EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: 2019 FEDERAL POLICIES AND PRIORITIES
(Scroll Past Executive Summary for Policy Detail)
- Urge and support effective and timely implementation of Farm Bill legislation that ensures a strong safety net for agriculture. This is vital to preserving the integrity of our food and fiber production, as well as the economy of our region.
- Regulatory agencies should evaluate economic impact in proposed and existing regulations. Oppose efforts to expand Greenhouse Gas regulations.
- Work to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) through commonsense changes to employer requirements, taxation and other burdens created under the law as implementation accelerates.
- Support the extension / renewal of the Section 1115 Waiver. Support federal funding for CHIP and the Texas Medicaid disproportionate share program. (DSH).
- Support the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is critical to maintaining strong economic growth in the U.S. Urge the Administration to address a handful of outstanding issues and support approval of the USMCA in Congress. Concurrently, oppose withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) without a successor agreement secured.
- Support immigration policies and procedures that are responsible, efficient, and fair. Urge Congress and the administration to address current and potential delays, backlogs, and disruptions that impede the movement of legitimate cargo and travelers across U.S. borders. Ensure the continuity of H-1B, L-1 and J-1 medical and nursing visas for professionals and highly valued workers. Support creation of a workable H-2A agricultural worker program. Push for continuation of employers’ ability to access needed talent and meet global workforce needs. Urge a workable guest-worker program that encourages secure, documented entry to the U.S.
- Support efforts to elevate Texas Tech to a status commensurate with that of an American Association of Universities (AAU), top-tier institution. Support policies that will help prepare workers for today’s business climate. Support TTU System request that Congress approve appropriations for FY19 which preserves and expands TTU and TTUHSC federal research budgets to the greatest extent possible.
- Oppose attempts to limit the ability of the business community to engage in the electoral and policymaking arenas.
- Oppose expansion of workplace mandates and the National Labor Relations Board authority and related efforts.
- Support Ports-to-Plains efforts. Support designation of an extended route for Interstate 27. Ensure that the funding commitments made in Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the federal surface transportation law, are kept. Urge a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund. Support the continued allowance of Operating Assistance for Urbanized Areas (UZAs) with Less Than 100 Peak Hour Buses.
- Urge the removal of obstacles to increased domestic conventional energy production and encourage development of alternative energy. Support development of the Keystone Pipeline project.
DETAILED POLICY ITEMS
Agriculture is the cornerstone of the Lubbock economy. Agriculture and agribusiness also represent a major sector of the national economy. Agriculture in the Lubbock area is largely dependent on water, and water also is vital to the area’s future and to potential economic development in the Lubbock area.
- Urge and support effective and timely implementation of Farm Bill legislation that ensures a strong safety net for agriculture. This is vital to preserving the integrity of our food and fiber production, as well as the economy of our region
- Support congressionally directed initiatives for water and agriculture research projects.
- The Chamber is supportive of additional federal / state funding for water-related research projects, as long as a project benefits the region and does not negatively impact area producers and other water users.
- Oppose any misguided and misinformed efforts to eliminate all federal commodity research and promotion programs.
- Support efforts of affected stakeholders to ensure that food product advertising regulation does not unduly hinder competition or limit consumer choice and is consistent with all applicable laws and the First Amendment.
- Support research and development of environmentally-sound crop protection products in accordance with the goals and purposes of the Food Quality Protection Act. Federal agencies should use sound science and transparent procedures in its implementation.
ENVIRONMENTAL & REGULATORY
- Urge that regulatory agencies evaluate economic impact and job loss in proposed and existing regulations.
- Promote a forward-looking, coherent regulatory structure that closes gaps, minimizes future systemic risk and ends duplicative regulation.
- Oppose efforts to remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act. “Navigable” appears 83 times in the Act and protects landowners and businesses from excessive federal regulation over standing water.
- Support efforts to ensure that environmental regulations are based on sound science and are implemented fairly. Urge the resolution of climate change legislation in a bipartisan manner that recognizes the challenge is international in scope, aggressively promotes new efficient technologies and stresses the compelling need for a solution that minimizes overall economic impact. Specifically, we support legislation that would:
- minimize the impact on major emitters;
- reduce price volatility for consumers;
- protect global competitiveness;
- invest in renewable energy sources;
- take advantage of nuclear power;
- streamline the permit system;
- make us the "Saudi Arabia of clean coal" by fostering carbon capture and sequestration technology;
- commit to increased environmentally responsible onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration;
- contain consumer and intellectual property protections;
- protect against agency regulation under existing laws not written for greenhouse gases;
- strengthen the hand of our international negotiators;
- increase our own energy security and energy efficiency.
- Oppose bad policies that resemble the failed climate proposals of the past, such as bills that jeopardize American jobs, create trade inequalities, leave open the Clean Air Act, open the door to CO2-based mass tort litigation, and further hamper the permitting process for clean energy. Oppose efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through existing environmental statutes not originally intended for this purpose, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
- Promote cooperative partnerships between the federal government and landowners to reduce the Endangered Species Act’s burden on local economies.
- Educate policymakers about the tremendous local, national, and global economic implications of water policy and promote the use of sound science in setting such policy. Closely monitor supply and ownership issues and water quality concerns, including recent enforcement efforts targeting unregulated storm water discharges.
- Oppose legislative or regulatory barriers that could hinder the growth of biotechnology at the national and international levels, including opposing regulations that impair unfettered marketplace activity; monitoring food labeling requirements, standards, and monitoring expanded controls on previously unregulated commodities; and undertaking efforts, where appropriate, to communicate the desirable benefits of biotechnology.
- Promote revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to allow projects to go through environmental reviews expeditiously, with coordinated, simultaneous reviews by each of the relevant agencies. Establish a shorter time period for those seeking judicial review.
Health Insurance/Tax Credits
- Work to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) through commonsense changes to employer requirements, taxation and other burdens created under the law as implementation accelerates.
- Support codifying association health plans, utilizing language similar to the current USDOL Association Health Plan regulations, which serve as purchasing pools for small businesses;
- Support federal medical liability reform;
- Urge equitable tax treatment for individuals who purchase their own coverage and support tax credits targeted to those with modest incomes.
- Support caregivers through respite care and tax credits or an IRA on long-term care issues.
- Support legislation that fosters private-sector solutions for the uninsured in the U.S.
- Support stand-alone legislation that offers tax credits for employer sponsored workplace wellness programs for employees.
- Urge lawmakers to protect and enhance Medicaid funding for hospitals.
- Protect federal funding for CHIP and the Texas Medicaid disproportionate share program. (DSH)
- Support the use of intergovernmental transfer (IGT) funds to obtain Medicaid match.
- Support the extension / renewal of the Section 1115 Waiver.
- Oppose elimination of mechanisms that support public/private health care partnerships.
- Oppose efforts to reduce Medicare Advantage or Medicare hospital and physician payments. Ensure that the Medicare program is protected from government imposed price controls on prescription drugs and offers choices to seniors and people with disabilities.
- Support linking physician Medicare reimbursements to quality-focused, performance-driven benchmarks. Physician reimbursement rates currently are set by a sustainable growth rate formula that needs comprehensive reform. Oppose reducing hospital reimbursements for offsets.
- Support efforts by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce regulatory burdens on health care providers.
- Support rural health initiatives and oppose measures that would reduce rural access.
- Support continued reform of the area wage index system utilized by the Medicare reimbursement system. This system, created in 1984, unfairly penalizes communities that had a low cost of living almost 20 years ago, and has restricted the ability of local health care providers to offer competitive wages.
- Reduce the national shortage of nurses and other allied professionals through innovative funding for educational programs and scholarships.
- Oppose efforts to implement nurse-staffing ratios
- Support changes in immigration policies to facilitate recruitment of foreign nurses.
- Support immigration policies and procedures that are responsible, efficient, and fair. Urge Congress and the administration to address current and potential delays, backlogs, and disruptions in our immigration and border management systems that impede the movement of legitimate cargo and travelers across U.S. borders. Continue to advance long-term legal immigration objectives to secure additional workers to counteract demographic trends. Ensure the continuity of H-1B, L-1 and J-1 medical visas for professionals and highly valued workers. Support creation of a workable H-2A agricultural worker program. Push for continuation of employers’ ability to access needed talent and meet global workforce needs. Urge a workable guest-worker program that encourages secure, documented entry to the U.S.
- Support the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is critical to maintaining strong economic growth in the U.S. Urge the Administration to address a handful of outstanding issues and support approval of the USMCA in Congress. Concurrently, oppose withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) without a successor agreement secured. Withdrawal from NAFTA without a successor agreement could jeopardize 1.8 million American jobs. Mexico is Texas’ number one trading partner and a total of $177 billion worth of trade between Texas and Mexico occurs each year.
- Urge the lifting of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico that were supposed to end once the USMCA was agreed to. These tariffs have invited $15 billion in counter-tariffs on U.S. agricultural and manufactured goods. Every week that the tariffs remain in place, $500 million in U.S. imports and exports are affected, inflicting significant harm on American workers, farmers, and ranchers. They must be eliminated without delay.
- Support efforts to make certain that Chinese regulations and practices governing foreign trade and investment do not result in an uneven playing field and inhibit the market access that underlies China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. Continue to closely monitor China’s progress toward meeting its outstanding and year-five WTO obligations.
- Support efforts to ensure that WTO actions not include premature and unwarranted U.S. concessions on anti-dumping and other trade remedy laws that would harm U.S. and West Texas agriculture or industry.
- Advocate for a fair, robust trade agenda so that U.S. companies and agricultural producers can export their goods and services around the globe to create jobs for Americans.
- Support the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) as tool to compete globally with other countries for exporting. Without export credit, the United States would adversely affect approximately 17,000 small and large suppliers across the nation.
A strong K-16 education system is crucial to the development of any community. Employers need a solid base of well-educated employees; education is a key decision in many relocation decisions; academic advancement and research conducted at institutions of higher learning and science provide multiple benefits to the economy.
- Texas Tech University (TTU) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), both part of the TTU System (TTUS), serve as centers for innovation in key areas of research that are essential to the national agenda. Federal R&D is critical to addressing our region’s challenges in medicine, energy, agriculture, and national security. Research is a highly productive investment in the economy in West Texas which pays off in local jobs and innovation. In Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15), TTU had research expenditures totaling over $157.74M, and TTUHSC had research expenditures of $40.09 million.
- The Chamber supports TTUS request that Congress approve appropriations for FY19 which preserves and expands these federal research budgets to the greatest extent possible.
- The Chamber supports Texas Tech’s efforts to elevate Texas Tech to a status commensurate with that of an American Association of Universities, top-tier institution.
- Support efforts to ensure that federal education and training programs, such as those authorized under the Workforce Investment Act, focus on the elements necessary to help American workers obtain the high-wage, high-skilled jobs that businesses are creating every day.
- Support effective implementation of the Every Students Succeeds Act, with realistic goals, accountability and transparency emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Advocate for proposals requiring a quality, rigorous, and well-rounded K-12 educational system that graduates students who are college and career ready.
- Incorporate policies in legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act that recognize the needs of adult workers attending postsecondary education on a less than half-time basis; accommodate the demographic shift in the postsecondary student population; allow employers and workers to keep pace with rapid advances in technology; and make certain equitable treatment for proprietary postsecondary education companies to address existing workforce challenges and ensure American competitiveness.
- The Chamber is supportive of additional federal and/or state legislatively directed initiatives for water-related research projects, as long as a project is not redundant and includes input from stakeholders, benefits the region and does not negatively impact area producers and other water users.
- The Chamber is supportive of needed research on desalination efforts, particularly with regard to brackish ground water supplies in the Santa Rosa dockum.
- Oppose attempts to limit the ability of the business community to engage in the electoral and policymaking arenas at the federal and state levels. Transparency requirements should be equally applied across the board to all special interests.
- Support equitable tax policy such as the Marketplace Fairness Act that levels the playing field for internet based and traditional brick and mortar retailers.
- To maintain and advance its global leadership in capital formation, the United States must have the fairest, efficient, and innovative capital markets in the world. Well-functioning, well-regulated capital markets are hindered by a maze of overlapping, contradictory, and duplicative financial regulations. The Chamber supports financial rulemaking that protects consumers and investors, encourages reasonable risk taking, doesn’t constrain innovation and growth or allow special interest groups to advance their agendas at the expense of all investors, and is coordinated with other economies and among the many domestic agencies that issue financial regulations.
- Urge Congress to pass legislation that does not allow a penalty (under Code Section 6707) for failure to disclose reportable transactions when there is reasonable cause for such failure. More than a half-dozen of the reportable transactions involve employee benefit plans used by small businesses.
- Support measures that prevent patent abuse/patent trolls.
- Oppose initiatives that would make union organizing easier, such as “Card Check”, which would abolish secret ballot elections in favor of card check majorities for union recognition.
- Oppose initiatives that attempt to regulate labor policy through the federal procurement process, for example, by blacklisting employers or ranking federal contractors based on labor policies.
- Oppose unreasonable expansion of workplace mandates.
- Oppose efforts to expand leave or to mandate paid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Oppose efforts to increase the amount of punitive and compensatory damages available, the potential for frivolous litigation and unjustified administrative burdens.
- Support reasonable changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, including allowing small businesses to recover their attorneys’ fees when they are successful in defending themselves against a citation.
- Protect the use of binding arbitration in employment.
- Oppose expansion of the National Labor Relations Board authority.
- Support the National Right-to-Work Act, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to repeal those provisions that permit employers, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement that is a union security agreement, to require employees to join a union as a condition of employment (including provisions permitting railroad carriers to require, pursuant to such an agreement, payroll deduction of union dues or fees as a condition of employment)
Transportation infrastructure is crucial to economic development opportunities, as well as maintaining our quality of life. The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce is actively promoting several transportation projects that provide our member businesses with access to markets and address rural needs.
- Support efforts to designate the Ports-to-Plains Corridor between Lubbock and Laredo as the continuation of Interstate 27, with associated design standards and funding. This designation supports international trade, freight mobility and infrastructure.
- Support reauthorization of transportation legislation that maintains reforms found in the last transportation reauthorization bill. Lawmakers should come up with a permanent funding solution for the Federal Highway Trust Fund. All funding sources should be discussed and considered, including re-indexing the federal gas tax or other user fees to ensure future health of the federal highway trust fund.
- Support more equitable and flexible distribution of federal transportation funds and Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) funds and an increase to the PFC.
- Support Ports-to-Plains efforts.
- Support implementation of airline safety measures in a manner that is safe, while not unnecessarily burdensome to the airline industry or that would discourage travel
- Support coalition efforts to improve freight rail service in West Texas. From a more long-range standpoint, improving freight rail also would allow Lubbock to consider a less-immediate but still important opportunity for eventual passenger rail access.
- Support U.S. Chamber of Commerce efforts to address long-term infrastructure needs through the Let’s Rebuild America initiative
- Ensure that the funding commitments made in Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the federal surface transportation law, are kept.
- Advocate a greater emphasis on economic needs and issues in formulating national transportation policies, plans and programs.
- Support greater emphasis on national freight transportation program investments that would implement highway, rail, and marine transportation improvements to benefit commerce.
- Advocate for increasing overall public investment in infrastructure using all potential revenue sources, including user fees and other revenues collected at different level of government.
- Advocate for increased use of financing and credit options, including tax credits and public-private partnerships, to leverage private capital.
- Ensure adequate funding for rural transportation and connectivity.
- Support current Metropolitan Planning Organization criteria and structure in the U.S.
Lubbock International Airport & Aviation
- Support more equitable and flexible distribution of federal transportation funds
- Support modernization of the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program and eliminate the federal cap to the PFC, thereby providing local control and the ability for communities to set fees according to their needs
- Urge Congress to fully protect the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
- Encourage Congress to implement Nextgen technology and systems wisely in order to create greater efficiencies in the aviation system.
- Urge Congress to reject ongoing efforts by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other federal agencies to shift federal responsibilities and costs to local airport operators.
- As provided for in the FAST Act, support the continued allowance of Operating Assistance for Urbanized Areas (UZAs) with Less Than 100 Peak Hour Buses. Public transportation systems in urbanized areas of more than 200,000 population which operate less than 100 buses in peak operation should be authorized to use 50% of FTA Section 5307 formula funds for operating purposes.
- Urge the removal of obstacles to increased domestic energy production. Oppose congressional and administrative actions that would undermine or restrict hydraulic fracturing and its ability to develop the enormous shale oil and natural gas reserves across the country as well as other domestic energy resources, including the Department of the Interior’s proposed rule covering hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. Oppose efforts to prevent oil and natural gas exploration and production through the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act regulations.
- Climate Change – Reasonable and responsible federal action to reduce greenhouse emissions is warranted. Efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions must be made in concert with other energy/environmental goals, including the increase of natural gas supplies and minimizing price impact on natural gas consumers.
- In order for the program to remain viable for the at-risk population it serves, we support increased funding for the U.S. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and request that formula-driven base grants be distributed in full accord of enabling statutes. This is not the case today, in contravention of LIHEAP’s actual enabling law. Presently, just 19% of funds above $1.975 billion are disbursed as actually specified by Congress’s enabling law. For each of the last two years, Congress has responded to this need by increasing LIHEAP Appropriations, and directing that most of those new funds be flowed through the Program’s new formula – we strongly support this approach in FY20. Natural Gas Production – Support incentives to expand natural gas supply from shale, offshore and onshore to help meet the rising demand and reduce price volatility for American Consumers.
- Oppose legislation that promotes smart-grid appliances at the expense of high-efficiency natural gas appliances.
- Support tax credits for natural gas vehicles. Support provisions to encourage the use of natural gas in vehicles so that federal policy does not favor one alternative fuel technology over others.
- Support provisions such as tax incentives that encourage the private sector's efforts to improve energy efficiency and conservation and its investment in alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind and biofuels, nuclear power, hydropower, clean coal, solar energy and geothermal energy.