Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgDecember 3, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Senate Health Care Reform Debate Underway, AGC's Concerns Remain
JOBS SUMMIT
AGC Past President Doug Pitcock Tells Obama Investments in Infrastructure Are Critical to Economic Growth, President Agrees
AGC Meets with Gov. Rendell to Advocate for Infrastructure Investment
Congress Continues to Focus on a “Jobs” Bill
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Co-Chaired Coalition Pushes for Highway Bill to Create Jobs Now
“Phone-In” Planned to Get Attention of Congress on Transportation Reauthorization
TAXES
House Passes Bill to Make Permanent 2009 Estate Tax
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
PHMSA Rulemaking Could Mean Federal Enforcement in States
FEDERAL
White House Council on Environmental Quality Releases Revised Principles and Guidelines
HEALTH CARE
Senate Health Care Reform Debate Underway, AGC's Concerns Remain
 

The U.S. Senate began debate and votes on amendments to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The Democratic leadership remains committed to holding a final vote on the legislation prior to Christmas, followed by sending a final bill merged with the House to the President in early January. The major hurdles for passage remain provisions on abortion, cuts to Medicare, the structure of a public option and immigration status issues.

Major employer groups like AGC remain opposed to the legislation because it does not reduce health care costs, will impose new mandates on employers, will likely increase the cost of employer provided health care, and could significantly increase human resource costs.

Beginning in 2013, the legislation would eliminate lifetime limits and rescissions, and extend dependent coverage to age 26. A year later, plans could no longer price policies based on preexisting conditions. The legislation includes an individual mandate with subsidies for low-income workers, and employer mandates that penalize some employers if employees receive government subsidies. The tax credits for small employers offer limited values. The bill expands Medicaid eligibility and reduces the growth in Medicare payments. It also places an excise tax on insurance plans with high premiums, as well as fees on insurance and manufactures of certain medical devices.

The construction industry is unique due to its fragmentation, relatively short duration of individual projects and the use of transient workers, making it susceptible to several provisions of the legislation. The failure of the legislation to define full-time, part-time and seasonal workers is a concern for many employers, and the use of other industries’ definitions on the construction industry could contrast with our diverse work force needs. The short waiting period in the proposed legislation is particularly troubling due to the high turnover of employees in the industry. The capping of contributions to FSA accounts will remove today’s health care options rather than increase them. Other concerns include the administrative burdens on employers to deliver increased paperwork to the government, how to handle credits, and partial payments as well as changes to COBRA benefits.

AGC remains concerned that the Senate bill shifts rather than contains costs and fails to offer more affordable choices to individuals and employers alike.  AGC is currently working on identifying ways to improve the legislation. AGC encourages members to use the Legislative Action Center to urge their senators to expand health care opportunities and innovation and not impose billions in taxes to fund the expansion of existing health care programs that should instead be reformed.

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

JOBS SUMMIT
AGC Past President Doug Pitcock Tells Obama Investments in Infrastructure Are Critical to Economic Growth, President Agrees
 

President Obama convened a White House Summit  on Thursday to discuss actions that can be taken to create jobs. Leaders from business, labor and state and local government were invited to participate, including former AGC president Doug Pitcock, who served as AGC's representative.

Following opening session comments by President Obama and Vice President Biden, the participants separated into breakout groups to discuss specific recommendations. At the breakout session titled "Creating Jobs through the Rebuilding of America's Infrastructure," Pitcock made the point that construction projects have the dual benefit of creating jobs in the short term and providing long-term economic benefits by producing assets that will be here for future generations.

Pitcock also said the project approval process needs to be streamlined so that projects can go to construction quicker. President Obama responded that he is an advocate for investing in infrastructure and understood the approval process needs improvement. He said he is pushing legislation to create a National Infrastructure Bank because he believes that major infrastructure investment needs financial support beyond the annual appropriations process. He also views the bank as a way to leverage private sector funds in support of infrastructure.

The White House intends to use the recommendations from the Summit to craft a legislative proposal to address unemployment.

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

AGC Meets with Gov. Rendell to Advocate for Infrastructure Investment
 

AGC CEO Steve Sandherr met with Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) and members of the House and Senate to discuss the drafting of legislation to address the dire unemployment situation and the importance of a significant infrastructure component in any jobs bill.

Sandherr promoted investing in all types of infrastructure as well as the need to fully fund a multi-year highway reauthorization bill. During the meeting, the need to address and find long-term financing options, such as a National Infrastructure Bank, was discussed. AGC believes an infrastructure bank would best be included in the long-term bill rather than a short-term jobs bill.  Sandherr discussed the meeting with D.C.’s Streetsblog.

Rendell has been a national leader on infrastructure and is the co-chairman of Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances the nation's prosperity and quality of life.  Rendell is expected to hold a press conference on Monday in Washington. 

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

Congress Continues to Focus on a “Jobs” Bill
 

As the White House holds their jobs summit, House and Senate Democrats have begun the process of drafting legislation to address the dire unemployment situation facing the country.  The timing on when such a bill would pass is not clear.  The Senate will likely take up a “jobs” bill in January, while the House’s intent is to pass a jobs package by the end of the year, though Democratic leaders have acknowledged the short congressional schedule may mean waiting until early next year.

AGC has been working closely with leadership in the House and Senate to ensure that any “jobs” bill includes a significant increase in infrastructure spending and that the spending must be targeted to existing programs that can have an immediate impact in providing the construction industry with a much needed shot in the arm.  At various high level meetings, AGC has encouraged House and Senate leaders to build on the successes of the stimulus and include a significant increase in funding for transportation and water infrastructure programs.

In addition to infrastructure spending, Congress is considering extending unemployment insurance, renewing a program that offers the unemployed a 65 percent subsidy for health insurance premiums under COBRA, providing tax credits to employers who hire new employees, and increasing the amount of loans offered through the Small Business Administration.

As this process evolves, how these investments and policies are paid for will need to be addressed.  House and Senate Democrats have advocated for the use of the uncommitted or repaid money (about $210 billion) from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).  Republicans oppose using TARP funds to pay for a “jobs’ bill, and instead favor using unspent stimulus funds.

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

TRANSPORTATION
AGC Co-Chaired Coalition Pushes for Highway Bill to Create Jobs Now
 

The AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) today launched a new ad campaign and issued a press release to coincide with the White House Jobs Summit, calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to create jobs now by passing a highway and transit bill.

AGC also announced today that federal highway and transit funding are likely to drop by over $15 billion in 2010 without an increase in surface transportation funding. The nearly 20 percent decline in construction spending will cost over 430,000 jobs next year for the construction industry and other fields.

Check out the TCC radio, print and video ads here, and the press release here.  

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

“Phone-In” Planned to Get Attention of Congress on Transportation Reauthorization
 

In its ongoing effort to keep the pressure on Congress to enact a six-year transportation reauthorization bill with significantly increased funding levels, the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) has scheduled December 10 as “Phone-In to Congress” Day.

While Congress is embroiled in other high profile issues, senators and representatives must be reminded about the need to address the expired highway and transit program authorization. In our visits on Capitol Hill, legislative leaders report they are not hearing from people at home. They need to hear from you.

TCC would like to bombard Congressional offices with calls from constituents. To do this, the following toll free number has been set up to allow you to call directly to the offices of your senators and representative: 1-888-448-2782. While email and letters are helpful, phone calls require an individual to answer and to make note of why you are calling.

Please plan to call on December 10 and ask your employees to call as well and make the following points:

• (Our state) has huge transportation needs that are not being met including deficient bridges, deteriorating pavements, congested roads and safety hazards.
• The construction industry has an unemployment rate of over 18 percent.
• Without the certainty of a long-term authorization bill, with increased funding levels, construction companies and material suppliers in our state will be forced to lay off additional workers.
• Businesses will not invest in new equipment when there is so much uncertainty about the on- going and future construction market.
• Congress must do its job and delay no longer. Pass a six-year transportation authorization bill now and provide the revenue necessary to increase funding to address (our state’s) short-term need for jobs and long-term economic growth.

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

TAXES
House Passes Bill to Make Permanent 2009 Estate Tax
 

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday passed 225 to 200 votes H.R. 4154, the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Smalls Businesses Act of 2009, which would make permanent the 2009 estate tax rate of 45 percent and tax exemption levels of $3.5 million for singles and $7 million for couples.  Without Congressional action, the estate tax is scheduled to drop to zero in 2010, only to be reinstated at a higher 55 percent tax rate and $1 million exemption in 2011. 

AGC has focused on full permanent repeal of the estate tax as the best option to ensure that construction companies are able to stay in business after the death of an owner.  At the same time, AGC has also advocated for reasonable, permanent reform at the lowest possible rate and highest possible exemption levels.  In addition, AGC has advocated for indexing of the exemption levels for inflation, as well as reinstating the step-up in basis repealed for estates in 2010.  H.R. 4154 would only address two of AGC’s five objectives for estate tax reform: permanency and step-up in basis, so AGC will continue to work to have those issues addressed in the Senate.

The bill now moves to the Senate where lawmakers there are in the midst of what is expected to be several weeks of debate on health care reform.  It is uncertain whether the Senate will be able to take a break from health care to take up estate tax by the end of the year.  An amendment is expected to be offered in the Senate that would reduce the top estate tax rate to 35 percent and increase the exemption levels to $5 million for singles and $10 million for couples.  The amendment would also index the exemption levels for inflation and reinstate step-up in basis.  The Senate passed a similar amendment AGC supported during consideration of the Senate’s non-binding budget resolution earlier this year.  Sponsors of the amendment are considering how to offset the greater cost of the additional estate tax relief, and are weighing whether they will need to phase in the rates over a 10-year period. 

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

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
PHMSA Rulemaking Could Mean Federal Enforcement in States
 

On October 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Pipeline Safety: Pipeline Damage Prevention Programs.

The purpose of the ANPRM is to begin soliciting comments in order to assess the adequacy of state’s damage prevention enforcement regimes for oil, gas and other hazardous material pipelines.  PHMSA will use this information to develop criteria for federal enforcement of damage prevention laws in states that are deemed to have inadequate enforcement of damage prevention laws for excavators, utility/facility owners, one-call centers and professional locaters as mandated by the 2006 PIPES Act.

AGC and its members are extremely supportive of state one-call programs, and we have been working with states to improve compliance, enforcement, and the effectiveness of one-call and damage prevention programs all over the country. For details on the ANPRM, click here.

For additional information, contact Perry L. Fowler at (702) 837-5321 or fowlerp@agc.org. Return to Top

FEDERAL
White House Council on Environmental Quality Releases Revised Principles and Guidelines
 

On December 3, 2009, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) submitted a proposal for review to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that would significantly change the principles and guidelines that govern federal water-resource planning.

The proposal would require that all projects improve the economic well-being of the nation, better protect communities from the effects of floods and storms, help communities and individuals make better choices about where to build based on an understanding of the risk, and protect and restore the environment. AGC is currently reviewing the draft.

For details on the proposal, click here.

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

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