September 18, 2008
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AGC Requests Your Input in Establishing Its Legislative Priorities
President Signs Highway Trust Fund Fix
Energy, Taxes, AMT Rolled Into Senate Bill
House Passes Energy Bill, Dead on Arrival in Senate
Senate Committee Approves Infrastructure Measures
Senate Moves on Defense Reauthorization, Sets Up Showdown for Conference

  AGC Requests Your Input in Establishing Its Legislative Priorities
AGC is currently conducting a Legislative Priority Survey to solicit information from AGC general contractors, specialty contractors, suppliers/service providers and all other members to better determine the most important legislative issues to the construction industry.

The results of the survey will be used by the AGC’s Legislative Action Committee to prioritize the direction of legislative involvement during the 111th Congress (2009-2010).
The survey takes just a few minutes to complete and can be accessed by clicking here.  The survey results are valuable because they outline what issues the construction industry views as the most important and where AGC should direct the appropriate resources to address these legislative issues. 

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or [ return to top ]

  President Signs Highway Trust Fund Fix
Taking the final step necessary to ensure that the payment of federal-aid highway funds to states will continue uninterrupted, President Bush on Monday signed H.R. 6532 into law. The legislation transfers $8 billion from the U.S. Treasury's general fund to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

Congress acted quickly last week when the Administration reported that there was an insufficient balance in the HTF to meet its obligations to reimburse states for ongoing federal-aid highway construction projects. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced that because of the HTF shortfall, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would make payments to states once a week, rather than daily, and that the payments would be reduced on a pro-rated basis depending on funds available. At that time, Secretary Peters announced that the Administration had dropped its opposition to the $8 billion transfer.

This action is expected to provide sufficient revenue to fully fund SAFETEA-LU authorized levels through FY 2009, the final year of the authorization. There remains some concern, however, that should the decline in miles driven continue, due largely to the high price of gasoline, additional HTF revenue may be needed. AGC has sent a letter to members Congress who supported H.R. 6532 thanking them for acting expeditiously to keep the HTF from becoming insolvent.

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

  Energy, Taxes, AMT Rolled Into Senate Bill
The Senate this week is poised to pass three-part legislation to keep the existing tax rate for most Americans, provide some disaster relief and stimulate the production of energy in the United States. 

The alternative minimum tax “patch” is the highest priority, as it would stop a tax increase on middle-class taxpayers.  While supported by most members, disagreement arose over the concern that the tax change would be “paid for” by other tax increases.  Also included in the legislation is an extension of other tax benefits, including the state and local sales tax deduction, brownfields expensing, 15-year cost recovery of leasehold, restaurant and retail improvements and the research and experimentation tax credit.  Disaster areas receive some specific tax relief, including the victims of the Midwest floods, through limited demolition and clean up expensing.

Finally, the bill encourages energy production by extending the following: production tax credit for energy produced through biomass; the investment credits for wind and solar energy; and the energy-efficiency property tax credits for both residential and commercial properties.

The bill is expected to be passed out of the Senate and sent to the House, where its fate is uncertain.  Some House Democrats are demanding the legislation be fully “paid for” through increased taxes, something the Senate has been unable to support.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at (202) 547-8892 or [ return to top ]

  House Passes Energy Bill, Dead on Arrival in Senate
Earlier this week the House passed a Democratic energy plan that would allow some offshore drilling, but with restrictions.  Passed along party lines, the bill would open up areas for oil shale development in Western States and drilling from 50 to 100 miles offshore if a state votes to agree to the drilling. Meanwhile, the bill leaves out a revenue sharing provision for states, which has led many Senate Democrats and Republicans to indicate they cannot support the House bill.  Senate Democrats are working on alternative legislation they expect to have ready next week.

The House also voted on legislation to curb market speculation.  The bill requires the same rules on offshore oil trading as those in the U.S. market, including limiting the number of futures contracts someone can own, as well as increased information sharing.  While the Senate hasn’t been able to agree to the number of amendments on similar legislation, the White House has threatened a veto on the grounds that speculation is not the reason for increased oil prices.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at (202) 547-8892 or [ return to top ]

  Senate Committee Approves Infrastructure Measures
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday approved several measures awaiting committee consideration, including three bills to authorize funding for water infrastructure, bridge rehabilitation and dam repair. 

• The Water Infrastructure Financing Act would authorize appropriations totaling $38.5 billion over five years for the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) programs, and for other water infrastructure grant programs.  Specifically, the bill authorizes $20 billion for the Clean Water SRF program, $15 billion for the Safe Drinking Water SRF program, $2 billion for the Sewer Overflow Control Grant program and approximately $1.5 billion for other water infrastructure grant programs.  An amendment was adopted that would apply Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage requirements to any loan made under the SRF programs.  The House approved a similar measure, H.R. 720, which authorized $14 billion over four years for the Clean Water SRF program, by a vote of 303 to 108 on March 9, 2007. 

• H.R. 3999, The National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act would authorize an additional $1 billion in FY 2009 in grants to states to finance the reconstruction of structurally deficient bridges.  The bill also strengthens bridge inspection standards.  The House passed the bill on July 24, 2008 by a vote of 367 to 55.

• H.R. 3224, The Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act would authorize $200 million over five years for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make grants to states for the rehabilitation and repair of deficient dams. The House passed the bill on October 29, 2007 by a vote of 263 to 102.
All three bills must now be considered by the full Senate. 

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

  Senate Moves on Defense Reauthorization, Sets Up Showdown for Conference
The Senate overwhelmingly approved the FY 09 defense authorization bill Wednesday after a showdown over earmarks with Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) forced Democrats to scuttle plans to attach a massive "manager's package" of amendments to the annual legislation.

After of roughly 100 amendments were taken off the table, the Senate voted 88-8 to approve the bill. The measure now goes to a Conference Committee to be reconciled with the House version, which must be wrapped up in the next week in order to receive final consideration.

AGC is keeping close watch over the reauthorization, which includes several contracting reform provisions, and may include a potential contractor database provision by Senator Clare McCaskill (D-Mo.) and a blacklisting provision by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

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