Government Relations Update January 2019
Government Reopens Under Temporary Agreement
The Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.J.Res.28) became law on January 25, 2019, bringing an end to the 35-day government shutdown. The bill provides funding for three weeks to the agencies affected by the seven unpassed appropriations bills for FY2019, ending on February 15, 2019. During this period, a conference committee of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate will work to negotiate a legislative compromise on border security and immigration to address the root cause of the shutdown in an effort to avoid a second shutdown this month.
President Revives Possibility of Infrastructure Legislation
President Trump attempted to revive efforts on Capitol Hill to pass comprehensive infrastructure legislation during his State of the Union address to Congress this week. While he did not give specifics on what he would like to see in a potential bill and did not mention the $1.5 trillion figure from last year’s address, the president made clear that he is still interested in moving infrastructure legislation forward. The president said that investments must be made “in the cutting-edge industries of the future” noting that this effort is “not an option” but a “necessity.”
Senator Requests Extension for RUS Applications
In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on January 29, 2019, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) urged the secretary to provide a one-month extension to all deadlines for the $600 million ReConnect Program at the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The ReConnect Program is a new pilot initiative at USDA intended to improve connectivity quality and access to rural communities with no broadband service or where service is below the threshold of sufficient access, defined as 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
Sen. Capito expressed her concern that the 35-day government shutdown would have negative consequences for the rollout of the program due to relevant federal agencies not having been able to work at full capacity. RUS announced details of the program in December and set February 22, 2019, as the date for a future release of finalized information about the application process.