With two-thirds of the year gone, the U.S. Congress is back from summer break, and businesses and local governments are pounding on Washington’s door, calling for action on critical issues for industry and communities.
Legislation that addresses trade, the United States’ crumbling roads and water and energy infrastructure, cyber security, and immigration reform are among those at the top of their wish list.
In Arizona, issues involving trade and immigration are particularly important, said Glenn Hamer, CEO and President of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
One of the most pressing for the state is the ratification of an updated free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, Arizona’s two largest trading partners, said Hamer, who was in Washington D.C. recently to advocate for the deal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA).
“Now it’s time for Congress to do its job and pass the best trade agreement ever negotiated,” Hamer said. “Ratification would ensure our countries’ economic growth and prosperity for decades to come.”
Hamer also said immigration reform, long a dead end in Congress, would greatly benefit the state with more efficient systems to hire immigrant employees and to offer a legal path for residency for undocumented immigrants like “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as young children.
“Our system is broken and badly in need of repair. Congress and the administration must reach a favorable outcome for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that shielded from deportation those individuals who are today contributing to our workplaces, our military, or our educational institutions,” Hamer said.
Whether much will be accomplished this pre-election year is questionable.
Congress is now under the gun to avoid another government shutdown and to pass fiscal 2020 spending bills before the new fiscal year Oct. 1.
Here are some of the top bills industry is watching this session:
Energy and Water Infrastructure Development: Both chambers’ appropriations committees have approved a version of this bill that provides up to $48.8 billion for America’s decaying water and power infrastructure, research and development for the next generation of clean and renewable energy technologies, and national security.
Water Supply Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Utilization Act: This bill targets funding for 80 percent of the Bureau of Reclamation’s water treatment facilities that are in need of major upgrades or replacement. Most are more than 50 years old. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Arizona U.S. senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally, would set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to support dam safety projects, water recycling, desalination plants, and water storage projects to protect the Southwest’s water supplies for the future.
America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act: This legislation, if passed, would be the largest highway bill in history and the first ever to include climate change measures. The bulk of the five-year, $287-billion package is targeted to maintain and repair roads and bridges. About $10 billion is earmarked for projects to improve air quality and resilience. Another $1 billion would go for competitive grants to support the development of fueling infrastructure for electric, natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Dream and Promise Act: The act, that is supported by at least 60 chambers of commerce across the nation, would give a legal path to citizenship to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as “Dreamers”, and Temporary Protected Status holders, who are in the U.S. because of disasters or persecution in their home countries.
United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement: This agreement would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and bring it into the modern age with protections for e-commerce and intellectual property. It also would expand trade markets for small to medium-sized businesses, strengthen environmental protections, institute certain labor reforms, including wage hikes for auto assembly workers in Mexico, and more.
This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.