. government, business to government (b2g) contracts, lobbying on specific legislative or regulatory issues, advising on current policy and political developments, and assisting with industry associations where your company is a member. We can provide a comprehensive, substantive and personalized suite of U.S. government affairs services for a cost-effective and competitive budget.

 

 

Italian Referendum: Lessons Learned

In an earlier comment we wrote that: “The ‘populist’ movement that inspired the raise of Trump and Sanders  may be about to surge through Europe. If so, it will change drastically the Continent’s political landscape in ways not seen since  World War II”.

In Italy, the last polls published before Sunday’s referendum showed a widening opposition to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s proposed constitutional reform package. Although there were rumors that the contest had tightened up in the last two weeks, when polls could not legally be published, the government ultimately lost by a wide margin. Just under 60 percent of the Italian electorate voted against Renzi’s package, whereas just over 40 percent supported it (turnout was a historically high 65.5 percent.) Renzi, speaking just after midnight on Monday morning, acknowledged defeat. He thanked the country for its involvement in the debate and for the high level of participation. He also made it clear that he would tender his resignation.

Italy now needs a new government and likely some electoral reform.

Italy’s biggest problem, however, is not debt, economics, or even immigration. It is the widespread disillusionment of Italy’s youth. The most striking revelation to emerge from public opinion polling prior to the referendum was the extent to which young people feel excluded from the political system. Macro Advisory Partners, a London-based consulting firm, found in its final pre-referendum poll that opposition to Renzi’s reforms was strongest among the youngest voters. Fifty-eight percent of Italians between ages 18 and 24 said that they rejected the constitutional reform package, as did 51 percent of Italians between 25 and 34; opposition among students was 59 percent. The youngish Renzi had hoped that the youth would throw its support behind his “hope and change” message of reform. In reality, however, they were more likely to support Beppe Grillo and his populist Five Star Movement.

Young Italians have good cause for disillusionment. Despite the fact they are, on average, more educated than their parents are, many are under- or unemployed and still live in the homes they grew up in. Tackling this disillusionment, which is leading to an exodus of youth from the country and a decline in participation among the mainstream political parties, needs to be the next government’s top priority.  If Italy’s political leadership cannot promise the rising generation better material circumstances or real political engagement, it, and the rest of Europe. will soon have to face the consequences.