July 17, 2008
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TRANSPORTATION
AGC Continues to Push for Highway Trust Fund Fix
Highway Trust Fund Fix Introduced in House
LABOR
AGC Opposes Project Labor Agreement Provision in House Oil Drilling Bill
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Government Auditors Validate AGC Concerns Over HUBZone Program
House Judiciary Committee Approves AGC-Opposed False Claims Act Amendments

  AGC Continues to Push for Highway Trust Fund Fix
In a meeting Wednesday with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr raised the possibility of including a Highway Trust Fund fix amendment in the "tax extenders" bill, which is considered "must pass" legislation. This legislation extends a variety of tax provisions which expire this year and also includes a fix to the "Alternative Minimum Tax" to keep it from expanding its impact to a broad section of middle class taxpayers. Sen. Boxer responded enthusiastically and indicated that she is looking for an appropriate vehicle for getting the HTF fix implemented before the start of the new fiscal year.

Sandherr also pointed out the dramatic increase in highway construction material costs in the past few months and the resulting loss of jobs. Sen. Boxer requested that AGC provide details about the cost increases and job loss to help her make the case in the Senate for solving the HTF problem. Sandherr provided these details in a letter delivered to Sen. Boxer later the same day.

Sandherr also represented the construction industry Wednesday in a meeting of business interests with the Senate Democratic leadership. He used this opportunity to once again raise the issue of solving the HTF shortfall. In this meeting Sandherr made the additional point that state DOTs are under a psychological cloud because of the uncertainty over federal highway funding, causing many to begin cutting back on projects they are putting out to bid. AGC was the only construction association invited to the meeting.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  Highway Trust Fund Fix Introduced in House
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Committee Ranking Republican John Mica (R-Fla.) today introduced H.R. 6532, legislation to prevent the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall in fiscal year 2009.  The bill is identical to the trust fund fix that members of the House and Senate attempted to include on the short-term Federal Aviation Administration authorization measure last month in that it would credit the Highway Trust Fund with the $8 billion in highway user fee revenue that was transferred to the General Fund in 1998 as part of TEA-21.

Congress must enact a fix as soon as possible to prevent all states from receiving an estimated 34 percent reduction in their states’ federal highway program funding in fiscal year 2009.  Given recent government figures showing a historic reduction in fuel consumption, revenues into the Highway Trust Fund continue to decline further.  There are currently 67 co-sponsors and AGC is working to get additional co-sponsors for the legislation which may be brought up for floor consideration in the House early next week.

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

  AGC Opposes Project Labor Agreement Provision in House Oil Drilling Bill
Today, the House of Representatives was planning on taking up legislation, H.R. 6515, the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act, that would revise the leasing of oil and gas in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.  Included in the bill is a requirement that Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) must be negotiated for the construction of any facilities necessary to drill for oil in accordance with the legislation. 

The mandating of PLAs would disrupt labor-management relations in the construction industry and run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.  Such mandates would tread upon a union contractor’s statutory right to work under the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements that it has already negotiated on an area-wide basis. It would equally tread upon an open shop contractor’s statutory right not to engage in collective bargaining in the absence of any showing that a union enjoys the support of a majority of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit. 

Project owners have many ways to ensure that their construction contractors complete their projects in a timely manner, and there is scant if any evidence that project labor agreements improve the performance that an owner can expect in the absence of such an agreement.  Quite to the contrary, project labor agreements can give rise to jurisdictional disputes that would not otherwise occur.

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

  Government Auditors Validate AGC Concerns Over HUBZone Program
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) Thursday released a study which found that the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program is highly susceptible to fraud and “widespread abuse.” 

AGC has long expressed concerns about the effectiveness and fairness of the HUBZone program as it is applied to the construction industry and has advocated that significant improvements be enacted to reform the program. The program does not realize its goal of increasing employment and reinvesting in economically disadvantaged areas. It does not require the SBA to measure the successes and failures of the program and it does not fairly reward firms in a manner consistent with the intent of the program. Consequently, this undermines not only the intent of the program, but hurts small businesses, HUBZones communities and costs the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

AGC has communicated its concerns over the HUBZone program for several years and House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) has worked to bring these critical issues to light, passing several AGC-recommended changes to improve the HUBZone program, including: limiting the program to construction projects in or near a HUBZone; requiring HUBZone contractors to ensure that HUBZone residents receive at least 30% of the payroll needed to perform the HUBZone contract; requiring annual reports on employment and income in the nation’s HUBZones; requiring SBA to routinely investigate alleged abuses of the program; and allowing all contractors who stand ready, willing, and able to build, to protest.

AGC looks forward to continue working with Congressional leaders to address these serious concerns.

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

  House Judiciary Committee Approves AGC-Opposed False Claims Act Amendments
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed legislation that would enact several changes to the federal law governing claims of fraud against the government. H.R. 4854, sponsored by Howard Berman (D-Calif.), would impose civil penalties on those who knowingly defraud the federal government of up to $10,000 and three times the damages. The bill would increase the current statute of limitations for lawsuits under federal false-claims law from six to ten years.

AGC strongly opposes the legislation because it would increase burdens on federal contractors and will ultimately discourage contractors from working in the federal market. AGC is working with a large and diverse business coalition to voice concerns with the legislation.

The bill would also streamline the process for government whistleblowers to file lawsuits, but only if whistleblowers first raise the issue with other government officials without success. The legislation would specify that whistleblowers could file such lawsuits even if they did not possess records documenting the fraud, such as invoices.

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