The Importance of Membership Engagement in the Political Process

Scott Marks | Government Affairs Manager | TIA

Membership engagement is crucial to any association or member-oriented business. Having a politically engaged membership can be the difference in getting that “yes” vote on an important piece of legislation that could impact the industry. The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) and the role its members play in the logistics and supply chain is critical, and it’s important that that message is heard.

A TIA Member engaging with a Member of Congress (MOC) can gain support from likeminded industry leaders who will echo our social media outreach, bolstering our message. Members can also gain traction with their MOCs by participating in fundraising calls with TIA’s Government Affairs team. By asking questions related to the 3PL industry and discussing industry-related topics, the conservation becomes far more substantive.

Traditionally, TIA would send a formal position statement to MOCs – a one to one-and-a-half-page letter along with supporting material delivered by mail. These letters would clearly outline and explain TIA’s position on a given issue and why a piece of legislation would either be detrimental or bolster or sector of the supply chain industry. This formal position statement would “check the box,” making clear to a congressional office where TIA stands – and why. These letters, however, can only go so far. There is a far more efficient, direct, and all-around smarter way to reach and influence your MOCs.

You MUST engage on social media with your MOCs and other elected officials to influence and drive the conversation about the issue(s) that are important to you and your business. For the most part, elected officials like to monitor their own social media accounts – most notably on Twitter. Coordinating with TIA’s Government Affairs team on crafting a unified message helps to reinforce TIA’s formal position statements, while also providing members with the opportunity to express their own thoughts and opinions; a (TIA) Member-Member (of Congress) connection.

A prime example of the political engagement available is an organization’s annual “Hill Day” or “Fly-In,” where members from across the country come to Washington, D.C. to meet with MOCs, federal regulators and other key figures. These events help members establish connections and relationships that can be used in the years to come. Utilizing this time on Capitol Hill to befriend, engage, or confront your MOCs can help move their position on an issue to that of TIA and getting the votes we need.

Throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, TIA’s Government Affairs team has become creative in maintaining or relationships and interactions with MOCs. We have brought in representatives from several our member companies to interact directly with their MOCs. We see this as a win-win situation. On one hand, we engage our members directly in the political process, pushing them to engage with their elected leaders on issues that matter, on issues of substance. For the MOC, it provides an opportunity to speak directly with a constituent and business owner from their district or state.

TIA’s Government Affairs team will continue to develop innovative and engaging strategies and approaches to interact with its members and MOCs. During the COVID-19 shutdown, there have been some policy shops that crumbled under the pressure. TIA and its members have risen to the occasion, continuing to enhance our legislative advocacy and sharpen our political gamesmanship. We look forward to continuing this fight on behalf of our members and the 3PL industry.

Are you interested in becoming more involved with TIA’s Government Affairs efforts or would you like assistance in scheduling meetings with your MOCs? Please contact TIA’s Government Affairs team at

Off to the Races: Top 5 House Races

There are less than 240 days until the 2020 Presidential Election and while it is becoming clearer who the Democratic challenger to President Trump might be whether it be Senator Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden, the battle for the House is heating up. In the next blog, we will examine the candidates view on transportation and infrastructure investment, but I leave you with this one tidbit for the Presidential race to keep a close eye on especially in those key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina, look at the primary voting in terms of turnout, it matters!

On to the House, we are going to take a quick look at the Top 5 House races to watch in the 2020 election, which could possibly determine which party controls the House in 2021.

Oklahoma 5th District

This was truly one of the most surprising upsets in the 2018 election, where Congresswoman Kendra Horn (D-OK-5) defeated two-term incumbent Steve Russell (R-OK-5) by one percentage point. This truly stands out when you look at the fact that President Trump won the district by 31 points in 2016. Congresswoman Horn is the first Democrat to represent this district in over 40-years. The Republican Party is awaiting their primary to determine which candidate emerges as her opponent. The two front runners appear to be state Senator Stephanie Bice and businesswoman Terry Neese. A number of campaign and political experts mark this as a tossup race. My prediction is Republicans regain this seat because President Trump is on the ticket.

California 50th District

This is the seat previously held by Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA-50), who recently resigned for corruption and pleaded guilty for misusing campaign funds. California has a unique primary system, where the top two vote-getters are placed on the ballot in November. The primary was on March 3rd (Super Tuesday), and it appears that Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) and former Congressman Darrell Issa (R) who served in the House from a neighboring district beginning in 2001 until his recent retirement in 2019 will be on the ticket. Mr. Campa-Najjar (D) previously ran for this seat against Congressman Duncan Hunter in 2018 and lost by almost 9,000 votes. He was the first Latino-Arab American to run for Congress and is a former staffer for the Obama Administration. My prediction is Republicans narrowly win and retain the seat. It is a strong Republican district, but President Trump remains unpopular in California. How the cloud over Congressman Duncan Hunter pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds will play in the race remains to be seen.     

South Carolina 1st District

Congressman Joe Cunningham (D-SC-1)  narrowly won a longtime Republican seat in the Charleston area (one of my favorite places for sure), in part by running on a strong campaign message and pledge to oppose offshore drilling, which lead to his defeat of Katie Arrington (R-SC-1) by one percentage point in 2018. Ms. Arrington defeated the incumbent Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC-1) and former Governor of South Carolina in the 2018 primary. President Trump won this district by 11 points in 2016 and he is likely to face businesswoman Nancy Mace (R) who was the first female to graduate from The Citadel in 1999. She has received financial support from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and is seen as a top-tier candidate. On the other hand, Vice President Biden did extremely well in South Carolina and the Democratic primary saw a high turnout rate, which certainly bodes well for Congressman Cunningham. My prediction is Republicans retake this seat with Nancy Mace (assuming she wins the primary on June 9th), narrowly defeating Rep. Cunningham thanks to President Trump being on the ticket.

New York 11th District

Congressman Max Rose (D-NY-11) defeated two-term incumbent Congressman Dan Donovan (R-NY-11) in 2018 by six percentage points. Congressman Rose served in the U.S. Army as a platoon leader in the War in Afghanistan, where he was wounded and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. President Trump won this district in 2016 by 10 points. Republicans seem to be rallying behind Nicole Malliotakis (R) who is a member of the New York State Assembly, where she has represented the 64th district for seven years. When Ms. Malliotakis ran mayor of New York City in 2017, she won the 11th district. Congressman Rose is considered a moderate member of the Democratic party and was one of the last House Members to support the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. It will remain interesting to see if that hurts him in November. My prediction is Democrats retain this seat with Congressman Rose narrowly defeating his Republican challenger.

Utah 4th District

Finally, Utah’s 4th Congressional district, where current Congressman Ben McAdams (D-UT-4) narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT-4) by 0.3 points (or less than 700 votes)! President Trump won the State of Utah with 45.5 percent of the vote, which is a little misleading as Independent candidate Evan McMullin (and Utah native) receiving 21.5 percent of the vote and Hillary Clinton receiving 27.5 percent. There are several candidates running for the seat on the Republican side and we won’t know who the candidate is until June 30th. I think with the name recognition that Congressman McAdams has makes him a difficult challenger. My prediction is Democrats retain this seat, giving Democrats a win in the State of Utah on election night.

Overall, Republicans need 19 seats to regain control of the House – with that number really being closer to 21, as Republicans are set to lose two seats in North Carolina because of redistricting. My prediction for the whole House is that Republicans will certainly make it a race on election night but might come up just short of regaining control of the House. With that being said, I think President Trump gets reelected and could push them over the top. Grab the popcorn and wait and see…

Congressional Hearing Weighs Freight Transportation Needs

As Congress continues putting together the next surface reauthorization, the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing last Thursday on the needs of the freight transportation industry. Representatives from railroads, state and metropolitan transportation departments, environmental advocacy groups, and academia testified on the investment needs and other challenges facing freight transportation.

One of the primary focuses of the hearing was how to finance freight infrastructure investments, particularly highway maintenance and expansion. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Executive Director Jim Tymon testified that current funding levels aren’t enough to meet states’ state-of-good-repair needs, let alone investing in constructing new infrastructure like freight corridors.

A lot of the industry has come out in favor of raising the gas tax to bring more money into the Highway Trust Fund. TIA supports a modest increase in the gas tax to help pay for critical infrastructure investments; however, we ultimately need to find a new way to raise revenue for the Trust Fund given that rising fuel economy and the increasing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles has reduced how much revenue a tax on gasoline can raise.

There’s no shortage of ideas for alternatives to the gas tax: Association of American Railroads President & CEO Ian Jefferies, for example, offered a weight-distance fee as another way to shore up the Trust Fund. Others have talked about a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, though it did not come up at Thursday’s hearing. Congressman Greg Pence (R-IN) said he appreciated that the freight industry has come together to support raising revenues, but the question remains exactly how Congress will choose to do that.

As for how to spend that money, Mr. Tymon said that state departments of transportation want to maintain the federal formula programs—which are easier to administer than competitive grant programs—so that states can have multi-year certainty about how much money they will get from the federal government to make larger infrastructure investments. He also suggested providing states with more flexibility within those programs so that the states can decide what best to spend the money on. (Currently, most of the federal-aid highway programs provide states the flexibility to move up to 50 percent of their allocations from one program to another.)

There was also discussion of the Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program, formerly known as FASTLANE, which provides competitive grant funding for infrastructure projects—mostly highways and bridges—with a freight transportation component. Several witnesses, including American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Executive Director Erin Aleman, agreed that the process for selecting INFRA grant winners can be “opaque” and that USDOT should ensure project selection criteria are objective, well-communicated to applicants, and closely tied to the goals of the program.

While the nearly three-hour hearing mostly kept things at a high level, there was some interesting disagreement when it came to reducing freight emissions. The surface reauthorization reported by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee back in July was the first to include a climate title, and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has said he wants to go bigger on climate in the House bill.

Jason Mathers, Director of Vehicles & Freight Strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, testified about various pilot programs across the country for increasing the use of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles in the freight network, from transporting cargo in and out of ports to delivery packages to homes and businesses. He suggested creating a federal revolving loan fund for purchasing and installing ZEV infrastructure to enable greater use of ZEVs in freight transportation.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) took issue with the idea of incentivizing the purchase of ZEVs; he said a better approach would be to eliminate the 12 percent federal excise tax on new trucks, which would make it easier for truck operators (particularly smaller, independent owner-operators) to turn over their fleets; as newer trucks are cleaner and more efficient than the older models they’d be replacing, Rep. LaMalfa said, this would more quickly reduce emissions in the trucking industry than a new incentive. (Rep. LaMalfa has a bill, H.R. 2381, which would eliminate that tax.)

The witnesses seemed reluctant to agree with that approach: Mr. Tymon brought up the fact that the excise tax on new trucks goes into the Highway Trust Fund, and so eliminating that tax would reduce revenues at a time when the focus should be on raising additional revenue. Rep LaMalfa replied that this tax is only a small slice of Trust Fund revenue and would be easily replaced with something else.

Watch the hearing and read the witnesses’ testimony here. If you have any questions, please contact TIA Advocacy at or 703.299.5700.

USMCA Deal Reached between White House and Congressional Leaders

There has been a lot of activity in the last 24-hours on the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement trade deal or the USMCA. TIA is happy to report that a deal appears to be imminent, with all three nations agreeing to sign the agreement as early as today. TIA has been pushing Members of Congress to move this landmark trade deal forward for quite some time. It is imperative to the 3PL industry that we as a nation continue the free movement of goods with our friendly neighbors to the North and South.

“The update to NAFTA in USMCA will modernize trade between our most important international partners. It is essential that we have a secure, strong, prosperous, and growing North American continent. USMCA will keep us on that path,” stated TIA President and CEO Robert Voltmann.

TIA Chairman of the Board of Directors Brian Evans, CTB who is also a Member of the Arkansas State House representing the 43rd district, drafted a letter of support to Congressional leaders and authored a resolution supporting the passage of the USMCA. Chairman Evans stated in the letter which was co-authored by 26 other State officials:

Trade with Mexico and Canada is vital to the U.S. economy. It has been more than two decades, though, since trade with those countries was comprehensively addressed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is well past time to modernize our agreement with these important partners.

We need a 21st Century trade agreement for the 21st Century economy. The time is now to put USMCA to work for us here at home. This bold new agreement provides the framework for economic growth and increased jobs. It will also establish a much more balanced environment for American workers.

News broke yesterday that an agreement was on the horizon, and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was reviewing recent changes to the agreement that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Mexican counterpart Jesus Seade had discussed recently. Those changes were proposals on labor inspection rules and tougher steel provisions. The demand from the U.S. regarding steel and aluminum rules came from the United Steelworkers union, who threatened to continue to stall the negotiations last week.

Passing this important trade deal has been one of President Trump’s top priorities. There are still a few procedural hurdles before the agreement can come to the floor for a vote, including committee hearings and review of the implementing bill in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Those steps could be waived to save time, and people familiar with the talks said lawmakers are likely to skip some of them.

If you have any questions, please contact TIA Advocacy (, 703.299.5700).

Way Too Early Election Predictions: U.S. Senate

Being the policy wonks that we are (literally eating and breathing politics), we like to maintain a pulse on the upcoming elections and predict who is likely to win in key races. This will be a two-part series, with the first part focusing on key Senate races that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber in the 117th Congress.

The first state is Alabama, with Senator Doug Jones (D) – won the 2017 special election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions, who left office to serve as President Trump’s Attorney General – currently holding the seat. In 2017, Jones beat Republican candidate Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, by less than two percentage points (in a state that President Trump won with 62% of the vote in 2016). Judge Moore was far from a perfect candidate and was narrowly defeated.

In 2020, Senator Jones will face off against the winner of the state’s GOP primary field, which currently includes Sessions (looking to reclaim his old seat), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1); former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville; and Judge Roy Moore, who is running again for the seat. As it relates to Sessions – who only recently jumped into the race – it will be interesting to see if he is able to clear the field or if he will fall by the wayside as a result of his falling out with President Trump.

Based on Alabama being a reliably “red” state, my prediction is that as long as the Republican nominee is not Roy Moore, Republicans should be able to pick up this seat. Republicans gain a seat here. TIA has not had too much interaction with Senator Jones.   

The next state is Arizona, with Senator Martha McSally (R) currently holding the seat that she was appointed to following the death of Senator John McCain in August 2018; prior to her Senate appointment, McSally served in the House of Representatives for Arizona’s 2nd District. Congresswoman McSally ran for the Senate in 2018 against Congresswoman Krysten Sinema (D), where she lost by roughly 2.5 percentage points. President Trump carried the state with 48% of the vote against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving 45%. Arizona continues to trend as a “purple” state, and her Democrat opponent will be Mark Kelly, former Astronaut and husband to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords – who was the victim of an assassination attempt back in 2011. Being a border state, immigration should be a key issue to watch in this race. My prediction is Mark Kelly will squeak out a victory over Senator McSally for a variety of reasons, and Democrats gain a seat here. Senator McSally was very helpful to TIA when she was a Member of the House on Homeland Security issues.

The next state is Colorado, with Senator Cory Gardner (R) running as the incumbent. Senator Gardner hopes 2020 shakes out better for him than the Republican Party of late in the state of Colorado. Hillary Clinton won the state by 5 percentage points in 2016 and former Congressman Jared Polis easily won election as the Governor in 2018. There are a number of candidates who have announced to run against Senator Gardner, including former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper (D) – who recently dropped out of the Presidential race – and former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. I think Governor Hickenlooper will ultimately win the nomination and continue the trend of Democrats dominating Colorado by beating Senator Gardner, who by all accounts has been a good Senator, but the political environment doesn’t bode well for him in the state. Democrats gain a seat here. Senator Gardner has been a supporter of TIA and the logistics industry.

The last state we will look at is Maine, with Senator Susan Collins (R) who will likely be facing her toughest challenge yet. Senator Collins does not always toe the Republican line and does – from time to time – break with the party on key votes. She will likely face Sara Gideon, who is the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Senator Collins has been in the Senate since 1997 and won reelection to her fourth term in 2014 with 68% percent of the vote. It will be interesting to see how the voters of Maine will vote based on her vote to support Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. I think Senator Collins will get reelected to her fifth term with around 53% of the vote. Republicans maintain a seat her. Senator Collins has been a champion for TIA and the transportation industry on many different issues.

Other states to keep a close eye on include: Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Texas. I don’t see a lot of upsets here, but I think there will be one that no one expects. . .

In the end, we think Republicans barely maintain control of the Senate and Congress remains divided (spoiler alert for the next issue).

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact TIA Advocacy (, 703.299.5700).

Day One Success at Sold Out TIA Technovations Conference #TIA2019TECH

TIA’s 3PL Technovations Conference kicked off with a continental breakfast followed by opening remarks from TIA Chairman of the Board, Brian Evans, CTB; Technology Committee Chair, Ramona Hood; and TIA President and CEO Bob Voltmann. Following opening remarks, the morning of Day 1, ranged from panels and thought leaders on transportation, technology, and cybersecurity.

The conference features three Showcases with presenters giving a “TECH TALK” on innovations that will advance the industry. Sessions are led by leading 3PLs, futurists, innovators, and industry analysts for attendees to implement, understand, and take control of the technology changes affecting your business.

Some of the top takeaways from day one include:

  1. Cybercriminals have been and are emerging as major threats to the transportation and third-party logistics industries. Each year and each minute, cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and proper measures must be taken to protect your business.
  2. Acquiring large quantities of freight data can provide new and exciting opportunities for the third-party logistics industry. Enhancements in Freight Visibility can create a smoother supply chain and ultimately cut costs and strengthen the position of the 3PL.
  3. With the advancements in technology, in a rapidly changing field, 3PLs need to be ready to invest in technology and solutions that work well with all stops on the assembly line. Automation and digitization have the potential to create high levels of efficiency and ultimately eliminate repetitive tasks.

We are thrilled for the kickoff of Day 2 beginning with a forecast of 2020 from TIA’s chief economist, Noël Perry. Followed by an outstanding panel to discuss and review the existing marketplace, and its regulatory, legal and transactional hurdles, and provide insight on why some companies choose acquisitions and others do no not.

Chris on the Hill: Matt and Chris in the Big Apple

I have the pleasure to co-write this Chris on the Hill with my colleague Matt Mantione who is TIA’s Vice President of Membership. On Friday, November 1st, Matt and I traveled to the Big Apple, New York City, to host the first-ever TIA Member Plug-in Event with our cohost Transfix. The event was a huge success where TIA Members and potential Members were able to network and make business connections with their local peers.

When Matt and I were recently talking about hosting a regional networking event for our Members, we wanted to make sure that we facilitated an event that appealed to Members and prospect members. One of our goals was to fill that gap between TIA’s big three annual conferences, the Annual Conference in April, the Policy Forum (Fly-in) in June and the TIA Technovations Conference in November. We completely understand that not all Members have the time and resources to attend these conferences and the TIA Member.

Plug-in Events could hopefully provide a venue to fill that void and allow those Members an opportunity to network with their peers and meet with TIA staff members.

The TIA Member Plug-in Event in New York allowed us the opportunity to briefly update the group on the Association and the current state of play in Washington, DC, including the legislative and regulatory environments. Additionally, TIA raffled off a complimentary full registration to the 2020 Policy Forum in June (a $400 value!), and congratulations to Mackenzie McGowan of Kinetic-Supply Chain Solutions for being the big winner!

After the event, PJT Logistics’ Michael Mecca, had this to say, “The plug-in event in New York City hosted by TIA was a tremendous experience. It’s so nice to loosen up the collar in a relaxed and casual setting after a hard day at the office connecting with great people in our industry. This event brought back the good old days of Happy Hour on a Friday to a new level! Networking with other members that are locally domiciled in my region is a brilliant idea/opportunity offered by the TIA.”

Further from Mecca’s perspective, “I really enjoyed myself on Friday night. I met great professionals that all share the same experiences, problems, headaches, stress, obstacles, and enjoyment that I experience each day in the wonderful world of transportation brokerage. I got to collaborate with companies I knew of their name but never got to understand how similar we are to each other. Also, how we can assist each other in business being from New York/ New Jersey whether it may pertain to resources or even on the customer level. If it wasn’t for the TIA and their networking event; these great experiences would never have happened. Glad to be part of the event and a TIA member. Thank you, Chris and Matt, for the time and personal attention. You guys definitely knocked it out of the park. It was casual, personable and comfortable to just be ourselves. I had a great time! I look forward to more fun events from the TIA.”

Matt and I look to continue this success throughout this great country with other TIA Member Plug-in Events. Keep an eye out for the next city, it may be yours.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact Chris Burroughs (

Chris on the Hill: Planning for the Future

I am so blessed to have three healthy and amazing children who are five, three, and 4-months old. Since they are all under the age of six and obviously not dating or driving yet, the most pressing issue that keeps me up at night is doing my best to build some inheritance. Personally, I utilize several retirement tools including a traditional 401(k) and a Fixed Index Life Insurance Policy to protect my wife and I when we retire as well as grow our inheritance for our children. At this very moment, Congress is getting ready to pass legislation that would drastically change the game for “stretch” IRAs commonly used for retirement planning.

A stretch IRA is an estate planning strategy that extends the tax-deferred status of an inherited IRA when it is passed to a non-spouse beneficiary. This allows for continued tax-deferred growth over the inheritor’s lifetime and potentially over several generations. Under current law, non-spouse heirs can “stretch” or extend the taxable distributions of an inherited IRA over their lifetime, allowing them to continue earning passive income on the IRA while also spreading out the tax they must pay.

On May 23, 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement (SECURE) Act (H.R. 1994). The bill includes a section on stretch IRAs that could have severe consequences for people who plan to leave their IRA as an inheritance to their loved ones.

Specifically, the SECURE Act would limit the stretch period to 10 years, meaning the account must be distributed within 10 years and the individual who inherited the IRA would have to pay tax on the entire IRA when it is taken out. A similar bill in the Senate, the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) (S. 972), would allow the first $400,000 of an inherited IRA to stretch, while the remainder would need to be distributed within five years.

Both bills amount to a tax increase on hard-working people who planned to leave their children with inheritance through an IRA. They also significantly reduce the amount of potential investment income those inheritors can earn while increasing their upfront tax burden.

The driving force behind this legislation is insurance companies. They envision if stretch IRAs are not as appealing, people will naturally gravitate towards an annuity. In talking with many industry experts, this may not be the case as costs associated with annuities are generally much higher. These experts believe if these changes were to occur, people would shift to living wills or other similar retirement planning tools that continue to protect the value of the money being left for their beneficiary.

Stay tuned in November for details on an upcoming free webinar for TIA members that addresses this issue in much more detail and will provide answers and possible solutions for those folks that will be impacted by this harmful provision.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact Chris Burroughs (

Chris on the Hill: Rescission – On the Horizon

There is not a typo in the title of this week’s Chris on the Hill article, I am talking about an upcoming rescission not a recession in the American economy. I will leave the topic of a pending recession to TIA’s economist Noel Perry to comment on. Our nation’s critical infrastructure and transportation projects could, unfortunately, see a major rescission or revocation of invaluable funds on July 1, 2020, if Congressional action is not taken.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act or the FAST Act contains a provision (Section 1438) on page 122 of the bill text that states that on July 1, 2020, $7.6 billion of the unobligated balances of funds apportioned among the States will be permanently rescinded. There are a few exemptions from the rescission like funds sub-allocated by population to metropolitan areas, safety programs, and the $639 million per year National Highway Performance Program funding.

The FAST Act rescission applies to all States and the District of Columbia based on that State’s share of the unobligated balances. What does that mean in layman’s terms? Essentially, the rescission rewards States that can efficiently and swiftly spend the money they are allocated. Because of State regulations and bureaucratic red tape, spending money quickly is not easily done.

In a nation that desperately needs dollars to fix and improve our crumbling infrastructure and transportation projects, why would Congress include this provision into a Highway Reauthorization Bill? The answer is somewhat simple, it was a ploy by Congressional leaders to keep the overall price tag of the legislation down and try and make this legislation budget neutral. It helped in that aspect to a degree, but at the determinant of our nation’s projects.

Now that the pending rescission is on the horizon, Congressional leaders are scrambling because reality is coming to fruition and States are feeling the pinch and the pending threat is hampering their ability to plan for future projects because extreme uncertainty in budgeting. Recently, Chairman Barrasso (R-WIY) and Ranking Member Carper (D-DE) of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who has jurisdiction over construction and maintenance of our highways, wrote a leader to Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) stressing the need for Congress to repeal this misplaced provision as soon as possible.

There has also been legislation introduced in the House and the Senate to repeal Section 1438 of the FAST Act, but this would likely need to move through a highway reauthorization bill or a funding bill. This seems to be a bi-partisan effort and for the good of the nation, I expect this to eventually get repealed, but as with most things, time is of the essence to ensure that States have the appropriate planning time to get these projects mapped out and completed.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact Chris Burroughs (

Chris on the Hill: USMCA Done Deal or DOA?

One of the hottest issues being discussed right now on Capitol Hill is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA. The trade agreement being dubbed “NAFTA 2.0” was signed by the three countries last year but has not been approved by Congress yet and uncertainty continues to surround this agreement leading folks (including myself) to ask is this deal going to get done or is it dead on arrival?

Trade with Canada and Mexico has quadrupled in the past 25-years and nearly reached $1.3 trillion in 2017 and according to our Commerce Department, Canada and Mexico buy more than one-third of the U.S. merchandise exports. Additionally, the current trade between our three nations supports millions of American jobs, drives our export growth, is vital for manufacturers, provides essential business for farmers and ranchers, boost small businesses throughout the U.S. and enhances the service economy. All in all, a trade deal with Canada and Mexico is vital to our nation and the future success of it.

The USMCA would modernize the rules for trade between Canada and Mexico and the U.S. with state-of-the-art provisions. These provisions include; increasing market access, create digital trade and bolster a digital economy, provide strong protections for intellectual properties, increase agricultural standards, modernizes customs procedures, and raises the bar on enforcement for all chapters, including labor and the environment.

So, what’s the holdup? Democrats have voiced concerns about the labor, environmental and pharmaceutical standards of the agreement, in addition to enforcement in general. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remains noncommittal at the moment and hasn’t spoken about the timing of possibly acting on the agreement. The USMCA remains a top priority for President Trump as we move closer and closer to the Presidential election in 2020. Additionally, there are a lot of border-state Democrats that want to see this agreement done as soon as possible as well, especially prior to their re-election campaigns. Speaker Pelosi has made several comments along with Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that the “stalling” of acting on this agreement has nothing to do with giving President Trump a victory prior to the election, because an agreement is essentially for American businesses and American workers, but the fact remains there has been no movement.

I know both sides are still talking about this agreement and trying to find the right path forward, but the reality is time is running out. Many experts agree, that if no deal is done within 30-days there will be no deal. I personally remain optimistic and think this important trade deal gets done before the end of the year. The American people need this trade deal ASAP, as the President continues to deal with the trade war with China, which hopefully gets resolved soon as well.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact Chris Burroughs (

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