Policy Landscape

House Passes Government Funding Extension Until March 11 as Appropriators Signal Progress on FY2022 Omnibus

Capitol building

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would prevent a government shutdown on Feb. 18 by extending current government funding levels for three weeks, through March 11. The CR, which also applies to the National Flood Insurance Program, moves to the Senate for consideration next week. (CR legislative text and summary

CR & Omnibus 

  • If passed by the Senate, the CR would give lawmakers additional time to finalize a separate “omnibus” spending bill for fiscal year 2022, which runs from Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022. (BGov, Feb. 9)

  • House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders announced on Wednesday a “framework” deal for top-line spending levels for defense and domestic funding. Such an agreement would clear the way for congressional committees to complete a sweeping 12-bill spending bundle, which could amount to a $1.5 trillion omnibus package funding government operations into the fall. (PoliticoPro, Feb. 10)

  • A full-year omnibus package would also release an additional $197 billion over 10 years for energy, transportation, and other programs that were part of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. (BGov, Feb. 9 and CQ, Feb. 10) 

Omni & BBB 

Sen. Joe Manchin
  • The “omni” funding bill is now a focus of Congress since President Biden’s multi-trillion Build Back Better (BBB) Act has been sidelined on Capitol Hill. (Politico, Feb. 10)

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), above, – a key vote in the 50-50 Senate – said on Sunday that he sees a government funding package as a higher priority than the stalled BBB bill. ‘We have to get a budget bill first,’ Manchin said. (CNN, Feb 6)

  • Manchin this week also expressed his reluctance to endorse additional federal spending, after news that consumer inflation rose to 7.5%, the largest 12-month increase in four decades. (BGov, Feb. 10)

  • Manchin’s statement included, “It’s beyond time for the Federal Reserve to tackle [inflation] head on, and Congress and the Administration must proceed with caution before adding more fuel to an economy already on fire. As inflation and our $30 trillion in national debt continue a historic climb, only in Washington, DC do people seem to think that spending trillions more of taxpayers’ money will cure our problems, let alone inflation,” Manchin said.  (Newsweek, Feb. 10) 

The start of the 2023 fiscal year cycle is approaching as Congress aims to pass an omnibus for the current year by March. President Biden is expected to release his FY2023 budget request shortly after his State of the Union address on March 1.  

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Corporate Disclosure Rules

SEC Proposes Increased Oversight for Private Investment Funds; Delay Reported for Proposed Climate Risk Rule

SEC logo - image

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Feb. 9 proposed expansive, new disclosure requirements for private investment funds, while an anticipated proposed rule that could require issuers to report on GHG emissions has been delayed. (Wall Street Journal Feb. 9 and Bloomberg, Feb. 8) 

Proposed Rules & Private Funds

  • This week’s proposed rule, if approved, would require private-equity and hedge-fund managers to provide statements on fund performance, compensation, fees and expenses. The proposal passed the Commission on a 3-1 party-line vote, with one dissenting Republican. (PoliticoPro, Feb. 9)
     
  • Managed Funds Association President and CEO Bryan Corbett responded, “The SEC’s proposed additional regulations on private funds will harm the most sophisticated investors, including pensions, endowments and foundations, who rely on these funds to serve their beneficiaries. The agency's treatment of private funds as if they were serving retail investors is misguided.” (Pensions and Investments, Feb. 8)

Climate Risk Disclosures & CRE 

SEC Chair Gary Gensler
  • Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY), French Hill (R-AR) and Bill Huizenga (R-MI) on Oct 6, 2021 wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler, above, claiming the SEC lacks jurisdiction to create and implement policies affecting private, non-market companies. “Lest there be any doubt, we wish to emphasize that the SEC has no authority to impose public disclosure obligations—regarding climate or otherwise— on private businesses that have not accessed the public capital markets,” the Members wrote. 
  • Bloomberg reported this week that the SEC has delayed the release of a separate proposed rule that could require REITs and other issuers to disclose GHG emissions and climate-related financial risks in their Commission filings.  (Bloomberg, Feb. 8) 
  • The climate risk proposal may extend into March or later, according to Bloomberg. Gensler previously announced it would be released last year. (Roundtable Weekly, June 11, 2021 and Reuters, May 6, 2021). 
  • The SEC’s climate proposal is widely expected to evolve into the first-ever federal rule that will require companies to measure and report on GHG emissions they directly cause (“Scope 1”), and emissions attributable to their electricity purchases (“Scope 2”). 
     
  • A brewing controversy is whether the SEC might also direct issuers to estimate and report on indirect “Scope 3” emissions up and down corporate supply chains. (Reuters, Jan. 19)
     
  • If the Commission potentially mandates “Scope 3” disclosures, the requirement could possibly impose new obligations on some commercial property owners to report on the emissions of their tenants – and some banks to report on the emissions of their borrowers.
     
  • Pre-rulemaking comments filed by The Roundtable last year, developed in close coordination with Nareit, point out that building owners should not be required to disclose tenant emissions simply because property owners do not even have access to leased-space energy data in many instances.
     
  • Any proposed rule from the SEC will trigger a public feedback process, followed by internal agency review, before it would take effect. 

The SEC’s climate rule is considered a major environmental initiative of the Biden Administration, particularly as GHG reduction provisions in the Build Back Better Act face a steep climb to pass the Senate. (Bloomberg, Feb. 8) 

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Cannabis

House Passes Cannabis Reform Banking Legislation to Provide Safe Harbor for Financial Service Providers and CRE Owners

U.S. Capitol

A Roundtable-supported bill that would allow federally regulated banks to provide mortgage and financial services to state-licensed, cannabis-related businesses (“CRBs”) – without the threat of penalties under federal law – passed the House on Feb. 4. 

A SAFE Harbor 

  • The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1996) would provide commercial property owners a safe harbor if they lease space to a state-approved CRB, whose mortgages would not be subjected to corrective action by a bank under federal law.

  • The SAFE Banking Act was approved by the House last week after it was added as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, a bill that aims to make the U.S. more competitive with China. (The Hill, Feb. 4)

  • The cannabis reform bill has been introduced in every Congress since 2013 by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) – and has now passed the House six times as a standalone bill or an amendment to a larger legislative package.

  • Perlmutter, who plans to retire from the House at the end of this year, said, “Cannabis-related businesses — big and small — and their employees are in desperate need of access to the banking system and access to capital in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner and compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace.” (NJ.com, Feb. 7)

  • The Real Estate Roundtable is a long-standing supporter of the SAFE Banking Act. Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer noted in a March 2019 letter to policymakers that the bill “… clarifies that banks could not take adverse action on a loan to a real estate owner solely because that owner leases property to a legitimate CRB. The measure also protects sellers and lessors of real estate and other CRB ‘service providers’ by clarifying that proceeds from legitimate marijuana-related transactions do not derive from unlawful activity, and thus do not provide a predicate for federal criminal money laundering.” (Roundtable letter, March 25, 2019)

  • Cannabis has been legalized in 18 states since 2010, and 37 have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. (HuffPost, Feb. 10)

  • The estimated value of the U.S. cannabis industry is $17.7 billion, a substantial amount of which remains unbanked. As of January 2021, the legal cannabis industry supports 321,000 jobs across the country. (Perlmutter news release, April 19, 2021) 

Senate Consideration 

Rep. Ed Perlmutter
  • The America COMPETES Act now heads to the Senate for consideration and a likely legislative conference with House policymakers. Perlmutter, above, commented that if the SAFE Banking Act is rejected once again by the Senate, he would attach the cannabis reform measure to “some other bills coming up over the course of the next month or two.”

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) assured Rep. Perlmutter that she will push for passage of the SAFE Banking Act bill. Perlmutter said, “[Pelosi] understands, too, that I'm committed to put this on anything that I can. She sees it – and I hope the Senate ultimately sees it – as inevitable.” (PoliticoPro, Feb. 4)

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KT) on Feb. 8 described the SAFE Banking measure as a “poison pill” amendment. “China has been steadily building up its military and economic might, and the Democrats’ answer is to help Americans get high?” McConnell said. (MarketWatch, Feb. 8)
     
  • In a separate cannabis reform effort, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), yesterday sent a “dear colleague” letter to solicit input about a Senate bill seeking to legalize marijuana at the federal level with the addition of social justice measures

Schumer’s bill is likely to attract more Republican opposition than the SAFE Banking Act. 

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