Weekly Legislative Update - March 11, 2019

TIA Supports HB 1374- the DRIVE-Safe Act
TIA supports HR 1374, the DRIVE-Safe Act. This important legislation would help to alleviate the nationwide shortage of commercial drivers by providing younger drivers with the opportunity to enter the industry. 

Recently, TIA sent letters to the House and Senate sponsors of the DRIVE Safe Act along with 69 other organizations. This is a significant increase from last year's efforts. 

Now that the bills have been introduced we are looking to build support preferably in bipartisan fashion.  In particular Sens. Bennet, Casey, Kaine and Sinema were interested prior to introduction and could still be considering cosponsoring.  

In the letters, TIA highlighted that:
Seventy percent of the nation's freight is carried by commercial trucks yet as our economy strengthens, motor carriers are having difficulty finding the drivers they need to handle growing capacity. According to a recent estimate, the nation needs an additional 50,000 truck drivers immediately, a shortage that is expected to grow to more than 174,000 by 2026. In many supply chains, companies are being forced to increase prices to account for higher transportation costs. This will ultimately result in higher prices for consumers on everything from electronics to food.

While 48 states currently allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver's license at 18, they are prohibited from driving in interstate commerce until they are 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act would create a two-step apprenticeship program to allow these younger drivers to enter the industry safely. Candidates would be accompanied in the cab by experienced drivers for a total of 400 hours of on-duty time with at least 240 hours of driving time.

Trucks used in the program would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less and automatic or automatic manual transmissions.

The DRIVE-Safe Act will help our nation's freight continue to move while preserving the safety of our highway system. It will help fill desperately needed jobs and provide younger Americans with the opportunity to enter a profession where they can earn an average of $53,000 with full benefits. 

Ways and Means Hearing On Tax Extenders March 12
The Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee of House Ways and Means will hold a hearing on "Temporary Policy in the Internal Revenue Code" on March 12 at 2 PM.
You'll be able to watch the hearing by going to the Ways and Means Committee web site, www.waysandmeans.house.gov
This hearing will deal with extensions of expired or expiring tax provisions, including WOTC, Empowerment Zone Employment Tax Credit and Indian Employment Tax Credit.
Oral testimony will be limited to invited witnesses only. TIA with the WOTC Coalition will submit a statement for the record.  
TIA will address the complexity, uncertainty, and extra burden on taxpayers added to the tax code by allowing provisions to expire and renewing them retroactively.  
For jobs tax incentives like WOTC, Empowerment Zones, and Indian Employment, the damage is far more severe, as it significantly reduces employer participation in these programs, especially among small businesses, thus lessening job opportunity and income of the urban and rural poor, the homeless, people with disabilities, veterans, single parents in poverty, and the long-term unemployed.  
Labor Department data shows that WOTC accounts for more than 20 percent of the jobs held by the 11 million workers with lowest weekly wages, and this percentage is likely to be higher in Empowerment Zones and on Indian Reservations.  
These jobs credits have been shown to pay for themselves through welfare savings, and are supported by cities and counties as part of an integrated roadmap to exit poverty. More importantly, when congressional inaction curbs opportunity, some folks in poverty who need jobs aren't getting them, and this lays a burden on the next generation.

TIA takes issue with Maryland bill setting standards for crumb rubber-modified turf
By: Miles Moore, Tire Business
 A bill before the Maryland General Assembly has added a new dimension to the controversy surrounding crumb rubber used as infill in synthetic athletic turf.

Maryland House Bill 1142 would set strict standards for recycling crumb rubber-modified turf, although the bill underwent a major change before a March 1 hearing before the Environment and Transportation Committee of the Maryland General Assembly.

Proponents of the bill, including several environmental and health advocacy organizations, insist the bill is necessary to protect earth, water and people from the toxic chemicals contained in synthetic turf.

However, opponents - including the Tire Industry Association (TIA), the Synthetic Turf Council and the Chesapeake Automotive Business Association - said the bill would reduce recycling options while attempting to fix a problem that does not exist.

As originally written, HB 1142 required Maryland residents responsible for synthetic turf to dispose of it only in "closed-loop" recycling facilities, and forbade them from incinerating synthetic turf or crumb rubber infill.

At the March 1 hearing, however, bill sponsor Del. Mary Lehman (D-21st District) said she had rewritten the bill to require it be disposed of as construction and demolition waste. A copy of the rewritten bill was not available on the Maryland Assembly website as of March 4.

"This legislation is not about the merits of synthetic turf, but the origins of synthetic turf and how not to harm the environment," Ms. Lehman said.

At the end of their useful life, turf fields can be taken to secondary sites and reinstalled, despite their deteriorated condition, according to Ms. Lehman.

"Without state regulations, this is an acceptable form of disposal," she said. "There is no quality control."

More than a dozen witnesses testified in favor of HB 1142, including Sydney Jacobs of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.

The useful life of a synthetic turf field, according to Ms. Jacobs, is less than 10 years.
"Then, it must be taken away," she said. "But what is that 'away?' "

Jack Mitchell, policy director of the National Center for Health Research, said the chemicals in synthetic turf are "known to be harmful to growing children, even at relatively low levels."

Mr. Mitchell also noted exposure studies from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources have not yet been completed.

However, TIA CEO Roy Littlefield said HB 1142 wrongly classifies synthetic turf as hazardous waste. The crumb rubber, polypropylene, polyethylene and polyurethane that comprise synthetic turf are not hazardous, he said.

"We have the federal government classification of rubber as a solid waste," Mr. Littlefield said. "And, as you know, we received that classification after several sessions and hearings conducted by the federal EPA in Washington."

Requiring synthetic turf to go to hazardous waste facilities would be a financial burden on the industry and prevent repurposing and recycling, according to Littlefield.

Recycling now accounts for 81.4 percent of the scrap tires generated every year, and ground rubber alone accounts for 25 percent of the market, or 62 million tires, he said.

Mr. Littlefield prepared his comments on the original bill and its requirement for closed-loop recycling.

However, treating synthetic turf as construction and demolition waste would be just as detrimental to tire recyclers, according to Mark Rannie, vice president of Baltimore-based Emanuel Tire Co.

Recycled tires have important environmental applications, such as in leachate collection systems in landfills, Mr. Rannie said.

The Synthetic Turf Council has guidelines governing the reuse and recycling of synthetic turf, according to STC President and CEO Dan Bond.

The plastic content in synthetic turf, Bond said, is converted to plastic pellets suitable for injection molding.

There was no immediate word on when a committee vote on HB 1142 would be scheduled.