April 17, 2008
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TRANSPORTATION
Senators Offer Amendment to Suspend Gas Tax
Senate Passes SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Bill
ENVIRONMENT
House Committee Holds Marathon Hearing on Wetlands Jurisdiction Bill
LABOR
Hearings on Immigration Begin in the House
GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING
House Passes 3% Withholding Delay
House Passes Bill Targeting Tax Delinquent Contractors
Legislative and Regulatory Efforts Underway to Expand Ethics Rules
MUNICIPAL
Ninety-five Percent of the U.S. Uses 811 - CGA to Honor Initial National Launch Partner AGC and Other Stakeholders

  Senators Offer Amendment to Suspend Gas Tax

On behalf of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) offered an amendment Thursday to the SAFETEA-LU technical corrections bill that would suspend the collection of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline and the 24.4 cents per gallon federal tax on diesel from Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

After speaking on the floor about the amendment, Senator Kyl withdrew the amendment after stating his intent to pursue it at a later date.  Joining Senator Kyl in support of the amendment were Senators John Warner (R-Va.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Following Senator McCain’s announcement of a “Gas Tax Holiday” earlier this week, AGC, along with the Transportation Construction Coalition, sent a letter to all members of the House and the Senate in opposition to the amendment.  To view a copy of the letter, click here.

AGC will continue to urge members of Congress to reject this or other proposals to suspend the federal motor fuels taxes. 

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org.
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  Senate Passes SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Bill

The Senate Thursday passed HR 1195, a bill to make technical corrections to SAFETEA-LU.  The legislation would not authorize any additional federal spending for surface transportation programs; rather, the measure would make a number of drafting, technical, and funding corrections that have been identified since enactment of SAFETEA-LU in August 2005 to ensure proper implementation of the law.

In particular, HR 1195 would correct errors and modify project descriptions for nearly 500 projects included in SAFETEA-LU that would allow designated funding to be used.  The bill would also correct an error that resulted in lower than intended funding levels in several transportation research programs, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s biennial Conditions and Performance report, which provides an appraisal of highway, bridge, and transit needs and future investment requirements. 

The House passed HR 1195 on March 26, 2007.  As the Senate passed a differing version, a final version will have to be negotiated and passed by both chambers before the measure can become law.

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

  House Committee Holds Marathon Hearing on Wetlands Jurisdiction Bill

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday conducted a full-day hearing on HR 2421, the Clean Water Restoration Act, accepting testimony from 23 witnesses representing the administration, industry stakeholders, and academics on the meaning and impacts of the legislation.  AGC believes HR 2421 would greatly expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over all waters and wet areas within the United States, resulting in an increase in number of permits that would be required prior to construction activity throughout the country.

Witnesses from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who implement the Clean Water Act’s regulatory programs, expressed concerns with the bill and said that it does not clearly define jurisdiction, which could lead to confusion and additional litigation.  Many Republican members and several Democrats also expressed concerns about the bill’s jurisdictional reach and its consequences on the regulated community. 

As a result, the sponsor of the bill, Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) made statements at the hearing indicating that he is willing to work with critics to narrow the scope of the bill to address their concerns.  AGC, which strongly opposes HR 2421, looks forward to working with the Chairman to see whether it is possible to improve the bill sufficiently to address the construction community’s concerns; however, at this time, AGC believes the best path forward towards jurisdictional clarification is for the agencies to undertake a rulemaking, not through legislation. 

For more information on HR 2421 and to contact your members of Congress on the legislation, click here.

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

  Hearings on Immigration Begin in the House

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday focusing on the H2-B visa program; the first of an expected series of hearings on immigration reform.  Currently, there is a shortage of H2-B visas, targeted at seasonal workers, to adequately meet US business needs.  AGC is supportive of legislation to exempt current and past visa holders from the H2-B visa numerical cap of 66,000.  The cap was reached for 2008 on January 2nd. 

While members of both parties agree on the need to either raise the cap or exempt returning H2-B workers from the overall number, various factions will only consider necessary changes as part of the larger debate. AGC continues to work on the H2-B visa changes, as well as the other aspects of immigration reform.
 
For more information, please contact Kelly Knott at knottk@agc.org or (202) 547-4685. [ return to top ]

  House Passes 3% Withholding Delay

The House this week passed legislation to delay for one year the implementation of the new 3% withholding law.  This law, which in 2011 requires 3% to be withheld from state, federal, and some local government payments for goods and services, would be delayed until 2012, giving AGC and other opponents of the law additional time to work toward repeal.  This is the second time the House has voted for delay; the Senate has yet to consider similar legislation.

There are over 240 bipartisan cosponsors of HR 1023 in the House to repeal 3% withholding, and ten in the Senate on S 777.  Log on to the AGC Legislative Action Center to voice your support for repeal!

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at blumenthalh@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.
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  House Passes Bill Targeting Tax Delinquent Contractors

On Tuesday, the House approved by voice vote the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act (HR 4881), sponsored by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.). The legislation would prevent firms who are seriously delinquent in paying their taxes from receiving federal contracts and grants.

The bill would require firms to submit, along with their contract bid proposal, a form certifying that they do not have any "seriously delinquent tax debt." Contracting officers would be required to verify the company's statement through an Internal Revenue Service database that tracks tax liens. The bill defines seriously delinquent tax debt as an outstanding debt for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records and would not penalize firms who have worked out a payment plan with the government or who have requested a due process hearing. The bill would not apply to contracts under $100,000.

The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) do not currently prohibit contractors from receiving federal contracts if they are tax delinquent. It does however, provide that contractors can be debarred or suspended for being convicted for tax evasion. A proposed rule currently under consideration would require federal contractors and grantees to certify, among other things, that they have not been notified by the IRS of liability for delinquent taxes. The proposed regulation would also include the failure to pay taxes as a specific cause for a company to be debarred from receiving federal contracts. AGC provided unfavorable comments to the FAR Council on this proposal for being too broad and punitive.
 
The legislation is now under Senate consideration, where Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is sponsoring an identical measure.

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

  Legislative and Regulatory Efforts Underway to Expand Ethics Rules

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill April 16 that would extend federal rules requiring contractors to establish a Code of Ethics and Business Conduct to contractors performing work overseas.

The Close the Contractor Fraud Loophole Act (H.R. 5712), by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), would require federal contractors to notify the contracting agency’s inspector general in writing if the company thinks it may have violated federal criminal law or was overpaid erroneously. The legislation also authorizes agencies to consider suspending or debarring a contractor who knowingly fails to notify officials of a violation.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration.

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

  Ninety-five Percent of the U.S. Uses 811 - CGA to Honor Initial National Launch Partner AGC and Other Stakeholders

Several major national organizations joined AGC to partner with the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) in helping to make America a safer place. 811 is now in use in most states as the number to call to reach your local one-call center.  CGA will be hosting a press conference on May 5th, 2008, at the Press Club in Washington DC, to highlight the one year anniversary of the 811 national awareness campaign, kick off "Safe Digging Month", and thank AGC and the other National Launch Partners.

811 National Launch Partners represent major industries of prime importance to the nation's underground utility infrastructure and have contributed significant in-kind services and resources throughout the 811 campaign. They include: AGC; John Deere; The Travelers Companies, Inc.; U.S. Department of Transportation; and Cox Communications.

Visit http://call811.com/campaign-materials/safe-digging-month.aspx to download a "We Support Safe Digging Month" button to feature on your corporate website. Simply copy the HTML code below the button of your choice and upload the code to your company home page. For more Safe Digging Month Planning and Resource Documents visit http://call811.com/campaign-materials/default.aspx.
 
For more information, contact Stu Megaw at megaws@agc.org or (703) 837-5321. [ return to top ]