July 31, 2008
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TRANSPORTATION
AGC Urges Increase in Transportation Investment
Senate Fails to Move HTF Fix Forward
Senate Democrats Hold Infrastructure Briefing
IMMIGRATION
House to Vote on Extension of Electronic Employee Verification System Today
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
White House Issues Veto Threat on MILCON, Vets Measure
Senator Byrd Offers Second Stimulus Supplemental Appropriations Bill
House Passes Bill to Strengthen GAO

  AGC Urges Increase in Transportation Investment
AGC’s CEO Stephen Sandherr joined other transportation industry representatives today in Minneapolis, Minn., one year after the tragic collapse of the I-35 W bridge there, to raise awareness of the country’s lack of commitment to transportation infrastructure and underscore the dramatic increase in materials costs.

“Here in Minneapolis, the I-35 W bridge has been rebuilt, but the financing system is still failing and that is not a legacy we should leave to the next generation,” said Sandherr.  “The tragedy of the I-35 W bridge was, unfortunately, a symptom of how age, overuse and other stresses are impacting the America transportation system. The U.S. needs to commit to infrastructure investment and ensure a safer, more reliable and more efficient transportation system.”

Sandherr was joined by David Semerad, CEO, AGC of Minnesota, and representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

In addition to local Minnesota television, radio and newspaper reporters, members of the AGC of Minnesota were also in attendance. AGC Chapters across the country issued press releases today emphasizing specific state funding needs for transportation infrastructure in the region. 

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

  Senate Fails to Move HTF Fix Forward

The Senate yesterday attempted to take up the “extenders” legislation which included a provision to provide the revenue necessary to fix the Highway Trust Fund and prevent a potential 34 percent cut in Federal highway funds to states in FY 2009.

The legislation is a conglomeration of a number of disparate bills, including the extension of numerous tax provisions that expire this year. The bill was prevented from moving forward when the 51-43 vote on a procedural motion failed to meet the required 60-vote support level. The vote was largely along partisan lines with a few Republican defectors voting in support, but the vote had little to do with the HTF fix. Republican opposition is aimed primarily at provisions in the bill that would increase certain taxes to offset the revenue losses that would result from extending other tax provisions into the future. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) expressed little hope of a bipartisan deal before the August recess. Congress is preparing to adjourn for its summer recess and the lack of support for this bill is likely to put off solving the HTF crisis until September.  AGC is in communications with the Senate about continuing efforts to pass the HTF fix using any other viable vehicle.

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

  Senate Democrats Hold Infrastructure Briefing
AGC’s CEO Steve Sandherr was among the CEOs from 20 different groups invited by the Senate Democratic Steering Committee yesterday to discuss the future of transportation and infrastructure in America.  Attendees represented many labor and construction organizations, and the Senators used the meeting to lay out an infrastructure agenda for the 111th Congress that will include a focus on the highway reauthorization, the aviation reauthorization and water infrastructure. Committee members recognized that establishing and maintaining a 21st century transportation system is critical to growing our economy and maintaining our way of life, and will also stimulate our economy by creating good-paying jobs here at home.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley also participated. Gov. Rendell is heading up a revitalized Rebuild America Coalition, which he touted at the gathering.  The Coalition’s mission is to install capital budgeting at the federal level, which was well received by the Senators.

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

  House to Vote on Extension of Electronic Employee Verification System Today
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) electronic verification system, known as Basic Pilot or E-Verify, is due to expire in November.   In order to prevent the program from expiring, the House is set to vote on bi-partisan legislation that would extend the program for five years while maintaining it as a voluntary program for new hires. Included in the legislation is language that would require two studies by the Government Accounting Office on the E-Verify program focusing on erroneous results and the impact on small businesses. A vote on this legislation is scheduled for Thursday and is expected to pass.  At this time, it is unclear how the Senate might seek to reauthorize the E-Verify program. 

AGC remains concerned about the accuracy and reliability of the E-Verify system; however, AGC believes that this is an acceptable approach in reauthorizing the program.  Passage of such legislation would prevent political battles over other bills that would expand the E-Verify program without the critical elements AGC feels are essential for any expansion of the program.   

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

  White House Issues Veto Threat on MILCON, Vets Measure
As the House begins to take up final consideration of the FY 2009 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, President Bush issued a veto threat on the spending bill due to the cost of the measure. The $72.7 billion measure is nearly $3 billion over the Administration request and the White House said Congress must find offsets to make up for the increase in spending.

The measure would provide a total of $3.4 billion more than President Bush requested, including a $2.9 billion increase in VA funding.  The bill adds $400 million to Bush's request for military construction and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), with an emphasis on improving family housing.  It would add $1.1 billion to VA's construction budget to cover six additional major building projects and 145 minor construction efforts.  It also adds $136 million for military health care facilities, which hearings revealed to be inadequate and badly-aged.
 
President Bush threatened to veto the legislation last year, but ultimately agreed to increases for the VA.
 
For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberardinom@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  Senator Byrd Offers Second Stimulus Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) yesterday offered the outline for his proposed second stimulus supplemental bill. The $24 billion legislative package includes $10 billion for infrastructure improvements and $10 billion for natural disaster recovery.

“Infrastructure, Energy, and Economic Recovery” funds include $4.762 billion for transportation improvements.  Another $850 million for school repairs and renovation, $361 million to begin construction of a the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security and $200 million for GSA and the Customs service for the construction of new border stations. $200 million is marked for EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, plus another $200 million in loans and grants for water and waste disposal facilities in remote rural areas.  Another $10.1 billion would be marked for disaster relief.

Although the Senate Appropriations Committee was scheduled to take up the bill last week, Chairman Byrd pulled it learning that there would be attempts to add language to the package to repeal a ban on oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.  This amendment would ultimately doom the measure as it is not supported by the Chairman.

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

  House Passes Bill to Strengthen GAO
The House of Representatives passed this week H.R. 6388, the Government Accountability Office Improvement Act of 2008. Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and 18 other committee chairs introduced this legislation to strengthen the Government Accountability Office and restore GAO’s authority to pursue litigation if documents are improperly withheld from the agency.

One key provision of the legislation repudiates the district court decision in Walker v. Cheney and reaffirms GAO’s authority to go to court when agencies or the White House refuse to provide access to records.
 
Other provisions of this bill give GAO authority to interview federal employees and administer oaths. The bill also affirms GAO’s right to obtain records from three agencies that have sometimes thwarted GAO oversight by denying access to documents, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.
 
Finally, the bill creates a reporting mechanism so that Congress will be informed when federal agencies do not cooperate with GAO.
 
For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberardinom@agc.org. [ return to top ]