March 2017
DMGS Capitol Commentary- March 2017
Federal Update
Update on President Donald Trump’s Proposed Cabinet Nominations
Other High-Level Offices
**All Nominees pending congressional approval
Congressional Update
Trump’s Budget Proposal Poses Problems for Appropriation Committees

Though President Donald Trump’s budget proposal is largely a preliminary step in the budget approval process, it is causing concern among members of several Congressional appropriation committees. Trump’s main idea from the proposal is to boost defense spending by around $50 billion, while slashing several domestic programs by the same amount to fund this boost. This notion speaks to the consistency of the Trump administration, as they have built their platform on protecting the US against foreign threats through their harsh stance against ISIS and their controversial immigration order. The administration’s vision for rebuilding the military seems unrealistic, particularly from a fiscal standpoint, according to critics.

Appropriators, who are responsible for implementing the changes to the spending plan, foresee backlash from multiple factions in response to this proposal. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D) voiced his disdain for the bill saying “I think both Democrats and Republicans are going to run away from it” because of slashes to key programs, such as education and medical research. Surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has similar apprehensions regarding Trump’s proposal. McConnell cited the fact that large-scale budgetary bills are dependent on support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Both Republican and Democrat members of several appropriation committees also spoke of the difficulties that severe domestic cuts would cause. Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R) heard from over a dozen lawmakers that their domestic programs need more federal support, not less. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R), along with fifteen other lawmakers, pressured Interior-Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R) for more resources for programs in their states as well. It seems this trend will continue as decisions on spending become imminent.
Administration Update
Presidential Joint Address Receives Support, Sustained Doubt

President Trump’s address to Congress sounded much different than his infamous tweets and previous addresses. Gone were unsupported accusations of voter fraud and assaults on the media, while the speech also largely positive. Trump expressed his vision for the future of his presidency, and for the reunification of the US.

The media, despite past battles with Trump, lauded his level-headed statements and his attempt at ‘normalcy’. This seems like a huge step toward the Trump administration solidifying its goals and creating trust with the American public. Still, critics voiced their concerns, which were largely concerned about motives for this abrupt change, and the plethora of idealism from Trump’s words. His speech was characterized with promises of cheaper, more accessible healthcare, massive tax reliefs, and greater defense spending. However, there were no mentions of inevitable issues that might arise from his promises. Trump seemingly avoided any notion of negativity, and was likened to a “gifted salesman” afterward. “Salesman” seems fitting considering the tenuous nature surrounding upcoming healthcare and budget debates, and the growing concern as to the results of these debates. Trump seems to have identified unrest, and potentially a solution to that unrest.

Potential Compromise on Immigration Ban

Despite the Trump administration’s early disdain for illegal immigrants and refugees, their tone has changed. Most notably, President Trump spoke of the possibility of broad immigration reform. This change has caught many off guard, because of Trump’s earlier moves restricting immigration and blocking refugees, while also empowering immigration enforcement officials. Of course, Democrats are skeptical and hardline conservatives are upset, but Trump’s statements offer hope for depolarization on Capitol Hill. Trump suggested switching to a “merit-based system”, in conjunction with prior orders that constrict mass immigration flow. Also, those who have already entered the country illegally may not be granted citizenship, but could be allotted some type of legal status. The President specifically noted that “Dreamers”, those who entered the country illegally as children, would be protected under this reform. Trump’s sudden change of heart has sparked disbelief from Democrats, who voiced their confusion with the Trump administration’s former actions on the subject. While Trump claims he is ready to collaborate on immigration, his statements regarding reform were accompanied by more promises of border security and construction of the long-awaited wall.
March Congressional Schedule
Industry Outlook: Organic and Wellness Food Products

The organic food market hit a record $43.3 billion in 2015, increasing more than 11 percent since 2014. In one year, the entire market grew by $4.5 billion, the largest year on record, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 survey.

The last several years have signified an ever-increasing appetite for healthy and ethically produced food among consumers and suppliers. Whether its fruits and vegetables (which account for more than a third of organic subcategories in 2015) dairy products, fish and meats or condiments, large commercial stores have taken note, creating greater access to food that meets the demands of consumers focused on health and wellness.

We've compiled a comprehensive look at legislation and legislators that are impacting Organic and Wellness Food Products on our blog:

Industry Outlook: Organic and Wellness Food Products

DMGS State Updates
New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie's 2017 Budget Address to the NJ Legislature

Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his final budget plan for New Jersey on Tuesday, 2/28/17, casting his fiscal stewardship of the state as a net positive despite a historic run of credit-rating downgrades and surprising lawmakers with a blizzard of complex policy plans just as his term begins to draw to a close.

Highlights include:
  • Christie proposed a $35.5 billion budget for fiscal 2018, which would be $1 billion, or 2.9 percent, larger than the spending plan he signed last year.
  • Funding for schools would rise by more than $523 million, to $13.8 billion, with no district seeing a reduction. 
  • New Jersey’s beleaguered pension system for public workers, which has fallen deeper into the red each year in the past two decades, would get its biggest cash infusion in history, $2.51 billion, a $647 million increase over the current fiscal year.
  • A sharp reduction in the state’s use of one-shot revenue sources in the budget, from 13.2 percent when he took office, to 2 percent in the new budget plan.
  • A repair of the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund with a surplus of $1.9 billion,
  • A percent annual cap on local property tax increases,
  • A steep fall in the unemployment rate, from 9.8 percent when he took office, to 4.7 percent.
  • The Governor appropriated $10.0 million to help local boards of health identify elevated blood-lead levels in children consistent with those established by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

For further reading, we have provided a full text recap of Governor Christie's budget address at our Blog

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney presents the 2018 City Budget

Mayor Kenney’s second proposed budget seeks to tackle some of the greatest issues facing the city. The 2017 budget built a  foundation for residents of all Philadelphia neighborhoods, with the passage of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax providing funds to support investments in quality pre-K, community schools, and the Rebuilding Community Infrastructure initiative. These three initiatives continue to form the keystone of the Mayor’s proposed 2018 budget.

Highlights include:

  • $525,000 in rapid re-housing funds to support an additional 50 families that exit shelter.
  • An increase of the per diem rate for foster families to care for the children and youth placed with them
  • $1.9 million has been proposed to help tackle the opioid crisis 
  • An investment in additional funds for childhood lead poisoning prevention, through enhanced efforts on education and enforcement.
  • An increase in funding for City-funded demolitions by $500,000, which will allow the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L+I) to conduct 525 demolitions;
  • The 2018 Proposed Budget assumes revenues totaling $4.34 billion, (a growth of 4.35% from the 2017 estimate), with $3.25 billion from local tax receipts, an increase of 5.22% from 2017;
  • The 2018 Proposed Budget also continues to drive down wage and business tax rates to make the City more competitive

For a full text of Mayor Kenney's Budget Address to City Council, click here

PennDOT agrees to put $100 million toward I-95 park cap project

The mayor announced a $90 million city commitment to capping I-95 and building an 11-acre expanse of greenery between Walnut and Chestnut streets. The project is meant to connect Center City with the waterfront. The administration expects this public project—estimated at $225 million—to spur adjacent private investment on a far larger scale. Read more at Plan Philly...



Delaware and Ohio
Delaware governor signs anti-discrimination executive order

Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, signed an executive order Wednesday updating anti-discrimination policies within state agencies.

“One of the big priorities for me is we embrace the diversity in our state and we make inclusion for folks of all walks of life into the business of state government,” Carney said.

“I’m committed to building a state government that’s representative of all the people we serve with a cabinet and staff that’s mindful of inclusion and diversity—not just diversity, but inclusion—making sure everyone feels valued in the work they do.”

Carney’s executive order makes some amendments to a 2009 anti-discrimination in state government executive order signed by former Governor Jack Markell. Markell’s order required each state agency to develop its own anti-discrimination policy.  The changes from Governor Carney create one uniform anti-discrimination policy for all state agencies to abide by.

Read More at Newsworks


Lawmaker’s plan would revamp Ohio’s congressional map-making

A new legislative proposal calls for Ohio’s congressional districts to be drawn with bipartisan input similar to what Ohio voters approved for state legislative boundaries in 2015.

State Sen. Frank LaRose, an Akron-area Republican, introduced the resolution Wednesday that he says will make the congressional redistricting process more balanced and transparent. He says his plan won’t favor one political party over another.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has expressed support for fixing Ohio’s congressional mapmaking process.

Congressional maps are currently approved once per decade by the state Legislature.

Updates from the Firm
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