Washington Summit Recap

Will Brown - NUCANUCA’s 2014 Washington Summit, which ran May 19-22, was a huge success! Nearly 100 NUCA members and partners attended the four-day event just outside our nation’s capital, for what turned out to be one of the most successful Washington Summits ever.

For those of you who get my Political Insiders e-mails, you’ll know that this spring has been momentous for NUCA’s lobbying and advocacy activities. The year started with the appropriations process that turned out to be significantly better for the State Revolving Fund (SRF) than anticipated. SRFs provide direct funding to states for water and wastewater project funding, administered through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Combatting multi-hundred million dollar cut proposals from President Obama and from automatic sequestration, when the dust settled and the appropriations levels were revealed, the SRF programs incurred less than a 1 percent cut. This is a substantial victory for our industry considering President Obama, who self-proclaims his support for water infrastructure, proposed to cut SRFs by nearly 20 percent in his budget.

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Additionally, after beginning the process of reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) over a year ago in the Senate, all of NUCA’s hard work paid off during the Washington Summit. On May 20 and 22 respectively, the House and Senate voted to pass the conference-negotiated version, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The House voted 223-4 (Voting No: Amash (Mich.), Gohmert (Texas), Heulskamp (Kan.) and Salmon (Ariz.)) and the Senate voted 91-7 (Voting No: Burr (N.C.), Coburn (Okla.), Flake (Ariz.), Johnson (Wis.), Lee (Utah), McCain (Ariz.) and Roberts (Kan.)). The legislation is expected to be signed by President Obama, but as of press time had not been.

Washington Summit RecapThis achievement crowns more than a year’s worth of work by NUCA and our industry colleagues, but the good news doesn’t end there. At last year’s Washington Summit, the Senate had just taken its first action on WRDA since 2007 and put forth the first proposed legislation from which negotiations could begin. As a part of NUCA’s Legislative Agenda, we primarily lobbied for action on WRDA, but also asked for two other components to be included in it.

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First, we lobbied for the inclusion of the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) which, modeled after the innovative and successful TIFIA program, would provide financing capabilities for states and municipalities for water infrastructure projects. This new and innovative pilot program was inserted initially in the Senate version, but not the House version.

Secondly, we lobbied for reforms to the SRF authorization (appropriations) levels and reforms to the program’s administration. We made the case for both of these reforms based on the significant need for infrastructure financing, but were particularly adamant about retaining the integrity of SRF dollars. We asked Congress to ensure WIFIA and SRFs be implemented separately so that one program would not replace or infringe on the actions of the other.

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Washington Summit RecapBoth of these priorities were lobbied hard at last year’s Washington Summit, and the hard work paid off. Both WIFIA and reforms to the SRF were included in WRRDA, giving NUCA’s Washington Summit a giant win for our industry and an incredible sense of motivation having seen the fruits of our lobbying labor. The impact of the Washington Summit is undeniable.

This year’s Washington Summit will prove equally effective as last year. The Summit began on Monday, May 29, with Safety and Damage Prevention Committee and Trenchless Technology Committee meetings.
Tuesday was an incredibly busy day filled with insightful and informative speakers and just a little bit of fun for good measure. After breakfast, we kicked off our speakers by welcoming Congressman John Delaney (D-Md.), who gave us insight into his legislation, the Partnership to Build America Act (H.R. 2084). This legislation would create an infrastructure bank to finance infrastructure projects through the states for 50 years. The infrastructure bank would be funded up-front by the repatriation of American companies’ foreign earnings in exchange for lower corporate taxes. Congressman Delaney’s thoughtful and common sense approach was well received by Summit attendees.

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Our next speakers came from the EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. They discussed new SRF requirements that materials used in SRF projects comply with American Iron and Steel (AIS) requirements, also known as Buy American.

Washington Summit RecapOur third speaker, David Bauer, from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), gave us a sobering but motivating outlook on the longevity of the Highway Trust Fund. Current authorization ends on September 30, and the Highway Trust Fund is in dire need of reforms to continue financing current and future trust fund projects.

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After lunch, Summit attendees were welcomed to Washington by The Capitol Steps, a political satire group that provided a comedic break to the day. Their mocking of contemporary and historical political action truly kept everyone on the edge of their seats in anticipation of who would be made fun of next.

After lunch, Briana Huxley from BIPAC gave an exemplary rundown of the political landscape in advance of the November elections. While there is still a lot that could happen, it became evident that the political landscape is shifting and that NUCA must be involved in order to significantly impact change in Washington.
Our final speaker of the day was Toby Mack from the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance. Mack discussed the growing need for energy infrastructure and the vast potential of America’s energy reserves and the necessary investment required to meet that potential.

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The Legislative Briefing concluded our Federal Issues Conference. Congressional Directories, the Summit Guide and lobbying materials were distributed and instructions were given for the next day’s Capitol Hill visits. This year’s summit agenda was broken into two primary priorities: Increasing Infrastructure Investment and Letting Business Succeed.

Tuesday concluded with a boat cruise on the Potomac River that included some of Washington’s best sightseeing.

Wednesday, Summit attendees stormed Capitol Hill to promote our industry. Nearly 150 Congressional offices were visited, and our issues were warmly received as a result of the personal influence of our members. Meetings focused on finding innovative ways for America to invest in its infrastructure. We promoted Private Activity Bonds, SRFs, the Highway Trust Fund and other meaningful reforms. We also promoted success in business by promoting regulatory reforms that hamper the current overly burdensome regulatory system and suggesting common sense reforms to the Affordable Care Act that will help businesses better provide for their employees’ healthcare.

The Washington Summit concluded Thursday with an Executive Directors and Chapter Presidents Council meeting and Board of Directors meeting.

Summit Attendees will tell you that this year was an excellent Washington Summit. Attendees were briefed on a barrage of issues of paramount importance to our industry and success and made a measurable impact on NUCA’s advocacy priorities. If you haven’t yet attended a Washington Summit, there is no better way for you to make a meaningful and measurable positive impact on your business or industry. Preparations for next year’s Washington Summit are already being made, and it will be even better than this year!

NOTE: If you are interested in being added to NUCA’s Political Insiders e-mail list to receive timely and concise political analysis and updates, please e-mail me at will@nuca.com. If you are interested in receiving any of the Washington Summit information, including the Summit Guide, please visit www.nucaevents.com.

Will Brown is the Director of Government Affairs for NUCA.

For a full gallery of photos, please click here.