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Trump's Big Win Will Affect Regulations, May Produce Infrastructure Push

Trump’s surprising victory will have a major effect on policies that affect the construction industry, particularly in workplace-related and environmental regulations.

Wed November 09, 2016 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Another construction industry focus will be Trump's campaign proposal for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan in his first 100 days in office.
Another construction industry focus will be Trump's campaign proposal for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan in his first 100 days in office.

Washington—and the nation—saw lots of red across the electoral map with Republican Donald Trump's Nov. 8 win of the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton in a tight race to the end, and with the GOP managing to keep control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Trump's surprising victory will have a major effect on policies that affect the construction industry, particularly in workplace-related and environmental regulations, which he is expected to seek to tilt toward business interests' point of view.

Another construction industry focus will be Trump's campaign proposal for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan in his first 100 days in office.

In his post-election speech early on Nov. 9, Trump said, according to a text via CNN: "We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."

The Capitol Hill picture in the new Congress will be largely status quo. Republicans maintained control of the House and, it appeared likely, the Senate, too—though with slightly diminished margins.

Though Republicans had a big day on Nov. 8, their sway over federal policies and legislation will not be absolute, however, because they lack the 60 votes in the Senate needed to ensure that legislation, and presidential nominees, won't be blocked by filibusters.

As of 9 a.m. on the morning after the election, the Associated Press reported that Republicans held 51 Senate seats and Democrats 47, including two Independents who caucus with them. Two races hadn't yet been settled That compares with a 54-44 Republican-Democratic split now.

Democrats pick up one U.S. Senate seat, in Illinois—with Rep. Tammy Duckworth the winner over incumbent Mark Kirk (R). But Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) hold their seats, in races that were rated toss-ups. In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) wins the seat being vacated by retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the projected winner over challenger Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), the son of the chairman of Miami-based Coastal Construction.

The House will have 236 Republicans and 191 Democrats, according to AP, compared with a 246-186 breakdown now, plus two vacant seats. In Florida, Murphy's former House seat representing North Palm Beach County and the Treasure coast was won by Republican candidate Brian Mast. Also in Florida, Francis Rooney, chairman of construction firm Rooney Holdings, Naples, Fla., won his race for a U.S. House seat as a Republican.

Lame-duck session on the horizon

Construction lobbyists also will focus on the coming lame-duck session. The must-pass legislation is an appropriations measure to fund most federal agencies beyond Dec. 9, when a current stopgap expires. Military construction and Dept. of Veterans Affairs programs already have won funding for the full 2017 fiscal year, which ends next Sept. 30.

Many construction, waterways and port officials—and at least some key congressional lawmakers—also would like to see anew Water Resources Development Act approved before the current Congress ends. The Senate and House have approved differing WRDA versions but those differences have not yet been reconciled.

That WRDA measure would authorize at least several billion dollars for new Corps of Engineers flood control, dredging and other projects. It may also include drinking-water and wastewater-treatment funds.

Results for construction bond issues

Voters across the country also decided important construction-related ballot issues. California's Proposition 51, a measure allowing the state to sell $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new construction and upgrades of education facilities ($7 billion for K–12 public schools and $2 billion for community colleges) was leading 53% to 47%. It is the first school construction bond measure on the state's ballot since 2006, placed there by a coalition of builders.

In fast-growing Colorado, where a record $4-billion total of school bond money was up for decision, voters split on two of the largest totals. Denver residents overwhelmingly approved, by a 65% to 35% vote, a $628-million tax package for new construction and upgrades. But Jefferson County voters rejected a $568-million spending initiative by about 54% to 46%.

In California, voters narrowly decided, by 51-49%, as of 9 a.m. Nov. 9 a.m., against Proposition 53—the so-called "No Blank Check" initiative that required statewide voter approval for revenue bonds above $2 billion on a state-owned or managed project. The measure was largely funded by a Central Valley landowner opposed to a proposed $15-billion delta tunnel, known as the California Water Fix. The measure could also was set to have an impact on funding for the high-speed rail project.

The largest transportation improvement measure in the state, the $120-billion Measure M in Los Angeles was headed for passage, 68% to 32%, with not all precincts reporting. The Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan is a half-cent sales tax countywide with no sunset clause. It would fund a rail tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass and a subway extension to Santa Monica. As the measure will act as an extension of Measure R that funded the extension of the popular Expo Line in Santa Monica, polls showed enough support that it could reach the 67% supermajority level needed in California to pass tax measures.

Washington state voters favored the $54-billion Sound Transit Proposition 1 with a 55% approval rating, with most districts reporting. It increase sales tax by .5%, adds a motor vehicle excise tax reauthorization of up to .8% and authorizes $11-billion in bond sales to expand light rail and bus routs.

But state voters strongly rejected Initiative 732 by a margin of 59-41%. The measure would have imposed a carbon emission tax on the sale or use of certain fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-generated electricity, with the amount increasing gradually to $100 per metric ton.

A constitutional amendment in Illinois for a transportation tax "lockbox" to have collected funds spent exclusively on transportation projects has gained overwhelming voter support. Local media reported that the measure surpassed the 60% approval needed to become law.

In New Jersey, Question 2, which also would dedicate gas tax revenue to state road and rail projects, won 54% of the vote, with nearly all districts reporting. While proponents were optimistic of a win after a three-month standoff over transportation funding this summer shut all state road and rail projects until early October when a 23 cent-per-gal fuel tax deal was reached, some observers thought backlash over the increase might have spurred the measure to lose.

Colorado voters resoundingly defeated in an 80-20 split, Amendment 69, called ColoradoCares, which would have created the first state-run, single-payer health-care system in the U.S. Funded largely through payroll and income taxes, proponents say it would have provided universal care for residents and save on costs. But opponents, including many in the construction sector, cited its cost—between $25 billion and $36 billion. But voters agreed to a minimum wage increase, with a 55-45% split.

Alabama voters have approved enshrining the state's right to work law in its constitution. The Associated Builders and Contractors supported the move. Randall Curtis, Alabama chapter chairman, said the move would provide an additional layer of protection for employees by preserving their membership or non-membership in a labor union or organization from being used as a condition of employment. Others argued that it is redundant.

But Virginia voters disapproved a similar constitutional amendment. Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain proposed the change arguing that it would protect it from future legislators who could change the law. Opponents argued, however, that no attempt has been made to change the law in its 70-year history. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said the state's right-to-work law is neutral but the amendment as written was tilted against union membership.

South Dakota defeated by a large majority a measure that would allow unions to charge non-union workers a fee for such services they provide such as collective bargaining. Opponents argued that it would force workers to pay union dues. Others argued that it would simply allow unions to charge workers a “fair share” fee for the efforts provided by the union on their behalf.

In Arkansas, voters said yes to a proposal to remove the 5% annual cap on general obligation bonds that can be used to pay for economic development services and infrastructure used to attract large economic development projects. The 5% cap depends on annual revenue collections, but teeters around $300 million a year. Proponents argued it would help the state compete with other states for large development projects while opponents said there no longer would be a limit on the amount of state revenue used to support private projects.

The amendment also clarifies the authority of cities, counties and towns to sell bonds, but makes them contingent on voter approval.


Related: AEM Weighs in on the Election

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