Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgOctober 22, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Negotiations Continue
TAX
Congress Considering Tax Relief and Other Jobs Creation Measures
FEDERAL
Department of Housing and Urban Development Issues Buy American Waivers for Certain Recovery Act Programs
Senate Begins School Overhaul Bill for Federal Investment in School Construction
President Obama Announces Proposal to Increase SBA Loan Limits
Senior Shift in Army Corps Leadership Team
Register Now for New AGC Stimulus at Work Federal Webinar Series
CLIMATE CHANGE
Reid and Kerry Pushing for Thanksgiving Deadline on Energy and Climate Change Bill
TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Reauthorization Mired in Uncertainty, Contractor Survey May Support Increased Investment
LABOR
Senate Committee Approves Nominees for the National Labor Relations Board
 
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Negotiations Continue
 

Democratic leaders in both chambers continue to work out the final details of sweeping health care reform legislation before it can be brought for a vote.  The major sticking point remains the inclusion of a public option. It appears that the House will be able to pass a bill with the public option and the Senate is having trouble finding 60 senators to support it.

The Senate bill must be fully merged with the two committee versions and then sent to the Congressional Budget Office for final cost analysis before it can be brought for a vote. On Monday the 1,500 page Legislative Language of S. 1796, the America’s Healthy Future Act was released. The process of fully merging the bill and sending the bill to CBO could occur as early as this week.

AGC remains concerned over employer mandates, the penalties for companies that cannot afford to provide health care, the uncertainties in coverage requirements, the affect on temporary and seasonal employees, the limitations on FSAs, HSAs and HRAs, and expanded COBRA mandates. Even with the CBO score of the Senate Finance bill, 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

TAX
Congress Considering Tax Relief and Other Jobs Creation Measures
 

With nationwide unemployment approaching 10 percent, Congressional leaders are considering whether to enact additional legislation to spur job creation.  Specifically, leaders are debating whether to include an extension of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit set to expire on November 30, 2009, and allow up to a 5-year carryback of net operating losses (NOL), among other provisions, such as a new tax credit for job creation, to legislation extending federal unemployment insurance currently pending in the Senate.  Both measures are supported by AGC and were included in the plan, Build Now for the Future, A Blueprint for Economic Growth.

Extension of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit is gaining momentum in both the House and Senate, but consensus had not yet been reached on how long the tax credit should be extended and whether to remove the first-time homebuyer requirement.  In the Senate, proponents are seeking to extend the tax credit to all homebuyers and extend it until June 30, 2010, while also doubling the credit phase-out threshold to $150,000 for singles and $300,000 for couples.  Under debate is whether the offset the estimated $16.7 billion cost of the proposal.  Many in Congress consider this and other jobs creation measures to be emergency expenses that do not need to be paid for.

The NOL provision would allow unprofitable companies to obtain immediate cash refunds on taxes they paid in previous years.  Current law allows companies to get refunds of taxes paid in the previous two years, or five years for smaller companies in 2008.  Proponents of NOL relief – including AGC – are seeking to extend the two-year period to five years for all companies for both 2008 and 2009 losses. AGC issued a statement today and sent a letter to Capitol Hill in support of these measures.

Democratic leaders are also contemplating additional efforts to stimulate economic activity and have been meeting with economists to discuss recovery options.  These so-called “mini-jobs bills” could be enacted separately or attached to other jobs creation measures pending before Congress, such as the reauthorization of the surface transportation program. 

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

FEDERAL
Department of Housing and Urban Development Issues Buy American Waivers for Certain Recovery Act Programs
 

This week the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a waiver of Section 1605, or the Buy American requirements, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for projects using Community Development Block Grant-Recovery (CDBG–R) funds and Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) funds.

The Recovery Act appropriated $1 billion in funds to states and local governments to carry out eligible activities on an expedited basis. The Recovery Act also appropriated $2 billion for the second round of NSP2, ‘‘[f]or the provision of emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.’’

This waiver provides that HUD will accept any other agency’s waivers and well as any waivers from other HUD programs. They also waive entirely the Buy American requirements for public housing projects with less than 8 units, when the grant size is less than $100,000, or any project that is substantially under construction or contract prior to receipt of funds. These exceptions were made on the basis of the of the “Public Interest” option of potential waivers provided in Section 1605(b).

This waiver joins others HUD has issued for the Capital Fund Recovery Formula and Competition (CFRFC) grant funds  and a project specific waiver for the Boston Housing Authority’s HOPE IV project.

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

Senate Begins School Overhaul Bill for Federal Investment in School Construction
 

Now that the House passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which authorizes more than $4 billion for elementary and secondary school facility projects over the next two fiscal years, the Senate is currently working on its version of the bill.

The House version of the bill authorizes $2.1 billion in 2010 and 2011 to renovate and modernize facilities for elementary and secondary schools (K-12), and authorizes $2.5 billion in 2011 to renovate and modernize facilities for community colleges. AGC has long-advocated for increased federal investment in school construction, as there is substantial opportunity for investment in upgrading and improving the unmet needs for school construction and renovation, which is estimated to be $3.7 billion. The average age of a public school building is estimated to be over 40 years old, the same age that schools have been documented to deteriorate.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). Committee staff currently working on the bill indicated that the Senate will be writing their own bill language, but that the goal is to match the numbers in the House bill. The unofficial timetable is to finish the bill and have it to the president before the end of the year to maximize the savings and effectiveness of the student aid portions of the bill. Given this timeframe, it is unlikely that there will be time for any hearing on the legislation, as the health care debate has presently taken the majority of attention and resources.

While AGC supports the overall bill, it includes the same Buy American language as was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that AGC continues to oppose. Committee staff currently working on the bill has indicated that while they would like to keep the Buy American language in the bill, they see it as unlikely to make it into the final Senate language. AGC will urge Senators to support the bill without the Buy American restrictions.

For more information click here.

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

President Obama Announces Proposal to Increase SBA Loan Limits
 

President Obama and the U.S. Small Business Administration announced October 21 a new plan to raise the maximum loan size for SBA-backed loans to small business. Specifically, President Obama called for:

• Increasing the size of SBA’s 7(a) loan from $2 million to $5 million.

• Increasing the size of SBA’s 504 loan from $2 million to $5 million for standard borrowers (supporting a total project of $12.5 million) and from $4 million to $5.5 million for manufacturers (supporting a total project of $13.75 million).

• Increasing the size of SBA’s Microloan from $35,000 to $50,000.

AGC believes these measures will go a long way to help extend and expand credit to small businesses that need this valuable help now more than ever.   

To view a copy of the President’s remarks, click here. To view the SBA fact sheet on the proposal, click here.

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

Senior Shift in Army Corps Leadership Team
 

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced on October 16 a major shift in its Army Corps senior leadership team. Major General Merdith W.B. (Bo) Temple will become the Deputy Commanding General (DCG) in January 2010. MG Temple has served as the DCG for Civil and Emergency Operations since 2008. MG Temple will succeed Major General Don Riley, who has served the DCG since April 1, 2008. MG William T. Grisoli, who has been serving as the  Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army, was named DGC for Civil and Emergency Operations.

MG Grisoli previously held senior positions with the Corps, including commander of its Northwestern and North Atlantic divisions. Prior to his appointment at the Civil Works, MG Temple was DCG for military and international programs.  Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp remains Commander and Chief of Engineers. MG Jeffrey J. Dorko continues as the DCG for military and international operations.

AGC thanks MG Riley for his friendship and his years of service to our nation. We also congratulate MG Temple and MG Grisoli on their new positions as we look forward to working with them to ensure the USACE mission is a success.

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

Register Now for New AGC Stimulus at Work Federal Webinar Series
 

 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has provided the construction industry with an unprecedented opportunity to help rebuild our nation, our economy and our industry. As a result, ARRA and several other major changes governing how the federal government procures construction services have dramatically changed the federal construction industry.

AGC is offering a cutting edge series of federal contracting webinars to provide a detailed overview of some of the most critical challenges both new and experienced federal contractors will need to know about to successfully navigate this new landscape and meet the demands of the economic stimulus package.

November 5, 1:30-3pm ET • Protests and Debriefings: How to Protect Yourself 
November 12, 1:30-3pm ET • Small Business Contracting: Opportunities Gained & Challenges Identified

November 19, 1:30-3pm ET • Cost Recovery & Claims: Obtaining Fair Compensation and Avoiding Pitfalls

Visit www.agc.org/fedwebinars for full webinar descriptions and a list a speakers. For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org. Return to Top

CLIMATE CHANGE
Reid and Kerry Pushing for Thanksgiving Deadline on Energy and Climate Change Bill
 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Senate climate change bill’s lead sponsor, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), are planning strategies for a comprehensive energy and climate change bill that would impose a Thanksgiving deadline for the remaining five committees to act.

The initial deadline for action set by Reid was late September, but so far only one of the six panels of jurisdiction, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has acted. The health care debate has taken longer than many thought, and is drawing the majority of resources and attention presently in the Senate. Senator Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and co-sponsor of the Senate climate bill, is hoping to get multiple hearings on the Kerry-Boxer bill as well as a markup done shortly after the end of the month.

AGC opposed the House-passed version in June and encourages members to contact their senators in opposition to the bill by using the AGC Legislative Action Center.

For the latest information on the climate bill and its effects on the construction industry, visit AGC’s climate change Web site.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Reauthorization Mired in Uncertainty, Contractor Survey May Support Increased Investment
 

With time running out on the 30-day extension on authorization for the highway and transit programs, it remains unclear if the House and Senate can agree on how to proceed. The Senate leadership is attempting to move quickly on an 18-month extension, but that effort has been blocked by Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) who believes that a six-year bill with increased funding levels is the best approach for transportation and for the economy. This reflects the position of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who continues to press for enactment of a six-year measure. The impasse may lead to another short term authorization extension through a continuing resolution, which Congress must enact by October 31 to avoid a government shutdown.

There have been some discussions between Congressional leadership and the administration about increasing highway and transit funding in an extension bill as a way to stimulate job growth. With unemployment continuing to increase, the administration is looking for ways to create jobs without taking up additional stimulus legislation. Since state DOTs have been largely successful in putting highway projects out to bid, increasing this funding is being considered.

AGC and our Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) partners have surveyed our membership to the outlook for the highway market and jobs in an effort to demonstrate the need for a long-term, well-funded bill. If you have not submitted the survey please take a few minutes to do so by clicking here. This week the Congressional steel caucus wrote to the House and Senate leadership calling for passage of transportation reauthorization in an effort to preserve and create jobs.

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

LABOR
Senate Committee Approves Nominees for the National Labor Relations Board
 

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted Republican Brian Hayes and Democrats Mark Pearce and Craig Becker forward for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).   AGC, along with other business groups, sent a letter to the HELP Committee expressing concern over both the committee process of not holding a hearing on Becker as well as concerns with Becker’s writings and beliefs with regard to labor law due to his expressed view that labor law and national labor policy can be changed through NLRB decisions as opposed to going through the legislative process. 

The Employee Free Choice Act, or Card Check, could be affected by Becker’s beliefs. Thought it is currently stalled in Congress, components of the Employee Free Choice Act, or Card check, could be implemented by rulings of the NLRB under Becker’s guidance.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to put a hold on Becker, preventing a vote in the full Senate, and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has also objected to Becker’s confirmation.   While this will slow down Becker’s nomination, it also will likely hold up the approval of Hayes and. Pearce because NLRB appointments are usually voted on in a package rather than individually.   The timing of any Senate floor vote is uncertain due to the expected hold on the Becker nomination.

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

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