Election Impact on Congressional Committees

The analysis below is simply a prediction of who is likely to serve as leadership on the committees based on the current information available. Frequently after a large number of losses or retirements, members of Congress shift between committees and chair/ranking member positions, changing the seniority structure of committees as a result. One Senator choosing to take an unexpected chair position can have ripple effects across several committees that are difficult to predict. This is particularly true at the subcommittee level. Additionally, Republicans have established a six-year term limit for committee chairs and ranking members, which causes more committee changes than Democrats who don’t have a term limit.

Finally, one of the biggest impacts on committee change is a flip of party control or a dramatic change in majority size. The committee structure is based on majority party and size, and when for example Senate Republicans increase their majority overall in the Senate, their control of committee seats also increases. Depending on how the remaining three Senate races are called, it could force lower-seniority Democrats off committees.

Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee will see some turnover in the 116th Congress; while all Democrats won his/her races, four Republican members either lost or are retiring, in addition to Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.V.) who retired earlier this year.

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee will look very different next year. Included in the Republican losses/retirements are two members of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Rep. David Young (R-Iowa). Also retiring is full committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.). There may be some consistency in the THUD leadership, as current Chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) will have the option of remaining chair if he chooses.

Democratic leadership on the committee is expected to remain fairly stable. Current Ranking Member Nita Lowey has stated that she will take over the gavel in January and has already started pushing Republicans to make a budget deal for FY 2020. THUD Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) also has the option of taking over as chair of the subcommittee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will have far less turnover in the 116th Congress and leadership will likely remain the same. Only a single member of the committee is at risk of losing her seat; Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was forced into a run-off election that will take place on November 27.

Full Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will remain in the top position on the committee, which he took over in April after the retirement of former chair Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has the option of remaining ranking member, though as a high-ranking Democrat he may have other committee options. Leadership of the THUD Subcommittee is likely to continue with current Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Authorizing Committees

As a result of a high number of losses and retirements, the House Financial Services Committee will be a significantly different committee in the next Congress. Eight Republicans either lost their re-election bid or are retiring and four additional races are too close to call. Four Democrats are retiring.

Current Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Cali.) will take over as chair in January. Current Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is retiring and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) has declared his intention to take over as ranking member. Leadership of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee is likely to remain the same, with current Ranking Member Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) expected to take the chair position and current Chair Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) likely to be ranking member. The composition of the subcommittee will be extremely different, though, as six Republican members and two Democrats will not return to Congress.

Unlike the big changes coming to Financial Services, the membership of the Senate Banking Committee is likely to remain consistent. Only two Republicans and two Democrats lost their re-election or are retiring. Leadership could see some changes, though. Depending on the committees that other members choose to chair, current Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) could move to head another committee. There are several scenarios that could result in either Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) or Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.) taking over the committee. Current Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is expected to remain in his position.

Tax Writing Committees

The Senate Finance Committee is set for a change in leadership thanks to the retirement of current Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). It’s unclear at this point who will take over, though Sen. Grassley does have the option of taking the Chairmanship if he is willing to give up his current role as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee. If he elects to remain at Judiciary, current Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo would be next in line for the position. Current Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) will probably remain in place, though if he does take a position on another committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) would be next in line. I

The House Ways and Means Committee will be lead by current Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and current Chair Kevin Brady will probably take over as Ranking Member, though he will need to request a waiver from leadership.

Election Brings Changes to Housing, Community Development

As widely predicted, the Democrats took control of the House and the Senate will remain in Republican control. Between the shift in control of the House and a large number of retirements and losses, big changes are coming in the 116th Congress for housing and community development.

Right now, Democrats control 225 seats in the House and Republicans have 197 seats. Thirteen races are still too close to call. This is a net gain of 30 seats for the Democrats and gives them a relatively slim majority of 7 seats. In the Senate, Republicans have picked up two seats so far, giving them a 51 seat majority. Democrats managed to hold 46 seats. However, two races are still too close to call and one seat will go to a run-off election later this month.

The big question is how this new dynamic in Congress will play out within Washington, both between the Congressional chambers and with the White House. Will the Senate Republicans and the House Democrats be able to find enough common ground to pass legislation and spending bills? What role will the President choose to play and will his relationship with (presumptive) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more closely mirror the deals they were able to forge throughout the past two years or will he revert to his recent campaign rhetoric?

These new dynamics will be tested soon during the lame duck session of Congress, which begins next week when all members of the current Congress return to Washington to finalize unfinished business. Newly-empowered Democrats will begin to assert muscle as Congress attempts to deal with a significant amount of legislative work, including a continuing resolution that expires on December 7, the Violence Against Women Act, the Farm bill, flood insurance, disaster relief, tax credits, and other must-pass legislation.

As detailed in a separate blog post, the impact on housing and community development could be significant, particularly in the House Financial Services Committee and the House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee.

Democrats taking control of the House means they will also take control of the committees, putting Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cali.) in charge of the Financial Services Committee and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) in charge of Appropriations.

Though neither has publicized an outline of their priorities for their respective committees, it can be expected that Rep. Waters will focus a significant amount of committee time on housing and HUD. Whereas the Republican-controlled Congress approved legislation like the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA) that provided program reform and regulatory relief, a Democratic-controlled House is likely to focus more on topics like the impact of budget cuts on programs, oversight, and subsidized housing resident impacts. There are benefits to both approaches and both required a bipartisan effort to pass the Senate.

Congresswoman Lowey this week insisted that Democrats would not cave on the President’s demand that FY 2019 spending include funding for a border wall and that she intends to negotiate aggressively for a FY 2020 budget deal to avoid $126 billion in automatic cuts that will otherwise be required because of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Her leadership will be tested early in the lame duck session as Democrats will look to her to lead the negotiations to finalize FY 2019 spending. As difficult of a feat as that may prove to be, her leadership will further be tested early in the year as FY 2020 negotiations begin and the extension of the debt ceiling expires in March, which will require Congress to act before the summer.

 

President Signs Continuing Resolution

The President signed a spending package this afternoon that includes a continuing resolution providing funding for the government until Friday, December 7. This averts a government shutdown for the departments and agencies funded by the seven appropriations bills that will not be finalized before the beginning of FY 2019 on October 1. The package also includes an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, which was set to expire on September 30.

Congress approved five spending bills for FY 2019, the highest number in over 20 years. Negotiations were in progress on a four-bill package that included the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill, but unfortunately progress stalled this week and the package was never formally introduced. Negotiations broke down over issues with the Interior-Environment and Legislative Branch spending bills; reports are that THUD was easily negotiated.

The expiration of the CR on December 7 ensures that Congress will have to address spending in the lame duck, the time period when Congress returns to Washington after the election before the 115th Congress adjourns for the final time in December.

Last Week of August Advocacy: Support HUD Funding!

It’s the final week of August advocacy! We’ve sent over 2,000 letters to Congress in August – a good number, but still well below our goal of 3,000 letters. Please take action now to support responsible funding for housing and community development in FY 2019.

House and Senate Appropriations staff are currently working to negotiate a final Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) spending bill. Using the Senate-approved FY 2019 THUD bill and the House Appropriations Committee-approved bill, staffers are in the process of “conferencing” these two pieces of legislation into a single bill, likely to be passed as a larger spending package. This means important decisions about spending levels for housing and community development programs are being made right now. Make sure your voice is heard in this process by sending a letter to your members of Congress today.

Please help us reinforce the importance of responsible funding for housing and community development programs and help NAHRO send 3,000 letters to Capitol Hill this month – reach out to your members of Congress now!

Senate Approves FY 2019 Transportation-HUD Spending

This afternoon the Senate voted 92-6 to approve a four-bill spending package that includes the FY 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill.

Details on the Senate’s THUD bill can be found here (NAHRO log-in required). The bill was passed without major changes; no funding levels were altered and only a couple of housing-related amendments were approved, including one on mapping the presence of a pyrrhotite across the country and eviction protections for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

The FY 2019 THUD bill generally maintains the spending gains achieved in by the FY 2018 omnibus bill that increased HUD spending by 10 percent. This is a major victory considering funding for the overall federal budget is not increasing significantly in FY 2019 and the spending allocation for the Senate’s THUD bill was lower than the House THUD allocation. Despite these obstacles, housing programs fared well compared to most of the transportation programs funded by the bill, demonstrating the effectiveness of NAHRO members’ advocacy efforts.

Though the passage of the FY 2019 THUD bill is a major step toward finalizing spending, the path forward from here is unclear. The House FY 2019 THUD bill contains several controversial policy riders (largely transportation-related) and both members of the Democratic Party and the conservative House Freedom Caucus are unhappy with funding levels contained in the bill. As a result, THUD is seen as one of the more controversial spending bills this year and is unlikely to be brought to the House floor as a stand-alone bill.

Because Congress is unlikely to finalize FY 2019 THUD spending before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, 2018, a continuing resolution will be needed to keep THUD programs operating. A continuing resolution is a stop-gap bill that maintains previous year spending levels until a set date, allowing Congress additional time to finalize spending. Conversations about a CR have not yet begun in Congress, but like recent years, it’s probable that a CR would last until late November or early December.

Secretary Carson Discusses FY 2019 HUD Budget at Appropriations Hearing

HUD Secretary Ben Carson testified in front of the House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) subcommittee today, answering questions about HUD’s FY 2019 budget proposal.

A video of the full  hearing and his written testimony are available on the subcommittee’s web site.

Members of the subcommittee asked several pointed questions about the Administration’s plan to eliminate key components of the HUD portfolio, including the the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME). Congressman David Valadao (R-Calif.) and full committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) both asked the Secretary to comment on how communities would deal with losing CDBG dollars.

“We do have a way to take care of the good things CDBG does, and that is through the Opportunity Zones, a program that will bring in up to $2.2 trillion in money to substitute for that program and infrastructure,” said Secretary Carson. “I suspect we may be asking ourselves how we can use all that money.”

Several times, Secretary Carson offered the new Opportunity Zone program as a replacement for funding cut by the Administration’s budget. The program was created in December through the tax reform legislation and is run through the Treasury Department. It is unclear how much funding the program will generate or how the dollars will be distributed in communities.

The Administration also proposes eliminating the entire Public Housing Capital Fund, slashing the Operating Fund by $1.6 billion, and shifting the financial burdens of the Capital Fund and all its set-asides to the Operating Fund. This is part of a larger plan at HUD to move away from the public housing model, which the Secretary called “failing and financially unstable,” to the Section 8 platform through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. However, while the Administration does propose $100 million for RAD conversions, it does not request additional funding for more vouchers.

Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) asked Secretary Carson to address the budgetary problems this creates. “You’re proposing to totally eliminate public housing and merge the Capital Fund into Operating, while proposing to cut the Operating Fund,” he said. “The Operating Fund is slashed, so that’s not even adequate to address operating, much less absorbing capital expenses. And then if we’re going to go to RAD, we’re going to need some additional section 8 vouchers.”

The Secretary re-emphasized the benefit of RAD conversions. “We’re moving away from the whole concept of public housing, quite frankly,” Carson said. “I think this is going to work much better,”

He again mentioned Opportunity Zones as a replacement for lost capital funding and referenced unused Capital Fund reserves held by housing authorities to address the backlog in deferred maintenance.

The subcommittee has several members from areas hit by natural disasters in the past year, and those members reinforced the importance of HUD assistance to recover from the storms. Congressman John Culberson (R-Texas) pressed the Secretary to agree to lower the mandate that 70 percent of CDBG disaster relief (CDBG-DR) dollars go to families of low to moderate incomes, noting that funding has been slow to get to localities. Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) thanked the Administration for its focus on mitigation in disaster relief recovery and asked for coordination on long-term efforts.

The Secretary was also asked several questions about the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for the HUD office and is likely to be pressed further on Thursday when he will testify before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in a hearing on HUD oversight.

One bright spot of the hearing was a comment by full Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who said that the T-HUD bill will be “getting a lot of money in 2018.” The final FY 2018 omnibus spending bill is expected to be released later tonight. The current continuing resolution providing funding for the federal government expires on this upcoming Friday.

 

Senate Approves Reforms for Small Agencies

This week the Senate approved the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (s. 2155), a wide-sweeping banking bill that also included several provisions to provide regulatory relief to small housing agencies and authorization for the Family Self-Sufficiency program.

The bill moved relatively quickly through the Senate; the initial draft was unveiled in November and it was approved by the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in December. After two weeks of floor consideration, it was approved 67-31 on Wednesday, March 14.

While NAHRO did not take a position on the overall bill, NAHRO does support the small agency provisions. The bill includes:

  • Streamline public housing inspections, making the process less burdensome on the agency, while protecting residents’ right to decent, healthy housing;
  • Exempt small agencies from environmental reviews for projects under $100,000 and streamline the environmental review process for projects over $100,000;
  • Create an appeals process for troubled agencies that protects residents and allows agencies to demonstrate satisfactory unit condition;
  • Freeze formula utility and waste costs to accrue cost savings; Deploy a reporting system at HUD for agencies that choose to operate under a consortia; and
  • Enhance the Family Self-Sufficiency program.

The path forward is unclear; the Senate modified the bill to attract more support in the House, but the House has already approved similar legislation. NAHRO is working with Congressional staff to consider options for the small agency provisions.

Congress Approves Budget Deal, Ends Brief Shutdown

After a brief government shutdown this morning, Congress approved a two-year budget deal and a continuing resolution that re-opened the government. While the budget deal includes an increase to non-defense spending for FY 2018, there is no guarantee that additional funding will be allocated to housing and community development programs- contact your legislators today to tell them to increase funding for HUD programs in the current fiscal year.

The budget deal package includes:

  • Continuing Resolution: extends government funding through Friday, March 23.
  • New budget caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019: the two-year agreement raises spending caps by $300 billion over two years. The deal does not honor parity between defense and non-defense spending changes. Non-defense spending is raised by:
    • FY 2018- $63 billion
    • FY 2019- $68 billion
  • Additional supplemental disaster relief funding: $89.3 billion for disaster relief for areas impacted by the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017. A full summary of the breakdown of funding is available from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Debt ceiling suspension: Lifts the debt ceiling until March 2019.
  • Tax extenders: Continues expiring tax cuts and credits, but the bill does not include the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Improvement Act (S. 548).

Now that the spending cap for FY 2018 has been set, appropriators can get to work finalizing spending for the current fiscal year. At this point, the process basically starts over again. The chairs of the Appropriations Committee will re-allocate funding to all 12 appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill.  Once the new 302(b) allocations are set, appropriators will work to finalize spending bills and assemble an omnibus spending package. All this work needs to be completed in six weeks before the expiration of the current CR on March 23.

Just because there is an additional $63 billion in funding for FY 2018 doesn’t mean THUD or HUD will necessarily see any of that increase. It’s critical that you reach out to your legislators immediately to urge them to allocate as much funding as possible to THUD and HUD.  NAHRO will also send a message to Capitol Hill next week encouraging robust funding of THUD and HUD.

Private Activity Bonds Appear Safe in Tax Reform, House Unveils Third CR

According to sources familiar with the on-going negotiations of the tax reform bill, including the Wall Street Journal, the final package will not repeal Private Activity Bonds (PAB), a huge potential win for NAHRO members who advocated strongly against the House-proposed elimination. There is no word yet on the status of New Market Tax Credits or the Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

While PAB appears to be preserved, it is possible that the bill will make changes to the program. We’re unsure at this point what the impact of potential changes to PAB would have on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and affordable housing production. NAHRO will continue to update its members as more information is available.

The tax reform conference committee is expected to approve the report tomorrow, at which point either the full text of the bill or the conference report summary will be publicly available. The Senate will begin consideration of the bill on Monday, aiming for final passage on Tuesday. The bill then goes to the House for final approval. If passed by both chambers, the President is expected to immediately sign the bill.

Meanwhile, the House introduced bill text for the third continuing resolution (CR) of FY 2018. The current CR expires on Friday, December 22. The House-proposed bill would provide funding for the government until Friday, January 19. It also includes the House’s FY 2018 Defense Appropriations bill and an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other health programs. The House is likely to pass the bill, but the Senate is not expected to adopt it with the Defense bill included. It’s unclear whether the Senate will simply pass the CR stripped of the Defense spending bill or if there are other concessions that Democrats will require in exchange for their procedural votes to move the bill forward. If Congress does not act quickly enough, the government will shutdown on Saturday, December 23 at 12:01 am ET.

Also expected to be released on Friday is a disaster relief supplemental package that could be considered in conjunction with the CR or as a stand-alone bill. Congressional leadership has prioritized approving the bill prior to the holidays. The administration released a $44 billion disaster package last month, a request that included the conversion of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) program into a competitive grant program to help communities that have experienced “major flood disasters” in the past four years. Congress is expected to ignore that request and increase the size of the package substantially. This will be the third disaster supplemental passed since September and lawmakers already recognize the necessity for a fourth supplemental in early 2018.

 

Tax Reform Proposal Retains LIHTC, Still Devastates Affordable Housing

The House Ways and Means Committee this week released its long-await tax reform legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR 1). While the bill retains the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), one of only two business credits preserved, it eliminates several other taxes and bonds that are critical to community development and affordable housing. If passed as-is, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would be devastating for communities.

The committee is scheduled to begin mark-up of the bill on Monday, November 6 at 12:00 pm ET, a process that is likely to last several days. This means there is very little time to ask lawmakers to propose changes- contact your Representatives now to tell them to preserve the parts of tax code that are so critical to communities.

The text of the bill is available here and supporting documents are available here.

What’s in the Bill

  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit: Maintains the credit
  • Corporate Tax Rate: Cut from 35 percent to 20 percent
  • New Market Tax Credit: Eliminates
  • Private Activity Bonds: Eliminates
  • Historic Preservation Tax Credit: Eliminates
  • Mortgage Interest Deduction: Caps at $500,000 for new mortgages, savings not re-invested in affordable housing

 

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is preserved, but the 4 percent remains unauthorized. Also missing from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is language proposed by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-Ma.) in their Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (HR 1660). Though NAHRO thanks the Ways and Means Committee for retaining the 9 percent credit, NAHRO opposes other changes to bonds and the corporate tax rate will undermine the effectiveness of the program and essentially eliminate the 4 percent credit.

Private Activity Bonds (PABs) are tax-exempt bonds issued by state and local governments to drive private investments in community development, housing (Housing Bonds), infrastructure and educational projects. The bill would remove the tax exemption for PABs, including multifamily Housing Bonds, which helps finance almost half of all affordable homes produced and preserved by LIHTC.

PABs are responsible for almost half of all affordable homes produced by LIHTC annually, and it is a critical tool that must be preserved. Although the public housing inventory is an integral component of our nation’s infrastructure, chronic underfunding of the Capital and Operating Funds has placed the inventory at risk, with a mounting capital needs backlog of well over $26 billion. PHAs often turn to LIHTC to preserve and revitalize their distressed public housing inventory. A one-pager by the ACTION Campaign on the use of LIHTC for preservation and the impact of Rep. Tiberi’s and Rep. Neal’s bill is available here.

NAHRO members typically seek out 4 percent Housing Credits over the 9 percent because they are non-competitive and more accessible. However, to use the 4 percent Housing Credit, projects must be funded in part with tax-exempt bonds. The House bill’s elimination of tax-exempt bonds could completely devastate the production of affordable housing by NAHRO members.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could also severely handicap the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, which depends on LIHTC for its success. RAD allows PHAs to leverage public and private debt and equity to address the capital needs backlog of their public housing portfolios. In RAD, units move from a public housing to a Section 8 platform with a long-term contract that must be renewed, ensuring that the units remain affordable to low-income households. HUD data thus far shows LIHTC has been included in the financing for almost half of all RAD transactions, amounting to over 73,000 units being converted. Additionally, of all of the LIHTC-financed properties participating in RAD, 70 percent of those projects specifically depend on the 4 percent Housing Credit. As a cost-neutral program, Congress has supported RAD by expanding its current cap on conversions to 225,000 units, but eliminating PBAs will undermine their support for RAD.

NAHRO opposes the bill’s repeal of this tax exemption since it would severely hinder the financing of LIHTC projects that provide safe, decent, and affordable housing for our nation’s growing share of low-income renter families.

New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) help localities build stronger neighborhoods by investing in housing, schools, and other vital projects, and are targeted at helping low-income communities. Over the last 25 years, about $51 billion in NMTC authority have generated $42 billion in local investments, resulting in the creation or retention of over 700,000 jobs, and the financing of over 178 million square feet of commercial real estate and almost 14,000 affordable housing units. NMTCs has proven to be an effective tool for generating private sector investments in communities in need, while still remaining a net positive program for the economy. NAHRO supports the continuation of this program.

Historic Tax Credits also have a proven track record of stimulating economic growth while also preserving our valuable national architectural heritage. We believe that these three important instruments for infrastructure creation and preservation should remain part of our economic development toolbox, and hope that they will be restored in later versions of the bill.

What’s Next

The Ways and Means Committee will begin mark-up of the bill on Monday afternoon. Debate of the legislation and amendments are expected to last up to four days.

Leadership is currently working on changes to the bill to secure votes and ensure it meets the procedural requirements for budget reconciliation in the Senate. The President has also urged lawmakers to include a repeal of the individual health care mandate, a move that could politically complicate its passage. Still, House leadership is optimistic that the bill will pass with few Republican defections before Thanksgiving.

The path through the Senate is less clear; Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against the passage of the budget resolution that included the framework for this tax reform legislation and several other Republican Senators have expressed concern about the bill. However, because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is being  moved forward under the budget reconciliation process, only a simple majority is needed to approve the legislation. Leadership is aiming to have the bill to the President’s desk before adjourning for the holiday recess in December.

As the bill moves forward, NAHRO will provide coverage through the blog, Direct News emails, and @NAHRONational on Twitter.

 

Jenny Hsu also contributed to this article.