May 1, 2008
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ADVOCACY
AGC Members Advocate Industry Message on Capitol Hill
HIGHWAY
Action Needed on Highway Trust Fund Fix
AGC Opposes Gas Tax Holiday
LABOR RULES
House Passes AGC-Opposed Legislation
Senate Holds Hearing on Worker Safety

  AGC Members Advocate Industry Message on Capitol Hill
During AGC’s 2008 National Chapter Leadership Conference and the 2008 Federal Contractors Conference, AGC members participated in meetings with more than 150 Senators and Representatives.  The AGC members also heard from Agency officials and House and Senate leaders.

The chapter officers from across the country advocated for the repeal of the onerous 3 percent withholding law on government contracts, and against unreasonable penalties and mandates on contractors who follow the immigration verification.  In addition, the chapter leaders raised concerns with a “Gas Tax Holiday” and pushed to ensure the highway trust fund remains solvent.  Members concerned with the nation’s transportation infrastructure found the meetings timely as the Senate was debating the financing of the trust fund during the visits. 
 
AGC’s federal contractors echoed many of the same concerns and included discussions on reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes water resources navigation, flood control and environmental projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Members also expressed opposition to the unwarranted expansion of federal control over wetlands to cover all wet areas.
 
The meetings proved highly productive and AGC of America will follow up with each office on our legislative priorities.  Additionally, AGC encourages each AGC member to complete a fax-back feedback form for legislative visits made in Washington, D.C., and locally.  AGC’s government affairs staff depends on the information in this form to determine how best to implement our legislative agenda.

For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org or (703)837-2133.
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  Action Needed on Highway Trust Fund Fix

The Senate this week began debate on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, although the likely timing of final passage is uncertain.  AGC has urged completion of this legislation which has been languishing for over a year; meanwhile, two Committees with jurisdiction over how to fund the necessary improvements to our Nation's aviation infrastructure reached a compromise.


The compromise bill would increase the tax on jet fuel used in general aviation from 21.8 cents per gallon to 36 cents per gallon. The deal also eliminates a proposed $25 per flight surcharge. As previously agreed, Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding would increase by $100 million per year from $3.9 billion in FY 2009 to $4.1 billion in FY 2011. The House has already passed its version of the FAA reauthorization bill.

AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr spoke in support of a provision by U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.), left, and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), right, to restore $5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund.

Included in the compromise bill is a provision Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA) included in their Committee's version of the legislation that would provide the revenue necessary to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent through FY 2009, allowing for the SAFETEA-LU authorized funding levels to be maintained.   Absent the Baucus/Grassley fix, states could see a 32 percent reduction in Federal highway funds in FY 2009. Support for the Baucus/Grassley fix has been a top legislative priority for AGC. AGC’s CEO Stephen E. Sandherr participated in a news conference Thursday with Sens. Baucus and Grassley proclaiming AGC’s support and pointing out that many states have been forced to cut back the number of highway contracts going to bid due to increased construction material costs and the diminished purchasing power of the gas tax.
 
The Bush Administration has opposed the Baucus/Grassley provision to provide funds necessary to keep the HTF from going into deficit in FY 2009. Many Republicans oppose the fix, as included in this bill, and an amendment may be proposed to strip the HTF provision. Action is necessary to help ensure that the HTF fix is included in the FAA reauthorization bill. Send a letter to your Senators from the AGC Legislative Action Center and ask them to support the Baucus/Grassley proposal.

For more information, contact Karen Bachman at bachmank@agc.org or (202) 547-4733.
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  AGC Opposes Gas Tax Holiday
There has been much discussion in the past two weeks about suspending collection of the Federal motor fuels user tax for the summer driving months. In a major economic speech on April 15, Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for a "Gas Tax Holiday" from Memorial Day to Labor Day and suggested the Highway Trust Fund be reimbursed from the general fund.

Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) also spoke out in support of a "Gas Tax Holiday," but suggested making the Highway Trust Fund whole by implementing a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has said that, based on his experience while in the Illinois legislature when he supported a gas tax suspension, consumers see little if any benefit from such an action. Nevertheless, several members of Congress have also suggested a "Gas Tax holiday."

While there has been no amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill related to suspending the motor fuels tax yet proposed, amendments have been filed, and it is possible one could be offered.   AGC has included a letter on the Legislative Action Center recommending that Congress oppose Gas Tax Holiday proposals. You are urged to send the letter to your Congressional delegation.

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

  House Passes AGC-Opposed Legislation
This week, the House of Representatives passed the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act,   opposed by AGC because the bill requires OSHA to promulgate new rules without going through the normal rulemaking procedures. 

Under this legislation, an interim final regulation would be set without any opportunity for comments by those affected by the rules.  In addition, OSHA would not be required to follow their normal procedures for determining the economic and technological feasibility, or the impact on small businesses. 

Passage of this legislation follows similar advancements by the House that disregard the current rulemaking process which intentionally allows for a comment period.  AGC is concerned that this trend demonstrates the mindset of the majority party in Congress to minimize the impact of businesses on the federal rule-making process. 

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

  Senate Holds Hearing on Worker Safety
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee held a hearing on April 29 on OSHA penalties and workplace safety.  Panelists testified that OSHA’s current penalty system is incorrect and inefficient.  It was suggested that OSHA needs increased penalties for workplace fatalities, both civil and criminal, as well as greater inclusion of the victim’s family members during the settlement process.

During the hearing, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) released a report that analyzed OSHA penalties in fatality cases, which studied monetary penalties, criminal sanctions and the impact on the workers' families. Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) called for “thinking outside of the box,” and that instead of “talking just about punishments after injuries or fatalities occur, I wish we were holding a hearing on preventing injuries from occurring in the first place. More can be done and needs to be done so that no family has to deal with the loss of a loved one who has died on the job.”

For more information about worker safety or this hearing, contact Michele Myers at myersm@agc.org or 703-837-5410.
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