Policy Issues
Energy, Infrastructure, Immigration & Labor

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

2018 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 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.

  Joint Employer Standard

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

 

✓ Recent Developments:

⇒ 09/14/2018      EPA;Energy
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: voluntary federal program, no EPA mandates.
    • Est. in 1998: Building owners/managers can “label” CRE assets to signal “top of class” energy performance to investors, tenants, workforce.
    • 34,625 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. 
  • Aug. 27, 2018: EPA releases first updates to ENERGY STAR scores in over a decade. 
  • Reason for new score change:  EPA switched from using 2003 to 2012 data on energy efficiency (see “Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, below).
    • Major strides occurred in improved building efficiency between 2003 and 2012. 
    • Thus, now more difficult to attain “top of class” energy performance relative to newer data.
  • Early feedback on EPA’s new model indicates arbitrary treatment for score declines in certain building types.
    • 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. 13, 2018: Based on early feedback, EPA announces “review period” to assess reasons for ENERGY STAR declines and consider any necessary changes to scoring models.
    • New EPA certifications for office, industrial buildings temporarily suspended during review period.
    • Review period completion expected spring 2019.
    • With guidance and input from Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC), Roundtable to participate in EPA’s review period.
        

✓ 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)

  • 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).
  • RER June 2018 Meeting: 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.    
  • July 2018: Further input provided by Sustainability Comm. to shape tenant energy use survey.

✓ 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.  

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

Depending on outcome of November 2018 elections: Infrastructure could be key area of compromise between Trump and Congressional Democrats in 2019.  Other than further study and hearings, no comprehensive package expected before 2018 midterms.

✓ EB-5 Investor Program

  • Extended through Sept. 30, 2018, via federal omnibus spending bill passed in March.
  • Expected: Latest CR to keep government running to Dec. 7, 2018 to include another straight extension of EB-5. Extension through Dec. 7, 2018 will be 14th 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.
     
  • 2015-2017:  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. 
     
  • Sept. 4, 2018:  Roundtable hospitality CEOs meet with President Trump in meeting arranged by U.S. Travel Ass’n .
    • Message: U.S. can be most secure and welcoming country to int’l tourists.
    • Impact:  Foreign inbound travel is a major export that reduces trade imbalance.
    • Ask:  Support efforts for Congress to reauthorize “Brand USA,” the nation’s tourism marketing program.
    •  
  • June 27, 2018:  Roundtable CEO Jeff DeBoer attends Hill-visit day with other travel industry CEOs, push for Brand USA reauthorization.
    • Legislation needed to authorize BUSA after anticipated 2020 expiration.
    • ROI analysis shows every dollar spent on BUSA marketing generates 28 dollars in foreign visitor spending.
    • BUSA supported by fees on foreign inbound travelers (not US taxpayers).
     
  • May 29, 2018:  Roundtable, VisitUS 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.
        

✓ 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  

✓ 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 

 

 

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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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