PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

INVEST in America Act Must be Inclusive, Bipartisan and Benefit All Workers: Letter to House Transportation Chair and Ranking Member

By at 9 June, 2021, 10:14 am

The Honorable Peter DeFazio

Chair, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

2165 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Sam Graves

Ranking Member, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

2164 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chair DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves:

On behalf of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council), I am writing to thank you for holding this timely markup on the INVEST in America Act.

Job creation and workforce development are critical to economic growth and vibrancy – and of course will help boost recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure while ensuring the fluid movement of goods and people can work alongside the solid economic recovery that is now taking shape to supercharge growth and competitiveness for the long-term. We are hopeful that your committee can still adjust course and work across party lines to generate and pass a bill that can be efficiently conferenced with a Senate counterpart.

Doing so would surely unite the nation and you can count on the millions of U.S. small businesses to cheer any such achievement. Making progress towards this goal, however, means putting aside divisive and controversial policy measures and focusing on the core elements of surface transportation reauthorization. I want to highlight a few areas of particular concern as it relates to the movement of goods, which small businesses especially track:

● Harmful trucking provisions, which would disproportionally impact small and independent truckers. As outlined by Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the bill as currently written would increase the minimum amount of insurance required for commercial motor vehicles from $750,000 to $2 million (Section 4408), a number too high for many small businesses in trucking. Costs borne by these truckers would also be passed on to businesses reliant on shipping, many of which are small businesses growing the dynamic ecommerce market.

● Anticompetitive rail title, riddled with costly mandates and narrow policies. Most problematic is the effort to mandate all freight trains maintain two people in the locomotive forever (Section 9506), absent of any safety justification. SBE Council, along with scores of analysts, have looked at this issue over the years and see no need for such a policy given innovative technologies, and particularly as railroads are actively bargaining on labor practices. It would make rail less competitive – including the hundreds of small business-short line railroads across the country – which would move freight to strained highways. Much of the same logic can be applied to other poison pills such as the preemptive prohibition of LNG-by-rail movements (Section 8202) and efforts to slow freight movements at the southern border (Section 9507).

● A potential underride mandate (Section 4405), which would not only heap enormous new costs on businesses if implemented but – absent more precise language – would exacerbate frequent issues within the chassis market. Because it is so broad in nature right now, a blanket underride mandate could hinder intermodal freight operations, as chassis could no longer be stacked for use on terminal or to be transported between terminals and markets.

● Possibly triggering a new freight tax through the start of a study (Section 6006), which would impose new fees on those that move goods and divert revenue to things like transit.

At a high level, and as I detailed to the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development in May 2021, infrastructure and transportation policy need not be a vehicle to force unpopular and counterproductive labor provisions. Specifically, mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) would exclude most small businesses from participating in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. This restriction would be a disservice to American workers, taxpayers, and the small businesses that could add tremendous value to a wide variety of infrastructure projects.

In order for all workers to have access to skill-building opportunities that infrastructure projects can provide, the package must allow for both union and non-union shops to participate in these projects. Again, a PLA-only package has the potential to widen the skills gap by excluding most of the small to mid-size businesses that could potentially help to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. There must be fair and open competition for these infrastructure projects, which would result in better value for taxpayers, growth opportunities for innovative small businesses and fair and open access to skill-building opportunities for a greater share of American workers.

Conclusion

SBE Council recognizes that today’s markup activity is only the beginning and not the end for large scale transportation policy. We appreciate committee members’ desire to make significant progress in this area, but we implore all members to simply do better. There are strengths within the bill to build on, and we need to look no further than the Senate EPW Committee for proof that bipartisanship is possible – even in today’s political climate.

We ask that your legislation ultimately be inclusive to all relevant businesses that have a stake in the U.S. transportation network. That is how we ensure it benefits American workers in the most equitable way – not by picking winners and losers or disadvantaging important segments like the independent, private freight railroads or 3PLs involved in the chassis sector.

Thank you again for your support of small businesses, and please do not hesitate to contact me for questions.

Sincerely,

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO

 

CC: Chair Carper, Ranking Member Capito, Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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