Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgApril 30, 2009
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On the Inside
ADVOCACY
Federal Contractors Conference Attracts More Than 350 Attendees
Senate Committee to Consider Wetlands Jurisdiction Expansion Bill
HEALTH CARE
Congressional Leaders Begin to Develop Health Care Legislation
BUDGET
Congress Approves $3.5 Trillion Budget for Fiscal Year 2010
CLIMATE CHANGE
House Energy and Commerce Committee Delays Consideration of Cap and Trade Bill
SAFETY & HEALTH
Congress Begins the Debate on Reforms of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
POLITICS
Senator Specter Changes Party Affiliation
IMMIGRATION
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Raising the Profile of Worksite Enforcement
 
ADVOCACY
Federal Contractors Conference Attracts More Than 350 Attendees
 

This week over 300 construction contractors from across the country came to Washington D.C., to discuss the latest trends in federal contracting at AGC's Federal Contractors Conference and to advocate the industry’s priorities to lawmakers. 

Members attended detailed presentations from agencies such as the General Services Administration and Army Corps of Engineers, and had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss various issues related to government projects.

AGC member contractors visited Capitol Hill to discuss how the construction industry would be negatively affected by measures in the proposed “card check” legislation that require Washington-appointed officials to make key business decisions and outlined how investing in construction and infrastructure projects is one of the most effective ways to add jobs, improve the environment and increase America’s ability to compete in the future global economy.

The meetings proved highly productive and AGC of America will follow up with each office on our legislative priorities. 

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

Senate Committee to Consider Wetlands Jurisdiction Expansion Bill
 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to consider a bill next Thursday that would expand federal jurisdiction over waters and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.  The bill, S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, would create a new legislative definition of “waters of the United States” that would essentially be limitless and would greatly increase the circumstances under which contractors would be required to obtain and be regulated by federal Clean Water Act permits (e.g., section 404 permits).

AGC is opposed to the legislation, which would create the greatest expansion of the Clean Water Act since it was signed into law in 1972.  The legislation would expand the federal role beyond protecting wetlands and waters having an understandable “significant nexus” to navigable waters and regulate everywhere that rainwater happens to flow, including roadside ditches.  The legislation would give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction over all wet areas – however remote or intermittent – and over all activities (e.g., construction) affecting those waters.  The federal permitting process would increase the cost of maintaining and delay necessary improvement of public and private infrastructure. 

AGC believes Congress should not rush to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act.  Instead, Congress should preserve the role that states and localities have traditionally played.  States and local authorities should lead the regulation of land and water use, not the federal government. 

AGC asks you to contact your Senators to urge them to oppose the Clean Water Restoration Act.  To contact your Senators, you may use AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or lapsevick@agc.org. Return to Top

HEALTH CARE
Congressional Leaders Begin to Develop Health Care Legislation
 

Congressional committees in the House and Senate continue to discuss and work towards crafting comprehensive health care reform.  The issue remains a top priority of the President and Democratic leaders, but specifics of the reform proposal have not been formulated.  

The leaders remain committed to an ambitious timeline of drafting a bill in the next couple of weeks followed by final votes on a bill towards the end of July.  Democrats have given themselves the added advantage of including special instructions in the recently passed budget resolution that would give Congress the ability to pass legislation with a simple majority rather then customary 60 vote threshold required on controversial legislation in the Senate.  The instructions come with caveats, but AGC has advocated the important legislation deserves full consideration and should not be crafted by one party.  

In response to the pending legislation, AGC has created a task force to evaluate the industry’s top priorities for health care reform and to evaluate the bill and its impact when it is available. In the interim AGC is surveying members to identify key issues.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

BUDGET
Congress Approves $3.5 Trillion Budget for Fiscal Year 2010
 

The House and Senate Wednesday approved their $3.5 trillion budget resolution for fiscal year 2010.  No Republicans voted for the measure in either chamber.  The budget resolution, which provides a non-binding framework for tax and spending legislation in Congress,  assumes $764 billion in tax cuts over five years, and aims to cut the deficit in half by FY 2012 and by two-thirds by FY 2014.  The agreement sets discretionary funding at $1.1 trillion for FY 2010, $10 billion less than the amount President Obama recommended in his budget, and sets non-defense discretionary spending at $529.8 billion for FY 2010.

The budget resolution extends the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the middle class, and assumes a continuation of the 2009 estate tax rate of 45 percent on estates worth more than $3.5 million, or $7 million per couple, which would be indexed for inflation.  Under current law, the estate tax rate would drop to zero in 2010, but would be reinstated at a top rate of 55 percent and $1 million exemption in 2011. 

The agreement also includes special instructions that would allow health-care and education overhaul proposals to pass the Senate by a simple majority vote to defeat a filibuster.  Republicans have warned that these special instructions could be used by the Democrats to expedite passage of other controversial legislation, such as a carbon emission cap and trade bill. 

Passage of the budget resolution is the first step in the annual Congressional spending process, which allocates funding for, among other things, federal construction programs.  AGC will continue to advocate for the increased federal investment in the nation’s infrastructure and public facilities through the nearly 100 construction programs at the federal level. 

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or lapsevick@agc.org. Return to Top

CLIMATE CHANGE
House Energy and Commerce Committee Delays Consideration of Cap and Trade Bill
 

Following last week’s four days of hearings on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s draft cap and trade bill for greenhouse gas emissions, previously scheduled subcommittee consideration of the measure was postponed this week while negotiations continued with Democrats and stakeholders on a way forward.  The Committee has tentatively scheduled subcommittee consideration of the bill for next week.  

Given strong Republican opposition to cap and trade legislation, proponents of the measure need to win over Democrats who represent constituencies that would be most affected by the bill, including low-income consumers, electric utilities, coal industry, oil and gas and manufacturing.  Democrats are currently working out how to allocate the emission credits, which is a crucial cost component of the legislation.  Energy and Commerce Committee leadership also need to work out differences with the Ways and Means Committee, whose Democratic membership is skeptical of using a market to regulate carbon and have suggested levying a direct tax on carbon emissions (i.e., “carbon tax”).

AGC's analysis of climate change legislation shows a significant impact on construction in the form of higher energy prices, higher raw materials prices and potential EPA regulation of land use (including local planning decisions) and transportation planning. 

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or lapsevick@agc.org. Return to Top

SAFETY & HEALTH
Congress Begins the Debate on Reforms of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
 

This week Congress held three hearings focusing on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  In particular, the hearings evaluated OSHA’s enforcement efforts and the effectiveness of its penalties in deterring violations.  The hearings were a chance for the Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee to talk about their goals to expand OSHA’s reach and increase enforcement efforts.

These hearings were scheduled to highlight legislation introduced on April 23, 2009, called the Protecting America’s Workers Act, H.R. 2067.  This bill would make changes to the OSH Act by increasing enforcement efforts, greatly increasing penalties and making serious OSHA violations felonies subject to criminal penalties including prison time of not more than ten years. 

Among those testifying before the House Committee was Acting Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, Jordan Barab.  In Mr. Barab’s written testimony, he mentioned that the Secretary of Labor “has emphasized that strong, vigorous enforcement of the OSH Act is among her top priorities.”  In addition, Mr. Barab has informed field staff that OSHA “will suspend the previous administration’s practice of establishing goals for new Voluntary Protection Program sites and Alliances.”

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

POLITICS
Senator Specter Changes Party Affiliation
 

This week, Senator Specter grabbed the news headlines when he announced that he would be switching parties to become a Democrat.  Long known as an independent, moderate Republican, Senator Specter made the announcement on Tuesday morning that he now finds his “political philosophy more in line with the Democrats than the Republicans.”

This switch could have big political implications as it gives the Democrats 59 members in the Senate and puts them one closer to a filibuster proof majority of 60.   The 60th vote for the Democrats could become a reality if the controversial November election and lawsuits between Al Franken and Senator Norm Coleman conclude with Franken as senator.

It should be noted that Senator Specter is not expected to give up his independent streak and voted against the FY 2010 budget conference report championed by the Democrats in his first vote with his new party.

Senator Specter did stress that the switch would not change his current position on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  Vice President Biden commented that the Senator is open to compromise on the issue, but this is not new news.  With his recent announcement that he would not support EFCA , the Senator did say that he felt that labor law needed to be reformed and wants to work on fixing some of the problems that exist in this arena.

AGC remains deeply concerned that even a genuine and well-intended proposal for compromise could become a “Trojan horse” that EFCA’s proponents would use to sneak EFCA past a cloture vote in the Senate.  AGC remains active and vocal in our opposition to EFCA.  Please visit our website www.agc.org/lac to send a letter in opposition to this legislation.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

IMMIGRATION
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Raising the Profile of Worksite Enforcement
 

This week the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is expected to issue guidelines to field offices that will instruct agents to step up worksite enforcement with greater focus on the employers who hire illegal immigrants.  Though illegal workers would still be detained, ICE is expected to focus its resources on the employers and use the arrests of illegals to build the civil and criminal cases against employers.  To view the fact sheet released by DHS please click here.

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

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