Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgMarch 25, 2010
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On the Inside
HEALTH CARE
President Obama Signs Health Care Bill
LABOR
Action Needed: Oppose the Recess Appointment of Pro-Card Check Nominee to National Labor Relations Board
New Version of OSHA Reform Legislation Expected To See Action Soon
TAX
House Passes Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Bill, Extends Build America Bonds
TRANSPORTATION
FAA Reauthorization in Limbo
PAC
Nearly $400,000 in Contributions Selected During Convention
FEDERAL
Register for AGC Federal Contractors Conference
HEALTH CARE
President Obama Signs Health Care Bill
 

On Tuesday, March 23, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, capping a year of intense and at times partisan debate. In the end, 34 Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing the measure in the House, and all Republicans opposed the measure in the Senate.

Following passage, both chambers of Congress passed a reconciliation package that makes slight changes to the bill, including removal of language that exempts a single industry, construction, from the small business exemption that was included in the law just signed by the president. However, before all the reconciliation changes can be made to the law, it must pass the House one more time, likely today or later this week.

AGC opposed the $1 trillion package from the beginning because of the complexity of the plan, the $500 billion in new taxes on employers and individuals, the new mandates on employers, the cost shifting rather than cost reductions and the likelihood that it will increase insurance costs for those who already have and provide insurance.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be phased in over the next eight years and includes an individual requirement to have health insurance, creates new state-based exchanges, requires employers to provide health care benefits, provides cost sharing for low-income individuals and expands Medicaid.

Assuming the reconciliation bill passes, the following changes will affect the construction industry:

  • Employers with 50 or fewer employees will be exempt from providing coverage to their employees. The Senate bill had only exempted construction firms with five or fewer employees from the mandate, but AGC worked with other construction trade groups to repeal this provision that targeted the industry. In addition, the penalties for a waiting period of less than 90 days have been removed.

  • Some small employers could be eligible for temporary small business tax credits to offset a portion of the cost of providing coverage, but the credit phases out as firm size and average wage increases. The credit will be available for only two years.

  • The bill will limit contributions to FSAs and restrict the purchases for over-the-counter products from using FSA funds.

  • The bill places a 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health plans beginning in 2018. Under the reconciliation package the tax is placed on plans that have an aggregate value that exceeds $11,850 for individuals and $30,950 for firms in the construction industry.

  • In 2014, new state-based exchanges will be created for individuals, and eligible small employers will be phased in.

  • The bill also restricts the construction and expansion of existing physician-owned hospitals.

For more information click here, or contact Jim Young at (703) 837-0133 or youngj@agc.org.


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LABOR
Action Needed: Oppose the Recess Appointment of Pro-Card Check Nominee to National Labor Relations Board
 

The White House is strongly considering using the upcoming Congressional Recess to appoint attorney Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), despite the fact that the Senate has already refused to confirm the nomination of Becker to a five-year term on the Board, effectively blocking his confirmation. A recess appointment is a way for the president to do an end run around Congress. If the recess appointment is made, it would last until the end of this year.

Read more on Becker here.

AGC opposed the nomination of Mr. Becker to the NLRB because of his controversial positions on labor law.   AGC joined other associations on a letter to the president outlining our opposition to a recess appointment.  In addition, all Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Obama asking him not to use the upcoming two-week break to make this recess appointment. 

Please use the Legislative Action Center to contact the White House and your Senator to inform them of your opposition to the recess appointment of Craig Becker. 

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

New Version of OSHA Reform Legislation Expected To See Action Soon
 

Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee released a discussion draft of the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA).   The draft is focused on: increased whistleblower protections; changes to the appeals process for the abatement of hazards; victim’s rights; and civil and criminal penalty increases. 

AGC is reviewing the new discussion draft to determine the changes to current law and the impact it would have on the industry.   It is expected that the House Committee will take action on this bill in April.

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

TAX
House Passes Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Bill, Extends Build America Bonds
 

The House Wednesday approved 246-178 the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act, H.R.4849, which would provide tax relief for small businesses and lending assistance for infrastructure projects.

AGC sent a letter to the House in advance of the vote highlighting its support for several provisions, including:

  • Relief for small businesses from IRS Section 6707A penalties, which can be stiff for contractors who unwittingly fail to disclose listed transactions to the IRS.

  • Extension of the Build America Bonds (BAB) program to 2013. State and local governments have used the widely successful BABs to finance more than $80 billion in infrastructure programs.

  • Inclusion of H.R. 537 which removes the private activity bond volume cap for water and wastewater projects. The language was expanded to cover additional capital expenditures for levies and other flood control projects and to allow Indian Tribes to issue tax-exempt bonds. The private activity bond cap removal is expected to immediately leverage nearly $2 billion in private sector dollars waiting on the sidelines for water and wastewater projects and will increase over time as the market matures.

  • Extension and reallocation of the Recovery Zone Bond program. The Recovery Zone Bonds will be extended and reallocated based on unemployment in a locality, allowing the hardest hit areas to receive a higher amount of funding opportunities.

Not included in the final version of the bill were provisions to provide funding relief for multiemployer pension plans, which have suffered losses as a result of the financial crisis of 2008.  AGC supports legislation that would provide additional time for underfunded plans to make up for the losses suffered starting in 2008.  Pension relief was included in early drafts of the bill, but was dropped from the legislation.

One section of the bill that AGC opposed in its letter to the House would allow the Internal Revenue Service to levy employment taxes on federal contractors prior to a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing. AGC opposes a collection of a tax that has not been subjected to due process.

Following a two-week recess, the Senate is expected to act on this legislation, and may amend it with their own bill.

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

TRANSPORTATION
FAA Reauthorization in Limbo
 

The Senate passed legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and funding for two years. Included in the legislation is $8.1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the primary source of federal funding for airport capital projects, $4 billion in FY 2010 and $4.1 billion in 2011.

The program is currently funded at $3.5 billion. The Senate bill would also allow six airports (to be determined in the future) to raise the passenger facility charge (PFC) on airline flights from $4.50 to $7.00. The House passed a four-year authorization in July 2009, and included a total of $16.2 billion for AIP grant funding and allows all airports to increase the PFC from $4.50 to $7.00, which is estimated to generate $1billion per year in additional revenue for airport infrastructure investment.

AGC is working in support of allowing the PFC ceiling to increase for all airports to $7.00. The House is likely to amend the Senate bill, which will allow the Senate to either ask for a conference to settle the differences or else allow informal negotiations to settle the differences, leading to another exchange of amendments between the House and Senate.

Considering this scenario, it is unlikely Congress will approve a reauthorization bill prior to the current extension, which expires on March 31.  To prevent any disruption in the programs, the House passed a bill to extend FAA authorization until July 31, 2010, which changes the way that $745 million in highway funding under the Projects of National and Regional Significance and Corridor programs will be apportioned to states in FY 2010. The Senate has yet to act on the extension.

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

PAC
Nearly $400,000 in Contributions Selected During Convention
 

During AGC’s 91st Annual Convention, the PAC Contributions Subcommittee approved $387,000 worth of political contributions to be distributed to Congressional who support the construction industry. 

Candidates are approaching a critical pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing deadline at the end of March. There is no better time to contribute to the PAC and support AGC’s efforts on the Hill to help improve the construction industry in this difficult economic time.  Primary elections are being held in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio in just a few weeks. With your contributions, AGC can continue to be involved in these important races.

As always, thank you to all who have already contributed to AGC PAC. For more information contact Blair Hood at (202) 547-5013 or hoodb@agc.org. Return to Top

FEDERAL
Register for AGC Federal Contractors Conference
 

The deadline to reserve a hotel room at the AGC rate at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. is April 9. The 2010 AGC Federal Contractors Conference will be held April 26-29, 2010. This meeting is the only national event where contractors and federal agency personnel meet in a collaborative forum to review federal construction contracting issues and trends from around the United States.

This year, the AGC Federal Contractors Conference is introducing a special new conference format – separate concurrent tracks will highlight each of the unique federal and federally-assisted markets. The first track highlights water infrastructure, and includes meetings with agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers - Civil Works Directorate. The second track focuses on federal facilities construction, which includes meetings with the General Services Administration and the Military Construction agencies of the Department of Defense. Highway and transportation rounds out the final track, which includes meetings with the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the transit and rail agencies. More than 20 federal agencies are confirmed for this year’s meeting.

Download the conference brochure and register at www.agc.org/fedcon.  For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org. Return to Top

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