Contruction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgFebruary 5, 2009
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On the Inside
STIMULUS
Senate Debates Stimulus Package Final Vote Coming Soon
LABOR
Obama Issues First Executive Orders on Labor Issues
AGC Discourages Members of Congress from Cosponsoring (So-called) Employee Free Choice Act
 
STIMULUS
Senate Debates Stimulus Package Final Vote Coming Soon
 

The U.S. Senate is struggling to finish its work on its nearly $900 billion version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with a vote expected by the end of the week.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed its $819 billion version by a vote of 244 to 188 on January 28 with no Republican support. Senate debate on the package has been largely partisan where neither party holds enough seats to guarantee passage.  As a result, a bipartisan group of Senators is working with the Obama Administration to craft a compromise which would eliminate more than $50 billion in “wasteful” spending proposed in the bill.  At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) believes there are enough votes to pass the measure as early as Thursday evening. 

While differing from the House version in cost, the Senate version is largely similar in the spending and tax provision it proposes.  Both bills, for example, recommend over $150 billion in federal construction spending and authorize nearly $50 billion in new and existing bonds to finance infrastructure projects.  The Senate version, however, includes a costly provision to “patch” the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for 2008 at a cost of about $70 billion.  It also includes an amendment that would increase the $7,500 first-time homebuyer credit to as much as $15,000 for any home purchased in 2009 and remove the repayment requirement.  In addition, the Senate passed an amendment to paper over free trade concerns regarding the “Buy American” requirements in the bill, but did not approve an amendment to remove the controversial provision. 

The House and Senate must still negotiate a final package and pass it before presenting it to the President for his signature.  We strongly urge you to reach out to your employees, your suppliers, your subcontractors and your state and local community leaders to ask them to use the tools on the AGC Web site to contact their Senators and Representatives.  Urge your members of Congress and Senators to add additional infrastructure investment to the bill. For more information on the economic stimulus proposals and to contact Congress, visit www.agc.org/stimulus.

Highlights of the Senate Stimulus Package:

• Highway and Transportation Funding: Over $47 billion for transportation infrastructure, including $27.1 billion for the federal-aid highway program; $5.5 billion for competitive surface transportation grants (new program); $8.4 billion for transit; $3.1 billion for Amtrak and high-speed rail; and $2.5 billion for airport improvements.
• Building Infrastructure Funding: Over $58 billion for building infrastructure repair, renovation, and construction, including $9.3 billion for the General Services Administration; $6.3 billion for Military Construction; $3.4 billion for Veterans Affairs construction; and $20 billion for public school and higher education construction.
• Water and Environmental Infrastructure: Over $24 billion for water and environmental infrastructure, including: $4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program; $2 billion for the Drinking Water SRF; $1.4 billion for U.S. Department of Agriculture rural water grants and loans; $4.6 billion for the Corps of Engineers; $1.4 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation; and $6.4 billion for former weapon production and energy research site cleanup.
• Tax Provisions: One-year deferral of the 3 percent withholding tax on government contractors; a 5-year carryback of net operating losses; extension of small business expensing and 50 percent bonus depreciation; a tax credit bond option for states and local governments; extension and increase in unemployment benefits; temporary suspension of taxation on unemployment benefits.

Other provisions in the bill:

• Davis-Bacon Requirements: Any projects funded directly or assisted in whole or in part by and through the federal government will have Davis-Bacon wage requirements.  In addition, the bill calls for the application of Davis-Bacon to any projects funded by tax bonds.
• Buy American: The bill mandates that iron, steel and manufactured goods used in the construction and repair projects funded under the bill be produced in the United States.  The provision “shall be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.”
• Federal Contracting Requirements: The House bill would apply the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to contracts awarded with stimulus funds where pre-existing contracting regulations do not exist.  The Senate bill does not contain a similar provision.
• E-Verify:  The House bill contains language that would make any contractor who receives funds through the stimulus to use the E-Verify electronic verification system.  The Senate bill does not have this provision, although an amendment could be offered that would make the same requirement.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at (703) 837-3350 or shoafj@agc.org. Return to Top

LABOR
Obama Issues First Executive Orders on Labor Issues
 

On January 30, President Obama issued three executive orders favorable to organized labor.  The orders include:

1. Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws – reverses an order issued by Pres. Bush requiring federal contractors to post a notice informing workers of “Beck” rights (the right not to join a union).
This executive order also requires contracting agencies to include a new clause in government contracts.  Under this contract clause the contractor agrees to post a notice containing content issued by the Secretary of Labor in its workplaces.  Failure to post the notice or failure to comply with the provisions of the notice and related rules, regulations, or orders established by the Secretary can result in contract cancellation, termination or suspension, or debarment. The contractor is also required to include the contract clause in subcontracts. AGC is concerned about the vagueness of the executive order regarding the content of the notice and regulations and about the extreme remedies established for simple failure to post a notice without any finding of substantive labor law violation.

2. Economy in Government Contracts – prevents federal contractors from being reimbursed for “persuader” activity expenses (expenses incurred in trying to influence workers’ decision about whether to form a union or engage in collective bargaining).

3. Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts – requires service contractors, when contracts change, to offer jobs to qualified workers already working on the project. 

AGC also anticipates that a fourth executive order that addresses government-mandated project labor agreements (GMLAs) will be issued soon.  AGC will keep you informed of developments as they occur.
To review AGC’s position on GMLAs, click here.

For more information contact Denise Gold at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC Discourages Members of Congress from Cosponsoring (So-called) Employee Free Choice Act
 

While supporters of the (so-called) Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) are making a push to introduce this legislation in the House very soon and are making a last call for original cosponsors of the bill, AGC is working to discourage cosponsorship of the “card check” bill.   AGC opposes the Employee Free Choice Act because it would take away a worker’s right to a federally supervised private ballot election when deciding whether or not to select union representation. It also imposes unrealistically short deadlines for labor-management negotiations over a first contract before mandating third-party interference.  

AGC supports the status quo, which allows both card-check recognition and secret-ballot elections to establish union representation and remains the most fair and reliable way to determine the desire of employees to be represented by a union.

More than 2000 letters have gone to members of congress in the last 24 hours discouraging members from cosponsoring this legislation. If you have not already done so, please contact your Members of Congress to urge them not to cosponsor or support the bill by using AGC's Legislative Action Center. It only takes a minute to send a letter.

For more information please contact Kelly Knott at (202) 547-4685 or knottk@agc.org. Return to Top

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