Policy Issues
Energy, Infrastructure, Immigration & Labor

Ensuring Sensible Policies in the Areas of Energy, Infrastructure & Labor   

2019 Policy Issues Snapshot
M
ore background on various Energy, Infrastructure, Immigration, & Labor policy issues can be found in recent issues of Roundtable Weekly — our weekly policy eNewsletter that can searched by key word or phrase.  

The Roundtable's 2019 National Policy Agenda, also includes sections on Energy Efficiency and Infrastructure.

  EPA's ENERGY STAR Program

  New EPA Labels for High-Performance Tenant Spaces

  "Big Data" for Energy in Building:  Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

  Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) 

  EB-5 Investor Program

  Encouraging Foreign Tourism to U.S.

  Joint Employer Standard

  Scaffold Law – Tort Reform, Property Owner Liability at Construction Sites

 

✓ Recent Developments:

⇒ 02/01/2019      Infrastructure
POLICY LANDSCAPE - Feb. 1, 2019 - Roundtable Weekly 
Lawmakers Focus on Preventing Second Partial Government Shutdown; House Committees Prep for Action on Tax and Infrastructure Issues 

⇒ 11/30/2018      Energy
ENERGY POLICY - November 30, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Roundtable Submits Recommendations to Improve ENERGY STAR Scoring Models; EPA Seeks Additional Feedback from Building Owners 

⇒ 09/14/2018      EPA
ENERGY POLICY - September 14, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
EPA to Commence Review Period of New ENERGY STAR Building Scores; Office, Industrial Certifications Temporarily Suspended Pending Further Analysis 

⇒ 09/07/2018      Travel and Tourism Policy
INTERNATIONAL TOURISM AND ECONOMIC GROWTH - September 7, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Hospitality CEOs Meet With President Trump to Advocate Reauthorization of Brand USA Program; Visa Application Process Improvements 

⇒ 08/17/2018      Energy
ENERGY POLICY - August 17, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
New ENERGY STAR Building Scores Available August 27 

⇒ 08/17/2018      Economy;Travel and Tourism Policy
INTERNATIONAL TOURISM, ECONOMIC GROWTH & CRE - August 17, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Trump 2016 Campaign Advisor: Boost Foreign Tourism to Lower the Trade Deficit 

⇒ 08/03/2018      Workforce and Low-Income Housing
WORKFORCE & LOW-INCOME HOUSING - August 3, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Create Task Force on Affordable Housing Policy 

⇒ 07/27/2018      Infrastructure
INFRASTRUCTURE - July 27, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Proposal Suggests Gas Tax Increase, Public-Private Partnerships to Fund Infrastructure Improvements 

⇒ 06/29/2018      Travel and Tourism Policy
FOREIGN TOURISM AND THE U.S. ECONOMY - June 29, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
“VisitU.S.” Advocates Reauthorization of Brand USA Travel and Tourism Program; Improving Efficiency of Visa Application Process 

 ⇒ 06/15/2018      Energy
ENERGY POLICY - June 15, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
EPA Recognizes Roundtable Members with “ENERGY STAR for Tenants” Award for High Performance Office Spaces - June 15, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 

✓ EPA's Energy Star:     

  • Roundtable, other national real estate organizations support ENERGY STAR.
    • Est. in 1998: Building owners/managers can “label” CRE assets to signal “top of class” energy performance to investors, tenants, workforce.
    • 35,000 buildings and plants (more than 5 billion sq. ft.) certified as ENERGY STAR since program’s inception.   
    • 44 billion sq. ft. commercial floor space use ENERGY STAR’s free, online tool to measure energy, water, waste in buildings. 
  • “Business case” for ENERGY STAR:  Creates jobs, enhances competitiveness, improves energy independence, saves money for U.S. families, businesses on utility bills. 
    • While not mandatory at federal level, state/local regulations in major urban markets require owners to use ENERGY STAR to benchmark, disclose building energy use.  
  • Aug. 2018: EPA releases updates to ENERGY STAR office scores. 
    • Reason for score change:  EPA switched from using 2003 to 2012 data on energy efficiency (see “Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, below).
    • U.S. building energy efficiency vastly improved between 2003 and 2012.
    • Thus, now more difficult to attain “top of class” ENERGY STAR in light of updated data. 
  • Industry feedback on EPA’s new scores raised problems with latest ratings methods.
    • E.g.: Very large office buildings, in colder climates, relying on external heat sources (district steam) have greater score drops compared to similar buildings. 
  • Sept. 2018: EPA announces “review period” to assess reasons for ENERGY STAR score declines and consider any necessary changes to rating methods.
  • Nov. 2018: RER submits detailed "review period" comments, recommending changes in data collection and scoring models to rate ENERGY STAR buildings.
    • New EPA certifications for office, industrial buildings temporarily suspended during "review period."
    • EPA closed during government shutdown, so unclear when "review period: will end and agency will re-start issuing new ENERGY STAR building certifications.

✓ New EPA Labels for High-Performance Tenant Spaces

  • June 2018: EPA announces 49 inaugural recipients of “ENERGY STAR for Tenants” award.
    • First-ever federal award for office tenant energy efficiency
  • Winners reflect broad geographic, market diversity: 4.2 million sq. ft. leased space. New label for tenants who commit to high-performance design and construction of leased spaces – to complement traditional ENERGY STAR “whole-building” recognition.
  • Charter Tenants a key program from the 2015 “Tenant Star” law, originally envisioned and long-supported by Roundtable

✓ "Big Data" for Energy in Buildings: Federal Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

  • CBECS is a program of the U.S. Energy Department's data gathering arm.
    •  The only national survey that measures energy consumption in the stock of U.S. commercial buildings.  
  • CBECS is importation to CRE because EPA uses this data for ENERGY STAR scores.    
  • April 2019: The latest CBECS survey will be sent to owners across the U.S. to report on building energy use.
  • January 2019: RER meets with senior DOE staff to encourage better coordination with EPA in CBECS upcoming data gathering.
    • Prior CBECS surveys failed to adequately capture energy information for "large" U.S. buildings (>500k sqft.)
    • RER urges DOE staff to correct this problem, work with EPA to obtain "large" building data - as the groundwork for more accurate ENERGY STAR scores.  
  • Upcoming CBECS data moves in right direction - at RER's urging - to ask first-ever national survey questions regarding tenant space energy use.

✓ Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

Roundtable's infrastructure policy:

  • Responsibly increase the “pay at the pump” federal gas tax that funds most U.S. roads and transit (hasn’t been raised since 1990s).  Index to inflation going forward.
  • Support P3 financing, so public funds can leverage private debt and equity.
  • Enhance and expand credit support programs (TIFIA for surface transportation, RRIF for rails and transit) that use federal loans and guarantees to attract private investment.
  • Optimize policies (e.g., FIRPTA) to bring foreign investment capital into U.S. for infrastructure.
  • “Marketplace fairness” for states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases, use those revenues to support infrastructure finance.
  • Streamline project permitting and approval process.
  • Couple revenue collected from state/local “value capture strategies” like tax increment finance (TIF) and special assessment districts (SAD), with federal loans under US-DOT’s TIFIA program to spur more infrastructure development.

Jan. 2018: Roundtable letter to POTUS urging action on infrastructure legislation, outlining policies listed above.

Feb. 2018: Trump Admin. releases broad plan to rebuild transportation, water, energy grid, and broadband systems across U.S.. 

    ✓   $200 billion in direct federal spending proposed to leverage total $1.5 trillion.

   ✓   Under Trump plan, rural areas benefit with outright grants.  Urban projects (e.g., mass transit) emphasize state/local revenue to trigger federal cost share, and private sector capital contributions.

    ✓   US-DOT would limit fed grants for urban transit (e.g., Gateway, Hudson River tunnel): No more than 20% of total costs.  

March 2018: Senate Democrats release their own $1 trillion infrastructure plan, heavy reliance on taxpayer spending (not P3s).

 

✓ EB-5 Investor Program

  • Current: EB-5 lapsed after latest government funding CR expired on Dec. 21, 2018. The shutdown has stalled DHS immigration programs, including EB-5.
  • Expected:  Another straight extension of EB-5. This will be 16th status quo continuation since Sept. 2015.    

✓ Encouraging Foreign Tourism to U.S.

  • Roundtable is a member of “Visit U.S.” coalition:  Tourism, hotel, retail organizations aligned to grow economy and create jobs by boosting foreign travel to U.S.
    • Robust international travel helps power U.S. commercial real estate markets through tourism dollars directly spent at hospitality, retail, attraction, housing, and investment properties in America.
     
  • 2015-2018:  Global long-haul travel is up. But US is losing market share compared to other countries, which are attracting more tourists.
    •  China, France, Spain, Canada and numerous other countries are outpacing U.S. travel sector growth.
    • If US maintained 2015 level of market share, would have gained 7.4 million international visitors; $32.2 billion additional spending; 100K additional US jobs. 
  • Message: U.S. can be most secure and welcoming country to international tourists.
    • Impact:  Foreign inbound travel is a major export that reduces trade imbalance. 
  •  Roundtable supports efforts for Congress to extend "Brand USA" before it expires in 2020.
    • Nov. 2018: Roundtable joins 600 groups in letter to Hill leadership requesting re-authorization of Brand USA.
    • BUSA is a public-private partnership. Private sector contributions provide dollar-for-dollar match of fees collected by foreign travelers to fund the program. No taxpayer dollars used.
    • BUSA has a 29:1 ROI ratio. For every dollar spent on the problem, $29 come into the U.S. through foreign visitor spending.
        

✓ Joint Employer Standard  

  • Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision in Browning-Ferris: “Parent”-level company liable for employment, workplace conditions controlled by independent contractors and franchise operators who hire “indirect” employees.
  • Nov. 2017: House passes H.R. 3441 along mostly party lines, which would reverse Browning Ferris’s broader joint employer theory.
  • Feb. 2018: Obama-era Browning-Ferris re-instated.  Trump NLRB appointee who provided decisive vote in Hy-Brand should have recused himself because he worked on the case while in private practice.  Politics at NLRB illustrates why Congressional fix remains important.
  • Jan. 2019: D.C. Circuit appeals court largely upholds Obama-era standard, making it an easier path for courts to find an expanded joint employer relationship.
  • Feb. 2019: Latest round of comments due to NLRD, taking into account D.C. Circuit's decision.

✓ Scaffold Law - Tort Reform, Property Owner Liability at Construction Sites

  • NY State “Scaffold Law”:  Renders property owners, general contractors “absolutely liable” for workers’ height-related injuries from construction, renovation, cleaning projects.
  • Workers’ self-inflicted negligence not relevant under Scaffold Law.  In contrast, all other states use “comparative negligence” to proportionately reduce court damages where worker partially causes own injuries.
  • Scaffold Law’s absolute injury standard drives up liability insurance premiums for NYS projects.
  • HR 3808, introduced fall 2018: Height-related workers’ injuries at “Federally-assisted” projects must be judged under “comparative negligence” standard.
  • January 2018: House Judiciary Committee passes H.R. 3808 along party lines.  Roundtable spearheads letter to Congress to support HR 3808 with other real estate, contracting, insurance groups.

 

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For weekly updates on key policy issues affecting commercial real estate, see our eNewsletter   Roundtable Weekly 

The Roundtable's Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is led by Chairman Tony Malkin (Empire State Realty Trust) and Daniel Egan (Vornado Realty Trust) serving as Vice Chair.  For additional information on sustainability, infrastructure, immigration, and land use issues, please contact Duane Desiderio, Senior Vice President and Counsel at The Real Estate Roundtable or call (202) 639-8400.

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