Volume 4 -- Issue 41 -- November 1, 2007
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FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION
President to Veto Water Resources Development Act--AGC Leads Efforts to Override
AGC Forms Water Resources Coalition to Protect Nation from Catastrophic Floods
House Approves Small Business Contracting Measure Including AGC-Recommended Improvements for the HubZone Program
TAXES
Tax Writing Committee Passes AGC-Supported AMT Tax Relief
HIGHWAY & TRANSPORTATION
House Committee Approves Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Bill
Senate Passes Six-Year Amtrak Funding Bill
LABOR
House Committee Passes AGC-Opposed NIOSH Legislation—Bill to set Harmful Precedent that Could Prevent Industries from Commenting on Rulemakings

  President to Veto Water Resources Development Act--AGC Leads Efforts to Override

President Bush is expected to veto the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA) this Friday, despite numerous calls by AGC and a wide variety of interests in the water resources community. 

AGC is actively working with Senate and House leadership, who have pledged to override a veto of the legislation, to urge Members of Congress to support the override.
 
WRDA, a biennial measure which has not been passed in seven years, authorizes $23 billion in civil works projects administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The biennial legislation has not been enacted since 2000. AGC strongly supports WRDA and will support efforts to override a presidential veto by Congress.

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at giamberm@agc.org or (703) 837-5325.  [ return to top ]

  AGC Forms Water Resources Coalition to Protect Nation from Catastrophic Floods

To protect Americans from life-threatening floods and to sustain a healthy economy and aquatic ecology, AGC and other industry leaders recently forged the new Water Resources Coalition to work toward the development, implementation and funding of a comprehensive, national water resources policy.

Expressing its concern that President Bush will follow through on his threat to veto the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA)—which would represent a serious setback in establishing a successful water resources policy—the coalition immediately took action by urging him to sign this long-overdue legislation into law and to call on Congress to override the veto.
 
The broad-based group of organizations includes founding members AGC, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) and the American Public Works Association (APWA). Other members include organizations representing state and local governments, conservation, engineering and construction, ports, waterways and transportation services.

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at giamberm@agc.org or (703) 837-5325. 
 
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  House Approves Small Business Contracting Measure Including AGC-Recommended Improvements for the HubZone Program

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that includes AGC-recommended changes for this year’s reauthorization of the Small Business Act. Among the issues addressed in H.R. 3867, the Small Business Contracting Improvements Act of 2007, include AGC recommendations for improving the HUBZone program and allowing contractors to protest HUBZone awards.

AGC continues to work with the committee on balancing the needs of the federal government’s procurement system and creating an environment in which construction contractors can continue to work to improve the quality of federal construction delivered to the owner, the federal government and ultimately the American taxpayer.
 
For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  Tax Writing Committee Passes AGC-Supported AMT Tax Relief

The House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation Thursday to provide a one-year “patch” of the alternative minimum tax for individuals.  More than 60 percent of AGC members are flow-through companies and thus pay their business income tax at the individual level. These companies may be subject to this tax, and are unable to take many of the tax deductions and exemptions that Congress has provided over the years.  AGC urged a yes vote on the AMT patch.

AGC supported a number of other provisions in the legislation, particularly the 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold and restaurant improvements, the expensing of “brownfields” environmental remediation costs, and the deduction of state and local general sales taxes.

Finally, the bill also includes a one year delay of the 3% withholding on most government contracts, which is currently scheduled to be implemented in 2011. Nevertheless, AGC will continue to urge Congress to fully repeal this new withholding. A one-year or other delay of implementation doesn’t fix the problem; it only temporarily relieves some of the pressure.  AGC believes that with so many significant deadlines looming, Congress must focus sooner rather than later on the repeal of the 3% withholding.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at blumenthalh@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.


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  House Committee Approves Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Bill

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday approved by voice vote a bill that would provide an additional $2 billion over the next two years to states to improve the condition of structurally deficient bridges on the National Highway System.  The "National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2007" was introduced by Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.). 

In addition to providing increased investment for bridge reconstruction, the bill would also strengthen bridge inspection standards and processes by requiring states to immediately inspect all structurally deficient bridges and every year thereafter.  All other bridges must still be inspected every other year.  The bill also directs the Federal Highway Administration to update immediately National Bridge Inspection Standards and require uniformity among states in conducting inspections and evaluations.  Furthermore, the bill requires all highway bridge inspectors to be trained and certified as well as be licensed professional engineers. 

Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation is directed to develop a risk-based priority process for states to assign priority for the reconstruction of each structurally deficient or functionally obsolete federal-aid highway bridge.  States would be required to develop and update annually a five-year performance plan for bridge inspection and reconstruction.  FHWA would be required to oversee state compliance with program requirements. 

The $2 billion in additional funding over the next two years would be for states to reconstruct structurally deficient bridges on the National Highway System.  The funding would be derived from General Fund revenue, not from the Highway Trust Fund.  As a result, the funding is subject to the annual appropriations process.  Funds would be distributed to states by formula and would not be subject to Congressional or Administration earmarking.  Furthermore, the bill would prohibit states from transferring any Highway Bridge Program funds to other federal-aid highway programs unless the states can demonstrate that it has no structurally deficient federal-aid highway bridges.  Currently, states may transfer up to 50 percent of their Highway Bridge Program funds to other accounts.

Originally, Chairman Oberstar had proposed a five-cents-per-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax and the establishment of a separate trust fund to pay for this initiative. In order to get this initiative moving Chairman Oberstar has instead decided to use general fund revenue to fund the program.

For more information, contact Karen Bachman at (202) 547-4733 or bachmank@agc.org.


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  Senate Passes Six-Year Amtrak Funding Bill

The Senate Tuesday passed S. 294, Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, a six-year, $11.4 billion bill to provide federal capital and operation funds to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or Amtrak.  Created in 1970 with the expectation of eventual self-sufficiency, Amtrak continues to rely on federal subsidies for operation and capital investment needs.  The Bush Administration and fiscal conservatives in Congress have called Amtrak mismanaged and inefficient, and would like to wean Amtrak off federal subsidies by moving towards privatization. 

While S. 294 contains provisions aimed to hold Amtrak more financially accountable, it continues Amtrak’s operation subsidy through FY 2012.  However, over the life of the bill, Amtrak’s operating subsidy would be reduced by 40 percent, while capital funding to Amtrak and the states for intercity passenger rail projects would be increased.  The bill also includes a pilot program that would allow up to two routes per year to be considered for competitive bidding. 

The House has yet to introduce a similar measure. 

For more information, contact Karen Bachman at (202) 547-4733 or bachmank@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  House Committee Passes AGC-Opposed NIOSH Legislation—Bill to set Harmful Precedent that Could Prevent Industries from Commenting on Rulemakings

This week, the House Education and Labor Committee approved the Supplemental Mine Improvement Act. This legislation would require the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to forward all Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) for air contaminants to the Secretary of Labor. The Secretary must then require the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to adopt the same exposure limits as enforceable health standards.

The bill raises numerous concerns for AGC and others in the business community. Among those concerns is the unacceptable precedent this would create by circumventing the comment and rulemaking process and preventing the right of regulated industries to comment on proposed rulemakings that affect their businesses. It ignores the Administrative Procedures Act as well as the Regulatory Flexibility Act, thus preventing the development of scientifically sound, economically feasible safety and health standards as well as purposely avoiding any studies to determine the affects on small business. It would also thrust NIOSH into a regulatory and policy making role for which the organization was never intended.

Despite opposition from AGC and other business groups, this legislation passed by party lines. It is likely that this bill will come to the House floor for a vote in November.  

For more information, contact Kelly Knott at knottk@agc.org or (202) 547-4685. [ return to top ]