Orange County Branch Newsletter

December 2018

ASCE Society News

2018 Election Results & ASCE's Policy Priorities

By Brian Pallasch, CAE, Managing Director, Government Affairs & Infrastructure Initiatives



United States Congress 

The Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives and Republicans have maintained their control on the Senate.  As of the afternoon of Friday, November 9, the Democrats have 226 seats in the House to the Republican’s 198, with the results pending in 11 races. That puts the Democrats past the magic number of 218 to gain control.  

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans have 51 seats to the Democrats 46 (including 2 seats for  Independents who caucus with Democrats). Three seats have not been decided.  

Congress returns next week, and the process of leadership elections will commence.  House Democrats will not hold leadership elections until after Thanksgiving, but House Republicans and Senate elections  will take place next week.  

Infrastructure continues to be raised as an area of bipartisan agreement that the divided Congress could address early in 2019.  In her speech on Tuesday night, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi noted that  infrastructure was an area that Democrats would look to work on with President Trump.  Likewise,  President Trump and Vice President Pence have both remarked in the last week a willingness to work  with Democrats on a large infrastructure package.

State Ballot Measures 

From Maine to California, 31 states had infrastructure investment on the ballot in 2018.  These measures ranged from ensuring that adequate investments are being made in transportation and water infrastructure to our schools and coastal restoration. Here’s brief look at what the election night returns said:

California voters rejected a repeal of the 12-cent gas tax increase (Proposition 6) with 55.4% of the vote. This means that the $5.2 billion including 6,500 road and bridge safety, transportation and public transit improvement projects can continue. Beginning in April, ASCE’s Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives Team worked closely with members in Region 9 to advocate in favor of Proposition 69, which created a lockbox to protect the new revenue stream and ensure it is applied to transportation projects only. This measure passed overwhelmingly and likely gave voters a reason to ensure the gas tax increase was allowed to stand. ASCE additionally worked with the California Report Card Committee to expedite several transportation chapters from the Report Card for California’s Infrastructure and released them in time to affect early votes. Members also participated in trainings to learn how to speak with their neighbors about Proposition 6 and to urge them to reject the repeal of the increased gas tax.  

Connecticut became the next state to dedicate their fuel tax revenue to transportation projects by passing a lockbox measure. Much like the California Report Card, the Connecticut Section also sped up their production process to ensure the release of critical transportation information as voters prepared to head to the polls. 

Maine voters once again approved a transportation bond measure, which approved funding not only for the state’s roadways and bridges, but also airports, ports, rail and transit. Transportation bond measures have been fairly commonplace in Maine in recent years as voter approval is required for the issuance of bonds. 

Hillsborough County, Florida approved a sales tax increase to fund long-sought transportation improvement projects, as well as school repairs. The Florida Report Card gave school facilities a “D+” grade, and Hillsborough county is taking the first step towards improving a public-school infrastructure. 

• The City of Houston, Texas passed Proposition A, which will continue funding for Rebuild Houston, a drainage improvement program. The continuation of Rebuild Houston marries neatly with the Harris County proposition approved in August to fund flood mitigation projects in the Harris County Flood  District.  These measures put Houston on the path towards building more resilient infrastructure to  prevent similar after effects as those experienced during Hurricane Harvey in 2018.  

Rhode Island overwhelmingly approved $250 million for public school building improvements, as well as $47.3 million for clean water and coastal resilience projects.  

While there were a significant number of infrastructure victories there were a couple of measure who  did not fare as well: 

Missouri disappointingly rejected a 10-cent fuel tax increase, which would have allocated an estimated $400 million for Missouri’s transportation infrastructure improvements. Missouri’s gas tax will remain the 49th lowest in the country at 17 cents per gallon. ASCE began laying the foundation for the potential increase in October 2017 through attendance at the National Council of State Legislature’s Transportation Summit and later testifying before the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force. The bill enacting the ballot measure was approved by the State Legislature at the end of session in April.   
Colorado will also not see new money for transportation initiatives after Proposition 110 was defeated, which would have increased the state’s sales tax by .62% and created an estimated $800 million for local road & transit projects. Proposition 110 met with opposition in the form of Proposition 109, a ballot measure that would urge the state legislature to maintain the status quo and fund road, bridge, and transit improvements from the existing gas tax and similar fees. Ultimately, neither measure prevailed. 

Governors 

The races in Florida and Georgia remain in limbo, with Republican nominee Ron DeSantis leading Democrat Andrew Gillum by 38,000 votes, which is within the 0.5 percent margin that requires an automatic machine recount once the count is certified. In Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp has declared victory, but his opponent, Stacey Abrams, has not yet conceded and promises to stay in the race until all the votes, including provisional votes, are counted. Under Georgia law, an election winner must get more than 50 percent of the vote in order to win; if that threshold is not met, the election goes to a run-off. Additionally, a separate law requires a recount if votes are within a 1 percent margin. Abrams needs roughly 25,000 more votes to trigger either or those scenarios. Nationwide, Democrats emerged from Election Day with new claims on a range of governors' mansions, winning in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin. 

Among the winners: Kansas Democrat Laura Kelly, Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker, and Nevada Democrat  Steve Sisolak.  In New Mexico, Democrats picked up a win with Michelle Lujan Grisham, in Michigan,  Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, and in Maine, Janet Mills defeated Republican Shawn Moody. In  Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers edged out Republican incumbent Scott Walker. 

Going into Election Day, Republicans held 33 governorships to 16 for Democrats and one independent.  

After the results on Tuesday the tally is now 23 Democrats, 24 Republicans and two undecided.  

State Legislatures 

Democrats scored significant wins Tuesday in 2018 legislative elections, but Republicans continue to have a notable advantage in legislative and state control, as they have since 2010.  

Democrats won five legislative chambers from Republicans, as well as moving the Connecticut Senate  from tied to their column.  That’s a shift of only six chambers, well below the average chamber switch of  12 in election cycles all the way back to 1900. 

Democrats also won functional control of the New York Senate. It has long been a numerically  Democratic chamber, but a Republican-led coalition held power. Now, the Senate is numerically and  effectively Democratic. The reverse occurred in the Alaska House where a small group of renegade  Republicans had allied with Democrats to lead the chamber. Tuesday’s results mark the end of the  Democratic-led coalition. 

The surprise is that only one legislature in the nation is divided: Minnesota, where the House is  Democrat and the Senate is Republican. The last time there was only one divided state legislature was in  1914. 

Chambers that flipped from Republican to Democratic: 

• Colorado Senate 

• Maine Senate 

• Minnesota House 

• Both chambers in New Hampshire.

House Committees 

Because of the change in leadership there will be all new committee chairs in the House.  Below is a chart with the current conventional wisdom who will lead key committees. 

Committee 

Chair

Ranking Member 

Transportation & Infrastructure

 Peter DeFazio (D-OR) 

Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Sam Graves (R-MO) 

Science, Space and Technology 

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) 

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)*
Frank Lucas (R-OK) 

Ways and Means 

Richard Neal (D-MA) 

Kevin Brady (R-TX 

Appropriations Committee 

Nita Lowey (D-NY) 

Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Kay Granger (R-TX) 

Natural Resources Committee 

Raul Grijavla (D-AZ) 

Rob Bishop (R-UT) 

Energy and Commerce Committee 

Frank Pallone (D-NJ) 

Greg Walden (R-OR) 

Budget 

John Yarmuth (D-KY) 

Steve Womack (R-AR) 

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