Article by Gregory Scott, PE, Chair of Pittsburgh Section Government Relations Committee
So the dust has settled on the 2014 midterm elections. Similar to Washington DC, Pennsylvania has aligned itself with the Republicans controlling the House and Senate, while the Executive branch is held by the Democrats. In PA, come January, Republicans will hold 119 seats (up from 111) in the 203 member House, and 30 seats (up from 27) in the 50 member Senate (see maps below). Pennsylvania's new Governor Tom Wolfe will be in the same position as President Obama, attempting to craft an agenda for the next two years with the opposition party being firmly in control of any legislation. What does this divided government mean for America and PA for the next two years? While talk coming out of DC and from the Governor elect's camp is one of finding common ground to work together, there may be a power struggle in the Republicans between the traditional conservatives and the new more right leaning members. This may make finding common ground difficult, if not impossible.
In the Commonwealth, January will mark the beginning of a new session, so all pending bills will die. Fortunately for Pennsylvania, Act 89, a new transportation funding law, was signed into law a year ago. So while PennDOT leads the deployment of the new transportation funding between now and 2018, the consideration on any new legislation will begin again in Harrisburg. The 2014 ASCE Report Card on Pennsylvania's Infrastructure highlighted the needs for additional attention to Schools, Drinking Water, Storm Water and Wastewater. Will the Governor and the Legislature take up this challenge as they did in passing Act 89 to address the State's deteriorating transportation infrastructure?
In Washington DC, the eyes of the industry will be on Congress to address the reauthorization of MAP-21, the long-term highway funding authorization, which was extended until the Spring, 2015. Will Congress be able to find common ground with the Administration? Will the new bill increase funding for surface transportation over MAP-21, which was generally flat from the previous bill 8 years prior? Will the 2016 Presidential campaign impact the willingness of the parties to pass legislation during a lame duck session or will gridlock continue?
ASCE will work hard to advocate for important funding, regulatory, and legislative initiatives that support infrastructure and the design/construction industry. Now is a great time for members to engage in ASCE's government relation activities on the Local, State and Federal levels. If one or more of your elected officials will be new to his or her job come January, please go see them to share your knowledge and expertise on issues. Key Contact members receive details of developments on issues on both the State and Federal levels, so consider signing up for this free benefit and see how some of the questions I asked earlier evolve.
Lastly, if you have ideas on regulatory or policy changes that benefit the industry, please share them with your Section's government relations committee. As experts in the field, you see potential solutions firsthand and ASCE wants to hear your ideas.
Until next time, keep watching C-Span.