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International Operating Engineer - Summer 2019

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The quarterly magazine of the International Union of Operating Engineers

Politics & Legislation

Politics & Legislation Senate Panel Moves 7 Billion Highway Bill A KEY U.S. SENATE committee passed a five-year renewal of the nation’s highway bill on July 30, just days before the Senate adjourned for August recess. The legislation, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), would be the most substantial surface transportation law in history. The proposal totals 7 billion over five years, which is a 28% increase over current spending, and boosts investment by 15% in the first year of funding. The bipartisan legislation, coauthored by Republican Chairman John Barrasso (WY) and lead committee Democratic, Tom Carper (DE), expands the national freight program, a signature feature of the last highway bill. It also creates a new grant program for bridge construction, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a speaker at the recent IUOE Legislative Conference. For the first time, the bill includes a section that addresses climate change – the section creates a new program to fortify transportation infrastructure in extreme-weather events and a new program for deployment of electric vehicles. The bill generates tens of thousands of Operating Engineers’ jobs every year, and because of it, the legislation is one of the top priorities of the International. IUOE leaders and staff working the halls on Capitol Hill secured comprehensive Davis-Bacon prevailing wage coverage on the bill and enhanced the Buy America provisions within it. The legislation passed the Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously, 22-0 – a rare event in polarized Washington. However, the big question is still unanswered – how do you pay for the bill? Legislators estimated that billion in revenue is necessary to pay for this portion of the bill. There is a transit and rail section of the legislation, which has yet to be considered, that could cost nearly billion. The gas tax is the traditional method to pay for the federal (and most state) transportation system. Yet leaders in Washington struggle to muster the political will to raise the user fee and invest in rebuilding the country. Many politicians talk about an eventual tax on the miles that a vehicle travels, eventually replacing the gas tax, though questions remain about privacy, the cost to administer such a tax, and the lag time to develop it. Past transportation bills have included state “pilot projects” for the vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax; this bill will likely include a national pilot program on the VMT. General President Callahan praised the bipartisanship leadership displayed by Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper. He also said that the bill will place the biggest infrastructure program in the country on “sound footing to create jobs, enhance safety, fortify national assets, and move America.” This step is the first one in a long path to enact the bill into law. While the Environment and Public Works Committee leads senate consideration of the bill, three other committees possess jurisdiction over ATIA in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives is still developing its version of the bill, and the leader of the key committee indicates that the bill will not be considered until the first part of 2020. The current highway bill expires on October 2020, just weeks before the general election. [above] Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) signing S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, as reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee. The bill passed the committee 21-0 and is the most substantial highway legislation ever. ENGINEERS ACTION & RESPONSE NETWORK REGISTER TODAY! WWW.IUOE.ORG Lawmakers Take the Stage at IUOE Legislative Conference AS THE SUMMER heat settled in to the Washington swamp and Congress prepared for the August recess, business managers and political directors from across the country convened in the nation’s capital for the IUOE Legislative Conference. The twoday meeting in July was the ideal time for an update on national legislative activity. The conference addressed a variety of core issues for Operating Engineers, ranging from labor policy and election law, to transportation and infrastructure. The conference featured remarks from the Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. Senator Sherrod Brown, an unabashed supporter of union members and the Operating Engineers, also spoke to the assembled IUOE members. Highlighted by President Callahan as one of the recent legislative accomplishments was the House repeal of the Cadillac tax. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), the primary sponsor of the House bill, discussed his optimism for the Senate repeal of the 40% tax on high-cost health premiums after it cleared the major hurdle in the House. Other important labor policy updates included the extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, and advocacy on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Transportation and infrastructure policy discussions were central to the legislative conference. The primary focus was on the reauthorization of the highway bill, known as the FAST Act, which is the long-term surface transportation program that will ...Continued page 18 [above] Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) delivered remarks on infrastructure investments to attendees at the 2019 IUOE Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. 16 INTERNATIONAL OPERATING ENGINEER SUMMER 2019 17

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