The Spring 2021 Washington Summit could not have been more perfectly timed. Our second virtual legislative advocacy summit on May 26th was scheduled months earlier, but thanks to Congress’s own schedule, our attendees were able to convince enough members of the Senate to pass an important piece of industry legislation on Summit week.
“Let’s give credit to both the Senate and our members for talking about the importance of infrastructure,” said Zack Perconti, NUCA’s lobbyist. “These victories are not delivered overnight, but we were pleased that the Senate EPW Committee unanimously passed on the same day as our May 26 Summit the surface transportation bill we’ve been supporting for over a year.”
The bill Perconti is referring to is the chamber’s $303.5 billion surface transportation bill, the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021.” This NUCA-supported bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote, and may have already been approved by the upper chamber by the time you read this issue. The House approved their version of the surface transportation bill on July 1. Both bills will most likely face a conference committee later this fall to iron out their differences.
At the May 26th Summit, NUCA’s Chapters and members delivered a consistent message to Congress in the 95 virtual meetings held for the event: Our infrastructure is America’s foundation for economic success.
In the spring Washington Summit, NUCA focused on three key messages:
- Significant increases for underground infrastructure investment in water, wastewater, electric, and natural gas delivery systems
- The need for broadband infrastructure deployment, as this sector is critical for future economic development as demonstrated over the last 18 months in the pandemic
- Reauthorize the nation’s surface transportation law and increase revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.
NUCA chapter executive directors arranged the virtual meetings with their state’s two U.S. Senators and House Congressional delegation. The Summit opened with a rousing call to action by NUCA Chairman Lauren Atwell and several statements by important lawmakers, such as House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and House Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE).
The virtual meetings were held at various times throughout the day, directly engaging lawmakers or their staff with NUCA members. Our members shared stories about local jobsites, the challenges they face in repairing obsolete systems, and closed with a request for assistance on legislation that will deliver the resources our industry needs to make our communities a better place to live and work.
This year, NUCA has seen the full Senate and a key House committee pass legislation doubling funding for the drinking water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the Clean Water SRF, to about $40 billion for both funds. As we expected, infrastructure is on the move this year in the new Congress and Administration because both parties know better water, sewer, broadband, and energy infrastructure systems are sought by Americans everywhere.
But our advocacy is not finished for 2021. All of these bills are still in flux, and nothing is certain until NUCA-supported legislation is signed by President Biden. The surface transportation bill must be signed into law by September 30th, or else it faces an extension like what was done last year, delaying its passage for another 12 months and upsetting project schedules yet again. And a conference committee can deliver unwanted surprises in its negotiations, especially on bills as large and complex as this session’s infrastructure legislation.
This session has delivered the best results our industry has encountered in over 10 years to pass significant increases in the two SRFs, delivering a 100% increase in funding to the main federal resource conduits used by states to build and repair new water and wastewater systems. And we must begin the long-term conversation about faster broadband and other industry priority issues, such as workforce development resources to train and deliver more skilled employees in the years ahead.
So we are going back to Congress this fall—and in-person—to seal the deal. Make plans to attend our Fall Washington Summit on Nov. 1-3, 2021. Congress needs to hear from you personally that their work to deliver more infrastructure resources to you is critical to our nation’s economic health and your company’s vitality.
We will have more information about the Fall Washington Summit online at www.WeDigAmerica.org, the Summit’s official website, and at NUCA.com/summit and in other NUCA and NUCA chapter publications. These resources will also have information about the Summit’s headquarters hotel and registration fees.