News & Press: Member Update

ACEC Texas Member Update - August 28, 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020  
Posted by: Michael Hancock
Share |

ACEC Texas

MEMBER UPDATE

August 28, 2020

Legislative and Political News from the Public Policy Council

The fast approaching 2021 Texas Legislative Session is taking shape as legislators begin to gather data from stakeholders on key legislative issues. From the numerous meetings the PPC has hosted with legislators, it is very apparent that the focus next session will be on the recovery process and strategy for the state. This includes the challenging task of balancing a state budget with much less revenue expected. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has stated that lawmakers can expect to fill a $4.58 billion budget gap for the current 2020-2021 budget cycle when they convene in January 2021. The PPC Transportation Funding Subcommittee is in the process of finalizing data and education materials needed to advocate for protecting transportation funding, notably the funding afforded under Proposition 1 and Proposition 7. Due to the economic downturn, COVID-19, decreased fuel tax collections, and reduced oil and gas prices, state highway funding is projected to see a significant decrease.

The PPC Steering Committee hosted a legislative briefing with Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody (D-El Paso) last week to discuss legislative issues and the upcoming session. Dallas-Fort Worth PPC members hosted State Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) this week as well and had a robust discussion on transportation infrastructure and what to expect as we continue to work through COVID-19 from a state perspective. The PPC will be hosting several virtual meetings and briefings in the coming weeks, including a PPC Steering Committee Meeting on September 24th to discuss our legislative priorities, and Comptroller Hegar for a briefing on September 29th. For more information on how to participate in these upcoming events, please contact Scott Stewart, ACEC Texas Vice President for Legislative Affairs, at (512) 497-8847 or Scott@ACECTx.org.

 

ACEC National Update: Stimulus, PPP & QBS

ACEC National President Linda Bauer Darr this week highlighted current federal matters of interest to the engineering community:

New Stimulus Package & Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): The White House and Congressional leaders are currently working to develop a new stimulus package in response to the economic downturn from the pandemic. New negotiation talks appear to be happening on the provisions in the new stimulus package, including a new round of PPP loans for businesses affected by COVID-19, liability protections, additional unemployment assistance, aid for schools, and funding for the United States Postal Service. ACEC National continues to advocate for stimulus aid for state Departments of Transportation, transit agencies, airports, water utilities, and others to be included or in subsequent legislation. A vote on the new stimulus package will likely occur in September.

Water Infrastructure Legislation: ACEC National has been working with the U.S. Senate and House on a water infrastructure package that would authorize new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and reauthorize and expand federal assistance for wastewater projects. This legislation has been passed by the House and we are hopeful the Senate will vote on the final version of the bill in September.

New Study on Qualifications-Based Selection: ACEC National has launched a new study this week to collect data to support and defend the use of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS). This would be a follow-on to the 2007 study that showed the QBS process saves money, improves project outcomes, and increases client satisfaction. The goal of the new study is to reinforce the 2007 study and develop new data and tools to help confront challenges to QBS at the state and local government levels. Please be on the lookout for a questionnaire that ACEC Texas will be sending to our members on behalf of ACEC National in the coming days.

CALL TO ACTION:
ACEC National Seeking Fiscal Relief for State and Local Governments

ACEC National sent out a call to action this week to member firms to highlight the urgent industry priorities in legislation to support the nation’s economic recovery.

ACEC National is seeking fiscal relief for state and local governments hard hit by pandemic response actions. As previously mentioned, this would include immediate funding to state departments of transportation, transit agencies, airports, and water utilities whose revenues have declined precipitously. This funding backstop will preserve critical services and keep projects from being canceled or delayed in 2021.

Other priorities include clarifying the tax treatment of PPP loan proceeds and liability protections for employers that take reasonable efforts to comply with coronavirus standards and regulations.

Congressional leaders are currently negotiating the next economic relief package and the time for action from member firms is now. ACEC National has developed an easy method for reaching out to your federal elected officials. Please take a moment to visit the link below to reach out to your U.S. Senators and Representative to ensure these crucial priorities are included:

Click Here to Contact Your Representative and Senators


AGENCY NEWS & UPDATES

Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (TBPELS) Policy Advisory Committee met last week and discussed a policy advisory opinion (PAO) request that the ACEC Texas PPC has been actively engaged with for several years. The PAO request is regarding if the installation of fiber optic lines by the telecommunications provider qualifies for the public works or telephone company exemptions in the Texas Engineering Practice Act (Policy Advisory Request No. 53).

ACEC Texas has prepared a briefing document on this PAO request, which can be found at the following link: ACEC Texas Background Document - PAO Request on Telephony.

Texas Department of Transportation

The Texas Transportation Commission held a hearing on Thursday to adopt their Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR), the Texas Transportation Plan 2050, and the 2021 Unified Transportation Program. Every two years before an upcoming legislative session, all state agencies must submit a LAR that outlines their funding requirements and needs for the next budget biennium. Legislators will decide next session what final amounts for each agency will be included in the state budget. As we have previously reported, TxDOT has been including in their LAR drafts a request for an additional 281 full-time equivalents (FTEs), 35 of which would be for the Engineering Operations Division (Bridge, Design, Right-of-Way). This has been included in their final version.

Commissioner Alvin New
reminded on Thursday that TxDOT’s budget not only comes from state General Revenue but is also derived from other funding sources such as Proposition 1 (oil and gas severance taxes) and Proposition 7 (sales taxes and motor vehicle sales and rental taxes) that are vital to transportation infrastructure funding. Commissioner New commented that TxDOT is closely watching their budget due the recent economic volatility as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how this affects Prop. 1 and Prop. 7 funding. Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg echoed those remarks, emphasizing the funding power of Prop. 1 and Prop. 7 and the Commission’s appreciation for these funds to allow TxDOT to perform their work. Chairman Bugg concluded by stating that TxDOT is appreciative and needs to be good stewards of the funding.TxDOT’s LAR must be submitted by October 9th.

The Commission also adopted the Texas Transportation Plan (TTP) 2050, which is updated every four years and establishes a long-range vision for Texas transportation. Included in the updated plan are goals to promote safety, preserve assets, and optimize system performance. To view the presentation on the TTP 2050, please click on the following link: TTP 2050 Presentation.

Finally, the Commission discussed and adopted the 2021 Unified Transportation Program (UTP), which is the 10-year plan that guides the development of transportation projects across the state. The proposed 2021 UTP distribution strategy includes over $74.6 billion in funding for over 8,000 planned projects. It was noted at the Commission hearing that funding for certain tolled projects over which the Commission has approval authority has been removed from the UTP due to the “current non-tolled environment” goal previously established by the Commission.To view the presentation from the Commission meeting, please click on the following link: 2021 UTP Presentation.

ACEC National Podcast

New ACEC National Podcast Episode:
"The Playbook for a New Infrastructure Partnership"

 

ACEC National has just published a new podcast from the ACEC Research Institute featuring WSP’s John Porcari discussing his work with the Institute on the “New Partnership on Infrastructure” project and the new policy document, “Community Serving Infrastructure: A Playbook for A New Infrastructure Partnership” that was produced by Accelerator for America. To listen to the podcast, please click on the following link: ACEC National Podcast.


Community Search
Sign In


Calendar

10/6/2020
Central Texas Virtual Chapter Meeting-10/06/20

10/7/2020
ACEC Central Texas and San Antonio Transportation Series: Session 1