Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgMarch 4, 2010
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On the Inside
JOBS BILL
House Passes Amended Senate “Jobs” Bill
HIGHWAY
AGC Tells Senate Committee to Complete Action on Highway Reauthorization Bill
HEALTH CARE
President Pushes for Vote on Health Care
LABOR
Biden Talks Card Check at AFL-CIO Meeting
Possible Recess Appointment for AGC-Opposed Nominee to the National Labor Relations Board
FEDERAL
Congress Holds Hearing on Water Resources Development Act Implementation
Senate Small Business Committee Reports Anti-Bundling Bill
CONGRESS
Congressional Primaries Heat Up
JOBS BILL
House Passes Amended Senate “Jobs” Bill
 

In a week that saw the temporary shutdown of the Federal Highway Program and the president signing into law a 30-day extension of SAFETEA-LU, the House today passed by a vote of 217-201 an amended version of the Senate ”jobs” bill, which among other things would extend SAFETEA-LU  through 2010 and provide a $19.5 billion transfer from the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund. 

The other provisions in the Senate bill can be found here.  The House bill was amended to make it deficit-neutral and to address concerns of minority-owned business in order for Democratic leadership to have enough support to pass the bill.

The fate of the bill, the year-long extension and the Highway Trust Fund transfer once again rests in the hands of the Senate, which passed their bill by a vote of 70-28 on February 24.  Due to the Senate schedule it is not clear when the amended House bill will be taken up for consideration by the Senate.  In the absence of a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, AGC will once again work with Senate leadership to ensure passage of the long term extension and the Highway Trust Fund transfer in order to provide continuity in the programs and certainty for our members through the end of the year.

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

HIGHWAY
AGC Tells Senate Committee to Complete Action on Highway Reauthorization Bill
 

Tom Foss (Griffith Company, Brea, Calif.) testified on transportation investments before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Tom Foss, president of Griffith Company, Brea, Calif., presented AGC testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on the importance of transportation investments to the national economy and jobs.

Foss emphasized that the construction industry, like other businesses, relies on a well-functioning transportation system for delivery of materials and products to job sites and, therefore, called for increased investment. Foss pointed out that unemployment in the construction industry is currently more than 24 percent and that additional highway and transportation investment is needed to remedy this situation. AGC’s testimony pointed out that transportation funding in the stimulus legislation has saved construction jobs, but that more funding was needed. Foss also called for enactment of a long term SAFETEA-LU reauthorization with increased funding to bring long-term economic growth and certainty to the highway construction market. EPW Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she is committed to getting a six-year highway bill completed this year. She called the hearing the first step in accomplishing this goal.

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

HEALTH CARE
President Pushes for Vote on Health Care
 

As President Obama and Democratic Leaders regroup from last week’s White House summit on Health Care Reform, they have begun plotting a strategy and timeline for passage. It appears that the Democrats are considering moving the legislation at an accelerated pace, perhaps beginning as early as next week. In order to accomplish this aggressive timeline, it appears that they will have to pass the Senate bill and also utilize the politically toxic legislative process known as reconciliation.

The outcome of the process and final legislative package remains unknown at this time and some Democrats who initially opposed the legislation are being strongly urged to reconsider their vote by the Democratic leadership in order to ensure they have enough votes for passage in the House.

AGC has considerable concerns with both the process being utilized to enact this sweeping reform of the nation’s health care system, as well as the policies in the bills. AGC has long advocated for health care reform that allows employers to provide affordable and quality coverage for their employees, but the current bills and policy changes being trumpeted by Democratic leaders fail to accomplish these goals.

In addition to concerns with rising taxes on individuals and employers, future projected increases on insurance premiums and mandates on employers, AGC remains opposed to singling out the construction industry. The original Senate bill excluded small employers in the construction industry from the small business exemption. While the outline released from the White House last week does not mention this provision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not voiced his opposition to it.

Please communicate with your members of Congress on health care reform and specifically on the construction industry employer provision by using the AGC Legislative Action Center.

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

LABOR
Biden Talks Card Check at AFL-CIO Meeting
 

This week at the AFL-CIO winter meeting, Vice President Biden told supporters that the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) could still be passed this year.   Though the challenge of pushing this legislation through the Senate became difficult with the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), those in favor of the bill are still trying to find a way to get something passed this year. 

Some senators still would like to see a compromise, which AGC anticipates would include post cards instead of secret ballot elections – so-called “quickie” elections – to be held within a certain timeframe, and increased access to the work place by union organizers.  If unable to come to a compromise, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has called for the Senate to vote on the legislation.

AGC remains firm in the belief that there cannot be any compromise. AGC is concerned that even a genuine and well-intended proposal for a compromise could become a “Trojan horse” that EFCA’s proponents would simply use to sneak EFCA past a cloture vote in the Senate. Unless and until EFCA’s proponents completely and irreversibly abandon that legislation, the risk of a compromise becoming a “Trojan horse” for EFCA will remain too great for this industry to entertain any discussion of compromise. 

Click here to send a letter in opposition to EFCA to your senators. All senators need to keep hearing about opposition to EFCA.

Read the latest article in the Wall Street Journal on EFCA.

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

Possible Recess Appointment for AGC-Opposed Nominee to the National Labor Relations Board
 

In February, the Senate was unable to pass the nomination of Craig Becker to become a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).   Becker is the Associate General Counsel of the SEIU and the AFL-CIO and has been a prolific writer on the National Labor Relations Act, the law he would be responsible for interpreting and enforcing.   These writings have indicated his extreme views on labor law, such eliminating the role of employers in union elections and vastly limiting the role of employers in communicating with their employees. In addition, he is a strong advocate of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act and is certain to push the NRLB to effect changes to employee rights like those attempted by the bill.

There is a strong possibility that President Obama will appoint Becker to the NLRB with a recess appointment during the Senate’s Easter break. In remarks to the AFL-CIO winter meeting, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis hinted that the president would take this approach.  If this occurred, Becker would serve until the end of 2010. 

AGC opposes the nomination of Becker to the NLRB because of his controversial positions on labor law.  To write to Congress in opposition of this nomination, click here.

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

FEDERAL
Congress Holds Hearing on Water Resources Development Act Implementation
 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on March 3, 2010, to review how well the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has succeeded in its implementation of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA). Some of the reforms in that legislation were designed to revise how U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would address environmental mitigation, external review of controversial projects and project selection criteria that account for sustainable development practices.  

Testimony offered by the AGC-led Water Resources Coalition reported several key findings, including the following:

  • While USACE has made progress implementing the act, the process has been slow and not transparent;
  • The current draft Principles and Guidelines, originally tasked to USACE, but later transferred to the Council for Environmental Quality, failed to meet Congressional mandate and needs to be reworked;
  • The Water Resources Coalition recommended that Congress should enact legislation to establish a national levee safety program; and
  • Federal legislation defining the goals and standards for watershed managers should permit flexibility and accommodate regional needs.

AGC strongly believes that enacting a new bill is necessary to address these important issues and continue to provide the nation with a comprehensive and modernized water resources program.

To view a copy of the Committee’s report, click here.

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

Senate Small Business Committee Reports Anti-Bundling Bill
 

Today the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee approved legislation, S.2989, designed to address contract bundling. This topic has become an area of growing interest for AGC members as the government is increasingly relying on this procurement method for the bidding of federal contracts. Unfortunately, AGC found that the legislation as proposed did not do enough to address bundling concerns and sent a letter to the Committee to state those concerns.

This bill looks to address contracting bundling as follows: (1) accountability of senior agency management for all incidents of bundling; (2) timely and accurate reporting of contract bundling information by all federal agencies; and (3) improved oversight of bundling regulation compliance by the Small Business Administration (SBA).  The bill, however, does not address how bundling directly affects the construction industry.

The bill also attempts to address subcontracting. The bill: (1) provides guidelines and procedures for reviewing and evaluating subcontractor participation in prime contracts and (2) provides for oversight to ensure speedier payments to small business subcontractors who have successfully completed work on behalf of the prime contractor. AGC expressed concerns that the bill does not address an obvious subcontracting issue, the counting of total subcontractor participation at all tiers.

AGC has called on Congress to address concerns over the fact that construction contracts currently cannot be reviewed for contract bundling. Senate leaders have indicated they would like to work with AGC to help address our concerns on this issue, and well as other issues concerning small business contracting issues that Congress will consider in the coming weeks.

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

CONGRESS
Congressional Primaries Heat Up
 

The congressional primary season is heating up, and retirements and ethics problems continue to dominate the headlines.  This week voters in Texas went to the polls to cast primary ballots, while other members of Congress announced they would not seek re-election.

The biggest race in Texas was the Republican primary gubernatorial contest between Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, which Perry easily won.  There were few surprises in the congressional primaries and most incumbents in Texas appear to be safe in November’s election.

In other changes, Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) announced they would not seek re-election. New York Congressman and chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced he would temporarily step down from the chair while the Ethics Committee reviews some of his past actions.

With only 242 days until the November elections, AGC members attending the 91st Annual Convention are reminded to attend the AGC Legislative Issues Luncheon, featuring a full legislative and regulatory issues rundown by AGC’s Government Affairs Team, as well as the AGC Political Action Committee Contributions Subcommittee Meeting.

For more information on the upcoming elections, polling locations and how to vote, visit www.agc.org/VOTE, or contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

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