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October 2015 Ohio Federal Legislative Update

 To all Ohio ASCE Section Presidents and Council members,


Back in January of this year I was asked by ASCE to serve as one of their initial "federal advocacy captains".  The pilot program was developed to engage members, particularly those who reside in a house district whose congressional representative is either 1.) house leadership or 2.) serves on a committee which is important to our profession.  My congressional representative, Rep. Pat Tiberi, serves on the House Ways and Means committee and is the chair of the trade subcommitte.  The past ten months have been very educational as far as the legislative process goes and been very rewarding.  As part of the outreach, I will try to submit an update every 3-4 months that I hope can be passed on to all ASCE members in Ohio.  I will try to post this to the ASCE Council Website.  Please feel free to publish any or all of the message listed below.


Engage in Discussions with your Congressional Reprehensive or Senators


ASCE has identified a few committees in House and Senate that tend to deal with issues relevant to our profession.  Ohio is fortunate to have of its representatives or senators serve on these committees.



Appropriations- No Ohio Senator

Finance- Sen. Portman and Sen. Brown serve on this committee

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs- Sen. Brown is the ranking democrat on this committee

Environment and Public Works- No Ohio Senator (This is the committee that produced and delivered the DRIVE Act this summer which had strong bi-partisan support)

Commerce, Science and Transportation- No Ohio Senator



Appropriations- Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Tim Ryan (OH-13) and David Joyce (OH-14) serve on this committee

Science and Technology- Bill Johnson (OH-6) serves

Transportation and Infrastructure- Bob Gibbs (OH-7) is the chairperson for the Water Resources and Environment Subcommitte.  Rep. Gibbs was instrumental in getting the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 passed and signed into law.

Ways and Means- Pat Tiberi (OH-12) and Jim Renacci (OH-16).  Rep. Tiberi is a ranking member of this committee and serves as the chairperson for the subcommittee on trade.  It should also be noted that Rep. Paul Ryan is the committee chairperson.  There has been discussion that if Rep.Ryan were to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Tiberi could possibly be in line to become the Ways and Means Chairperson.


It is important to note that even if your representative does not sit on one of the committees, it does not prevent them from co-sponsoring important legislation.  An example of this was a bill sponsored by Rep. Renacci (HR1846 Bridge to a Sustainable Infrastructure Act) and co-sponsored by 32 additional members which includes 5 from Ohio (Gibbs, Ryan, Kaptur, Fudge and Beatty).  I met with Rep. Beatty's staff in Columbus back in early May with another member of the Central Ohio Section to ask for her support on this legislation.  In early, June I received word from her office that she had indeed signed on to be a co-sponsor.


I encourage all members to meet with their representative and/or staff.  District meetings are pretty simple to set up.  I tend to try to find out when the House is not in session to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your legislator.  In addition to the annual ASCE Fly-in meetings, I have met with Rep. Tiberi in person twice, staff from Stivers and Beatty's offices and had a discussion with Renacci on the phone.  I have also met with district chief of staff for Senator Brown and Portman in Columbus.  Senators have offices in also all major Ohio cities.  At almost all of these meetings I was with a few other ASCE Central Ohio Section members so I did not have to do it alone and all of the schedulers for all offices are willing to schedule a meeting that fits your schedule as well.  Almost all of my meetings were held around lunch time so I did not have to disrupt my regular work day.


Current Legislation being discussed or sponsored


Hopefully most of you are aware of the ongoing effort to pass new long-term surface transportation legislation.  Back in March, Rep. Renacci hosted a transportation work group in Cleveland to discuss the need for an increase in transportation funding as the highway trust fund continues to have a shortfall in revenue, mainly due to the federal gas tax not being raised since 1993.  ASCE was asked to participate and I was privileged to represent our organization.  ASCE Ohio Council submitted a letter of support to Rep. Renacci that was passed at our spring council meeting.  His bill (HR 1846) has not moved out of committee as there are concerns about any increase in the federal gas tax, which this legislation includes.


In January 2015, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) sponsored legislation with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) titled "Federal Permitting Improvement Act" of 2015.  According to a statement on Senator Portman's website, this legislation is  "designed to streamline and improve the federal permitting process, which is currently laden with uncertainty and unpredictability that hinders investment, economic growth and job creation".  While there is no movement on this legislation, there are provisions in the DRIVE Act and STRRA Act that will continue on some of the project delivery reforms that were enacted with MAP-21.  This includes reforms to the permitting process


At the end of July, the Senate passed the DRIVE Act by a 65-34 vote with strong bi-partisan support (Portman-YEA; Brown-NAY).  ASCE National sent a letter of support for this legislation.  It is a six year bill with an increase in funding.  3 of the 6 year funding was indentified so there is debate and concern over how to pay the the final 3 years.  Sen. Portman and Sen. Schumer (D-NY) have been working with Rep. Paul Ryan in regards to international tax reform where overseas profits would come back to the United States, be taxed at a much lower rate to provide incentive to bring this money back to the US, with those proceeds going towards infrastructure.  Sen. Brown may also be involved to an extent as well.  The bill never reached the House as they retreated from Washington for their summer recess.  As such, another short term extension to MAP-21 was passed which continue the current authorization until October 29th of this year.  I did meet with Senator Brown's staff to get an explanation as to why he did not vote for the DRIVE Act.  While he did offer up amendments to the bill, one which included funding for the Brent Spence Bridge, his office indicated the he did not like the fast-paced process which this bill was pushed through and did not consult the Senate Banking Committee of which Sen. Brown is the ranking democrat. 


Which leads us to the next big deadline, October 29th, and current legislation, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRRA) of 2015.  While ASCE National did send a letter of support for the six year bill, which is important to pass so that it could go to conference and thus engage the Senate, there were reservations about the flat spending in the bill and no real means to pay for the entirety of the bill.  There are also questions about funding going towards freight rail investment which ASCE believes should be paid for out of the general fund.  If you are an ASCE Key Contact, or receive the weekly email "This Week in Washington" there is a link to send a letter to your representative to support STRRA as well as participating in an ASCE Conference Call this Monday, October 26th at 1 p.m.  Here is the letter that ASCE National President Mark Woodson submitted to Representative Bill Shuster.


ASCE Legislative Fly-In


Finally, while it is not officially out for registration, I would like to strongly encourage each section in Ohio to send at least one member to the annual ASCE Fly-in in March held in Washington D.C.  Last year 6 members from Ohio attended (3 each from Cleveland and Central Ohio).  Ohio had a great cross section of both private, public and retired employees.  ASCE National does have a budget to help offset some travel costs.  Some sections may be able to offset the remainder of expenses.  It is an extremely well put together event.  ASCE National arranges all the meetings.  I believe the dates for 2016 are March 14-16.  I mention this now so that each section's board may have the opportunity to discuss sending a member.  If you have any questions concerning the fly-in, contact ASCE National or me.


Should you have any questions related to what I have presented here, please feel free to shoot me an email at