Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgSeptember 3, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
President Continues to Push for Health Care Reform, Group of Senators Far From Deal
TRANSPORTATION
Highway and Transit Reauthorization
LABOR
Federal Government to Implement E-Verify Beginning September 8
Comment Period for Proposed Rule Governing Project Labor Agreements Still Open
STIMULUS
White House Touts Stimulus Projects
 
HEALTH CARE
President Continues to Push for Health Care Reform, Group of Senators Far From Deal
 

President Obama will continue his push for sweeping reform of health care with an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. Obama will try and regain control of the issue after weeks of negative press and public opposition to the current reform package in town hall meetings across the country. The speech on Wednesday night is expected to focus on the need for reform but may fail to provide additional details on a reform package, including a public option.

Despite the diminishing hope that the Senate can deliver a bipartisan bill, a small group of senators will continue to meet to find common ground. The group dubbed the “Gang of 6” – including Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) – plans to meet Friday. If the Senate is unable to get bipartisan support, it is possible Democratic leaders may attempt to use reconciliation to pass health care reform – a procedural motion to avoid a filibuster – but that move could prove to be troublesome for Democrats and fail to deliver on all of their goals for reform. In the House, Speaker Pelosi continues to announce that they will not pass a reform bill without a public option.

AGC remains opposed to the current House bill, H.R. 3200. The bill includes an employer mandate which fails to increase affordability and will restrict job growth through the onerous payroll tax penalty. The bill includes the creation of health care “exchanges,” which limit access to all employers and offers tax credits that will help very few employers. The government run public option in the bill will compromise the viability of private insurance and ultimately force all individuals into the public plan.  Additional concerns include the bill’s failure to address malpractice reform and expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts. Finally, the income surtax in the bill will impose an additional tax on individuals and some construction employers that are organized as `S` corporations or other flow-through entities, making it even more difficult for employers to operate and grow their businesses in the current economy.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Highway and Transit Reauthorization
 

When Congress returns next week from its summer recess it must take action to ensure continuation of the highway and transit program. SAFETEA-LU expires on September 30, 2009 and Congress must take action before that time to avoid funding disruptions. This current reauthorization effort is even more difficult than it has been in the past because the balance in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has been spent down. Congress has had to provide two infusions of general fund revenue, totaling $15 billion, to ensure there is enough revenue to reimburse states for on-going construction projects through the end of FY2009.

The Senate is expected to bring up legislation reported from Committee just prior to the recess to extend authorization for 18 months until March 2011. The bill also includes an additional general fund transfer to ensure the HTF remains solvent during that time period. The Obama Administration supports an 18-month extension of authorization for the program coupled with an additional infusion of general fund revenue to keep the programs at a steady funding level.

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) is pressing for Congress to continue to work on the multi-year reauthorization. A draft bill has been reported out of subcommittee and the full Committee will be addressing the bill soon.

AGC continues to advocate the need for six-year reauthorization legislation with significantly increased revenues to address the nation’s growing transportation infrastructure deficit, while working to ensure there is no disruption in program funding in the interim.

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

LABOR
Federal Government to Implement E-Verify Beginning September 8
 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 8 announced the administration's intent to "push ahead with full implementation" of a rule requiring federal contractors to use the E-Verify system to verify employees' authorization to work in the U.S.  The E-Verify rule will apply to federal solicitations and contract awards government-wide beginning September 8. 

In response to a legal challenge to the rule and in order to give the new administration time to fully review the matter, the government agreed to suspend the rule on three separate occasions, with the latest delay date of September 8, 2009.  

The rule requires the insertion of a new clause in certain federal contracts and subcontracts.  Prime contracts below the simplified acquisition threshold of $100,000 and those with performance terms of less than 120 days are excluded.  The clause requires the contractor to use E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility of all new employees hired during the contract term and all current employees assigned to work on a federal job within the U.S.  It also allows, but does not require, the federal contractor to use E-Verify to confirm eligibility of all employees, regardless of whether they are assigned to work on a federal job.  Currently, use of E-Verify to confirm anyone other than a new hire (including applicants and current employees) is prohibited. 

AGC will continue to monitor all related litigation and legislation and will report on significant developments.

Click here for DHS's list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) for Federal Contractors and E-Verify.  Click here for more information about critical components of the rule.

Meanwhile, further guidance on immigration compliance is available in an MP3 download of a live educational session held at AGC's Annual HR Professionals Conference in June 2008.  An immigration law update will also be provided at AGC's next HR Professionals Conference, which will take place October 27-29, in Atlanta, Ga. Click here for conference details and registration. 

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org.


Return to Top
Comment Period for Proposed Rule Governing Project Labor Agreements Still Open
 

The comment period on the proposed rule relating to project labor agreements, which had expired August 13, wasextended last week for 30 days, with a new deadline of September 23.

The proposed rule would implement President Obama’s executive order encouraging (but not requiring) agencies to consider requiring PLAs on projects over $25 million.  Read more about the rule and find AGC’s comments here.

If you would like to submit your views, you can send comments by mail to General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat (VPR), 1800 F Street, NW, Room 4041, ATTN: Hada Flowers, Washington, D.C. 20405, or by fax to (202) 501-4067. Comments can also be submitted online via the federal eRulemaking portal by clicking here.

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

STIMULUS
White House Touts Stimulus Projects
 

Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech today to mark the 200-day mark since the stimulus took effect.  In terms of the stimulus’ effect on the construction industry, the vice president reported that more than 10,000 transportation projects have so far been approved.  He went on to say that work created by the stimulus has exceeded goals.  He specifically cited work that had been started on 2,200 highway projects (700 more than expected at this stage) and 192 airport projects (94 more than scheduled).  Biden highlighted in his speech that work has begun on 200 new rural waste and water systems as a result of the stimulus.  In terms of construction contracts, Biden acknowledged that on average bids are coming in at 8 to 10 percent below estimates and noted that he wants to ensure that any savings the government sees from these low bids is used wisely and invested back into infrastructure projects.

In addition to his speech, the vice president sent a letter and issued a report to President Obama summarizing each agency’s achievements in meeting their goals and commitments in the 200 days since the stimulus took effect.  A copy of the letter and the report is available here.

For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org. Return to Top

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