Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 22, 2010
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On the Inside
CONGRESS
Congress Adjourns Surprisingly Productive Lame Duck Session
HEALTH CARE
House Will Schedule Early January Vote on Health Care Repeal
LABOR
Senate Reaches Agreement on AGC-Supported Measure to Limit Liability of Contractors Working at Ground Zero
BUDGET
Congress Approves Short Term Funding Extension
TRANSPORTATION
Congress Approves DERA Reauthorization
CONGRESS
Congress Adjourns Surprisingly Productive Lame Duck Session
 

The House and Senate adjourned today after a surprisingly productive lame duck legislative session.  With expectations low and a history of playing below even low expectations, President Obama and Democrats in the Senate ignored the fringe of their party and actually sought common ground with Republicans on critical taxes legislation.

The tax deal was derided by a loud but small portion of House Democrats and the current (but not future) Speaker.  The bill was a compromise by both parties and passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 81-19 vote in the Senate and an equally impressive vote in the House of 277-148, with 139 Democrats joining 138 Republicans to pass the bill.

The Federal funding for the rest of the year was a step back from status quo and probably not exactly where we would have liked, but again it was passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan margin of 79-16 in the Senate. The holiday spirit was not carried forward in the House where only 19 Republican members voted for the bill. The end of year cheer produced many other smaller pieces of legislation that had been waiting for Congressional approval like the 9/11 bill, the reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act mentioned below and approval of the START treaty. We are still not sure what this means for next year, but now the president has a taste for winning through compromise.  Return to Top

HEALTH CARE
House Will Schedule Early January Vote on Health Care Repeal
 

In an effort to move quickly on what Republicans felt helped fuel their rise to the majority in the 112th Congress, the House will have a vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA also known by some as Obamacare) before the President delivers his State of the Union address on January 25.  The vote could come as early as the first or second week of January. AGC of America opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because it did not do enough to expand availability and control costs, so AGC will be supporting the repeal efforts in the House. 

AGC will be working to develop broad based support for the repeal effort. This may include online petitions, advertising and communication with all members of the House. AGC will launch a grassroots push the first week of January.  We will also begin assembling personal stories on how the PPACA (or Obamacare) are impacting businesses. For instance, in some cases companies have reported facing double digit cost increases for 2012 based partly on new mandates, but also based on the uncertainty over the regulatory process that will fill in some of the gaps left in the bill Congress enacted this year. 

If you have any personal stories about how the health care bill is changing the marketplace, please forward them to Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org. Return to Top

LABOR
Senate Reaches Agreement on AGC-Supported Measure to Limit Liability of Contractors Working at Ground Zero
 

The Senate, in one of the last items they deal with this year, approved the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This bill would provide health benefits for 9/11 workers and also includes language that would limit the liability of the contractors that worked at the site of the terrorist attack in New York City. 

These contractors responded in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers and continued their work for over a month without contracts while at the direction of federal, state and city officials.  These contractors continue to face an enormous amount of liability from lawsuits from those who developed health problems in the aftermath of the attacks. 

The Senate attempted to move the bill forward earlier this month and failed.  The final deal included reducing the costs of the bill to $4.2 billion ($1.5 billion will go to health benefits, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation), down by $7.5 billion from the House-passed bill.  The compromise does not allow new claims after five years, limits the amount of money that can go to attorneys’ fees, prevents future lawsuits and requires thorough federal oversight of fund management.  

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

BUDGET
Congress Approves Short Term Funding Extension
 

Congress this week passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until March 4 and President Obama promptly signed the bill. The CR was necessary because Congress failed to pass any of the 12 appropriation bills this year, and the government has been running on a series of short-term funding resolutions since Oct. 1.

Senate Democrats tried to pass an omnibus appropriations measure that included all 12 spending bills for 2011 but failed to persuade Republicans to go along after conservatives complained about $8 billion in earmarks contained in the bill, the increases in personnel to implement health care and financial regulation reform measures passed this year, as well as overall funding levels. Republicans want an opportunity to cut 2011 discretionary program funding by as much as 20 percent -- bringing spending down to 2008 levels. The short term CR creates the opportunity for the new Congress to address spending levels when it convenes in January.

Included in the CR is funding for federal construction programs and an extension of highway and transit program authorization to March 4. The highway and transit programs have been operating under a series of short term authorizations since SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. These programs are also funded in the CR at FY 2010 levels.

AGC and our transportation and construction industry allies have been pressing Congress to approve the highway and transit authorization through September 30, 2011, to provide states with certainty in funding through the end of the fiscal year and to allow the new Congress time to address a multiyear transportation authorization measure.

In separate legislation, the programs and funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was approved through March 31. FAA also has been operating under a series of short term authorizations since its authorization legislation expired at the end of FY 2007.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Congress Approves DERA Reauthorization
 

In other lame duck action, Congress gave final approval to legislation reauthorizing the Diesel Emission Reduction Act of 2010 (DERA), which established a voluntary national and state-level grant and loan program for retrofitting diesel equipment.

AGC has been working through a broad coalition effort in support of the bill. The five-year authorization provides $100 million in grant funding for diesel retrofits, which is a 50 percent reduction from the funding provided over the past five years. The bill makes two significant changes advocated by AGC that will make the grants more available to construction contractors. First the bill eliminates a requirement that 50 percent of the funds be made eligible only for public sector vehicles. The second change allows individual companies to apply directly for the grants rather than through a third party non-profit organization. Other changes in the program will streamline the application process and provide more transparency. President Obama is expected to sign the measure.

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

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