Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 22, 2010
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On the Inside
SAFETY
House Committee Passes OSHA Bill
TAX
Senate Moves Closer to Passage of Small Business Jobs Bill
UTILITIES
EPA Releases 2009 Annual Report for Clean Water SRF
CGA Testifies at Hearing on Damage Prevention Education
FEDERAL
Chairman Oberstar Sets Date for WRDA Consideration
Water Subcommittee Approves FY 11 Spending Bill
ENVIRONMENT
Senate Democrats Abandon Cap and Trade
TRANSPORTATION
Congress Moves on Transportation Appropriations
Highway Reauthorization and Grassroots Action - Nationwide Conference Call
ELECTIONS
Races in Georgia Head into Runoffs
SAFETY
House Committee Passes OSHA Bill
 

On Wednesday, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Miner Safety and Health Act.  This bill seeks to make significant changes to both MSHA and OSHA. The vote was 30-17, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans opposed.  AGC is a strong advocate of worker safety but is concerned about the direction of the bill. The legislation turns the clock back on well over 10 years of progress in improved workplace safety, which has lead to a nearly 50 percent reduction in the construction fatality rate, by creating a more adversarial relationship between employers and OSHA.

The bill does nothing to help facilitate worker safety on a site or help businesses, especially small businesses, improve their worksite safety. Instead, the House proposal focuses solely on introducing vague new standards for criminal liability and imposes complicated and costly procedures for adjudicating whistleblower cases. This legislation is ultimately a punitive measure, and does not promote injury prevention. This approach fails to take into account the construction industry's successful accident prevention strategies that have resulted in reducing workplace injury, illness and fatality rates through the successful efforts of business and government working together. Instead it will hamper continued construction industry safety improvements through increased litigation and discouragement of cooperative relationships.

Supporters of the bill are pushing to have a vote on the House floor next week, though the final schedule has not been released. The Senate is taking a slower approach on the bill and it is uncertain as to when a hearing might be scheduled.

Please click hereto send a letter to your Representative and Senators about your concerns with this legislation.

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

TAX
Senate Moves Closer to Passage of Small Business Jobs Bill
 

The Senate may vote late this week on a small business jobs bill.  The bill would make $30 billion in funds available to community banks to make loans to small businesses and provide $12 billion in tax cuts, including quicker write-offs for depreciation.

The measure had been stalled in the Senate where there has been disagreement over amendments for floor consideration.  One such vote that has caused disagreement is a proposal offered by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would make permanent changes to the now-expired estate tax.  The proposal would set the top rate at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption level for individuals ($10 million for couples) phased in over 10 years and indexed for inflation.  It also would provide a stepped up basis for inherited assets.  The Senators’ plan would allow the estates of taxpayers who die in 2010 to choose between the current rate of zero with a modified carryover basis or their proposal establishing a top rate of 35 percent. 

The Senate rejected an effort Wednesday for a permanent repeal of the estate tax on legislation to extend unemployment benefits by a vote of 39-59. 

AGC supports a provision in the small business jobs bill that would extend enhanced section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation through 2010.  AGC worked closely with Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on the modification in the pending legislation that would allow for the modification of the bonus depreciation extension to allow contractors engaged in long-term contracts that use the percentage-of-completion (PCM) method of accounting and purchase 7-year depreciable property to take bonus depreciation. 

AGC has also advocated in support of another provision in the bill that would provide relief from section 6707A penalties for taxpayers who failed to timely and properly disclose a transaction the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) characterizes as a “listed transaction.”  However, AGC also expressed opposition to the inclusion of contracting reform provisions included in the bill, as this critical issue should be taken up under a separate and more sweeping reform package.

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

UTILITIES
EPA Releases 2009 Annual Report for Clean Water SRF
 

This week, EPA released its cumulative annual report for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which details many of the programs successes since its inception. According to the report, since the first project received financing in 1988, the program has provided over $74 billion in assistance for eligible wastewater infrastructure, nonpoint source and estuary projects. By the end of FY09, states had entered into almost 24,700 assistance agreements.

The report goes on to describe FY09, where over $5.2 billion in assistance was delivered through 1,971 assistance agreements. Two-thirds of the agreements were with communities with populations below 3,500. Over 1,300 nonpoint source loans were funded with $167.5 million.

For every dollar provided by the federal government to the fund, states contribute 20 cents. Together, federal and state governments have capitalized the fund with $32.4 billion, with an additional $4 billion appropriated by Congress through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Over the past 22 years, the 51 programs have been able to turn the $32.4 billion of federal and state capitalization into $73.6 billion in assistance for communities (not including ARRA). Responsible fiscal management and the revolving nature of the program have resulted in a remarkable return on federal investment. As of FY 09, for every federal dollar invested, $2.53 has been disbursed to eligible wastewater and nonpoint source projects across the country.

AGC is working diligently to move the reauthorization of this highly successful program through Congress and will continue to fight for its capitalization.

For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5368 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

CGA Testifies at Hearing on Damage Prevention Education
 

The AGC-sponsored Common Ground Alliance (CGA) testified before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on the subject of Pipeline Safety Awareness and Education.

The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 required each owner or operator of a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facility to carry out a program to educate the public on the possible hazards associated with unintended releases from the pipeline facility, the physical indications that such a release may have occurred, what steps should be taken for public safety in the event of a pipeline release, and how to report such an event. The program also had to educate the public on the use of a one-call notification system prior to excavation and other damage prevention activities.

CGA president Robert Kipp described CGA’s public awareness and education programs, most notably the 811 nationwide call before you dig telephone number.  AGC continues to work with its stakeholder partners within the CGA to create the industry gold standard for damage prevention.

For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5368 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

FEDERAL
Chairman Oberstar Sets Date for WRDA Consideration
 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will consider the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2010 on Thursday, July 29. According to committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the committee has withdrawn all Republican project requests in light of a letter pulling all such requests from House Republican leadership.

AGC was a key player in advocating for passage of WRDA 2007 and looks forward to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee beginning consideration of WRDA 2010. AGC has long advocated that waterways projects are crucial to our economy and hopes that the Committee will take into consideration the following measures when working through WRDA 2010:

  • Creation of a National Levee Safety Program;
  • Return of "trust" into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund;
  • Creation and funding for a program to rehabilitate the nation's aging dams;
  • Limit liability for levee design and construction;
  • Increase and facilitate support for greater state, tribal, and local water resources planning;
  • Reassess Regional Sediment Management;
  • Increase funding for beach nourishment; and
  • Prepare water resources projects for climate change.

View Chairman Oberstar's letter on WRDA 2010 .

To view AGC's position on WRDA, click here.

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

Water Subcommittee Approves FY 11 Spending Bill
 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development yesterday marked up the fiscal year 2011 spending bill. The subcommittee approved a $34.9 billion bill by a voice vote, setting the legislation up for tomorrow's full Senate Appropriations Committee markup, where amendments to the spending bill can be expected.

The approved legislation would provide the Army Corps of Engineers with $5.3 billion, an increase of nearly $100 million from the House subcommittee-passed bill. While the amount for the Corps is still a slight reduction from fiscal year 2010, it is $416 million more than the request from the Obama Administration.  

Finally, under the legislation the Bureau of Reclamation would receive $1.1 billion, a $22 million cut from FY 10, but equal to that request from the administration and the House Subcommittee-passed bill.

AGC will continue to follow Energy and Water Appropriations as the legislation proceeds through the House and the Senate.

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

ENVIRONMENT
Senate Democrats Abandon Cap and Trade
 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today said that he would not push for comprehensive climate change and energy legislation this summer.  Instead, the Senate may consider a limited measure to address the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and job-creation energy provisions.

Reid today admitted that there are not 60 votes in the Senate to pass climate change legislation.  Senators John Kerry (D- Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) had been working on a more limited proposal to price carbon emissions of power plants.  Reid did not rule out a larger bill in the fall or later.  However, the Senate faces a busy agenda and few legislative days in which to consider such legislation.

The Senate could debate the oil-spill legislation next week.  The measure may include other provisions, such as natural gas-powered truck investment, “Home STAR” programs to encourage energy-efficient retrofit of residential properties, and increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

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

TRANSPORTATION
Congress Moves on Transportation Appropriations
 

Both the House and Senate this week reported their respective FY 2011 appropriation bills for the Department of Transportation.  The two bills differ in their funding levels with the House bill providing $67.4 billion and the Senate providing $67.9 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies. 

Specifically, the House bill provides $3.44 billion more for federal-aid highways.  However, the level of funding provided in the House bill ($45.2 billion) is not consistent with the authorization levels of FY 2011 assumed in the HIRE Act.  In explaining the Senate’s lower mark of $41.8, Ranking Member Kit Bond (R-Mo.) called the highway funding in the House version of the bill “unsustainable” because it exceeds FY 2011 authorization levels.  The House and Senate bills also differ in the fact that the House bill takes $200 million from the Highway Trust Fund to fund DOT’s livable communities initiative, while the Senate bill keeps the Trust Fund intact and pays for that program with General Fund dollars.

Transit programs in the House bill are funded at $11.3 billion, $500 million above 2010 levels and $575 million above the president’s budget request, while the Senate bill provides $10.8 billion, which is level with FY 2010.  In terms of high speed rail, the House bill provides $1.4 billion, $400 million above the president’s request, while the Senate provides $1 billion.  Both bills provide $3.5 billion for the Airport Improvement Program.

It is unclear when either the full House or Senate will consider their individual bills. AGC has learned that it is possible that the House may hold a vote on their bill next week.  There is no indication from the Senate when they will hold a vote. 

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

Highway Reauthorization and Grassroots Action - Nationwide Conference Call
 

Please join the Associated General Contractors of America on Monday, July 26, at 11:30 a.m. EDT, for a nationwide conference call on the status on the highway and transit authorization bill. We will discuss our efforts with our coalition partners and encourage AGC Chapters and members to meet with members of Congress to insist Congress address the long-term transportation reauthorization NOW!

During the call we will discuss what needs to be done to get the highway and transit authorization bill passed before the end of the year and the tools we have developed to help you and your members deliver that message to Congress.

We have invited a senior staff member from the Environment and Public Works Committee to brief you on activities in the Senate. AGC will discuss its targeted activities for August and there will be time for Q&A.

Agenda
11:30-12:30 EDT:

  • Welcome - Steve Sandherr
  • Why we need to act now
  • Why your participation is critical now
  • Status of the Reauthorization from Committee Staff
  • Questions for “Committee staff"
  • Details on Action Plan
  • Questions for AGC Staff


Resources are available here, and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Conference call info is as follows:

NUMBER: 888-299-4099
PASSCODE: VS88454

Please RSVP to Jim Young, youngj@agc.org, if you plan to join the call. Return to Top

ELECTIONS
Races in Georgia Head into Runoffs
 

 

Georgia GOP state Reps. Austin Scott and Mike Keown won their primaries July 20 and will face targeted Reps. Jim Marshall (D) and Sanford Bishop (D). Scott and Keown have both drawn some attention from national Republicans, though their races are not yet considered top-tier.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D) won his primary over former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes.

Rep. John Barrow (D) easily won his primary, but Rep. Tom Graves (R) fell about 400 votes short of a majority, so he will face a runoff with the man he beat in last month's special election, former state Sen. Lee Hawkins.

AGC PAC will contribution to candidate Rob Woodall (R), who most recently served as retiring Congressman John Linder’s (R) Chief of Staff. He faces radio evangelist Jody Hice (R).  Both Woodall and Hice upset favorite Chris Cox for the party’s nomination.

All run-offs in Georgia will take place on August 10. Oklahoma will hold its primary next week, on July 27.

 

For more information, contact Blair Hood at (202) 547-5013 or hoodb@agc.org. Return to Top

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