Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org April 29, 2010
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Climate Bill Release Delayed, Diversion of Funds from the Highway Trust Fund Still in Play
House Votes to Extend FAA Programs
LABOR
AGC Urges Congress to Provide Fair Contracting Opportunities for Federal Construction Projects
Increased Attention on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Congressional Committees Focus on Workplace Safety
ENVIRONMENT
Acknowledging Mistakes, California Air Resource Board Agrees to Change Costly Rule on Off-Road Diesel Emissions
WATER
Private Activity Bond Bill Introduced in the Senate
HEALTH CARE
FREE WEBINAR for AGC Members: What Impact Will the New Health Care Law Have on Construction Contractors?
TRANSPORTATION
Climate Bill Release Delayed, Diversion of Funds from the Highway Trust Fund Still in Play
 

The release of climate change legislation being drafted by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) was once again delayed when Senator Graham pulled out of negotiations last weekend over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) handling of negotiation on immigration legislation. However, the draft bill has been sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (with Senator Graham’s consent) for an economic study that needs to be performed before the bill can be considered in the Senate.

It remains unclear in what form a fee on motor fuels will take.  AGC has been informed by one of the Senators writing the legislation that it will not be a “linked-fee” on motor fuels based on the price of carbon, but would instead require oil and gas producers to buy special, non-tradable emission allowances that would be pegged to the carbon market and retired at a certain date.  Questions remain as to what if any of the revenue generated from this mechanism of billing the oil and gas industry would be dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund.

AGC continues meeting with Senate offices to ensure that any money derived from fees on motor fuels be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund and used to finance a multi-year surface transportation bill.  Support this effort by sending a letter through AGC's Legislative Action Center.

In a related activity, the EPA continues plans to move forward with efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  AGC opposes this effort because it could lead to a requirement that EPA approve all building and land use permits.  Please urge your Senators and Congressman to support Congressional resolutions that would block EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

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

House Votes to Extend FAA Programs
 

On April 28, the House passed by voice vote a short-term extension of federal aviation programs set to expire this week.  This extension will allow the Federal Aviation Administration to continue collecting fuel and ticket taxes, make expenditures from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, and continue contract authority from the Airport Improvement Program through July 3, 2010. 

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

LABOR
AGC Urges Congress to Provide Fair Contracting Opportunities for Federal Construction Projects
 

This week, AGC sent a letter to Congress in response to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council’s recent final rule implementing the use of government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects. AGC opposed the final rule because it effectively compels both union and open shop contractors to alter their hiring practices, work rules, job assignments, and benefits in order to compete for or perform work on publicly funded projects. The use of a government-mandated PLA on a project not only constitutes inappropriate government interference with private labor relations, it amounts to an unfair government preference that can significantly impact the cost of public works.

AGC is urging Congress to pass the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (S.90 and H.R. 983).  The bill would ensure fairness in the federal procurement process among all qualified firms, without regard to their lawful labor policies. Please take a minute to contact your elected officials and urge them support S.90 and H.R. 983 by using AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

In addition, in meetings this week at AGC’s Federal Contractors Conference, members had the opportunity to discuss in great detail their concerns over the president’s executive order encouraging the use of government mandated labor agreements.

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

Increased Attention on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
 

On Friday, April 23, Senate Majority Leader Reid (R-Nev.) announced that the Senate would soon turn to immigration reform and that he would be introducing a Democrat-only detailed proposal this week.   This action runs counter to the bipartisan negotiations that had been occurring between Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Graham (R-S.C.) to develop a product that could get the support from both sides of the aisle as well as from the business community.  

As a result of the Reid announcement, the bipartisan negotiations have stalled.  AGC has seen a draft of the Democratic proposal and the document raises concerns on how it would affect the construction industry as well as business in general.  Of particular concern is the concept of making general contractors responsible and liable for the hiring practices of their subcontractors.  AGC will continue to remain in the discussions with both the Senate and the White House as things progress.

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

Congressional Committees Focus on Workplace Safety
 

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on workplace safety.  The HELP Committee focused particularly on mine safety in the Tuesday hearing in response to the recent accident in West Virginia. 

During the hearing, lawmakers and regulators were urged to focus on creative policies that will help employers promote safer workplaces before accidents can happen.  The House focused on the portions of the Protecting America’s Workers Act that cover whistleblower and victims’ rights provisions.  Witnesses expressed to the committee the need for legislation to modernize federal laws that protect workers who blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions and ensure victims of workplace accidents have a voice during OSHA investigations. AGC is closely watching these issues and the impact the passage of any legislation will have on the construction industry.

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

ENVIRONMENT
Acknowledging Mistakes, California Air Resource Board Agrees to Change Costly Rule on Off-Road Diesel Emissions
 

Last week, the California Air Resources Board admitted that its earlier estimates of the emissions from the off-road diesel equipment in California were too high, and in light of both its mistakes and the downturn in the economy, agreed to amend its costly off-road rule. 

This action followed AGC’s release of its own study of such emissions, where AGC found that the Board’s original estimates exceeded actual emissions by at least 350 percent.  AGC also found and announced that – in the absence of any off-road rule – the construction and other regulated industries will exceed the Board’s goals for emissions of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) through 2020 and 2025, respectively.

How dramatically the Board will change the rule remains to be seen.  While it admitted to making a mistake, the Board maintained that it had overestimated emissions by no more than 100 percent, and did not make any specific commitments.  It did, however, agree to consider the following:

  • Greater reliance on turnover to Tier IV equipment (which will not become available in the higher horsepower equipment until 2015) to improve air quality;
  • While maintaining the structure of the current rule, streamlining its requirements;
  • Providing some additional delay in the enforcement of the rule (which the Board has already agreed to stay until the U.S Environmental Protection Agency gives the Board the legal authority to enforce it);
  • Reducing the retrofit, repower and replacement requirements that would otherwise take effect before 2015; and
  • Classifying more vehicles as low use, and therefore exempt from the rule.

The Board also sought to reassure the contractors that have already complied with the rule, indicating that it will give these contractors credit for anything they have already done to reduce their emissions.

AGC of America and both of its California Chapters will continue to monitor the situation carefully.  AGC has already asked the Board to delay all of the requirements for retrofitting, repowering, replacing or retiring existing equipment until 2015, and to eliminate all of the requirements specifically for NOx.   At this point, it remains far from clear that the Board is willing to go that far.  On the other hand, AGC has yet to review or comment on ways that the Board estimated the size of its earlier mistake, or to hold any follow-up discussions with the decision makers.

For more information, see the San Diego Chapter’s recently published newsletter, or contact Mike Kennedy at (703) 837-5335 or kennedym@agc.org. Return to Top

WATER
Private Activity Bond Bill Introduced in the Senate
 

On April 27, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and cosponsors Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (D-Idaho), and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act  (S. 3262). The legislation will remove state volume caps on private activity bonds for water and wastewater projects and lead to the investment of billions of dollars in private money flowing into our nation’s water infrastructure. 

S. 3262 is the Senate companion to H.R. 537, a bill authored by Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) that passed the House in March as part of the Small Business and Infrastructure Tax Act.  AGC, along with the National Association of Water Companies and American Water, led the coalition effort in seeking the introduction of the Senate bill.

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

HEALTH CARE
FREE WEBINAR for AGC Members: What Impact Will the New Health Care Law Have on Construction Contractors?
1:00-2:30pm ET, Thursday, May 6, 2010
 

This AGC webinar will detail the recently enacted health care bill and the sweeping changes to the delivery of health care in the United States. Focusing on the impact on employers in the construction industry as well as their responsibilities and requirements to offer health care benefits to their employees, AGC has partnered with a prestigious law firm experienced in this matter to analyze the impact of the bill on construction employers and suggest preparations that employers should begin implementing to comply with the new law. Plus, AGC's chief economist, Ken Simonson, will close out the event with a preview of the impact the legislation will have on the demand for future health care construction.

Information on the health care bill is available here, and further details here.

The webinar will cover the following:

  • new employer responsibility requirements
  • new insurance reforms
  • impact of tax changes
  • wellness programs
  • impact on collectively bargained employees
  • impact on heath care construction

AGC Member: FREE
Non-member: $79.00

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

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