Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgNovember 5, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
House Prepares to Vote on Health Care Bill; AGC Members Urged to Contact Representative
New Ad Shows Real Cost of Health Care Reform
TRANSPORTATION
Senate Defers Action on Highway Extension; Auto Execs Suggest Higher Gas Tax
New Video Ad Shows How Poor Road Conditions Cost Lives
TAX
House, Senate Pass Expansion of Home Buyer Tax Credit, Net Operating Loss Carryback
LABOR
New Mandated Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced in the House
ENVIRONMENT
Senate Environment Committee Bypasses Republicans, Approves Cap and Trade Bill
WATER
T&I Committee Reviews Recovery Act Progress
ELECTIONS
Elections Impact - Both Republicans and Democrats Declare Victory
Election Wrap-Up
 
HEALTH CARE
House Prepares to Vote on Health Care Bill; AGC Members Urged to Contact Representative
 

AGC urges members to contact members of the House of Representatives and ask them to oppose H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care Choices Act.

AGC opposes this bill because it  will not control health care costs and will likely increase the cost of health care across the board. The House will likely vote on this proposal over the weekend. For additional information and to access AGC’s Legislative Action Center, visit http://www.agc.org/cs/health_care_reform.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org or (202) 547-3350. Return to Top

New Ad Shows Real Cost of Health Care Reform
 

AGC is supporting a new ad campaign launched as part of a broad business community effort to explain some of the economic challenges various proposed health care "reform" efforts pose for employers nationwide.

View the new advertisement here, and write to Congress using AGC's Legislative Action Center.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org or (202) 547-3350. Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
Senate Defers Action on Highway Extension; Auto Execs Suggest Higher Gas Tax
 

With the highway and transit programs operating under the terms of a seven week continuing resolution until December 18, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had intended to press for floor time to consider a six-month extension of the programs that would have remedied an $8.7 billion rescission of contract authority problem and extended the Highway Trust Fund firewalls.

However, the Senate calendar has filled up with consideration of pending appropriations bills and other measures and it appears unlikely that the highway extension will be considered any time soon. If Congress resolves the government funding for the remainder of FY 2010, an additional continuing resolution may not be necessary.  Instead, it would be necessary to enact a separate transportation program extension. No progress has been made on a six-year authorization bill and finding a way to increase funding in the programs remains the biggest stumbling block.

Auto executives speaking at a forum in Detroit this week said the best way to get more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road is to raise federal gasoline taxes. Gradually raising taxes to the point where fuel costs $4 to $5 per gallon was touted as the best way to stimulate demand for electric, hybrid and other alternatively fueled vehicles. Others called for even bigger increases in gasoline taxes.

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

New Video Ad Shows How Poor Road Conditions Cost Lives
 

A new video advertisement from the Transportation Construction Coalition, co-chaired by AGC, highlights the findings of a new study that shows 22,000 Americans die each year on deficient roadways.

Watch the video here.

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

TAX
House, Senate Pass Expansion of Home Buyer Tax Credit, Net Operating Loss Carryback
Both provisions included in AGC’s Recovery Plan
 

Congress this week passed legislation to extend federal unemployment benefits (H.R. 3548) that included an expansion of the first-time home buyer tax credit and five-year carryback of net operating losses (NOL). 

The current $8,000 first-time-home-buyer credit is set to expire on November 30, 2009.  Congress voted to extend the credit for an additional 5 months and increase the income limits to qualify, as well as to offer a new $6,500 tax credit for existing home buyers.

The Recovery Act allowed businesses with gross receipts of $15 million or less that experienced net operating losses in 2008 to carry those losses back over the preceding five years.  The provision allows small businesses with deductions exceeding their income to get a refund for taxes paid in previous years.  The bill that the president is expected to sign shortly would expand the provision to allow all businesses to carryback net operating losses incurred in 2008 or 2009 over the preceding five years.  

AGC called for enactment of both of these tax provisions in its Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth.

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

LABOR
New Mandated Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced in the House
 

This week, the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.), introduced a bill to provide five days of paid sick leave to employees that have symptoms of a contagious illness or have been in close contact with someone who has the symptoms. 

The Emergency Influenza Containment Act is a direct result of the H1N1 virus, but the language of the bill is so broad that any contagious illness could be covered.  Employers who direct an employee to leave work or to not come into work would have to provide up to 5 days of paid sick leave over a 12 month period.  This legislation would apply to all employers with 15 or more employees. 

This legislation is different than another bill, The Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with 15 or more employees to allow employees to earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  AGC is opposed to The Healthy Families Act because it requires a one-size-fits-all paid sick leave package of 56 hours and limits an employers’ flexibility in creating a benefits package that would meet the needs of the construction industry’s unique workforce. 

Congressman Miller has indicated that he wants to have a hearing and pass the Influenza Act sometime this month.  As of now, AGC expects these two mandatory paid sick leave bills to remain separate.  AGC will continue to report on movement on either bill. 

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

ENVIRONMENT
Senate Environment Committee Bypasses Republicans, Approves Cap and Trade Bill
 

Following a three-day Republican boycott of a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee business meeting to consider S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ten Democrats voted to approve the bill without considering any amendments.  None of the panel’s Republican members were present for the vote.  Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was the lone Democrat to vote against the measure.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Boxer introduced S. 1733 on September 30, 2009, and have subsequently released two substitute versions of the bill that provide important details of the legislation, including the allocation of free allowances (i.e., permits to emit pollutants) and distribution of auctioned allowance revenues. 

Republicans on and off the panel – including Republicans moderate on climate change – have called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct additional analysis to assess the cost of the bill to the economy.  Senator Boxer and other Democrat allies have insisted that EPA’s current analysis is adequate and “unprecedented,” and denied repeated Republican entreaties to delay Committee consideration of the legislation.

At least five other Senate committees have jurisdiction over energy and climate change legislation; only the Environment and Public Works and Energy and Natural Resources Committees have acted to date.  With the Senate slated to consider health care and other year-end priorities, such as the remaining federal spending bills and tax extenders, the full Senate may not consider comprehensive legislation until 2010.  Passage of the bill in the Senate remains uncertain. 

AGC has prepared a document, Top Ten Things Contractors Need to Know about Climate Change, to summarize AGC’s concerns with energy and climate change legislation. 

AGC encourages members to express their concerns with the Senate climate change bill by contacting their Senators using AGC’s Legislative Action Center.  For more information on pending climate change regulatory and legislative efforts and AGC’s activities, please visit AGC’s Energy and Climate Change Web site.

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

WATER
T&I Committee Reviews Recovery Act Progress
 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Environment held a hearing on Recovery Act progress, including updates from representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works Program.

Additional witnesses included representatives from state and local governments administering Recovery Act dollars. AGC has expressed concern about the speed at which contracts have been solicited and awarded; according to witnesses administering these Recovery Act dollars; however, steady progress has been made in getting projects underway.

According to USACE Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo Ellen Darcy, “731 Civil Works projects are underway across 49 states and also in both Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Eight projects have been completed to date. Fifty Project Partnership Agreements have been executed around the country under the reimbursable environmental infrastructure program for a total cost of $66.3 million. During this same period, 2,753 contract actions were awarded, of which 2,058 or 75 percent were awarded to small businesses. Of the $2 billion in contracts awarded, 48 percent of the total dollar value was awarded to small businesses. In addition, larger companies receiving Civil Works contracts are encouraged to hire local small business as their sub-contractors.”

Testifying on behalf of the U.S. EPA was Deputy Director for the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, Nanci Gelb.  According to Gelb’s testimony, “nearly 20 percent, or $800 million of the funds appropriated for the Clean Water SRF are under contract, an increase of approximately 20 percent in the last four weeks.” This represents slightly less than twenty five percent of the $4 billion allocated for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) but is significant progress considering reports in July indicated that only one half percent of EPA’s $6 billion SRF funds had been awarded to contract.   Gelb also noted in her testimony that requirements for “Buy American” green infrastructure and implementing Davis-Bacon prevailing wages have been challenging, but EPA has been successfully navigating the requirements through weekly internal meetings of its Stimulus Steering Committee.

AGC has closely monitored “Buy American” waivers granted for stimulus-funded SRF projects, and submitted a letter to the Committee detailing continued concerns about the vastly expanded “Buy American” provisions in the Recovery Act and the lack of final guidance from OMB.  AGC’s position was noted by Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.); however Chairman Oberstar raised doubts that this issue presented a significant problem for industry and noted that the requirement was encouraging U.S. innovation. He cited a single company that now manufactures advanced Ultra Violet Treatment systems for water.  Oberstar asked that EPA respond to AGC’s concerns and report back its findings to the T&I Committee.

On a positive note, according to AGC analysis of recent figures released by EPA detailing contract actions, EPA funds for Recovery Act projects have been significantly leveraged. Clean Water SRF funded projects totaling $1.6 billion in Recovery Act Funds have been combined with state and local dollars being leveraged into nearly $3 billion in projects.  For the Drinking Water SRF, $726 million in Recovery Act Funds have been leveraged into nearly $1.3 billion. 

Additional discussion took place toward the end of the hearing regarding additional water infrastructure needs in communities, including the viability of a “Trust Fund,” which has been introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), as one of the potential solutions to meet the nation’s clean and drinking water infrastructure funding needs.  These needs are conservatively projected to have an investment gap of almost $600 billion over the next twenty years. AGC supports H.R. 3202 and AGC members are encouraged to visit the AGC Legislative Action Center to learn more about this legislation.

More information:

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

ELECTIONS
Elections Impact - Both Republicans and Democrats Declare Victory
 

Republicans are declaring victory with Tuesday gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, saying that it is a clear vote against the aggressive overreach of Congress and the Obama administration. Democrats on the other hand are saying that they picked up a seat in New York that had been held by the GOP for more than 100 years, and that they won in a democratic open seat in California. Those two Representatives were sworn in today and Speaker Pelosi has said they may provide the margin of victory necessary to pass  the health care bill being considered by the House this weekend. 

Both sides have valid points.  What is certain is that the conclusion of elections this week mark the official beginning of the 2010 election campaigns, which will include bruising public spectacles. Millions will be spent by Democrats to preserve their majorities, and millions will be spent by Republicans to pick up vulnerable seats. 

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org.
Return to Top

Election Wrap-Up
N.Y., N.J. and Va.
 

Although the outcomes of elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia we followed ended according to plan, getting to the end did not go as expected. 

New York’s special election in the 23rd district was definitely the biggest shocker: Republican Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign just days before the election.  Realizing that she was down double-digits in the polls and didn’t have the funds the other candidates had, she decided to step aside and let Conservative Doug Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens battle it out.  The National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Committee immediately endorsed Doug Hoffman, but in an unexpected turn of events, Republican Scozzafava then endorsed Democrat Owens.  When the polls finally came to a close, Owens had earned 49 percent of the vote, with 46 percent going to Hoffman and Scozzafava still picking up a few votes.  While both parties claimed victory, in the end the Democrats picked up a seat that has been red for over a century.

In New Jersey, the race was less eventful, but the outcome surprised many.  With the most recent pre-election polls showing the two candidates, incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie, literally tied, most people thought the race wouldn’t be called until the wee hours of the morning.  Surprisingly, Christie was declared the winner just about two hours after the polls closed (Corzine conceded around 10:45pm EST).  Although the win was far from an upset, people were shocked.  Several counties, such as Middlesex, that have long been Democratic strongholds voted for Christie, helping him receive 49 percent of the vote while Corzine could only earn 44 percent.

The Virginia gubernatorial race went as expected.  Republican Bob McDonnell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds handily, receiving 59 percent of the vote.  Although Deeds had support from the President and Vice President, most agree that his campaign was run poorly.  The election was called for McDonnell at 7:55pm by the Associated Press, less than an hour after the polls closed.  McDonnell’s victory help clinch a Republican sweep in Virginia, as the voters also elected a Republican Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.

For more information, visit www.agc.org/vote, or contact Julie Hodgson at (202)547-5013 or hodgsonj@agc.org. Return to Top

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