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GOP Chair: Details on Trump Infrastructure Plan Expected in June

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Highways and Transit Subcommittee said he expect details soon on President Trump’s infrastructure plan, which the administration outlined broadly in its budget proposal this week.

According to preliminary reports, states would be required to have matching money in order to get federal funds. The Legislature this year defeated a plan supported by numerous groups and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure that would have produced matching funds.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. told reporters Thursday he “absolutely” expects to hear more guidance about Trump’s rebuilding package in the coming weeks. “[Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao] said that the administration is going to be releasing their details on the infrastructure bill later this month, maybe the first part of June,” Graves said.

Trump’s infrastructure plan calls for $200 billion in transportation spending over 10 years to create $1 trillion worth of overall investment through public-private partnerships. The White House said it wants to encourage more public assets to be sold off to the private sector, expand an existing infrastructure loan program, and reduce tolling restrictions on existing interstate highways, among other things.

Chao told reporters that more details would be forthcoming, including a full legislative package expected to be unveiled later this summer. “With these principles being made public and available, we will have a conversation with stakeholders and … build out a legislative package,” Chao said.


BUSINESS BORROWING IS UP

Reuters reported that borrowing by U.S. companies to spend on capital investment rose 8 percent in April, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said. Companies signed up for $7.9 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, the trade group said.

“Whether this robust activity was the result of slightly rising interest rates or reflective of sound fundamentals in the U.S. economy is yet to be determined,” ELFA Chief Executive Ralph Petta said in a statement. “What is known, however, is that the equipment finance business is off to a good start this year.”

ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 75.9 percent in April, up from 74.5 percent in March. ELFA’s leasing and finance index measures the volume of commercial equipment financed in the United States. It is designed to complement the U.S. Commerce Department’s durable goods orders report, which it typically precedes by a few days.


FARMER SUED OVER WATERS OF THE U.S. RULE INVOLVING HIS OWN LAND

A Redding, Calif., farmer faces trial in federal court this summer and a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his field and plant wheat under the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Record-Searchlight reported.

Anthony Francois, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation representing Duarte Nursery, said the case is important because it could set a precedent requiring other farmers to obtain costly, time-consuming permits just to plow their fields. “The case is the first time that we’re aware of that says you need to get a (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) permit to plow to grow crops,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller agreed with the Army Corps in a judgment issued in June 2016. A penalty trial, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office asks for $2.8 million in civil penalties, is set for August.

The case began in 2012 when John Duarte bought 450 acres of land and planned to grow wheat, the newspaper said. He hired a consulting firm to map out areas that could not be plowed under “Waters of the U.S.” rule. The Army Corps ordered a work stoppage because Duarte allegedly violated the Clean Water Act by not obtaining a permit to discharge dredged or fill material into seasonal wetlands considered waters of the United States.

Duarte sued, alleging a violation of his constitutional right of due process for issuing the cease and desist orders without a hearing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office counter-sued.

Francois said farmers plowing their fields are specifically exempt from the Clean Water Act rules forbidding discharging material into U.S. waters. “A plain reading of the rules says you don’t need a permit to do what he did,” Francois said. The government disputed his contention.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Healthcare Bill Would Cut Taxes by $663 Billion
The HILL (Weixel 05/24) “The healthcare bill passed by the House earlier this month will cut taxes by about $663 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The estimates don’t include tax changes affecting health insurance coverage, which were included in a separate analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

“One of the largest sources of savings in the bill, estimated at $144 billion over a decade, would be the repeal of ObamaCare’s annual tax on health insurance providers. Ending the tax is a priority for insurers, and both Democrats and Republicans have voted to delay its start. The repeal would be retroactively effective as of Jan. 31, 2016.”

Republicans Introduce Bill to Scrap ‘Micro-Unions’
The HILL (Wheeler 05/25) “Republicans are reigniting efforts to scrap a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that allows unions to organize employees in so-called micro-unions. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) re-introduced the Representation Fairness Restoration Act this week to reverse the board’s 2011 ruling that adopted a new standard for determining appropriate bargaining units. In the case of allowing a group of certified assistants at a nursing home to form a union, the board found that such unions are appropriate so long as they consist of a clearly identifiable group of employees who share a common interest.

“Critics claim the NLRB ruling encourages small groups of employees within a store, restaurant or company to organize, complicating management. ‘The National Labor Relations Board’s decision to allow micro-unions fractures workplaces and makes it harder and more expensive for employers to manage their workplace and do business – all for the sake of boosting organized labor’, (Tennessee Sen. Lamar) Alexander said in a statement. ‘For example, your local department store could splinter into dozens of factions that the employer must now negotiate with – with the men’s clothing department, the bedding department, the fragrance department, and the women’s shoe department all represented by separate unions that are fighting over who gets the better raises and break rooms’.”

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