Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgNovember 12, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
House Passes Health Care Bill, Debate Moves to Senate
HIGHWAY
Administration Considers More Funding for Highways
TAX
AGC Lobbies for Pension Relief Bill
Senator Urges Extension of Build America Bonds Program
LABOR
DOL Cancels Manchester Job Corps Center Project Solicitation Amid PLA Concerns Raised by AGC
New Mandated Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced in the House
WATER
Rep. Pascrell to Speak in Support of Increased Water Infrastructure Investment
FEDERAL
Donít Miss the Last Stimulus At Work Federal Contracting Webinar
 
HEALTH CARE
House Passes Health Care Bill, Debate Moves to Senate
Thousands of AGC members respond to call to action
 

Last Saturday night the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act 220 to 215 (click here to view how your members voted) along party lines with 39 Democrats opposing and one Republican supporting.

The debate now shifts to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid is getting Presidential pressure to wrap up the debate before Christmas and Reid may force the Senate to work Saturdays in December to debate the bill. However, there is still no final bill in the Senate and Senator Reid will not have a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of his latest draft version of health care reform until the end of this week.  With the close House vote, the Senate will be more deliberate and methodical in its approach than the House. Senate moderates who represent states where House members opposed the bill will now feel a tremendous amount of pressure from their constituents, which creates one more hurdle Senate Democratic leaders have to overcome in order to convince already skittish moderates to support reform.

Senate targets are the senators from the following states: Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska and Virginia. For more information on proposed health care reform, visit AGC’s Health Care Web site.

AGC opposed the $1 trillion “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” because it failed to address the root cause of rising costs, will likely eliminate competition and restricts economic growth with punitive penalties for employers. AGC members answered the call to action last week by sending over 4,000 letters to Congress in less than 24 hours in opposition to the bill. This response brings this year’s efforts to over 8,000 individual messages. As the debate shifts to the Senate, AGC of America will again be calling on Chapters and members to advocate for affordable, quality health care through broader coverage, choice and competition in the marketplace.

Key provisions of the House bill include:
• Employers will be subjected to an 8 percent payroll tax for each employee that does not receive coverage from the employer, even if the employer offers adequate benefits – as determined by a government entity – but the employee chooses to enter a government plan.

• Mandated expansive coverage and the existence of the public plan in the legislation will likely eliminate much of the nations’ private insurance. It is not feasible that the government can be both regulator and participant in the health care system.

• The $1 trillion bill will be financed by $460 billion in new taxes and $500 billion in future Medicare cuts. The new taxes include a surtax for individuals with income above $500,000. This tax will be especially harsh for businesses structured as pass through entities where the business taxes are paid by the individual company owners, making it more difficult for the employer to operate the business and create or even retain jobs.

• The punitive business taxes and new and future mandates on insurance coverage will fail to lower the costs of purchasing health care and could stifle economic growth at a time when the industry is already suffering unemployment that is nearly double the national average.

For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at (202) 547-3350 or shoafj@agc.org.
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HIGHWAY
Administration Considers More Funding for Highways
 

Following the Department of Labor’s announcement that the U.S. unemployment rate in October had risen to 10.2 percent, President Obama said his administration is considering “additional investments in roads and bridges” as a way address the nation’s dire unemployment situation.

The president did not provide any details in terms of a time frame or how “additional investments” would be paid for, but he did make it clear that his economic team is looking at additional highway funding as a way to spur job growth. 

Meanwhile, AGC and coalition partners continue to push for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization.  Working against a December 18 deadline, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are trying to pass a six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU in order to continue working on a long-term investment.  Objections from two Republican senators are slowing the debate, but the House has already passed a three-month extension with the intention of working on a long-term bill.

For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org. Return to Top
TAX
AGC Lobbies for Pension Relief Bill
 

AGC is lobbying Capitol Hill to enact legislation in 2009 to provide single- and multi-employer pension plan funding relief to lessen the effects of investment losses in 2008 and 2009.  In a letter sent to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives today, AGC urged the House to cosponsor H.R. 3936, the Preserve Benefits and Jobs Act, sponsored by Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio). 

Under the bill, multi-employer plans that meet a solvency test would be eligible for relief through two options that would allow employers to repay recent losses over a 30-year period, and employers would be unable to increase plan benefits for two years.  For plans in endangered or critical status, the bill would extend the rehabilitation and funding improvement periods.  The bill would also facilitate alliances and mergers of funds, and allow the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) to provide assistance to lower long-term costs.  The bill would also update PBGC benefit guarantees. 

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to consider H.R. 3936 in the next couple of weeks.  The Senate has yet to introduce similar legislation.

AGC, along with the National Coordinating Council on Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP), has been advocating for legislation to provide relief to troubled defined benefit pension plans.  AGC will continue to work with NCCMP and Congress to enact pension funding relief legislation prior to the end of the year. 

AGC urges members to contact their Senators and Representatives in support of H.R. 3936 by using AGC’s Legislative Action Center.  If your company contributes to a multi-employer plan that would benefit from the legislation, you are able to customize the letter to describe your company’s situation to your members of Congress.

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

Senator Urges Extension of Build America Bonds Program
 

At a November 4 Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Michael Mundaca to be assistant treasury secretary for tax policy, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged extension of the Build America Bonds program set to expire in 2010.  Created in the Recovery Act, the Build America Bonds program is a new financing tool that allows states and local governments to obtain much-needed funding, at lower borrowing costs, for projects such as the construction of schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure, and water and sewer upgrades.  Wyden asked Mundaca during the hearing whether he would support extending the program or some version of it.

Since the program was launched in April, about $47 billion in bonds have been issued, according to Mundaca’s response.  He agreed that the program has been “extraordinarily successful,” adding that “it’s too successful to allow it to simply go away.” 

Wyden, along with Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) have been champions of the Build America Bonds concept, and offered at the hearing that the transportation bill may be a legislative vehicle in which to expand the program. 

AGC has called for the Build America Bonds program to be expanded and made permanent 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
DOL Cancels Manchester Job Corps Center Project Solicitation Amid PLA Concerns Raised by AGC
 

The Department of Labor canceled the Manchester New Hampshire Job Corps Center construction solicitation due to concerns surrounding a project labor agreement (PLA) requirement.

In September, AGC of America, in cooperation with AGC of  New Hampshire, sent a letter to the Department of Labor expressing concerns about the agency's decision to include a PLA mandate in solicitations related to the construction of a new Job Corps Center in Manchester, N.H., and demanding information about the agency's justification and decision-making process. Read more here.

DOL announced this week that the solicitation was cancelled because it believes that “it is in the public interest for the Department to further evaluate the issues involved in the PLA requirement” as it is a new issue to DOL.

AGC will continue to closely monitor any federal agency PLA activity.  If your chapter becomes aware of any PLA mandates on federal or federally assisted construction projects, please send information to Marco Giamberardino at giamberm@agc.org. Return to Top

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

WATER
Rep. Pascrell to Speak in Support of Increased Water Infrastructure Investment
 

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) will speak at an event next week to discuss several legislative proposals to address the U.S. EPA’s estimated $450 to $650 billion investment gap in clean and drinking water infrastructure over the next twenty years. 

Rep. Pascrell is the sponsor of H.R. 537, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2009, which proposes removing the state volume cap of tax-exempt private activity bonds (PAB), which are a used by state and municipal governments to partner with a private party to meet a public need.  PABs are one of the most useful tools of the federal government in providing long-term, capital-intensive infrastructure projects. The cap exists in each state to allow Congress to control the total volume of the tax-exempt bonds.

Rep. Pascrell will be joined at the event by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rep Anna Eschoo (D-Calif.), several other stakeholders in the water infrastructure arena, and AGC’s own chief economist, Ken Simonson. Speakers will focus on the projected water infrastructure needs, diversifying methods of financing, and the effect of investing in water infrastructure on jobs.

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

FEDERAL
Donít Miss the Last Stimulus At Work Federal Contracting Webinar
 

The last of three federal contracting webinars on Nov. 19 will 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.

Cost Recovery & Claims: Obtaining Fair Compensation and Avoiding Pitfalls - November 19, 1:30-3:00 pm ET

• Gain a clear meaning of negotiating “best value” based on costs associated with the new ARRA regulations

• Understand how the Truth in Negotiations Act and Part 31 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation can help your compensation on a job

• Learn the requirements to record, prove contractor's costs and certifications related to contract proposals and claims

Visit www.agc.org/fedwebinars for full webinar descriptions and a list a speakers. Return to Top

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