Weekly Legislative Update August 24, 2020

House Passes Bill to Bolster U.S. Postal Service
 

The House on Saturday passed legislation barring Postal Service cuts through January and giving it an extra $25 billion. This would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from making any changes to its operations that could slow delivery of mailed-in ballots for this fall’s elections.

The bill passed largely along party lines, 257-150, with 26 Republicans bucking party leaders to support it.

The Senate is unlikely to follow.

TIA Signs onto Highway Bill Extension Letter

Dear Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Carper, Chairman DeFazio, and Ranking Member Graves:

On behalf of TIA and the American Highway Users Alliance (Highway Users), a coalition of 300 organizations including companies, trade associations, safety advocacy groups, and motoring clubs that represent millions of motorists and serve as the united voice of the motoring public, we applaud the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for moving forward with the transportation reauthorization process through their efforts on their respective bills this Congress.

As you are aware, the deadline to reauthorize surface transportation programs is quickly approaching. Due to the limited days remaining in the legislative calendar, TIA and the Highway Users urge Congress to pass a one-year extension of current surface transportation law with increased highway investment funding to ensure important road and bridge projects can continue into the new fiscal year and prevent further disruption to America’s economic recovery.

TIA and the Highway Users support a one-year extension to ensure that roadway users can benefit from the roadway projects and safety improvements that will occur from a seamlessly continued construction season that will allow Americans to get to work and our goods and services to arrive efficiently. Congress should increase investment in the highway program through the extension to jump start the additional funding both the Senate and House were pursuing through their transportation reauthorization bills.

Increasing highway and bridge investments would help address the $786.4 billion backlog of highway and bridge investments, that the USDOT’s Conditions and Performance Report on Highways, Bridges and Transit identified last fall.

TIA and the Highway Users also supports making the highway funding available at 100% federal share during FY 2021 (and even FY 2020) due to the dire situation the entire nation faces. Regular share rules can be reinstated beginning in FY 2022.

In supporting a one-year extension we emphasize that we remain strongly committed to prompt action to pass a multi-year highway and surface transportation reauthorization bill. If, after passage of an extension and before the start of the next Congress, there is an opportunity to pass a multi-year reauthorization, we would urge all concerned to pursue that – but it would be constructive for the extension to be in place in any event so that the program and the investments it makes will continue to benefit America.

Additionally, it is vitally important that the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) retain solvency through the extension at a minimum. The Highway Users urge Congress to transfer funds to the HTF to keep it whole at least through the determined extension length. The pandemic has already curbed receipts into the HTF due to state and local stay-at-home orders. Americans were not buying the fuel and generating the truck tax revenue at historical rates over the past six months, directly hurting the HTF. The HTF will run out of money at an earlier date than originally projected, resulting in even more uncertainty than we are already experiencing.

Finally, TIA and the Highway Users is fully supportive of Congress including relief to State DOTs to allow them to continue their roadway construction and maintenance projects this year and into 2021.

Congress should provide $37 billion in relief to State DOTs to replace the steep decline in their fuel taxes and other State revenue used for highways in order to ensure highway users have a system they can rely on at this critical time.

Addressing our Nation’s highway and transportation infrastructure needs will help every individual and business as we emerge from the pandemic. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to offer further support for a one-year extension of the surface transportation programs, for Highway Trust Fund solvency, and for relief for State DOTs.

Sincerely,

The Tire Industry Association and American Highway Users Alliance 

Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act Becomes Law

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has signed the COVID-19 Recovery Act (“Act”). Under the Act, an individual or legal entity (a “person”) will not be liable for loss, damage, injury, or death (collectively referred to hereinafter as an “injury”) that arises from COVID-19 unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the person caused the injury by an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct.

The Act, which is effective as of August 17, 2020, only provides protections against lawsuits in the form of heightened pleading and proof requirements — it does not provide absolute immunity to employers.The Act does not affect workers’ compensation claims.

Treasury Secretary Clarifies Executive Order Regarding Social Security Withholding

As previously reported on, President Trump has issued an Executive Order deferring the employee portion of Social Security taxes from September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. The deferral is only available to employees who are paid less than$4,000 bi-weekly ($104,000 per year).

The Order directs the Secretary of the Treasury to issue guidance; no such guidance has been issued as of yet. However, subsequent to the Order being issued,Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that the deferral would not be mandatory for employers to implement.

In light of this announcement and the specific language in the Order, SESCO is now recommending that employers do not implement the change to withholding unless employees affirmatively elect to do so.