May 22, 2008
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IMMIGRATION
AGC Supported Immigration Provision Included in Senate’s Iraq War Spending Bill
TAXES
House Passes Extension of Sales Tax Deduction, Other Taxes
TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Construction Coalition Washington Fly-In: AGC Members Urge Congress to Fix Highway Trust Fund Crisis
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Senate Considering Contractor Database Measure
CLIMATE CHANGE
Senate to Begin Consideration of Climate Change Legislation in June

  AGC Supported Immigration Provision Included in Senate’s Iraq War Spending Bill
The Senate is debating funding for the Iraq War this week and included an amendment that would extend an exemption under the H-2B visa program for three years.  In the past few years, returning workers were not included in the 66,000 annual cap for seasonal H-2B workers.

The amendment included would continue this exemption for returning workers.  AGC supports this effort because the H-2B visa is one of the only visas available for the construction industry to employ workers from other countries.

Unfortunately, AGC will be forced to fight to keep this provision from being stripped from the bill as it moves through the legislative process.  AGC is encouraged that supporters continue working on a way to extend the exemption.

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

  House Passes Extension of Sales Tax Deduction, Other Taxes
On Wednesday the U.S. House approved a $55 billion bill renewing various expiring tax provisions that may assist contractors by a 263-160 vote. The vote margin is not enough to overcome a threatened veto from the President and the outlook for Senate action remains uncertain.

The bill extends the 15 year cost recovery for leasehold and restaurant improvements, which without the change will revert to a 39 year recovery period.  The shorter period should encourage property owners to more frequently improve their property.  Expensing of hazardous or “brownfield” site cleanup is extended for one additional year, while the deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings is extended through 2013, which should encourage additional green building projects.

The Senate plans to begin work on similar legislation in June, but may also include a one year “patch” of the alternative minimum tax to ensure it does not affect more taxpayers than it did last year.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at blumenthalh@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.
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  Transportation Construction Coalition Washington Fly-In: AGC Members Urge Congress to Fix Highway Trust Fund Crisis
Over 50 AGC members and Chapter staff attended the Fly-In this week in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill and educate them on the financial status of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Combined with attendees of the National and Chapter Leadership Conference and the Federal Contractors Conference, nearly 500 people have made visits to Senators and Representatives over the last four weeks.

The Highway Account of the HTF is projected to be in deficit by as much as $3.7 billion in fiscal year 2009.  If additional revenues are not found to offset this deficit, states would face as much as a 34 percent reduction in their federal highway funding.  Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Committee’s ranking Republican, have proposed legislation to ensure sufficient revenues into the HTF to prevent a dramatic cut in highway funding in FY 2009. 

On Tuesday, Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.), ranking Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), member of the Senate Finance Committee, addressed the group and discussed their thoughts on the future of federal surface transportation policy and, in particular, how to develop and finance investment needs. 

On Wednesday, attendees met with their Senators and Representatives to inform them of the HTF crisis and urged them to support the Baucus/Grassley proposal.  To more effectively stress the importance of the issue with their Congressional delegation by broadening their coalition of industry and union representatives, the AGC members from Ohio were joined by the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, James Beasley.  

The Baucus/Grassley legislation was recently considered on the Senate floor along with the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill (H.R. 2888).  Following the failure of a procedural vote relating to the bill, Senate leaders suspended consideration of the measure.  AGC has made enactment of the Baucus/Grassley or other legislation to address the solvency of the HTF a top priority and continues to urge all members to educate their Senators and Representatives about the issue.  

For more information, contact Karen Bachman at bachmank@agc.org or (202) 547-4733.
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  Senate Considering Contractor Database Measure
The Senate this week is considering legislation that would create a new government-wide database on contractor performance and misconduct. The measure would require contracting officers to consult the database when awarding contracts of $500,000 or more.

The provision is being considered as part of the Senate’s Defense authorization bill (S. 3001, Section 831) and is sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). While the Senate measure currently only applies to DoD contracts, Sen. McCaskill is expected to offer an amendment making the requirement government-wide. The proposed database would not be accessible by the general public and would only be available to government employees.
 
Last month, the House passed similar legislation (H.R. 3033), introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). AGC worked with House leaders to strip from the bill a "two strikes and you're out" provision that would have directed federal officials to start suspension or debarment proceedings against firms with two judgments or convictions for the same offense during any three-year period.
 
For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at giamberardinom@agc.org or (703) 837-5325.
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  Senate to Begin Consideration of Climate Change Legislation in June
The Senate is expected to begin consideration of climate change legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program in June. 

The bill includes several specific provisions relating to the construction industry, including $171 billion in funding for mass transit investment and $51 billion for a new program to encourage the construction of highly efficient commercial buildings and to fund the retrofit of existing buildings.  The bill also provides incentives to states that take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The bonus funding can be used for several purposes including for transit and rail projects or other activities to reduce vehicle miles traveled.  States also would be eligible for a funding bonus if they adopt and enforce the strengthened model energy efficiency rule for building codes. 

AGC will closely follow the Senate debate on the climate change bill. 

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