Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgDecember 10, 2009
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Debate Centers on Public Option
JOBS BILL
Congress and White House Focus on Jobs Legislation
ENVIRONMENT
EPA Endangerment Finding Will Undermine Recovery
AGC Calls on CARB to Rethink New Retrofit Requirements as Industry and Economy Cut Emissions
New Initiatives Aimed at Restricting Runoff from Construction Sites
TRANSPORTATION
Phone-In Urges Congress to Reauthorize Transportation Legislation
TAXES
House Votes to Extend Expiring Tax Provisions
APPROPRIATIONS
House Passes Consolidated Appropriations Act
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Debate Centers on Public Option
 

While the week began with talk of a grand compromise on health care, there is still much to be worked out. There seems to be agreement to drop elements of the public option and substitute Office of Personnel Management (OPM) negotiating for national private plans.  However, that provision appears intended to distract from the actual repercussions of such a plan. 

TheNew York Times reported yesterday, “If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the “public option” in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago.” Similarly, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that “If private firms were unable to deliver acceptable national policies, a government plan would be created.”

The agreement also includes a huge new government plan expansion at the outset by allowing a Medicare buy-in for people 55-64.  Doctors and hospitals have all come out in vigorous opposition to this proposal because it is viewed as a government plan paying Medicare rates.

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can get the 60 votes he needs, he is planning a series of cloture votes next week that will include a manager's amendment. This will effectively shut out future amendments and bring the bill to a close before Congress leaves for the holidays.  AGC is hearing that Reid is short of the required 60 votes, with Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Joe Leiberman (D-Conn.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) still uncertain about their support.

The Senate is awaiting a cost estimate for the proposed new option. In the meantime, AGC is telling Congress the impact the health care package would have on small businesses, and is running advertisements in 10 states regarding the Senate bill.

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

JOBS BILL
Congress and White House Focus on Jobs Legislation
 

With the unemployment rate in the general economy remaining in double digits and construction industry unemployment now topping 19 percent, President Obama and House and Senate leadership are looking to take action to help.

President Obama followed up last week’s White House Jobs Summit with a speech this week outlining the three areas he thinks should be the focus of legislation: helping small businesses expand investment, hiring workers and access to credit; investing in America’s roads, bridges and infrastructure; and creating jobs through energy efficiency and clean energy investments. No specific details were presented, but in a follow-up interview, White House staff indicated that the president will seek $50 billion in a broad array of infrastructure investment. “Adding this initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure is the right thing to do,” the president said.

Meanwhile, House and Senate leadership are developing proposals for spurring the economy, including increased infrastructure investment. Proposals to provide a one or two year extension of highway and transit funding authorization with a boost in funding to spur job creation, as well as other infrastructure investment options, are being considered. The House may attempt to pass legislation and send it to the Senate for consideration before the end of the year.

AGC has sent letters to the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate, as well as Congressional leadership, pointing out the dire employment and market conditions in construction and recommending a series of actions that should be taken including: increased infrastructure investment; tax changes and other measures that encourage private sector market investment; and regulatory changes. AGC’s recommendations are included in Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth.

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

ENVIRONMENT
EPA Endangerment Finding Will Undermine Recovery
 

Following Monday's announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health, AGC issued a statement calling for the administration to rethink its misguided approach.

AGC said that the finding will delay construction activity, undermine economic recovery and push construction unemployment above its current 19.4 percent rate.  AGC pointed out that while it fully supports measures to improve our environment, EPA's announcement will make it harder to build the greener future our planet needs.  Every construction project in America is now likely to be put on standby until federal bureaucrats decide whether or not to grant Clean Air Act permits, making it even harder to construct efficient new buildings, cut polluting traffic or retrofit existing inefficient buildings.

Read the entire statement here.

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

AGC Calls on CARB to Rethink New Retrofit Requirements as Industry and Economy Cut Emissions
 

AGC met with staff from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last week to present new data that proves off-road diesel emissions mandates unnecessary to meet the state’s emissions reduction goals. Following the presentation, AGC hosted a media conference call Tuesday to release the results.

CARB previously estimated 147,000 pieces of construction equipment would be present in the state in 2009, but have only located 103,000 pieces this year, indicating 30 percent of equipment was sold for pennies on the dollar.

AGC challenged CARB to act on the data and reverse plans to require construction companies to replace billions of dollars worth of equipment to meet the off-road diesel retrofit rule. During the conference call, AGC announced that, based on new data from CARB, contractors and other operators of off-road diesel equipment will exceed ambitious new emissions targets set by California officials.  In fact, the data shows that there is no need to impose costly new "diesel retrofit" rules forcing contractors to purchase new equipment before 2014.

Read the press release and other details here. The news was covered by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Daily Transcript, Engineering News-Record and The Daily Reporter, as well as the Sacramento ABC station.

For more information, contact Mike Kennedy at (703) 837-5335 or kennedym@agc.org. Return to Top

New Initiatives Aimed at Restricting Runoff from Construction Sites
 

Three key stormwater developments are in the works that will affect contractors nationwide.  To ensure the construction industry’s voice is heard, AGC of America has created a Stormwater Task Force (made up of 17 AGC Environmental Network members) to respond to current rulemaking efforts and enforcement initiatives aimed at restricting construction site runoff. 

First, EPA has finalized first-time effluent limitations guidelines for the “construction and development industry” that impose first-time, nationwide monitoring requirements and enforceable numeric turbidity limitations.  For more information, click here.  Second, EPA has announced that it will propose and take final action by November 2012 on another first-time national rule that would include, at a minimum, new design or performance standards to control stormwater discharges from developed sites.  For more information, click here.  Third, contractors everywhere can expect to see increased enforcement by EPA, including criminal and civil penalties for noncompliance, as well as more reporting and public oversight.  For more information, click here.

AGC has a very established working relationship with the U.S. EPA’s Office of Water and will be collaborating with senior staff from that office to hold joint educational programs on the new ELG rule.  EPA has also invited AGC to provide suggestions and recommendations as it works to draft a new construction general permit that will include the new ELG requirements. 

In addition, AGC will submit comments on the “industry questionnaire” regarding the post-construction rulemaking in advance of the December 29 deadline.  AGC also plans to develop recommendations on potential ways to increase industry’s stormwater permit compliance and make better use of EPA’s enforcement efforts, in accordance with the newly released EPA Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan.

For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org or (703) 837-5332. Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
Phone-In Urges Congress to Reauthorize Transportation Legislation
 

AGC members and their employees called their senators and representatives today urging enactment of a long term transportation reauthorization bill with significantly increased funding levels.

Callers pointed out the economic conditions in the industry and the need for funding assurance to make decisions about hiring employees and investing in new equipment. The effort was organized by the AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition and included participation by all of the member organizations. Early estimates indicate thousands of callers participated.

This is the latest in a series of events intended to get the attention of Congress to pass this urgently needed legislation. Other efforts included a radio and print ad news blitz and delivery of letters from business organizations in to each state’s Congressional delegation. AGC Chapters not only signed the letters but assisted in getting other business organizations to participate.   

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

TAXES
House Votes to Extend Expiring Tax Provisions
 

The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday approved 241-181 a bill to extend certain expiring tax provisions in 2009 through 2010.  Included in the bill, H.R. 4213, the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, are several provisions of benefit to the construction industry.  In particular, the bill extends through 2010, 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold, restaurant, and retail improvements. 

Lawmakers are expected to fix a drafting error in the bill that excluded new restaurant construction.  The Senate is not expected to consider H.R. 4213 until the chamber suspends or concludes debate on health care legislation.  Regardless of date of enactment, Congress will likely make the provisions effective on January 1, 2010.  AGC sent a letter in support of H.R. 4213 to all Representatives. 

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

APPROPRIATIONS
House Passes Consolidated Appropriations Act
 

The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 221-202 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included five of the six remaining fiscal year 2010 appropriations conference reports. 

The $77 billion Department of Transportation appropriation was included as part of the bill, which provides $41 billion for the federal-aid highways program, $10.7 billion for the Federal Transit Administration ($2 billion for new starts) and $2.5 billion for high speed rail. Also included in the bill is $600 million for discretionary grants for surface transportation infrastructure.  DOT must publish the criteria for these competitive grants 60 days following enactment of the bill.   

The Senate is expected to take a brief break from its health care debate to pass the bill and the president will likely sign it into law before the expiration of the current Continuing Resolution on December 18. While the appropriations bill is important, Congress must also pass an authorization measure of some sort to ensure that there is no disruption in highway and transit program funding. AGC is urging House and Senate transportation leaders to not continue to provide limited short term extensions for these programs.

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

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