Policy Landscape

Stopgap Funding To Keep Government Open Until Dec. 11; House Democrats Pass Revised COVID-19 Stimulus Bill as Pandemic Relief Negotiations Continue

Capitol Dome Dusk

A stopgap measure to fund the government until Dec. 11 at current spending levels passed the Senate Wednesday and was signed by President Trump early Thursday morning, narrowly avoiding an Oct. 1 government shutdown before the election.  (Reuters, Sept. 30 and Bloomberg, Oct. 1)

  • The “Continuing Resolution,” which passed the House last week, includes short-term funding extensions (with no policy changes) for surface transportation funding, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the EB-5 Regional Center Program.  (Rountable Weekly, Sept. 25, Text of H.R. 8337 and Section-by-section summary of the legislation)

  • As the government operations funding bill advanced this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) met face-to-face with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about an additional COVID-19 relief package for the first time since August.

  • Disagreements between Democrats and Republicans continued over the cost of a relief package, leading House Democrats Thursday night to pass a largely symbolic $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill by a narrow 214-207 vote.  Eighteen Democrats voted against the measure, which is a scaled-down version of the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House in May. The Senate is unlikely to consider the package.  (Forbes and NBC News, Oct. 1)
President Donald Trump comments in WH driveway
  • President Trump’s positive test for the coronavirus today adds great uncertainty to the political landscape and “changes the dynamic” of the pandemic relief talks, according to Pelosi.  “We always have to find a path, that is our responsibility to do so, and I believe that we will,” she said.  (Washington Post, Oct 2)

  • The White House has seemed willing to engage House Democrats in hopes of a deal, yet attracting enough support from Senate Republicans to pass another relief package over $1 trillion is a significant challenge. 

  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday said, "There's a real revulsion among Republicans to going above $1 trillion and even $1trillion is real difficult."  (CNN, Sept. 30)

  • Another issue in the negotiations remains Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) insistence on a liability shield for businesses that are concerned about unlimited COVID-related lawsuits after reopening.  McConnell said yesterday, “I'd like to see another rescue package. We've been trying for months to get there. I wish them well."  (AP, Oct. 1)

House lawmakers will depart Washington today until after the election – unless they are summoned back to vote on a COVID-19 legislative package deal.  The Senate is scheduled to remain in session next week as confirmation hearings begin Oct. 12 for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the President's nominee for the US Supreme Court.

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Energy and Environmental Policy

Roundtable Interview with US-EPA Administrator Covers ENERGY STAR, Coronavirus Guidance, and Brownfields Redevelopment in Opportunity Zones

Jeffrey DeBoer and Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, above right, met yesterday with Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO, Jeffrey D. DeBoer, above left, to discuss a wide range of energy and environmental policy matters that impact the U.S. real estate sector.  (Video on Roundtable’s YouTube page)

DeBoer interviewed Wheeler at The Roundtable’s offices in Washington, D.C., as part of a series of “listening sessions” between EPA and stakeholders.  Their discussion covered:

  • EPA’s development of a standardized process to systematically calculate the economic costs and environmental benefits of its regulatory programs (video at 3:29);

  • A “science transparency” regulation that makes the scientific studies relied upon by EPA available to the public (video at 4:56);

  • Wheeler’s implementation of a “lean management” system to streamline the agency’s procedures for project permitting and environmental reviews (video at 8:15);
Energy Star Tenant Space logo
  • ENERGY STAR building ratings, and EPA’s corollary Tenant Space program that will launch on October 13.  Wheeler stated he is a “strong” ENERGY STAR proponent, expanding the program to cover tenant spaces was “the right thing to do” – and that these platforms must remain voluntary to spur technological innovations deployed in buildings and manufacturing. ( video at 12:40);

  • EPA’s development of COVID-related guidance to help the economy re-open, such as updated Portfolio Manager benchmarking instructions to account for recent changes in building occupancy and hours of operations, EPA’s approvals of cleaning and disinfecting products to combat COVID-19, and information on flushing pipes and plumbing systems to maintain indoor water quality (see, e.g., Roundtable Weekly, July 31, 2020 and May 22, 2020) (video at 15:45)

  • Public-private partnerships to re-develop Brownfield sites in economically-distressed “opportunity zones” created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Wheeler remarked that every dollar EPA invests in a Brownfields clean-up leverages up to an estimated $20 dollars in private sector investment capital for surrounding low-income neighborhoods. ( video at 18:40)

  • Also yesterday, EPA career staff spoke to The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) regarding the imminent launch of the ENERGY STAR Tenant Space program on October 13.  Opportunities to certify high performance design and construction of leased office spaces will become a permanent EPA offering, and stem from the so-called “Tenant Star” law Congress passed in 2015 with the Roundtable’s strong backing.  (Commercial Property Executive, May 4, 2015)

The Roundtable participates in EPA’s Smart Sectors Program, the agency’s platform to collaborate with industry sectors to protect the environment and public health though sensible, cost-effective regulatory and incentive programs.  (EPA news release, Oct. 3, 2017)

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Roundtable Leadership

Roundtable Board of Directors Approves RER Leadership; Establishes Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Deb Cafaro and John Fish remote RER meeting

The Real Estate Roundtable’s 24-member Board of Directors has approved John F. Fish (CEO & Chairman, Suffolk), above right, as the organization’s Chair-Elect, to begin his term as Chairman of the Roundtable in mid-2021.  The Board also approved, effective immediately, Jodie W. McLean (CEO, Edens) as its Secretary and Jeff T. Blau (CEO, Related Companies) as the Chair of the organization’s newly established Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Committee.

  • Chair-Elect Fish will succeed current Roundtable Chair Debra A. Cafaro (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ventas, Inc.), above left, whose term expires July 1, 2021.  “The Board of Directors of The Real Estate Roundtable is excited to announce John Fish as our Chair-Elect and Jodie McLean as our Secretary,” said Cafaro.  “John has been an active Board member and has played a key role in developing our policy agenda.  He is active on a bipartisan basis with policymakers, and his experiences and accomplishments across business, government and philanthropy give John a broad perspective that will benefit the Roundtable and our members.  John’s emphasis on labor force issues, infrastructure, and the need to level the educational and economic opportunities for all Americans are particularly relevant as The Roundtable develops and advocates fact-based policies that create jobs and inclusive economic growth,” Cafaro added.

  • Mr. Fish stated, “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Roundtable Chair-Elect, work with the talented team and follow Debra Cafaro’s impressive record of policy accomplishments in Washington.  I have seen the effectiveness of the organization in advocating shared industry concerns to lawmakers and regulators, and strongly believe it is essential for The Real Estate Roundtable to continue its engagement at all levels of policy-making as the nation comes together to address new economic, societal and health challenges.”  (Roundtable news release, Sept. 30 and Roundtable video)

    About Fish and McLean

    EDENS CEO Jodie McLean
  • Mr. Fish is the Chairman and CEO of Suffolk, which is a national real estate and construction enterprise that invests, innovates and builds, providing value throughout the entire building lifecycle. Suffolk is one of the largest builders and privately held companies in the country, with main offices in the Northeast, New York, Florida, Texas and California. The company services clients in the aviation/transportation, science and technology, mission critical, commercial, education, healthcare, gaming and government sectors.  Mr. Fish is a former Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Boston, current Chair of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and member of the Mass General Brigham’s Executive Committee, and is serving his second term as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Boston College. 

  • Jodie W. McLean, above, is Chief Executive Officer of EDENS, one of the nation’s leading private owners, operators and developers of retail real estate.  She is responsible for EDENS’ strategy to move the portfolio to major urban centers, creating a portfolio of assets that are the center of community life.  Ms. McLean currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.  She also serves on the boards of Cushman & Wakefield and Extended Stay America, as well as boards of several other institutions and charities. 

    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commitment of RER

    Debra Cafaro, Ventas and Jeff Blau, Related
  • On his appointment as the Chair of the Real Estate Roundtable’s newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Mr. Blau, above right,  said, “As leaders, it is our obligation to enact fundamental change. I am honored to chair the ED&I committee and am eager to listen and be guided by diverse voices and perspectives as we work together to promote an industry that is reflective of the society we live in.” 

Roundtable Present and CEO, Jeffrey D. DeBoer commented, “I am delighted with these Board leadership decisions and, in particular, I look forward to implementing recommendations from our ED&I Committee that will help advance equal economic opportunities for all.”  (Roundtable news release, Sept. 30) 

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