Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgSeptember 17, 2009
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On the Inside
Showdown on Highway Authorization Extension Likely Next Week
Senate Passes FY 2010 Transportation Appropriations Bill
New Health Care Reform Bill Emerges
Specter Raises Possibility of Card Check Compromise
AGC Looks at Climate Bill H.R. 2454: Title IV Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy
AGC Member Testifies for Hearing on Government Contracting
Showdown on Highway Authorization Extension Likely Next Week

With SAFETEA-LU authorization scheduled to expire on September 30, action is necessary to keep the highway and transit programs operating. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) announced his intention to move a 3-month extension this week out of Committee with floor consideration next week.

Chairman Oberstar opposes a longer extension because he believes it will undermine efforts to enact a six-year reauthorization bill. The Senate is preparing to bring to the floor legislation to extend the programs for 18 months until March 2011. Senate committees have already passed the needed legislation, including the Finance Committee, which included a $20 billion transfer from the general fund to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the eighteen month extension. The Senate is supporting the administration’s request to hold off on a multi-year extension until 2011.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or Return to Top

Senate Passes FY 2010 Transportation Appropriations Bill

This afternoon the Senate passed their FY 2010 Department of Transportation Appropriations legislation by a vote of 73-25.  The $67.7 billion bill funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provides $42.5 billion for the federal-aid highway program, an increase of over $1.5 billion from the FY 2009 level, and includes $11.1 billion for transit investments, $480 million above the President’s request. The bill also provides $3.5 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, the same amount appropriated for the past two years.

The House bill, which was passed in July, provides slightly less funding for highways, transit and high-speed rail improvements. House and Senate negotiators will now begin to conference their respective bills to address the differences in funding levels.

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

New Health Care Reform Bill Emerges

After months of negotiations, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), unveiled the “America’s Healthy Future Act” this week. The bill was unveiled without any Republican support and may fail to receive the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. This bill marks the final major health care reform bill to be released this year. Although three committees in the House passed H.R. 3200, “America's Affordable Health Choices Act” in July, the bills have not yet been meshed together and floor time has not been reserved for a vote by the full House. Meanwhile, the Senate HELP committee passed the “Affordable Health Choices Act,” which will ultimately have to be merged with the Finance Committee’s bill.  The president hopes to have a final bill to sign into law before the end of the year.

The three main bills contain key differences and to date AGC has only opposed the House’s “America's Affordable Health Choices Act.” The House bill fails to address the root cause of rising costs, will likely eliminate competition and restricts economic growth with punitive penalties for employers. The Finance Committee’s bill appears to be the best effort yet to lower health care costs, increase coverage and improve the quality of care. However, the bill includes significant cuts to doctors under Medicare and new tax on employer-provided health care benefits, and it fails to properly address medical malpractice insurance.  AGC hopes that Congress can find a bipartisan bill for health care reform.

Comparing the bills

Senate Finance Committee: creates co-ops to purchase health care that operate at the regional, state and national level. Insurers cannot reject applicants based on pre-existing conditions or renewals. All individuals are required to have health insurance and it can be purchased through exchanges. The mandate comes with subsides for low income individuals and tax penalties for individuals who fail to purchase coverage. There is no employer mandate. Employers with over 50 employees that do not offer coverage must reimburse the government for each employee receiving health care subsidies.

Senate HELP Committee: creates a public plan option to compete with private insurance. Insurers cannot reject applicants based on pre-existing conditions or renewals. All individuals are required to have health insurance and can purchase coverage through exchanges. The bill includes subsides for low income individuals and tax penalties for individuals who fail to purchase coverage. The HELP Committee’s plan contains an employer mandate for employers with over 25 employees, and failure to provide adequate coverage results in a $750 penalty for each uninsured full time worker each year. The plan makes tax credits available for small employers to purchase insurance.

Tri-Committee (House Bill): creates a public plan to compete with private insurance. Insurers cannot reject applicants based on pre-existing conditions or renewals. All individuals are required to have “acceptable health coverage” that can be purchased through new exchanges and subsides are made available for low income individuals, while tax penalties exist for individuals who fail to purchase coverage. The House bill includes an employer mandate for employers with payrolls exceeding $500,000 and includes a payroll tax penalty ranging from 2 to 8 percent. The plan includes some tax credits for the smallest of employers.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or Return to Top

Specter Raises Possibility of Card Check Compromise

In an address to the AFL-CIO convention on Tuesday, Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) unexpectedly announced that some senators had come up with a “compromise” on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and that it would pass this year. This announcement remains more wishful thinking on the part of top EFCA supporters as no official compromise has been made and there are not enough votes in the Senate to stop a filibuster at this time. The small group of pro-EFCA senators has been trying to find a compromise to the card check provision, and it is believed that any compromise would still require mandatory arbitration, among other items opposed by AGC.  AGC remains opposed to compromise on this bill as it is likely to be used as a Trojan Horse to pass EFCA in its current form.

It is important to continue communicating your opposition to elected officials on the Employee Free Choice Act, any compromise or cloture in the Senate on the bill.  Please use the AGC Legislative Action Center to send a letter to your members of congress in opposition to Card Check or any compromise.

The key Senate targets remain:

  • Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
  • Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
  • Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
  • Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
  • Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
  • Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
  • Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
  • Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)
  • Mark Warner (D-Va.)
  • Jim Webb (D-Va.)

For more information, contact Kelly Knott at (202) 547-4685 or Return to Top

AGC Looks at Climate Bill H.R. 2454: Title IV Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy

The fourth and final installment of AGC’s summary of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) explains the major provisions of Title IV (Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy) of interest to the construction industry. 

Subtitle A – Ensuring Real Reductions in Industrial Emissions

The purpose of this section of the bill is to safeguard the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing industries against foreign companies not subject to comparable emissions regulation in two ways.  The first would compensate eligible domestic industrial sectors and subsectors for compliance costs incurred under the bill through an Emission Allowance Rebate Program.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would determine which facilities should be eligible for rebates through a rule based on an assessment of economic factors, including 1) the energy or greenhouse gas intensity in a sector and 2) the trade intensity in such sectors.  The second would require the president in 2020 to impose on importers a requirement to submit emissions allowances if there is no international agreement in place by 2018 that would ensure globally coordinated reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  In the absence of an international agreement, the importer allowance requirement could be waived only if Congress passes a joint resolution approving the president’s decision to do so.

Subtitle B – Green Jobs

This section would authorize additional funding for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program from $125 million to $150 million annually.  It would allow the Secretary of Education to award competitive grants to partnerships for the creation of curricula “focused on emerging careers and jobs in the fields of clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.”  The bill would establish a publicly-available, web-based information and resources clearinghouse to assist with career and technical education and job training in the renewable energy sector.  Finally, the bill would establish a Green Construction Careers demonstration project “to promote middle class careers and quality employment practices in the green construction sector among targeted workers and to advance efficiency and performance on construction projects….”

Subtitle C – Consumer Assistance

This section would provide an Energy Tax Credit and Energy Refund Program to compensate low-income households for any reduction in purchasing power due to price increases in energy and other goods and services resulting from the bill.

Subtitle E – Adapting to Climate Change

This section would create a National Climate Change Adaptation Program within the U.S. Global Change Research Program.  It would establish a National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop climate information, data, forecasts, and warnings, and to distribute information on climate impacts to state and local decision makers.  The bill would distribute emission allowances to states for implementation of adaptation projects, programs or measures contingent on the completion of an approved State Adaptation Plan.  Eligible projects include those designed to respond to extreme weather events such as flooding or hurricanes, changes in water availability, heat waves, sea level rise, ecosystem disruption and air pollution.

The bill states that it is the policy of the U.S. government to use all practicable means and measures to assist natural resources to adapt to climate change and establishes a Natural Resources climate Change Adaptation Panel, chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, as a forum for interagency coordination on natural resources adaptation.  The Panel would be required to develop a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and federal agencies, as well as states, would be required to develop adaptation plans.  The bill would also establish a National Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund for a variety of adaptation activities consistent with these plans.

What Can Members Do?

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or Return to Top

AGC Member Testifies for Hearing on Government Contracting

AGC member Joel Zingeser (Grunley Construction Co. Inc., Rockville, Md.) today testified before the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management regarding contracting with the federal government. 

Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) held the hearing in order to examine the small business programs of the Architect of the Capitol, the General Services Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution.

Zingeser’s testimony focused on several contracting reform policies that AGC has advocated for including better accounting of subcontractor participation, contract bundling, HUBZones and agency consistency.

For more on the hearing, click here.

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or Return to Top

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