On June 10, 2021, a bipartisan group of Senators compromised on an infrastructure spending package known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the first part of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda. The proposal, designed to create jobs through upgrading public infrastructure, revitalizing manufacturing, prioritizing workforce training, and expanding long-term health care services. In total, the $1 trillion deal includes $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years.
During the negotiation process an amendment was offered to the infrastructure package that would have a direct impact on ERSCA members and the towing industry. This amendment would have expanded the towing exemption in the FAAAA (Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994) to all tows, thus allowing states to also regulate consensual tows, in addition to nonconsensual tows. Currently, the FAAAA prohibits state and local governments from regulating the price, route or services of motor carriers, with various exceptions, including nonconsensual tows. The proposed amendment would expand that exception to also include consensual tows, allowing state and local government to now regulate all tows. This proposed amendment to the infrastructure bill mirrored legislation that had previously been introduced by House and Senate Democrats unsuccessfully four different times since 2005. Ultimately this amendment to the infrastructure bill failed and was not attached the bill when it passed the Senate in early August. The House of Representatives had planned to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill for a vote on September 30, but ultimately that vote was postponed due to the political divide amongst the Democratic Caucus. To keep her commitment to moderate Democrats, Speaker Pelosi needed to bring the bill up to a vote quickly as it has already slipped past her initial deadline of September 28 agreed to by Democratic House Moderates. However, the bill faced strong opposition from progressive Democrats who would prefer this package be delayed so it can “linked” to next part of President Biden’s spending plan, instead of passing on its own before the second package is complete.
The second part of President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan – The American Families Plan, is a proposed $3.5 trillion investment in “human infrastructure,” to expand health insurance coverage, childcare subsidies, and access to education. This bill is currently being negotiated and assembled in the House through a lengthy budget reconciliation process. While it is expected to easily pass the House, it will need to be crafted with the much more contentious Senate in mind, as the upper chamber will need to draft its own version of the bill and it will already face an uphill battle there against a few moderate Democratic Senators who are already opposed to its expansive price tag.
For now, it appears President Biden and Democratic Leadership have sided with the House Progressive Caucus and will hold the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill is finished, so the two monumental pieces of legislation can be passed in tandem. Negotiations continue between Moderate Democratic Senators Sinema and Manchin, the White House, and House Democrats, but in an effort to find some common ground between the divided factions of the party, the White House has indicated that at this time the total cost of the reconciliation bill proposed will likely be closer to $2 trillion than the original $3.5 trillion proposed.
While the proposed amendment to expand the towing exemption in the FAAAA failed to make its way into the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there is still a concern that it could be reintroduced successfully into this much larger, second reconciliation package or as a future piece of legislation, to satisfy its original proponents in the Senate.
In response to industry concerns over the expansion of the FAAAA and other potentially harmfully provisions, ERSCA has retained the Washington, DC lobbying firm, Lobbyit to advocate for its industry before Congress and the Administration and to prevent harmful regulations such as the proposed expansion of the FAAAA towing exemption. Lobbyit has developed strong ties to key transportation policymakers after representing over 100 trade associations, including a spectrum of trucking, freight transportation, and road service industries. Michael Blake Bezruki, Lobbyit’s Vice President of Government Affairs, will serve as ERSCA’s point of contact and leverage this policy expertise and relationships with policymakers and allied industry organizations to amplify ERSCA’s voice before Congress and the Administration. These relationships will also play a crucial role in educating Members of Congress on important issues for the towing industry and the potential impact of proposed regulations.