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On June 19, Tiffany Hoerter and John Gavenonis of the Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society met with United States Senator Thomas R. Carper and Staff Assistant Matthew Marshall in the Senator’s Wilmington office. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss three key issues: TSCA reform, a permanent R&D tax credit, and budget control caps.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 was passed by Congress nearly 40 years ago and has not been updated since then. In the intervening years, stakeholders from both the industrial and environmental community have advocated for reform without success. This lack of progress has led individual states, most notably California, to develop their own regulations, creating a nationwide patchwork of different regulations that make new product development and commercialization difficult for industry.
The 114th Congress has bills addressing TSCA reform progressing through both the House and Senate. H.R.2576 TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 was reported out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 3 and is awaiting further action. S.697 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was cosponsored by Senator Carper in the Senate. In addition, Senator Carper was 1 of 4 Democrats who supported the legislation in the 15-5 vote to move it out of the Environment and Publics Works Committee (EPW). Democratic opposition in EPW was driven largely by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-DE), who is arguing for greater protections for existing California regulations. Senator Carper believes that this California-led coalition will not mobilize sufficient support to derail this legislation in the Senate and expects the bill to pass before the August recess. ACS had a key role in developing this legislation, contributing the federal sustainable chemistry program language that appears in Section 25 of S.697 (but not H.R.2576). Representative John Shimkus (R-IL-15), who sponsored H.R.2576, indicated that he will support similar sustainable chemistry language in the House bill.
As the name implies, the R&D tax credit enables companies to invest in R&D with the benefit of receiving a tax credit. The problem, though, is that this tax credit has been renewed by Congress typically on an annual basis. This means that companies can benefit from the credit, but often will not invest as much in R&D as they would if this tax credit were permanent and therefore could be a part of ongoing business planning.
Senators Carper and Patrick Toomey (R-PA) introduced S.537 COMPETE Act of 2015 on February 24, 2015. This bill is designed to make the R&D tax credit permanent. (The companion bill H.R.880 American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 passed the House on May 20, 2015.) Senator Carper indicated that he and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, consider this legislation a top priority in the 114th Congress.
Senator Carper also shared information about a plan from the Obama administration to address corporate tax rates broadly. The proposal would allow American corporations to repatriate overseas earnings at a 14% tax rate instead of the current 35% tax rate. The revenue obtained from this earnings repatriation would be used to fund improvements in transportation and infrastructure.
The past several weeks have seen activity in the Senate, led largely by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to remove the budget control caps on Defense spending only for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R.2685) failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance (50-45). Senator Carper did not support this legislation. ACS favors a plan that lifts budget control caps on both defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending, which is the part of the budget that contains (non-DoD) federal funding for research.
The Delaware Section Government Affairs Committee thanks Senator Carper and his staff for taking the time to review policy items of interest to ACS.