Social DistancingHear from the AEM Government Relations team as they give an inside scoop on important policy priorities impacting our industry. 

It’s been anything but business as usual for AEM’s Advocacy Team during the coronavirus pandemic. In-person meetings with members of Congress and staff have been replaced with Zoom calls and e-mails. Committee hearings and markups are being monitored remotely, with the added fun of hot mic commentary and creative video conference backdrops. While much has changed, AEM’s commitment to and success at advancing policies important to equipment manufacturers has not. Here’s where things stand on Highway Bill reauthorization, COVID-19 Relief, the recent FCC Ligado decision, and ethanol (to name a just a few!) 

Highway Bill Reauthorization

The 2015 FAST Act, a critical component in keeping the federal surface transportation program up and running, expires in a few months. While timing is never ideal and the reauthorization process isn’t ever without bumps, it’s particularly challenging now as Congress and the nation continues to deal with the pandemicThe Senate Environment and Public Works committee (with jurisdiction over the federal surface transportation program) wrapped up its work on the bill last summer, but faces strong headwinds from the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in making time for it on the Senate floor calendar.  

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee engaged in a markup last week of its version of the bill. There are plans for it to come before the full House for a vote at the end of June, but its fate is uncertain due to the partisan nature of the process so far. As deliberations continue, AEM will continue to push for a fully-funded, multi-year bill that addresses environmental permitting issues, provides new funding for workforce development programs, and ensures rural infrastructure receives its fair share.  

COVID-19 Relief

Congress is signaling that additional COVID-19 relief measures for business and industry are still on the table for consideration, but there is continued disagreement on when those proposals would be primed and ready for consideration, and what actual relief they would provide. Among other priorities for COVID-19 relief, AEM has been active in a coalition of industry groups pushing for a federal grant program to assist businesses and provide capital to help them recover. AEM also continues to push for introduction of a National Manufacturing Strategy plan to centralize and streamline support for manufacturers and position a Chief Manufacturing Officer within the Administration, a role that currently doesn’t exist.  

Ligado

On Sunday, April 19, the FCC adopted an Order allowing Ligado to repurpose spectrum adjacent to Global Positioning System (GPS) and satellite communications frequencies for a terrestrial cellular network—which threatens to cause interference with GPS and satellite communications that support military, aviation, farming, transportation construction, maritime, weather, and many other public and private sector activities and operations.  

This puts GPS-dependent equipment at risk of disruption, and unfairly places the burden of “fixing” interference that occurs on the farm or on the job site on the shoulders of equipment users. AEM has been pushing back hard on the decision, urging the FCC to reconsider through a formal petition and setting up legislative remedies to ensure that GPS users are protected. AEM led efforts on this issue in 2011 when Ligado (named LightSquared at the time) submitted a similar proposal  

Ethanol

Fuel consumption has dropped dramatically due to COVID-19, and ethanol producers have been hit hard. This has had dire consequences for corn growers and other industries dependent on a robust ethanol economy. AEM has been at the forefront of urging Congress to provide relief to the biofuels industry and continues to fight back against attempts to expand the use of small refinery waivers. The fight has pitted lawmakers from oil-dependent states against corn-dependent states. AEM continues to advocate for relief for biofuel producers and push back against attempts to weaken protections already in place that support their long-term viability and path to recovery post-COVID-19.  

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