Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org February 24, 2011
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On the Inside
TAKE ACTION
Week Ahead Could Impact Construction Industry Action Requested
BUDGET
Congress at Impasse Over Budget Proposal Shutdown Possible
TAX
AGC Expands Efforts to Educate FASB About Proposed Multiemployer Plan Disclosure Accounting Standards Update
TRANSPORTATION
Comment Period for Proposed Changes to Hours of Service Regulations Extended to March 4 Construction Industry Comments Encouraged
House T&I Committee Field Hearings on Reauthorization
Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In
AGC-sponsored Weekly Standard Event to Make Conservative Case for Transportation Infrastructure
ENVIRONMENT
House Continuing Resolution Includes Amendments Limiting U.S. EPA Authority
FEDERAL
Legislation to End Project Labor Agreements on FY 2011 Federal Construction Projects Fails House Vote
TAKE ACTION
Week Ahead Could Impact Construction Industry Action Requested
 

Next week, Congress is expected to take action on several bills important to the construction industry.

First, the House is expected to consider legislation to extend the highway and transit authorization through the end of the current federal fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2011. The extension would freeze spending levels on transportation programs at last year’s levels. Failure to extend the program by March 4 will result in the shutdown of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  To read more about the extension click here, or to send a message through AGC’s Legislative Action Center, click here.

The House is also expected to consider a bill that would repeal the 1099 reporting requirement that was included in last year’s health care law, which requires businesses to send 1099s to the IRS and to any business from which they made purchases of goods or services totaling $600 or more a year. AGC supports repeal of the 1099 provision and AGC members are encouraged to use the AGC Legislative Action Center to send a letter in support of repeal.

AGC is also encouraging all members to contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to support repeal of the 3 percent withholding mandate. The Withholding Tax Relief Act has been introduced in the House and Senate to repeal the mandate. If it is not repealed before the end of the year, federal, state and local government will begin withholding 3 percent from payments for goods and services, including construction contracts. In the construction industry, the withholding could exceed a company’s tax liability on a project, restrict cash flow and ultimately increase the cost of doing business.

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

BUDGET
Congress at Impasse Over Budget Proposal Shutdown Possible
 

President Obama began last week by unveiling a $3.7 trillion FY 2012 budget and the House of Representatives finished the week by debating and passing a continuing resolution to fund the remainder of FY 2011. The 2011 bill is necessary because Congress failed to pass a bill last year and the government has been operating under a short term extension.

If Congress fails to pass the funding bill by March 4, the government will be forced to “shut down” for the first time since 1995. Currently, there are major differences between the funding levels supported by the House, Senate and White House.

Adding to the complexity of finding a compromise is the fact that Congress does not return to Washington, D.C., until next week due to the Presidents Week recess, which will give both bodies of Congress only a few days to work out their differences. The House-passed bill cut $64 billion, including cuts to stop the implementation of various elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill also included amendments that would block: the implementation of new emission requirements on cement plants; the development of new EPA regulations governing the disposal and storage of fly ash; and a number of new regulations further regulating storm water run off. The debate also included efforts to repeal Davis Bacon and prohibit project labor agreements, both of which failed. 

Included in the House Republicans’ budget are cuts of nearly $18 billion in construction spending (about half of the cuts are in BRAC, High Speed Rail and Water Infrastructure). An analysis of the cuts is available here.  AGC worked against many of the cuts to construction spending, urging Members of Congress to work to reform and improve programs rather than just slash spending.

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

TAX
AGC Expands Efforts to Educate FASB About Proposed Multiemployer Plan Disclosure Accounting Standards Update
 

In addition to meeting frequently with FASB over the past ten years on critical issues and focusing significant member and staff time recently to issues such as multi-employer disclosure and revenue recognition, AGC joined a construction industry group established to advise the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on its proposed accounting standards update on multi-employer plan disclosure.

AGC is represented by Eric Wallace, CPA and Partner at Carbis Walker, LLP, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Wallace is an active member of AGC’s Tax and Fiscal Affairs Committee who led AGC’s task force that submitted detailed comments in November 2010 to the FASB in response their Exposure Draft on the issue. 

Other members of the advisory group include representatives of several other contractor associations, as well as two key financial statement user groups:  banking and sureties.  The group includes a fund accountant, a fund actuary, a fund trustee, a Taft-Hartley attorney and fund counsel, contributing employers, and financial statement preparers in the construction industry.

AGC last met with FASB in January and is planning to meet again in June.The advisory group is meeting with the FASB in late March to present some alternative disclosure options. Both AGC and this advisory group will continue to meet with the FASB on the differences between single- and multi-employer plans and on the unique nature of multi-employer plans in the construction industry. 

The FASB is expected to issue a revised exposure draft or a final standard in 2011.  AGC is following this matter very closely and will continue to work with FASB and its staff on an acceptable proposal for the construction industry. 

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

TRANSPORTATION
Comment Period for Proposed Changes to Hours of Service Regulations Extended to March 4 Construction Industry Comments Encouraged
 

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to overhaul the hours of service rules for truck drivers. The comment period has been extended to March 4, 2011.

This proposed rulemaking does not alter the existing construction exemption which allows drivers transporting construction materials and equipment to and from an active construction site within a 50-air-mile radius of the driver’s normal work reporting location to restart the on-duty counting period following any off-duty period of 24 or more successive hours.

The Proposed Rulemaking for drivers suggests the following changes:

  • Maximum driving time within each driving window from the existing 11 hours to 10 hours.
  • Maximum on-duty time within each driving window from the existing 14 hours to 13 hours.
  • Allowed consecutive hours of driving would be limited to 7 hours or less since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
  • Define on-duty as not including any time resting in a parked Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV).

You are encouraged to provide comments to the FMCSA on this proposed rulemaking. You should provide background information and point out the effects on your specific operations each of the proposed changes.

AGC’s comments will address the following:

  • Urge FMCSA to maintain the construction exemption.
  • Urge FMCSA to continue to allow 11 hours of driving time in each driving window.
  • Urge FMCSA to continue to allow the existing 14 hours maximum on-duty time within driving window. 
  • Suggest to FMCSA to increase the 50-air-mile radius to a 100-air-mile radius in the construction exemption for transporting construction materials and equipment to and from an active construction site. This would help the industry hold down the materials costs by allowing longer hauls from existing processing sites.
  • Suggest that the rules not count as “on duty” the time construction drivers are in a queue waiting to deliver product.

To access the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for review click here.  To access the comments web page click here.  Comments are due by March 4, 2011.

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

House T&I Committee Field Hearings on Reauthorization
 

House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) used this week’s Congressional recess to hold more than a dozen listening sessions around the country to gather information he can use in writing the highway and transit reauthorization legislation. AGC members participated in many of the hearings and listening sessions addressing the need for a focused, streamlined program that delivers improvements that are core to advancing national transportation interests.

The listening sessions were held largely in the districts of freshman members of the T&I Committee and included bipartisan participation. At two hearings in California, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also took part. 

Transportation Committee Chairman Mica was primarily interested in hearing about the following ways to reform the program:

  • Ideas on how to streamline the process; 
  • Programs that should be eliminated; 
  • Ideas for improving flexibility for states and localities; and 
  • Ideas for improving public-private partnerships.

While he requested that there be no discussion of infrastructure needs or funding for specific projects, those topics were raised at many of the sessions. Mica said at several of the sessions that he is not seeking an increase in the user fee to grow the revenue that supports the program, but instead is interested in constraining funding to meet annual revenue and instead create incentives that bring more private investment into the market.

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

Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In
May 24-25, 2011
 

Federal transportation programs face challenges like never before. SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009 and funding for the highway and transit programs have been continued through a series of short term extensions.

Highway Trust Fund revenue is insufficient to support current funding levels.  A multitude of new Representatives and Senators are unfamiliar with how these programs operate and the benefits they bring not only to their states or districts but to the national economy.

Join hundreds of other industry leaders in delivering our message to Capitol Hill on May 24-25 in Washington, D.C. For more program details and registration information, click here.

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

AGC-sponsored Weekly Standard Event to Make Conservative Case for Transportation Infrastructure
 

The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative news weekly, will host an AGC-sponsored forum on the Conservative Case for Transportation Investments on Wednesday, March 2, in Washington, D.C.

The event, which will be moderated by conservative commentator Fred Barnes, will include a panel conversation featuring Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s top lobbyist Bruce Josten, and other business and think tank officials.  The purpose of the event is to make a strong case to conservative-leaning elected officials that there is a clear and common sense role for the federal government to provide robust support for transportation investments.

The event will take place from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on March 2 at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.  AGC members are welcome to attend. Click here for a copy of the invitation.  The event also will be webcast live here.

For more information, contact Brian Turmail at (703) 837-5310 or turmailb@agc.org.

Return to Top
ENVIRONMENT
House Continuing Resolution Includes Amendments Limiting U.S. EPA Authority
 

On February 19, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to fund the U.S. government for the rest of the federal fiscal year through the passage of a continuing resolution that cuts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by $3 billion from its current level of $10.3 billion and that limits the agency’s authority in other ways. The bill passed by a vote of 235-189; only three Republicans voted against the bill.

The House successfully attached amendments to the CR that prevent the spending of federal funds on the establishment of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) or a watershed implementation plan for the Chesapeake Bay, and on efforts to implement, administer, or enforce new water quality standards in Florida.  The House also approved an amendment preventing EPA from issuing solid waste standards that would list coal ash from power plants as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Another successful amendment would prevent EPA from issuing a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for coarse particulate matter (PM).

As expected, the CR also contains language prohibiting EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, or any other regulatory requirement pertaining to emissions of greenhouse gases.

The bill also would prevent EPA from enforcing a pending guidance under review at the White House that reportedly clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction.  In addition, the bill would prevent EPA from administering or enforcing the sections of the Clean Water Act that govern dredge-and-fill permits.

If approved by the Senate in its current form, the House CR would extend these provisions and government spending authority through September 30, 2011, but a showdown with the Senate is expected, with the potential for a government shutdown in early March if a final CR can’t be approved by both legislative branches.

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

FEDERAL
Legislation to End Project Labor Agreements on FY 2011 Federal Construction Projects Fails House Vote
Amendment to restrict imposition of PLAs on FY 2011 work narrowly defeated
 

On February 19, the House considered an amendment to the Continuing Resolution by Representative Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) to prohibit the use of PLAs on federal projects for FY11. That amendment was narrowly defeated by a 210-210 tie vote.

All Democrats held together in opposition to the amendment while 26 Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the amendment. AGC supported the Guinta amendment and worked in support of its passage.

Other stand-alone bills to prohibit the use of government mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects permanently are pending in the Congress. The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act, sponsored by Senator Vitter (R-La.) and Representative John Sullivan (R-Okla.), was recently introduced in the Senate and House, respectively, and AGC is currently working to garner support for the legislation.

To send a letter to your Senator or Representative in favor of Government Neutrality in Contracting Act, click here.

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

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