Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgJune 11, 2009
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On the Inside
LABOR
AGC-Supported Legislation for Green Job Training Expected This Week, Would Ensure Funding Available to All Contractors
AGC-Opposed H2B Visa Bill Expected To Be Introduced in June
House Hearing Held on AGC-Opposed Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Legislation
TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Construction Coalition Steps Up HTF Lobbying
WATER
House Appropriations Subcommittee Approves Significant SRF Increase
HEALTH CARE
More Details on Health Care Reform Released, Major Obstacles Remain
 
LABOR
AGC-Supported Legislation for Green Job Training Expected This Week, Would Ensure Funding Available to All Contractors
 

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established an energy and renewable energy worker training program through a provision known as the Green Jobs Act, which would limit training grant funding only to entities that coordinate with labor organizations.  AGC is supportive of the creation of such a grant program as part of an effort to create an efficient and renewable energy-skilled workforce.  However, AGC believes that the opportunity to qualify for such grants should be open to all contractors, both union and open shop, with accredited training programs. 

This week, a bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate that would open up the Green Jobs Act to allow any contractor, regardless of union affiliation, with an accredited training program to compete for grants under the Green Jobs Act.  This bill mirrors legislation introduced earlier this year in the House (H.R. 2026) by Congressman Jon Kline (R-Minn.).

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

AGC-Opposed H2B Visa Bill Expected To Be Introduced in June
 

Draft legislation to change the H2B Visa program has been circulated and is expected to be introduced in the House this month.   The H2B Visa is currently the only visa available to the construction industry to bring in workers from outside the United States.  Just 66,000 H2B visas are permitted each year, and is shared with numerous other industries.  Though the industry may not have as much of a need for these visas at the current time, the suggested changes would have a huge impact on the program for years to come should this bill be passed into law. 

The legislation that is expected to be introduced would make it much more difficult for the construction industry to qualify for such visas.  Companies would have to register with the Department of Labor; prove the seasonal nature of the job they are seeking; gather written certification from labor unions that there are not sufficient U.S. workers available; be unable to participate if they subcontract; and have to follow myriad new labor requirements.   AGC will maintain conversations with appropriate Capitol Hill staff as debate moves forward on this expected legislation.

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

House Hearing Held on AGC-Opposed Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Legislation
 

This morning, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460/S. 1152).  This legislation would require employers with 15 or more employees to allow all employees to earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Workers would begin accruing leave time on their first day of employment and become eligible to use the time after 60 days. This approach would require a one-size-fits-all paid sick leave package of 56 hours and limit an employers’ flexibility in creating a benefits package that would meet the needs of the construction industry’s unique workforce.  In addition, this would have a significant bureaucratic impact on employers having to create a new system to track accruals of paid sick leave time.  

The House Education and Labor Committee is expected to pass this bill sometime this summer.  Senate action is unclear at this point.   There are some rumors that this language could be incorporated into the overall health care reform debate currently being discussed on Capitol Hill.  AGC is a member of The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave, which is working on this legislation.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Construction Coalition Steps Up HTF Lobbying
 

Following official confirmation from the Obama Administration that the Highway Trust Fund does not have sufficient revenue to reimburse states through the end of fiscal year 2009 (September 30, 2009) for Federal-aid highway contracts already underway, the AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) initiated an effort for coalition members visit each House office.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood acknowledged last week that the HTF needs an additional $5-7 billion to get through FY 2009 without disruption, and an additional $8-10 billion to get through FY 2010. TCC members are also using this opportunity to discuss the need to pass a multi-year reauthorization bill with a revenue increase before the September 30 expiration of SAFETEA-LU. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is currently drafting reauthorization legislation and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee is scheduled to begin considering the bill on June 24.  AGC will notify members as information becomes available.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org. Return to Top

WATER
House Appropriations Subcommittee Approves Significant SRF Increase
 

On June 10, 2009, the House Appropriations Interior & Environment Subcommittee approved it’s FY 2010 bill, which provides funding for the Department of the Interior and other agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This bill delivers on the President’s requested budget of $3.9 billion for EPA’s Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs with an increase of approximately 250% from FY09 appropriations (excluding the $6 billion in ARRA stimulus funding).

The bill provides $2.3 billion for the Clean Water and $1.5 billion for Drinking Water SRF programs with additional funding allocated to specific earmarked projects. The bill also funds the President’s request of $475 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and various other programs. For a complete listing of programs with funding levels click here.

The full Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on this legislation June 18, 2009.

For additional information, please contact Perry L. Fowler at fowlerp@agc.org. Return to Top

HEALTH CARE
More Details on Health Care Reform Released, Major Obstacles Remain
 

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released draft legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system. The 615-page bill would require all Americans to receive medical insurance, establish insurance exchanges and increase oversight of the insurance industry. Despite the length of the draft legislation, details on the complex issues such as a government-sponsored insurance plan and financing were not included.

Some issues included in the draft proposal include: individual mandates; a yet to be determined employer "play or pay" mandate; a yet to be determined new public health insurance option; minimum benefit requirements to be determined by a newly created advisory board; subsidies for individuals and small businesses; expansion of Medicaid; insurance market reforms; and new prevention and wellness programs. Also, the draft bill exempts unions from additional requirements for 1 year.

The HELP Committee's draft is the first of three Democratic plans expected to be unveiled.  The Senate Finance committee and a "Tri-Committee" health reform bill (from the House's 3 committees of jurisdiction) are still working on their versions.  Despite the lack of details on the complex issues and a yet to be determined cost estimate for reform, the committees are planning to move forward with considering the drafts in their respective committees starting next week.  Democratic leadership continues to work towards a final bill by the August recess and to present the President with a bill to sign by October.

At this time, all of the proposals could still contain employer mandates, a government-sponsored insurance plan and taxed employer-provided health care benefits. AGC is closely monitoring the developments and will advocate on behalf of the construction industry as the debate progresses.

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

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