Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgJanuary 14, 2010
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Overhaul Enters Final Stages, Construction Industry Still Under Attack
JOBS BILL
AGC Advocates for Infrastructure in Jobs Bill
IMMIGRATION
Immigration Talks Continue in the Senate
AGC NEWS
AGC Slams AP Story That Discounts Employment Impact of Stimulus-Funded Highway Work
DEBT LIMIT
Senate to Vote on Increasing the Federal Debt Limit
ELECTIONS
Massachusetts Special Election Senate Race a Dead Heat
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Overhaul Enters Final Stages, Construction Industry Still Under Attack
 

The race to merge the House and Senate health care proposals continues, and once completed, the revised bill will be sent to the Congressional Budget Office to determine its cost. Despite the Democratic leadership’s goal of presenting a bill to the president before the State of the Union Address, the negotiations remain fluid and the timeline continues to shift.

Democratic leaders are skirting the traditional conference procedures to merge the bills and have resorted to closed-door meetings to finalize the differences in the bill. These negotiations have centered around increasing the threshold for the “Cadillac” tax, a national health insurance exchange vs. a state-based one and the size of federal subsidies for low income individuals. Additional sticking points include the creation of a commission to recommend Medicare cuts and costs of Medicaid expansion.

The employer mandate, which would have a major impact on construction industry employers, is another issue that remains unresolved, as well as the small-business exemption associated with it and the penalty for not following the mandate. AGC remains concerned that the Senate singled out the industry most negatively impacted by the economic downturn, construction, with the Merkley amendment (named after the Oregon Senator who sought the provision, Jeff Merkley). AGC believes the amendment, which lowers the threshold for employer mandates from 50 employees to five, was astoundingly poorly-timed. Few senators knew the amendment was in the bill, and the unions and construction associations who endorsed the amendment represent less than 15 percent of total construction employees and less than 3 percent of America’s construction companies. The Merkley amendment’s five employee and $250,000-threshold is out of line with the House and Senate bills passed by committees. It is also out of line with other Human Resource laws and raises concerns about the impact of government regulations on small businesses.

AGC believes the provision is a direct attack on small businesses in the industry most battered by the recession. AGC remains committed to removing the provision during the conference negotiations and encourages all AGC members to utilize the Legislative Action Center to voice their opposition to the provision to their elected officials.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-2133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

JOBS BILL
AGC Advocates for Infrastructure in Jobs Bill
 

Senate Democrats are in the process of assembling a "jobs bill" that will likely be ready for consideration after they finish health care reform. 

Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) are writing the jobs bill after receiving over 100 job creation ideas from their colleagues and various Senate committees. Similar to the House-passed jobs bill, which included over $40 billion for infrastructure, infrastructure spending will likely be a major component of the Senate package.  AGC continues to meet with Senate leaders to ensure that any infrastructure spending included in the final package is targeted to existing programs that can have an immediate impact in the construction industry.

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

IMMIGRATION
Immigration Talks Continue in the Senate
 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama have both indicated that they want to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in 2010.  Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are trying to craft a bipartisan measure that could be introduced in the Senate. 

AGC remains very active in the early negotiations on such a bill and continues to meet with congressional staff to highlight the main interests and concerns for our industry.  As a steering committee member of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC), AGC continues to talk with Congress about the need for workable immigration reform that includes reasonable employer enforcement, as well as a new future flow visa program that would be determined by the needs of the market instead of a random number chosen by an unelected commission.

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

AGC NEWS
AGC Slams AP Story That Discounts Employment Impact of Stimulus-Funded Highway Work
 

Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist, issued a statement Monday in response to an Associated Press story that looked at the impact of stimulus-funded highway projects on overall construction employment.

Simonson stated that the article's fundamental assumptions are flawed because it is impossible to measure the impact of $4 billion by looking at overall employment figures for an industry that experienced a $137 billion drop in activity. See Simonson's statement here. Details of his analysis are available here.

The news was covered by The Oklahoman, Watertown Daily Times and Daily Journal of Commerce.

For more information, contact Ken Simonson at (703) 837-5313 or simonsonk@agc.org. Return to Top

DEBT LIMIT
Senate to Vote on Increasing the Federal Debt Limit
 

While the health care reform negotiations continue, the Senate returns next week and will consider legislation that will raise the federal debt limit above the $13 trillion ceiling the House approved last year. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not said how much the bill would raise the limit but it is widely expected that a significant increase above the $925 billion passed in the House is needed to avoid another increase before the November mid-term elections.  As part of the Senate agreement to consider the debt limit increase, they will vote on a series of amendments, including: one that would block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; another on the creation of a bipartisan budget commission to recommend spending cuts to Congress; and another that would end the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

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

ELECTIONS
Massachusetts Special Election Senate Race a Dead Heat
 

A poll released on Wednesday, January 13, showed that Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley were in a virtual tie in the race to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) seat, moving Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report to change the status of the race from “Lean Democrat” (indicating it will be close but the Democratic party has an advantage) to “toss up” (meaning no candidate has an advantage over the other).  The impact of a victory for Brown is more than just a Republican holding a Massachusetts Senate seat for the first time since 1980.  It would mean that the Democratic Party no longer has the super-majority in the U.S. Senate.

Brown has made it clear that he opposes the health care reform; however, Coakley is in favor of it. As it stands now, it is still uncertain whether the winner of the race would be certified and sworn into the U.S. Senate prior to the health care vote, and current interim Senator Paul Kirk has pledged to vote for it if he still holds the seat, no matter who wins the Senate race. 

The race has become a bit complicated as a third-party candidate with great name recognition has emerged.  Joe Kennedy (no relation to the fabled Kennedy family) is running as an independent.  He is currently polling at about 5 percent, but come Election Day, the name “Kennedy” on the ballot could be a big factor.  Furthermore, about 2 percent of voters still claim to be undecided.  Despite the predicted low turn-out, all eyes will be on Massachusetts on January 19, 2010, when residents go to the polls.

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

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