Washington Report: A Busy Summer

By Craig Piercy, ACPA Washington Advocate

It is shaping up to be an eventful political summer in Washington, D.C. Ordinarily, with the fall elections approaching, Congress books itself a long August “work period” to return home and get an early start on campaigning. Not this year. The GOP leadership has instead decided to keep the Senate in session to confirm federal judicial appointments, which could include filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

It has also been a busy few months for the ACPA and our public policy agenda. Here are a few highlights of the action:

ACPA jumps into ICC code revision fray

The International Code Council is currently considering revisions to its 2021 International Building Code that would allow the use of cross laminated timber (CLT) in mid and high rise buildings. As the wood industry’s secretive campaign comes to light, it is clear they have downplayed the major safety concerns of tall wood buildings. ACPA has joined forces with NRMCA and several other like-minded organizations to conduct a public affairs campaign opposing these changes. While the initial online public comment period has now closed, we expect the battle to intensify, leading up to the ICC public comment hearings scheduled for October 24–31 in Richmond, Virginia.

Senate bill introduced to fix excess tax on concrete pump fuel use

In April, ACPA’s campaign to end excess fuel tax payment on concrete pumps took a significant step forward with Senate introduction of S. 2683, the Concrete Pump Tax Fairness Act. The legislation, sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would allow concrete pump owners to receive a refund for the fuel they use in PTO operation. Currently, the federal government collects 24.4 cents on every gallon of diesel used, even though 55 percent of the average concrete pump’s fuel is consumed off the public highways in job site operations. Under this bill, the fuel tax would be replaced with a mileage-based user fee of five cents per mile for three-axle pumps and seven cents per mile for four-axle and above. Pump owners would still pay taxes at the pump but would be eligible to receive a rebate for the difference between the fuel taxes paid and the mileage charge. In some cases, the tax cut would exceed $1,000 per pump per year.

Concrete pumpers are paying almost double in taxes per mile compared to other commercial vehicles. All other commercial vehicles in the U.S. with a similar percentage of off-highway fuel use already have some form of exemption from highway excise taxes (i.e., mobile cranes, agricultural vehicles, etc.).

Introduction of Senate legislation is a significant, positive development because we now have bipartisan bills in both the House and Senate sponsored by members of the tax-writing committees.

USDOT announces a public comment period for ACPA’s ELD exemption request

Earlier this year, ACPA petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to extend from 12 to 14 hours the maximum time concrete pumps can operate under the so-called “short haul exemption” without having to use an electronic logging device (ELD). On June 21, the FMCSA formally announced a public comment period which closes on July 23. We expect FMCSA to make a final decision on ACPA’s petition later in the fall.

Tall wood building competition halted in the Senate Farm Bill

Congress is currently considering legislation to reauthorize federal agriculture programs, which includes the U.S. Forest Service. While USFS has historically funded timber-related research, the wood industry has recently attempted to require it to conduct a “tall wood building prize competition.” You might recognize this idea as part of the Timber Innovation Act that Big Wood has been actively promoting in D.C. for the last three years or so.

As part of the “Stop the TIA Coalition,” ACPA has been actively opposing the adoption of this expensive and needless provision, and we are successful in preventing this provision from being included in the House version. During Senate consideration, Senator Angus King (I-ME) floated an amendment which would have added the competition. Thankfully, concrete industry supporters like Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) raised significant opposition, and the amendment was never considered.