November 01, 2016 Columns

Chair’s Column

By John J. Beardsworth, Jr.

It is my honor to introduce myself as the new Chair of the recently renamed Infrastructure and Regulated Industries Section of the ABA. I would first like to thank Dynda Thomas, the Section’s outgoing Chair, for her strong and spirited leadership, dedication, and work on behalf of the Section and its members. We are truly grateful.

As many of you know, in August the ABA approved a change in the name of the Section from the Section of Public Utility, Communications and Transportation Law to the Infrastructure and Regulated Industries Section, or “IRIS.” I believe this change better reflects the breadth of the practices and industries represented by the members of this Section. Our name change fortuitously occurs at a time of great political change. The Trump administration has signaled significant investment in infrastructure—indeed, he has proposed a plan that calls for $1 trillion of infrastructure investment over the next ten years. A Republican-controlled Congress may have ideas of its own, especially when it comes to financing, but a Republican Congress and Presidency enhances the likelihood that infrastructure investment won’t fall victim to the all-too-familiar Washington gridlock. Trump’s infrastructure plan also emphasizes public-private partnerships (P3s), and successful implementation of transactions structured as P3s require the skilled legal practitioners who are members of our Section. Consequently, our name change occurs as infrastructure becomes a policy priority—permitting IRIS to be in the policy vortex of change during these exciting times.

Being in the vortex of change will allow the Section to seize the opportunity to expand our interaction with the growing industries and practices that constitute the Section. Whether it is energy, communications, transportation, water, or the physical or cyber threats facing our industries, one of the best ways to have the Section actively engaged in the debate is by leveraging the breadth of knowledge and experience of Section members working within and representing each of these industries in various capacities as lawyers. Through membership in IRIS, practitioners have a unique opportunity to learn from each other’s knowledge and experience and apply that shared knowledge in our respective practices. This sharing of knowledge is only possible, however, with the active engagement of the Section’s members, whether through serving on committees, attending seminars and meetings, staying abreast of committee reports and this quarterly publication, or engaging with other Section members through the various other opportunities made available through membership. As the industries relevant to IRIS expand and change and political priorities turn towards infrastructure, we face a unique opportunity to set the foundation of how infrastructure development, financing, and protection will occur in the future. As a Section, we have done a great job of recording history and providing analysis in this and other publications. Now, however, the Section is poised to help make history as well.