Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgOctober 15, 2009
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On the Inside
BLUEPRINT
AGC’s Blueprint for Economic Growth Makes Rounds
STIMULUS
Administration Releases First Round of Recovery Act Reporting Data, Job Creation Estimate
ENVIRONMENT
AGC and Clean Air Task Force Reach Landmark Accord, Call for Diesel Cleanup in Federally-Funding Transportation Projects
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Bills Move Closer to a Vote
WATER
EPA Administrator Testifies on Clean Water Act Enforcement
FEDERAL
Senate Approves Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
Obama Administration Proposes New Contracting Changes
 
BLUEPRINT
AGC’s Blueprint for Economic Growth Makes Rounds
 

AGC’s Build Now for the Future, A Blueprint for Economic Growth was released September 30 and calls for commonsense initiatives, tax credits and policy changes designed to stimulate new private- and public-sector demand for construction. 

During the National and Chapter Leadership Conference in early October, more than 200 Chapter executives and contractors were on hand to deliver the blueprint to Capitol Hill.  Since then, AGC has continued efforts to distribute the plan and is making additional copies available to Chapters to mail to their Congressional delegations. 

Use AGC’s Legislative Action Center to ask Congress to support tax, trade, capital investment and regulatory policies that will boost construction investment, job creation and long-term economic growth.

Learn more here, or contact Brian Turmail at (703) 837-5310 or turmailb@agc.org. Return to Top

STIMULUS
Administration Releases First Round of Recovery Act Reporting Data, Job Creation Estimate
 

The administration posted data on October 15 detailing data received from recipients of Recovery Act funds on the Recovery.gov Web site. That data includes all information provided by recipients who were awarded direct federal Recovery-related contracts, grants and loans beginning early in 2009.  The Recovery Act requires the prime and sub-recipients of $25,000 or more to report 30 days after the close of every quarter on how they used the money. The first reporting period began on Oct. 1, 2009 and ended on Oct. 10, 2009.  

Based on the data submitted to FederalReporting.gov, a password-protected government Web site created specifically to collect all the data, it is estimated that 30,383 jobs were created or saved so far as a result of the Recovery Act.

The reports included the following information:

  • The total amount of Recovery funds each recipient received between Feb. 17, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2009;
  • The total amount of funds expended;
  • A description and location of the project; and
  • The jobs created or saved.

The next reporting period begins January 1, 2010.

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

ENVIRONMENT
AGC and Clean Air Task Force Reach Landmark Accord, Call for Diesel Cleanup in Federally-Funding Transportation Projects
 

AGC and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) today announced that the two organizations have agreed on principles to require reductions in diesel emissions from federally-funded transportation projects via contract change orders that cover 100 percent of the costs to retrofit equipment.  CATF represents leading environmental groups and targets diesel emissions reductions nationwide. 

Under the set of “Clean Construction Principles,” states would first require successful bidders for federally-funded transportation projects to identify the off-road diesel equipment they plan to use on designated projects.  States would give priority to projects located in areas with poor air quality.  After exploring EPA-approved options for reducing diesel emissions, states would issue change orders requiring contractors to pursue the best of those options.   The change orders would entitle contractors to recover 100 percent of their costs. 

AGC and CATF have been working with Congressman John Hall (D-N.Y.) to turn these principles into a legislative proposal that the Congressman will pursue as an amendment to the surface transportation reauthorization bill.  Funding to cover the cost of the change orders would be designated in the bill. 

The announcement was covered by Greenwire/New York Times. To view a copy of the “Clean Construction Principles” click here

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

HEALTH CARE
Health Care Bills Move Closer to a Vote
 

On October 13, the Senate Finance Committee finished its two-week markup of a health care reform bill with a 14 to 9 vote to report the bill out of the committee. The only Republican to support the measure was Senator Olympia Snow (R-Maine).  

The final committee vote had been delayed to give the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) time to provide a cost analysis of the bill and the 150 amendments that had been considered during the process. CBO forecasted the bill will cost $829 billion over 10 years, reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion and provide up to 94 percent of all Americans with health care coverage. Several members of the Committee who voted in favor of the bill did so reluctantly, as they only support moving the debate forward but are unwilling to endorse the bill as it is currently drafted.  The issues of major concern remain the inclusion of an employer mandate, tax on “Cadillac” plans, and whether to include a public option.

Despite the vote in the Finance Committee, work remains to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed its own version of health care reform legislation in July and must now be merged with the Finance Committee’s version.  The process is underway and is being spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and administration officials. The process could become contentious as liberal and moderate members of his party square off over the inclusion of a public option. The Democratic leadership must try to craft a bill that can receive 60 votes on the Senate floor.  The leaders plan to hold a vote at the end of October.

The House remains in a similar situation. Three committees of jurisdiction passed health care reform legislation in July; however each committee passed a separate bill. The Democratic leadership in the House must craft one bill before it can be sent to a vote by the entire House. The House leaders are confronted with the task of satisfying multiple factions of Democrats in order to garner enough support for passage. No Republicans are expected to support the measure, and groups of Democrats have been outspoken against inclusion of a public option and some even argue that the bill is too moderate. In the end, the bill is expected to easily pass without Republican support. The leaders are hoping to hold a vote the first week of November.

Due to the drastically different versions of the House and Senate bills, they will be required to be conferenced together if they pass each chamber before the President can sign one bill into law. As of now it is not guaranteed that the bills could reach this process, but the President and Congressional leaders remain committed to passing a bill this year, likely sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Over the next several weeks AGC will continue to advocate against an employer mandate and the penalties for companies that cannot afford to provide health care. AGC remains concerned that the bills create uncertainties in coverage requirements, negatively affect temporary and seasonal employees, and impose limitations on FSAs, HSAs and HRAs, and expand COBRA mandates. Despite the recent CBO score, AGC remains concerned that the exorbitant costs of the proposed plans will result in increased taxes on individuals and companies.  AGC supports reform that increases coverage, choice and competition in the marketplace. The inclusion of a public plan in the legislation will likely drive private insurers out of the market and the projected savings from the proposed legislation may never materialize, resulting in further tax increases to make up the shortfall.

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

WATER
EPA Administrator Testifies on Clean Water Act Enforcement
 

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today to discuss the Clean Water Act and EPA’s intention to increase efforts to undertake enforcement actions under the Act. In her testimony to the Committee, Administrator Jackson noted that EPA is “reexamining its approach to enforcing the Clean Water Act permit program to address water pollution challenges of this century.” Jackson specifically noted that recipients of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, including construction sites, wastewater treatment plants, mining, manufacturing facilities and additional industries, such as agriculture, would be targets of increased CWA enforcement by EPA. Administrator Jackson also indicated that the EPA formally released their “Clean Water Act Enforcement Plan” which is available on the EPA Web site.

Administrator Jackson said about S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act,  that the Obama Administration believes that Congress can bring more clarity to permitting issues. Chairman Oberstar noted that he had not introduced companion legislation to S.787 yet. 

Several Committee members expressed concerns about removing the term “navigable” from the Clean Water, which the bill would do.  AGC has actively opposed this legislation because it would give EPA and the Corps jurisdiction over all wet areas – however remote or intermittent. At a recent hearing before the Small Business Panel on Waters and Wetlands Regulations, AGC testified that the bill would require construction contractors and project owners to obtain and be regulated by federal Clean Water Act permits far more frequently than is currently required. 

Administrator Jackson was also asked about the Obama Administration’s position on the creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund.  Jackson indicated that the Obama Administration did not have a position for or against the “Trust Fund,” but acknowledged that there was a major gap in the current investment in clean water infrastructure. 

AGC has been involved in direct talks with the EPA’s enforcement arm, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance (OECA), and will continue to engage in discussions with EPA and the T&I Committee to ensure that the construction industry’s concerns are heard and that EPA efforts include increased compliance assistance and industry outreach, in addition to increased enforcement actions.

To view Administrator Jackson’s and other testimony, as well as video of the hearing, click here.

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

FEDERAL
Senate Approves Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
 

The Senate approved, 80-17, a $33.5 billion Energy and Water Appropriations package for FY 2010 and sent it to President Obama for his signature.  The bill provides $5.4 billion in funding for the FY2010 Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program, including:   

  • Construction - $2.031 billion
  • Operation and Maintenance - $2.4 billion
  • Investigations - $160 million
  • Mississippi River & Tributaries - $340 million
  • Regulatory - $190 million
  • FUSRAP - $134 million

The Bureau of Reclamation would receive $1.13 billion, slightly more than the House bill figure of $1.08 billion. This represents an approximately $38 million decrease from FY 2009, but an approximate $17 million increase above the administration request.

AGC will continue to advocate for increased investment in the water resources development missions of the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation as this legislation continues through the Congress.

To view a copy of the final Conference Report, click here.

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

Obama Administration Proposes New Contracting Changes
 

The Obama Administration proposed a series of rule changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on October 14 that would address several critical components of the federal acquisition system and management of federal employees and private sector contractors.

The first rule would allow the Government Accountability Office to interview current contractor employees during the audit of the contractor's records. A second rule would limit the length of contracts awarded noncompetitively under unusual and compelling circumstances to the minimum contract period necessary to meet the requirements, and no longer than one year, unless the head of the agency determines that exceptional circumstances apply. Both rules were finalized and are now in effect.

Three other proposed rules would affect federal contracting:

  • One rule aims to minimize excessive cost of pass-through charges by contractors from subcontractors;
  • A second interim rule addresses contract award fees; and
  • An interim rule clarifies the definition of commercial services.

All rules implement provisions from the 2009 Defense Authorization Act. AGC is currently reviewing these rulemakings to determine the effect on the construction industry.

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

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