The results of the midterm elections are in, and significant changes are coming to Congress, especially to the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).
After a record number of voters turned out for the 2018 midterm elections, and with 20 races still undecided as of the morning of Nov. 7, Democratic candidates won a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate saw Republicans increase their majority to 51 seats over 45 Democratic and two Independent senators, with four races yet to be called including Arizona and Florida.
With a new majority party in control of the House, new committee chairs will be appointed.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is first in line to chair the T&I Committee under the new Democratic House majority. ROCKPAC is a longtime supporter of DeFazio and NSSGA has a great working relationship with the new majority committee staff. An advocate of increasing funding for the Highway Trust Fund, DeFazio has vowed that a top priority will be making the Trust Fund solvent. “We’ve got to get back to being No. 1 in the world again, and you’re going to be a key part of that,” DeFazio said to NSSGA members at the 2018 Legislative & Policy Forum. “If you look at Congress and it seems dysfunctional, it is. It looks incredibly partisan, it is. But if you watch our committee you see that in fact we can come to agreement on substantial bills. The last two bills that will be done in this congress of any significance are our Water Resources Development Act and FAA authorization bills.”
He will lead a committee that will see sizable turnover as members and subcommittee chairs are sworn into office in January.
DeFazio and Democratic leaders are planning to pursue a major U.S. transportation and infrastructure measure in the 116th Congress. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said it may be something Democrats can do with the Republican president. “One of my things is build, build, build,” Pelosi said at an Oct. 22 event hosted by CNN. “Build the infrastructure of America from sea to shining sea. Not only surface transportation but broadband and water systems.”
President Trump said in an Oct. 17 interview on Fox Business News that “infrastructure is going to be starting after the midterms and we think that’s going to be an easy one.’’
With bipartisan interest in infrastructure, NSSGA will continue to build on advocacy efforts over the past two years.
“An infrastructure bill is something that President Trump and lawmakers seem to agree on, and we will continue to advocate for a serious and sustainable investment in our country’s infrastructure. Fixing the funding mechanics of the Highway Trust Fund and improving our aging roads will allow goods and services to move faster and safer, create jobs and allow people to travel to work more safely. When you do all of that, our economy can grow,” said Michael W. Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO. “That is why we encourage all lawmakers to work together, because better infrastructure leads to a better America.”
A Democratic majority in the House could mean additional hearings for committees with oversight of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Johnson explained that people from aggregates companies have an opportunity to educate about the importance of aggregates and the costs of overly-burdensome regulations.
“In September, hundreds of people came to D.C. to show lawmakers the ways that many regulations, which are not based on common sense or sound science, delay or derail critical infrastructure improvements. We have an opportunity, as an industry, to keep making our voice heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill this year.”
It was a mixed bag for gas tax and other transportation-related ballot initiatives around the country. California rejected a repeal of a 2017 gas tax increase, Maine authorized more than $100 million in transportation infrastructure bonds, and Connecticut voters agreed to an amendment mandating that transportation revenues be used for transportation projects. But a Missouri gas tax increase failed, and in Colorado, two separate ballot questions aimed at funding transportation projects were shot down.