Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgMarch 11, 2010
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
Momentum to Pass Health Care Reform Builds – Action Needed
TRANSPORTATION
Senate Begins Debate on FAA Bill
FEDERAL
Obama Administration Reviewing “High-Road” Contracting Reform Proposal
AGC Launches Newest Publication for Federal Construction Contractors
TAX
Senators Introduce Energy Efficient Commercial Building Retrofit Bill, Hearing Held
Senate Passes Tax Extenders, Pension Funding Relief Bill
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Joins Waters Advocacy Coalition in Letter to The New York Times
CONVENTION
Legislative and Regulatory Policy Issues Dominate AGC Annual Convention
HEALTH CARE
Momentum to Pass Health Care Reform Builds – Action Needed
 

Democratic leaders are finalizing health care reform legislation this week in a two step process. First the House will pass the Senate bill complete with payoffs to Nebraska, Louisiana and Florida. The bill also includes the Merkley Amendment that singles out construction by repealing the small business exemption for construction contractors employing as few as five people. The House and Senate Budget Committees will then work on a package that modifies the Senate bill. Democrats will use the partisan reconciliation process to pass the final bill. AGC is concerned the final bill will be similar to the Senate bill, which fails to control cost, reduces the quality of coverage and options for coverage, and will result in higher premiums.

The Merkley Amendment, a provision targeting small employers in the construction industry remains in the Senate bill and the only chance for removing it is next week when the Budget Committee amends the bill. The provision specifically targets the construction industry by removing the small business exemption to the employer mandate penalties only for construction firms. Congress originally exempted all businesses that employ less than 50 employees from the employer mandate due to the complexity and costs associated with the mandates in the bill. The change would require small employers in the construction industry to comply with all the employer mandates once they have five employees and their payroll reaches $250,000.

It is important for you to use the tools on the AGC Legislative Action Center to write your elected officials or to call their offices in opposition to the Democrats' approach to reform. Call the Capitol Hill switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask for your member of Congress, or send a letter by clicking here.

Reasons to Oppose Provision Targeting Construction Industry:

• Few senators were aware of the provision and the amendment was never open to debate.

• The amendment was pushed by a small employer group representing less than 4 percent of construction companies.

• The provision differs from other employee and payroll thresholds elsewhere in the bill, as well as other labor laws and regulations.

• The construction industry is currently experiencing the highest unemployment of any other industry, 27.4%, triple the national rate.

• The provision prohibits small construction companies from having the opportunity to take advantage of the small business exemption that companies in every other industry are eligible for.

Whether you choose to write a letter, call your elected officials or communicate in another manner, we ask that you send AGC a quick email if you received a response.  Contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
Senate Begins Debate on FAA Bill
 

On Wednesday the Senate agreed on a motion to proceed to the long-delayed FAA reauthorization bill.  It was unclear whether the Senate would actually be able to take up the bill due to a controversial provision in the House-passed version that would make it easier for certain FedEx workers to unionize.

The Senate is attempting to avoid a fight on that issue by attaching the Senate bill to an unrelated House-passed bill.  The two year Senate authorization provides $4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program in FY 2010 and $4.1 billion in FY 2011.  The Airport Improvement program is the primary source of federal funding for airport capital projects.  The bill also revises procedural requirements for imposition of aircraft passenger facility charges.  Those fees are used to fund airport infrastructure investments.  A summary of the bill can be found here.

The Senate will continue consideration and likely vote on the FAA bill next week.

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

FEDERAL
Obama Administration Reviewing “High-Road” Contracting Reform Proposal
 

The Obama Administration is currently reviewing a proposal supported by the Center for American Progress and the National Employment Law Project, which claims that the federal contracting market is financing millions of poverty wage jobs across our economy, and supporting employers that are significant or repeat violators of workplace, tax and other laws. To address these allegations, these organizations are calling on the administration to establish a range of “responsible contractor” policies to ensure that federal contracting promotes the creation of good jobs by offering bid preferences to businesses that engage in “responsible” employment practices.

The recommendations of these organizations specifically call for the following changes to the federal procurement system:

  • Institute more rigorous responsibility screening of prospective bidders to ensure that federal contracts are not awarded to employers that are significant or repeat violators of workplace, tax or other laws.
  • Establish a preference for employers that provide good jobs in the contractor selection process, prioritizing firms that provide “living wages,” health benefits and paid sick days.
  • Quickly bring on-line, expand and improve the newly authorized national contractor misconduct database mandated by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Strengthen monitoring and enforcement of contractors’ compliance with existing and new workplace standards.

If the White House chooses to move towards implementing these recommendations, it is very likely it will be done through Executive Order and then a change to the Federal Acquisition Regulation. AGC is closely monitoring this situation and evaluating the recommendations of these reports and their potential effect on the federal construction market.

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

AGC Launches Newest Publication for Federal Construction Contractors
 

Any firm intent on benefitting from the increase in federal government construction contracts must navigate an increasingly complicated and demanding set of laws, regulations, and practices that govern these projects and the contractors performing them. The updated Smith, Currie & Hancock’s Federal Government Construction Contracts is an easy-to-understand guide to the practical reality of these special requirements, and how managers and owners of construction industry firms can use them to effectively avoid pitfalls on current projects and compete successfully for new projects.

Co-Authored by Tom Kelleher, past chairman of the AGC Federal Acquisition Regulation Committee, the Smith, Currie & Hancock’s Federal Government Construction Contracts, Second Edition walks the reader through actual federal contracts, highlights critical clauses, and simplifies governmental and legal jargon to provide ease of use by the nonlawyer.

This brand-new publication will be launched at the 91st Annual AGC Convention and Pavilion in Orlando, Florida.

For more information on how to purchase this new publication, visit the AGC Bookstore. Return to Top

TAX
Senators Introduce Energy Efficient Commercial Building Retrofit Bill, Hearing Held
 

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) March 4 introduced the “Building STAR Energy Efficiency Rebate Act of 2010” (S. 3079), a bill that would provide $6 billion in federal investment through rebates and financing incentives. The bill would cover about 30 percent of the cost of installing energy efficient products and/or providing energy efficiency-related services (e.g., energy audits) in commercial and multifamily residential buildings this year.  It is estimated that the $6 billion in funding for the Building STAR program would spur $18 to $24 billion in total spending, creating up to 200,000 jobs in the construction, manufacturing and other related industries.  The program is designed to work quickly and includes simplified application procedures for building owners.

Building STAR is the companion to Home STAR, a similar rebate program for home owners being developed by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which today held a hearing on both proposals. 

AGC is a participating organization in the coalition that developed and is promoting Building STAR and was quoted in a BNA Construction Labor Report article addressing the Building STAR bill.

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

Senate Passes Tax Extenders, Pension Funding Relief Bill
 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed, 62-36, the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010, which includes a one-year extension of $31 billion of expired tax provisions and funding relief for pension plans. 

Included in the tax extenders are two provisions of interest to the construction industry.  The first would extend the 15-year shortened cost recovery period for restaurant improvements and new construction, and retail and leasehold improvements.  The second is an extension of the railroad maintenance credit, which provides short-line and regional railroads with a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the cost to maintain their tracks.

The measure also includes limited funding relief for multiemployer pension plans, offering a longer 30-year amortization of investment losses incurred in 2008 and/or 2009.

The bill now returns to the House, where the chamber is likely to request a conference with the Senate to resolve differences, according to newly appointed Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Sander Levin (D-Mich.), whose panel is also expected to consider a small business tax relief and infrastructure bill next week. 

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

ENVIRONMENT
AGC Joins Waters Advocacy Coalition in Letter to The New York Times
 

AGC joined members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition (WAC) Wednesday in a letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to an article the newspaper published March 1. The article addressed concerns with water and wetland protection under the Clean Water Act following two Supreme Court decisions over the last decade. 

The New York Times article reports that WAC, of which AGC is a founding member, has used scare tactics to block consideration of the Clean Water Restoration Act, which its proponents claim would restore federal jurisdiction over waters and wetlands they believe have been lost due to the Supreme Court’s rulings. 

WAC’s letter to the editor responds to this mischaracterization by stating that WAC fully supports the Clean Water Act and its implementation to protect waters and wetlands, and that WAC’s concerns with the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) are valid and based on the explicit language of the bill.  The bill would grant EPA and the Corps virtually unlimited regulatory control over all “intrastate waters” – essentially all wet areas within a state, including groundwater, ditches, pipes, streets, gutters and desert features.

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

CONVENTION
Legislative and Regulatory Policy Issues Dominate AGC Annual Convention
 

As the final showdown over President Obama’s health care package begins, AGC members will have several key opportunities to hear the latest about what is happening on Capitol Hill and the Federal Agencies on March 17-20, 2010 during AGC’s 91st Annual Convention and Pavilion in Orlando, Florida.

Some key highlights include the following special events:

  • AGC’s Government Affairs team will hold a special legislative lunch briefing for all convention attendees at 12 Noon on March 17.  Topics will include the very latest on the health care debate, the latest on Recovery Act spending, and a host of other critical issues affecting the construction industry.
  • The Federal and Heavy Construction Division on March 17, 2010 will cover the latest trends in the Federal government’s massive construction program, the progress of the Recovery Act, how the new administration and Congress are working to make substantial policy changes in federal procurement policy at three separate sessions. The Division session will on March 18 host Major General Todd Semonite, Commander, South Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he will brief members on recent agency trends. Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure will also provide an update on the massive rebuilding underway in New Orleans, nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.
  • The Highway and Transportation Division will welcome Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez on March 18, 2010 during AGC’s 91st Annual Convention and Pavilion, in Orlando, Florida  Administrator Mendez will discuss the Administration’s approach to reauthorization and his “Every Day Counts” initiative to speed the delivery of highway construction projects. Mendez served for nine years as director of the Arizona Department of Transportation after working his way up through the agency and has been involved in National issues as President of AASHTO and a member of the AASHTO-AGC-ARTBA Joint Committee.
  • The Municipal and Utilities Division will update members on federal funding and AGC-supported legislative efforts as well as a special presentation on how AGC Chapters are building on the success of Liquid Assets to increase local water infrastructure awareness and advocacy.

For more information about the AGC Convention and Pavilion, click here. Return to Top

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