Construction Legislative Week in Review June 10, 2010
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On the Inside
Senate Rejects Resolution to Block EPA from Using Clean Air Act to Stop Construction Projects
AGC Concerned with PLA Provision in Climate Change Bill
AGC Survey Shows Traffic Congestion Costs Firms an Estimated $23 Billion Yearly
Voters Proved Unpredictable in Tuesday's Elections
House Wants to Silence Critics Before Election Day
Senate Rejects Resolution to Block EPA from Using Clean Air Act to Stop Construction Projects

The U.S. Senate rejected 47 to 53 a motion to proceed to a resolution that would block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  Six Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in support of the motion.

S. J. Res. 26 was introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in response to EPA’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases from motor vehicles that then trigger requirements for emission controls from all other sources, including commercial buildings, industrial facilities, and more.   

Senators debated over six hours on the resolution with opponents asserting that a vote for the resolution is a vote undermining the science behind climate change and EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and the environment, as well as EPA’s recent rule to establish motor vehicle fuel economy standards.  Several Senators speaking against the resolution also argued that the resolution is a step backwards in reducing pollution and the country’s dependence on oil, and creating “clean energy” jobs envisioned under a carbon constrained economy.

AGC is concerned that the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and that to allow EPA to move forward with that approach would delay or stop construction projects nationwide.  AGC sent a letter to all Senators to urge them to support the Murkowski resolution. 

EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act means more pre-construction permits, operating permits and costly technology control installation requirements for building projects, and puts approval and federal funding for highway and bridge projects at risk.  It also means higher energy costs for businesses and consumers that will affect demand for construction services nationwide, especially in a down economy. 

The Senate may vote on additional attempts to limit EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  As an inducement for Democrats to vote against the motion, Senate leaders offered a vote on a proposal to delay EPA regulations by two years.  In addition, efforts may be made to amend EPA’s annual spending bill.  Should any future effort pass the Senate, the president would likely threaten any attempt to limit the EPA’s authority over this issue in the absence of broader climate change legislation to regulate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

To see how your Senator voted on the motion to proceed to S.J.Res. 26, click here.

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or Return to Top

AGC Concerned with PLA Provision in Climate Change Bill

On June 9, AGC and its coalition partners sent a letter to Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as the rest of the Senate, expressing concerns over a provision in the American Power Act encouraging the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).

The letter states that the undersigned organizations are committed to free and open competition in all public construction markets and believe that publicly financed contracts should be awarded without regard to the labor relations policy of the government contractor. Neither a public owner nor its representative should mandate the use of a PLA that would compel any firm to change its labor policy or practice in order to compete for or perform work on a publicly financed project. The letter also said that it should be up to the contractor to negotiate a PLA on a voluntary basis if the contractor believes it would benefit a particular project. To view a copy of the letter click here.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or Return to Top

AGC Survey Shows Traffic Congestion Costs Firms an Estimated $23 Billion Yearly

Traffic congestion and the delays it causes are costing the nation's construction firms an estimated $23 billion each year, according to a new analysis released Thursday by AGC.  During a media event in Minneapolis, AGC warned there is no relief in sight as Congress is months late in passing six-year federal transportation legislation, prompting more pain for the hard-hit construction industry.

The new analysis was based on responses from nearly 1,200 AGC member construction firms.  A staggering 93 percent of firms reported that traffic and congestion were affecting their operations.  Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of firms lose at least one day of productivity per worker per year due to traffic congestion, equaling 3.7 million days of lost productivity industry-wide each year.

Read the full press release, as well as survey data, here.

For more information, contact Nahee Rosso at (703) 837-5348 or Return to Top

Voters Proved Unpredictable in Tuesday's Elections

On Tuesday, voters in Arkansas, California, Georgia’s 9th congressional district, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia all went to the polls. The day was highlighted by several high profile Senate primaries as voters continue to be unpredictable and their support for “Washington insiders” dwindles. On June 22, voters return to the polls for runoffs in Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. AGC compiled a recap of several races that could have consequences for the construction industry.

Voters in the Razorback state went back to the polls in a runoff election for the Democrat nomination to face Representative John Boozman (R) in November’s Senate Election. The Democratic incumbent, Sen. Blanche Lincoln surprised many pundits in Arkansas and Washington by defeating Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter (D). Halter had the backing of labor organizations who contributed $10 million to defeat Lincoln. Lincoln was targeted because she was one of the only Democrats willing to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act and Card Check, and the election is a defeat for organized labor. Boozman has an 89 percent AGC vote record and Lincoln has a 70 percent record.

Former CEO of Hewlett Packard Carly Fiorina (R) won the Republican nomination and will face Senator Barbara Boxer (D). Boxer has a 40 percent AGC vote record and is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee will play a large role in the development of climate change and transportation funding legislation.  Boxer is in her 3rd term and will likely face the toughest election of her career.

There were no surprises in the state’s House primaries, but California did host one of the most prominent gubernatorial contests with Former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman (R) earning the Republican nomination. She will face former governor and California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) in November.

In the home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), the Republicans nominated former assemblywoman and tea party-supported candidate Sharron Angle (R) to face Reid in November. Despite the intra-party squabbles, Angle may be able to mount a serious challenge to Reid. During Reid’s four terms, he has amassed a 44 percent AGC vote record.  

South Carolina
South Carolina hosted a high profile primary election for the Republican nomination for governor. Forced into a runoff, voters will have to return to the polls on June 22 to choose between state legislator Nikki Haley (R) and Representative Gresham Barrett (R). Haley is the favorite. Representative Bob Inglis (R) faced an intra-party challenge and was also forced into a runoff in the 4th congressional district. Four incumbents have lost primaries so far this year.

In the 9th congressional district voters went to the polls in a special election for the seat that was vacated early this year by Nathan Deal (R), who left to concentrate on his bid for governor. Former State Representative Tom Graves (R) defeated former State Senator Lee Hawkins. Graves will serve the remainder of Deal’s term and will run for reelection in November.

For more information, contact Blair Hood at (202) 547-5013 or Return to Top

House Wants to Silence Critics Before Election Day

The House of Representatives is planning to rush through legislation in the next two weeks that will significantly restrict the ability of trade associations and companies to engage in political advocacy. The bill H.R. 5175 is being labeled a disclosure bill in response to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, but it is really focused on keeping government contractors, TARP recipients and companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership out of the political process. In addition, it seeks to silence trade associations and businesses that plan to publicly announce that they are critical of legislation supported by candidates for federal office.

Unlike past changes in campaign finance law (such as McCain Feingold) the Disclose Act is written to take effect immediately upon passage instead of waiting for the next election cycle and for regulations to be written and it treats labor unions differently than it does corporations.  

The legislation makes changes to the definitions in the Federal Election Law in a way that will have a chilling effect on issue advocacy that is in any way critical of members of Congress. The Senate is gearing up to consider identical legislation.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at Return to Top

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