Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgJuly 23, 2009
AGC Home Page
Email our Editor
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Subscribe
Printer Friendly
AGC Political Toolkit
Take Action!
On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Proposals Prove Risky for Small Businesses
WETLANDS
AGC Member Testifies Before Small Business Panel on Water and Wetlands Regulation
LABOR
Update on Card Check
Administration Proposes Rule Implementing Executive Order on Project Labor Agreements
WATER
Senate Action Imminent on S. 1005 - AGC Urges Members to Contact Senators
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Member Testifies In Support of Need for Highway Trust Fund Revenue
Senate Continues to Move Highway Program Extension No House Action
SAFETY
Safety & Hill Professionals Advocate for a Safe and Healthy Work Environment
 
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Proposals Prove Risky for Small Businesses
 

The massive $1.5 trillion health care overhaul currently meandering through Congress is going through five committees (three in the House and two in the Senate).  So far two House committees and one Senate committee have finished their consideration of the bill.  Based on AGC's analysis of the parts of the bill that have emerged, AGC members and their employees will face a nearly impossible task of keeping insurance coverage, paying for coverage and maintaining an acceptable level of coverage without being pushed into a national plan. As such, AGC currently opposes the health care reform proposals in Congress. 

The various proposals include employer mandates to provide an acceptable level of health care and an individual mandate to purchase health care.  A public plan will be created to compete with private plans in an exchange, while a medical advisory board will decide what type of policy is acceptable. The proposals call for prohibitions against excess profits by health care companies and eliminating exclusions for preexisting conditions, as well as prohibition of catastrophic plans and lifetime caps. They also include guarantees renewal, mental health and substance abuse parity, caps for out of pocket expenses and limits on annual co-pays.  They may also eliminate the use of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

The House may bring up the bill as soon as next week, while the Senate continues to try and find a bipartisan compromise and may use the August recess to work out the differences rather than rushing to pass a bill.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-2133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

WETLANDS
AGC Member Testifies Before Small Business Panel on Water and Wetlands Regulation
 

Trey Pebley (center), Vice President of McAllen Construction, Inc., of McAllen, Texas, testified Wednesday before the House Small Business Committee on the impact of federal regulation over water and wetlands on small businesses and family farmers. 

The Committee conducted the hearing to gather testimony on the impact of legislative efforts to remove the term “navigable waters” from the Clean Water Act.  Pebley, an elected Trustee of the McAllen Public Utilities Board, explained to the Committee that such a legislative change would fundamentally expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to include all waters and wetlands and would increase the need for federal discharge permits (i.e., Section 404 permits). 

Pebley also expressed concern that a bill called the Clean Water Restoration Act would also extend federal jurisdiction over groundwater, as well as all surface waters.  If the bill were enacted, underground contractors, could be required to obtain a federal permit for every project.

Pebley reiterated AGC’s commitment to water quality and the protection of public health and welfare as builders.  However, he continued that the federal reach over waters and wetlands should have a limit and that states and local governments are best equipped to look after their water and land use.  To provide the long sought-after clarity that the construction industry needs to comply with the existing complex regulatory process, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency should conduct an administrative rulemaking to define crucial terms to delineate federal jurisdiction, Pebley added.

Last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved its version of the Clean Water Restoration Act, S. 787, with a so-called “compromise” amendment.  As the amended legislation would still fundamentally expand federal jurisdiction over all waters and wetlands, AGC opposes the bill.

To contact your Senators to oppose S 787, use AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

To view a copy of Pebley’s written statement to the House Small Business Committee, click here.

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

LABOR
Update on Card Check
 

On July 16th the New York Times reported on a potential compromise on the “so-called” Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).   The real story behind the story is that one unnamed senator among six that are working on a compromise leaked to the Times that they will likely drop the card-check portion of the EFCA bill with the blessing of some union leaders.  The article also explains some of the other areas that the senators may include in their compromise, but that no deal has been struck with the undecided senators who control the outcome of this debate. 

The barrier continues to be 60 senators voting to end cloture and move the EFCA bill. As the story reports, the Democrats have 60 senators in their caucus, but two are ill (Kennedy-Mass., and Byrd-W.Va.) and eight senators are officially undecided on EFCA (Lincoln-Ark., Pryor-Ark., Bennet-Colo., Landrieu-La., Hagan-N.C., Nelson-Neb., Specter-Pa. and Warner-Va.). The cloture vote is the key vote in this debate.

AGC has said from the start that compromise is not an option.  Dropping the card check portion of the bill does not change our opposition to the binding government mandated arbitration provision and the increased penalties on only businesses for unfair labor practices.  Some of the ideas being mentioned in any alleged compromise also concern AGC, including using post-cards instead of secret ballot elections, so-called “quickie” elections, and increasing access to the workplace by union organizers. 

Even a genuine and well-intended proposal for a compromise could become a “Trojan horse” that EFCA’s proponents would simply use to sneak EFCA past a cloture vote in the Senate.   Unless and until EFCA’s proponents completely and irreversibly abandon that legislation, the risk of a compromise becoming a “Trojan horse” for EFCA will remain too great for this industry to entertain any discussion of compromise.  

This serves as a reminder that all Members of Congress, especially senators, need to be contacted by AGC members.  Top target states are: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia.   Please send letters in opposition to EFCA by using the AGC Legislative Action Center

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

Administration Proposes Rule Implementing Executive Order on Project Labor Agreements
Guidance does not include mandate to use PLAs
 

On July 14, 2009, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council issued a notice of proposed rulemaking implementing President Obama’s Executive Order 13502, by creating new FAR contract clauses to be included in Federal contracts should an agency choose to require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on a particular Federal construction project.  Comments are due on August 13, 2009.

In short, the proposed rule (FAR Case 2009-005) would:

·    Provide a new FAR Subpart 22.5, Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects;

·     Add a new provision at 52.222-XX, Notice of Requirement for Project Labor Agreement, to be included in solicitations where the agency has exercised its discretion to require a project labor agreement as prescribed at FAR 22.505(a);

·     Add a new clause 52.222-YY, Project Labor Agreement, to be included in contracts in accordance with FAR 22.505(b).

The proposed rule seems to implement the executive order carefully, without expansion, by encouraging (not requiring) agencies to consider (not necessarily adopt) a PLA requirement on large-scale construction projects (defined as projects with a total cost to the federal government of $25 million or more) on a project-by-project basis where certain criteria are met. 

It expressly leaves to the contracting agency discretion to decide whether or not to require a PLA.  AGC is encouraging agencies to exercise this discretion prudently, leaving the decision of whether to perform the work under a collective bargaining agreement up to the contractor-employers and their employees, as provided under federal labor law.  AGC believes that it is inappropriate for public agencies to use their contracting authority to interfere with labor relations among private employers and employees, and explained that position to White House and other officials at a recent meeting about PLAs.

AGC also explained that the proper parties to negotiate any PLA are the employers and employees performing work on the covered project, or their respective collective bargaining agents.  The proposed rule seems to recognize this by including a provision stating that the government will not participate in the negotiations of any PLA.  AGC would argue that the term “government” as used in that provision must include a construction manager that is acting as an agent of the owner-agency and that will not employ any workers covered by the PLA, but it is unclear whether the Councils intended such coverage.  This will be addressed in AGC comments submitted to the Councils.

The proposed rule includes standards for all PLAs issued under the rule.  These include that the PLA must “allow all contractors and subcontractors to compete for contracts and subcontracts without regard to whether they are otherwise parties to collective bargaining agreements.”  AGC intends to point out in its comments how this ostensibly fair principle is unrealistic, considering the very burdensome changes that a public PLA typically imposes on an open shop contractor’s operations.

The Councils are also considering factors for the contracting officer to consider, on a project-by-project basis, in determining whether use of a project labor agreement will be in the best interest of the federal government. The Councils welcome public comment on the factors that should be considered, such as the difficulty of coordinating multiple contracts in the absence of a project labor agreement, or the importance of timely project completion.  If you have suggestions on such factors that AGC should point out, please let us know.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org or Denise Gold at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org. Return to Top

WATER
Senate Action Imminent on S. 1005 - AGC Urges Members to Contact Senators
 

Key Senate staff has indicated that S. 1005, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act of 2009, could be up for a vote for the full Senate’s consideration as early as next week. S.1005 authorizes $39.191 billion for EPA water infrastructure programs over the next five years, including: $20 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program and $14.7 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program.

SRF

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Total

Clean Water

$3.2b

$3.2b

$3.6b

$4b

$6b

$20b

Drinking Water

$1.5b

$2b

$2b

$3.2b

$6b

14.7

Other key programs funded in the bill include $1.8 billion for Sewer Overflow Grants, $1.43 billion for the Critical Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant Program, grants for reducing lead in drinking water and technical assistance for small, rural and disadvantaged communities. 

S.1005 is the result of a true bi-partisan effort in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and AGC members are encouraged to contact their senators and urge their support of S.1005 by using the AGC Legislative Action Center.

For more information, contact Perry Fowler at (703) 837-5321 or fowlerp@agc.org. Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
AGC Member Testifies In Support of Need for Highway Trust Fund Revenue
 

Left: Congressman Earl Blumenauer (left), Ways and Means Committee member, talks with Don Weaver (right) after the hearing.
AGC Highway and Transportation Division Chairman Don Weaver, Weaver Bailey Contractors (El Paso, Ark.), testified today before the House Ways and Means Committee asking for action to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund has sufficient revenue to reimburse states for on-going construction contracts through the end of fiscal year 2009 and into 2010. Weaver also pointed out the need to enact a six year transportation reauthorization measure and to provide sufficient revenue to address the nation’s growing transportation infrastructure deficit.

Weaver’s testimony recommended that the federal highway user fee be increased by 18 cents to return the purchasing power that has been lost due to inflation in construction materials since the fee last increased in 1993. AGC’s testimony also called for creation of a federal commission to set and raise highway user fee rates in the future and called for increased use of tolling, private funding and other revenue sources to supplement user fees. “Our highways are crowded and crumbling while our country is growing and demanding,” he said. “Increased investment is necessary.”

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

Senate Continues to Move Highway Program Extension No House Action
 

The Senate Banking and Commerce Committees have joined the Environment and Public Works Committee in approving legislation to extend highway and transit program spending authorization through March 2011. Still to act is the Finance Committee, which must provide the revenue needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the next eighteen months.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has introduced legislation that would transfer $27 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund. That legislation, once approved by the committee, will be consolidated with the 18-month authorization provisions and considered by the Senate sometime before its summer recess begins.

No legislation to provide an authorization extension has been introduced in the House. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) asked the Ways and Means Committee today to instead provide a $3 billion general fund transfer to the HTF to allow FHWA to continue to reimburse states through the end of the fiscal year. Chairman Oberstar would prefer to enact a six-year authorization bill when the House returns from the summer recess and believes an 18-month extension will undermine those efforts.  

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

SAFETY
Safety & Hill Professionals Advocate for a Safe and Healthy Work Environment
 

This week, over 125 contractors traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2009 AGC Safety and Health Committee Meeting.  In addition to the networking opportunities and forums with federal agencies, attendees received updates on legislative issues that directly affect the safety and health professionals in the construction industry and visited their congressional delegations.

During the congressional visits, the safety and health professionals addressed the industry and AGC’s strong and lasting commitment to safety, while also stressing the importance of taking a cooperative approach to safety. Cooperative relationships between the construction industry and OSHA help promote safe and healthy work environments. The attendees also advocated for improving highway work zone safety programs.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-2133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC Townhouse, 53 D Street SE • Washington, DC 20003 • 202.547.1625 (phone) • 202.547.1635 (fax)• www.agc.org
AGC Home | About AGC | Advocacy | Industry Topics | Construction Markets | Programs & Events | Career Development | News & Media

To ensure delivery of AGC’s Construction Legislative Week in Review, please add 'communications@agc.org' to your email address book or Safe Sender List. If you are still having problems receiving our communications, visit our white-listing page for more details.

© Copyright The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. All Rights Reserved.