Policy Issues
Energy, Environment, Infrastructure, Immigratrion & Other Policies

Ensuring Sensible Policies in the Areas of Energy, Environment Infrastructure & Other Policies     

2018 Policy Issues Snapshot
M
ore background on various Energy, Environment, Land Use and Infrastructure 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 2018 National Policy AgendaA Building For the Future, 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.

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

  Joint Employer Standard

✓ Recent Developments:

⇒ 06/01/2018      Travel and Tourism Policy
THE ECONOMY, TOURISM AND CRE - June 1, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Roundtable, Industry Coalition Voice Concerns That “Enhanced Vetting” Proposal Could Dampen Economy by Deterring International Visitors to U.S. 

⇒ 04/27/2018      Infrastructure;Transportation Policy
INFRASTRUCTURE AND BUILDINGS - April 27, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Passes FAA Reauthorization, Including Roundtable-Backed “One Engine Inoperative” Language Regarding Allowable Building Height 

⇒ 04/13/2018      Jobs/Unemployment;Travel and Tourism Policy
JOBS, TOURISM and CRE - April 13, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Trump Administration Proposes Increased Vetting of Foreign Tourists; VisitUS Coalition Encourages International Travel as Key to Domestic Growth 

⇒ 03/23/2018      Budget;Congress
BUDGET & POLICY LANDSCAPE - March 23, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Congress Passes Omnibus $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Funding Government Through September; Two-Week Congressional Recess Begins

✓ EPA's Energy Star:     

  • Roundtable, other national real estate organizations support ENERGY STAR: voluntary federal program, no EPA mandates.
    » Est. in 1990s: Building owners/managers can "label" CRE assets to signal top energy performance for investors, tenants. 
    » 44 billion sq. ft. of U.S. commercial floor space use ENERGY STAR's free, online tool to measure energy, water, waste in buildings, across portfolios.
  •  "Business case" for ENERGY STAR:  Creates jobs, enhances competitiveness, improves energy independence, saves money for U.S. families, businesses on utility bills. 
  • Key change in Trump Admin's support: Proposed FY 19' budget (released in February) continued funding for ENERGY STAR. Last year's budget proposed de-funding. 
  • Congress appropriated dollars to fun ENERGY STAR through Sept. 30,2018 (via omnibus spending bill passed in March).
  • Trump FY’19 budget recommends EPA explore supporting ENERGY STAR with “user fees” (as opposed to taxpayer dollars, congressional appropriations).  No legislation, regulations yet proposed to move to a “user fee” funding model.
  • Roundtable, other real estate groups, continue to advocate:
    • EPA should receive adequate, sustained funding to continue the program.
    • Keep status quo for ENERGY STAR buildings, even if appliance-side of label program needs reforms.
    • EPA (not Energy Dep’t) should continue managing ENERGY STAR buildings, as it has done for almost two decades.
     

✓ New EPA Labels for High-Performance Tenant Spaces

  • Federal ENERGY STAR funding also affects new EPA Charter Tenant program, to label leased spaces for high-efficiency design and construction.
  • Charter Tenants a key program from the 2015 “Tenant Star” law, originally envisioned and long-supported by Roundtable.
  • Significant successes thus far:
    • Broad geographic, market diversity across U.S. for spaces seeking EPA’s tenant label.
    • June 12, 2018: EPA to announce inaugural Charter Tenant “winners” in June 2018. First-ever federal awards to CRE tenants for energy efficiency.

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

  • U.S. Energy Department's data gathering arm laying groundwork for first-ever national survey on commercial tenant energy use (along with whole-building "CBECS" survey).
  • Spring 2018: DOE soliciting CRE industry input to develop survey questions to gather building, tenant energy usage data.  Nation-wide survey on “submetering” tenant spaces, individual systems expected.    
  • Aug. 2018: Current building ENERGY STAR scores will likely change – and many will drop – when most recent, completed CBECS data (from 2012) updates EPA’s labels.

✓ 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.
  • 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 for infrastructure re-building.
  • 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.

January 2018: Roundtable letter to POTUS urging action on infrastructure legislation, outlining policies listed above and reflecting key aspects of Trump’s plan. 

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.  

Depending on outcome of November 2018 elections: Infrastructure could be key area of compromise between Trump and Congressional Dem

 

✓ EB-5 Investor Program

  • Extended through Sept. 30, 2018, via federal omnibus spending bill passed in March.

⇒ 03/23/2018      Budget;Congress
BUDGET & POLICY LANDSCAPE - March 23, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Congress Passes Omnibus $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Funding Government Through September; Two-Week Congressional Recess Begins

✓ Encouraging Foreign Tourism to U.S.

  • February 2018: Roundtable joins “Visit U.S.” coalition, led by other tourism, hospitality, groups 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.
     
  • 2015-2017:  US lost market share in foreign inbound travel by 1.7 %.  Yet, global travel volume increased.
    • If US maintained 2015 level of market share, would have gained 7.4 million international visitors; $32.2 billion add’l spending; 100K add’l US jobs.
    • Spending by foreign travelers visiting America is an export that helps bridge the US trade deficit
     
  • May 29, 2018:  Roundtable, coalition provide comments expressing concerns to State Dep’t “extreme vetting” proposal.
    • State wants detailed information (including 5 yrs. social media, int’l travel history) from all 15 million visitors estimated to enter US on a visa each year.
    • Currently, such enhanced information is requested only from discrete subset of visa applicants presenting a “threat profile” to national security.  As proposed, all visa applicants would now be subject to such enhanced vetting.
    • Visitors from China, India, Mexico and other non-“visa waiver” countries would be impacted.
    • May 29 comments explain chilling effect on inbound travel from new visa requirements.  They would not demonstrably improve national security, yet dampen economic growth and worsen foreign trade imbalance.

✓ 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.
  • Scaffold Reform advocacy could be rolled-into any infrastructure package negotiations that may occur after November 2018 elections.

⇒ 02/02/2018      Infrastructure
INFRASTRUCTURE & LABOR POLICY - February 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Judiciary Committee Passes Infrastructure Expansion Act to Counter Inequities in “Scaffold Law” 

⇒ 01/19/2018      Infrastructure;Labor Policy
INFRASTRUCTURE & LABOR POLICY - January 19, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
The Roundtable and 17 Real Estate, Insurance and Contracting Organizations Urge Passage of Infrastructure Expansion Act to Counter Inequities in “Scaffold Law”   Despite improved commercial property values and investor interest in key gateway cities during the 3rd quarter, lingering macroeconomic problems continue 

 

✓ 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.
  • November 2017: House passes H.R. 3441 along mostly party lines, which would reverse Browning Ferris’s broader joint employer theory. Senate yet to act, no votes planned.
  • December 2017:  Trump-era NLRB overrules Browning-Ferris with Hy-Brand decision.  Reinstates traditional employer liability test to “direct and immediate” control over wage, benefits, safety, and other workplace matters.
  • February 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.

  03/02/2018      
LABOR POLICY - JOINT EMPLOYER - March 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
NLRB Restores Broad, Obama-Era "Joint Employer" Standard; Industry Coalition Calls for Congress to Pass Unified National Definition 

  12/15/2017      
LABOR POLICY - December 15, 2017 - Roundtable Weekly 
NLRB Reinstates Employer Liability Test to "Direct and Immediate Control" Over Workplace Matters, Overturning Obama-Era "Joint Employer" Standard 

  11/10/2017      
LABOR POLICY - November 10, 2017 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Passes Bill to Overturn NLRB's "Joint Employer" Ruling  

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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 Joyce Mihalik (Forest City 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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