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TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update, November 2018
Editor's Note: This article was written before the November 7 midterm elections, where control of the House shifted to Democrats and Republicans maintained control of the Senate. House Republicans and Democrats are expected to return to Washington after the election to choose their respective leaders, where significant changes and internal disputes are likely. Congress will also be facing a December 7th deadline for fund the seven remaining FY 2019 appropriations bills, as well as the looming Nov. 30 deadline for the Joint Select Committee to report bipartisan legislative recommendations to address the looming multiemployer pension crisis. It is shaping up to be an exciting Lame Duck session of Congress.
We will have a thorough review of the midterm consequences in next month's column. For now, here is an exclusive update from TAUC on policy and regulatory issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry.
The Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans (JSC), established earlier this year to develop solutions to the crisis facing multiemployer pension plans and the PBGC, faces a Nov. 30 deadline to issue its report and legislative recommendations. The JSC appears far from agreement on legislative recommendations, and most people engaged in this process do not expect much to be agreed to until after the midterm elections. It is possible that the JSC can issue a report outlining the magnitude of the crisis and possible solutions members discussed, but not come to a consensus on final legislative recommendations. It is also possible that some fixes and policy changes impacting multiemployer plans that can be agreed to could be added to the end of the year funding and tax packages to be considered in the lame duck.
TAUC continues to meet with congressional staff to urge action to address the looming multiemployer pension plan crisis and to ensure that the perspectives and needs of contributing employers are reflected in the deliberations and whatever policy provisions are agreed to by the JSC.
President Signs Opioid Legislation
On October 24, President Trump signed a package of bills to confront the nation's opioid epidemic. This legislation became law after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The Senate vote was 98-1. The House vote was 393-8. The bipartisan compromise package combines numerous bills desigedn to address a range of issues related to the opioid crisis, which claimed over 72,000 lives in the U.S. last year. The legislation contains provisions aiming to address different aspects of the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery. It includes measures to strengthen law enforcement and public health provisions, expand Medicare coverage for addiction treatment, provides additional recovery and prevention options, speeds up research into nonadditive painkillers, provide additional resources to local communities to police illegal drug activities, and preventing illegal opioids and synthetic drugs from entering the U.S.
Affordable Clean Energy Rule
The comment period on the Trump administration's proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants closed on October 31st. The EPA will now review and respond to the over 330,000 comments it received in response to the proposed rule, which replaces the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP). The proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule would maintain the Federal government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by establishing emission guidelines for states to develop and submit plans to EPA addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. ACE takes a very different approach than what was proposed under the CPP, which would have required utilities to make broader systemic changes to cut emissions, such as switching from coal to natural gas or renewable energy sources. The EPA stated that replacing the CPP with the ACE rule could result in $3.4 billion in net benefits.