While infrastructure issues have remained at the forefront of 2016 state legislative debates, the activity seen during this session is much less impressive than the 2015 legislative season. However, in addition to tackling the question of infrastructure, some states have lumped in professional practice issues like “qualifications based selection” (QBS) as they contemplate their budgets and efficiencies.
Despite the fact that the increases in investment have come more slowly this session, ASCE and its members stepped forward on a number of bills to ensure the Society’s position was heard and bills were advanced, and halted, as needed. Here is just a taste of the activity we’ve been following from coast to coast:
- Alabama – Just a vote away from seeing a 6-cent per gallon increase. This will be the state’s first increase in nearly 25 years. The legislature here opted to pair the increase with the creation of the Alabama Transportation Safety Fund the recipient of the newly generated revenue. The Safety Fund has already been passed into law and is simply awaiting a final vote of its would-be funding source.
- Connecticut – Governor Dannel Malloy’s is looking to advance his Let’s Go CT! Plan, a 30 year vision for the future of Connecticut’s transportation system. As the legislature nears the end of its session it has yet to approve the “lockbox” ballot measure that is a critical component to protecting the state’s investment in its transportation infrastructure.
- Georgia & Kansas – While over 700 miles separate these state capitals legislators here seemed to be of like minds this session. Georgia introduced SB 366 a bill that would have eliminated QBS for transportation contracts. ASCE opposed this bill and it found itself stalled in the House Transportation Committee. The legislature is looking to study the impact of the bill this summer. Meanwhile in Kansas, a study was commissioned that encouraged legislatures to consider introducing a similar anti-QBS bill as a means of more effectively using state funds. ASCE is also opposing this concept and to date we have not seen a bill.
- Indiana – While the legislature did not pass Governor Mike Pence’s $1 billion transportation proposal, it did pass a transportation package. The plan ultimately passed, relies on transfers from the general fund and the Major Moves 2020 Fund as well as creating mechanisms to increase funding at the local level. In addition to addressing the funding question, the package also creates additional mechanism for distributing transportation funds to localities as well as commissions a study to develop a long term maintenance plan.
- Missouri – Now finds itself just one vote away from putting a 6-cent per gallon gas tax increase on the November ballot. While the bill, SB 623, seemed to have stalled early on in the session. It received a breath of fresh air when green-lighted by State Senator Doug Libla. The bill which originally included a 1.5 cent per gallon increase, saw the threshold increased to 6.5 cents per gallon and quickly made its way to the House.
- Nebraska – Building on its successful increase of the gas tax in 2015, the Nebraska Legislature returned this session with a desire to protect the additional revenue it will generate. It passed into law the Transportation Innovation Act which creates an Infrastructure Bank which will initially receive $50 million from cash reserves and an expected $400 million from the additional revenue generated thanks to the gas tax increase.
- West Virginia – The legislature here came close to seeing a 3-cent per gallon gas tax increase as it brought its session as a close in March. SB 555 picked up momentum back as the session entered its final two weeks but, did not have enough time to clear the House. We’re hopeful this momentum will tee up the legislature to introduce similar legislature upon their return in January 2017.
While some state legislatures will be bringing their sessions to a close in the upcoming weeks others are just now approaching a mid-point in their calendar year. ASCE will continue to keep a close eye on the states as they head into summer recesses and interim work periods. In addition to the bills still on the table for Alabama, Connecticut, and Missouri, we are hopeful we will see additional activity from states like Minnesota and South Carolina, that have discussed transportation funding proposals for the last couple session but, have not yet taken action.