Election 2016: What does it mean to the aggregates industry?

Therese Dunphy

November 9, 2016

political parties

On Nov. 8, Donald J. Trump defied all polls and pundits to be elected as the 45th president of the United States. The morning after the election, before all state voting tallies were final or all the outcome of the last races had been determined, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association hosted a town hall meeting entitled “From Congress to the Quarries” to highlight candidate results, ballot initiatives, and opportunities created by outcomes already confirmed.

“It was — on balance — a very good night if you’re an NSSGA member and concerned about the issues we are active on with our advocacy,” said Mike Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO.

 

Presidential priorities

Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States. He will serve as the nation's 45th president.
Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States. He will serve as the nation’s 45th president.

During Donald J. Trump’s acceptance speech, infrastructure issues were an early priority. “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals, which will become, by the way, second to none,” the president-elect said. “We will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it. We are going to get to work immediately for the American people.”

Johnson said he expects a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill to be introduced during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. In addition, executive orders from President Obama will be quickly dispatched.

“He already has put together a list of Obama executive orders that he plans to repeal in the first week. A number of things our industry cares about will be on that list,” Johnson said. “We intend to hold his feet to the fire on regulatory reform. Now is the time. There are no more excuses.”

Executive orders on the following topics are likely to be repealed, Johnson said:

  • Waters of the U.S.,
  • Silica,
  • MSHA’s civil penalties,
  • MSHA’s pattern of violations, and
  • The workplace exam rule.

“It really will be an opportunity for significant regulatory reform on the issues we care about most,” Johnson said. “In addition, we can be assured there will be a new head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.” In fact, agency heads will likely change across the board, and NSSGA plans to make suggestions to the Trump transition team on some of those appointees. Johnson said he would like to see the new MSHA chief come from within the aggregates industry.

With the same party in control of both Congress and the White House, Johnson noted that the industry needs to consider whether this is the time to open the Mine Act and seek significant reform there as well.

“Last, but certainly not least, we really do believe that something that has been talked a lot about but hasn’t had a lot of progress on in recent years — comprehensive tax reform — does have legs with a Trump administration,” Johnson said, noting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are already working to craft a package of significant changes to both the individual and business tax codes.

 

 Congressional changes

While the presidential race was clearly a change election, the referendum for change did not extend to the Senate, which was thought by many pundits to be in play, or the House of Representatives, which was considered to be fairly safe.

Johnson reported that 94 percent of candidates supported by RockPac were returned to Congress. “That’s a remarkable number, and it gives us a great base from which to work as we try to move forward with that $1 trillion infrastructure investment and that regulatory reform agenda,” Johnson said.

Jim Riley, NSSGA senior director of government affairs, noted that RockPac candidates won 229 of the 243 races in the 2016 season, with three races that remained too close to call by the time of the town hall meeting.

“If you’d asked anyone in DC even up to even a couple days ago, they would have said the Republicans would hold 50 seats, maybe up to 51,” said Ashley Amidon, NSSGA director of government affairs. “Instead, what we are seeing is that they are currently at 51 with two Senate seats up in the air.” Early in the evening, Republicans lost Mark Kirk’s Illinois Senate seat to challenger Tammy Duckworth, but retained Ron Johnson in a late-breaking victory in Wisconsin. The New Hampshire senate race was close, but the Amidon said reports gave Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan a slight edge over incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. That race could go to a recount. The final pending seat is in Louisiana where Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy will face Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in a two-way runoff created when none of the field of 24 candidates — including David Duke — achieved a 50-percent majority vote. That seat leans toward a Republican outcome.

Looking forward to 2018, Amidon noted that seats in play include 23 held by Democrats, two held by Independents (including Bernie Sanders’ seat), and eight held by Republicans. “Based on how tonight went and depending on how the next two years go, you could possibly see a couple more Republican seats in the Senate,” she said. “We hope to see a Senate that will work with us a little bit more on some of those regulatory issues.”

As expected, the House remained Republican, noted Michele Stanley, NSSGA director of government affairs. “The Dems had high hopes of getting more than 30 seats, but that didn’t happen in the end.”  The current tally shows 235 Republicans and 191 Democrats in the House, with Democrats picking up seven seats. At the meeting time, nine seats remained undecided, mostly along the West Coast.

In terms of members of the Transportation Committee, Committee Chairman Bill Shuster retained his seat in Pennsylvania’s 9th district, but 12-term representative and committee member John Mica lost his seat to Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s redistricted 7th district. In terms of the committee moving forward, Democrats will have four openings, and Republicans will have three openings. “It will be interesting to see what happens with those seats and who gets put on the committee,” Stanley said, noting that there are 45 freshmen in the House of Representatives in January 2017. On the Senate side, new leadership of the Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to include Sen. John Barrasso (Wyoming) as chair and Sen. Tom Carper (Delaware) as the ranking member.

 

Transportation issues

Finally, 23 transportation-related ballot initiatives were voted on during the Nov. 8 election.

  • Illinois Amendment – Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox passed 78.9 percent to 21.1 percent.
  • New Jersey Dedication of All Gas Tax Revenue to Transportation Amendment (Public Question 2) passed 53.56 percent to 46.44 percent.
  • Louisiana Transportation Fund and Revenue Allocation (Amendment 5) passed 53.6 percent to 46.4 percent.
  • Maine Transportation Bond (Question 6) passed 61.23 percent to 38.77 percent.
  • Rhode Island Port Infrastructure Bonds (Question 5) passed 62.83 percent to 37.17 percent.
  • Washington Carbon Emission Tax and Sales Tax Reduction (Initiative 732) failed 58.52 percent to 41.48 percent.
  • Virginia Beach Light Rail referendum failed 57 percent to 43 percent.

The remainder of the projects were not statewide issues, but all passed making it a good election cycle for most transportation projects.

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