Construction Legislative Week in Review June 16, 2011
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On the Inside
Highlights in This Week's Issue
3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract Cosponsors
Surface Transportation Update
Bill Introduced to Privatize Amtrak
House Education and Workplace Subcommittee Holds First Hearing on Pensions for the 112th Congress
Mandatory E-Verify Bills Introduced in House and Senate This Week
White House-Led Budget Negotiations Resume
AGC Project Labor Agreement Policy Update
Highlights in This Week's Issue

AGC thanks members that have communicated with their Congressional Delegations on repeal of 3% withholding, have you? Negotiations on reducing the deficit continue to dominate the Congressional schedule. Both chambers of Congress continue to work on a surface transportation legislation and a bill was introduced to privatize Amtrak. A hearing on Pensions was held, E-Verify legislation introduced and AGC continues to advocate against Government Mandated Project Labor Agreements. Return to Top

3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract Cosponsors

The House cosponsor number has grown from 36 during the week of the AGC convention to 162 this week. 

Connecticut, Iowa and West Virginia have their full House delegation cosponsoring repeal.  The following states have at least half their House delegation cosponsoring: KS, KY, LA, MN, MS, NE, OH, OR, SC, UT and WI.

Thanks to all of those Chapters who have helped make Congress aware of this important issue. AGC sends a special thank you to AGC members in NY, GA, PA, AZ, TX, NC, VA and CA, who have sent many messages to Congress on this issue over the last couple of months. 

The most recent additions to the House cosponsor list are:

Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6] - 6/13/2011
Rep Runyan, Jon [NJ-3] - 6/13/2011
Rep Sarbanes, John P. [MD-3] - 6/13/2011
Rep Gowdy, Trey [SC-4] - 6/13/2011
Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana [FL-18] - 6/13/2011
Rep Huelskamp, Tim [KS-1] - 6/13/2011
Rep Dold, Robert J. [IL-10] - 6/13/2011
Rep Noem, Kristi L. [SD] - 6/13/2011

Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] - 6/15/2011

Rep Burgess, Michael C. [TX-26] - 6/15/2011

Rep Castor, Kathy [FL-11] - 6/15/2011

Rep Flores, Bill [TX-17] - 6/15/2011

Rep Hastings, Doc [WA-4] - 6/15/2011

Rep Latta, Robert E. [OH-5] - 6/15/2011

If you know these members of the House, please send them a thank you for cosponsoring.

Senate bills also continue to add cosponsors.  The following Senators cosponsored 3 percent repeal bills in the last week.

Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 6/9/2011

Sen Heller, Dean [NV] - 6/14/2011

Sen Moran, Jerry [KS] - 6/15/2011

To send a letter to your member of Congress and Senators, click here.  To see the full list of cosponsors click here.

For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at Return to Top

Surface Transportation Update

Although neither the House nor Senate released a surface transportation bill this week, there is still significant news to come out of both chambers.

In the House, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) announced on Wednesday that the surface transportation reauthorization bill will be unveiled sometime during the week of July 4, and that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up the bill on Tuesday, July 12.   It appears that Mica is making this commitment to move the reauthorization bill without a guarantee from the House Republican leadership that the bill will be able to be considered on the House floor prior to the August Congressional recess.  If the reauthorization is marked up and not considered on the House floor before August 5, it will give opponents of the legislation time to organize their opposition, which could put the entire bill in jeopardy.

The House has not shared any drafts of their bill, but AGC has learned it will be a six-year bill and will be funded at levels the Highway Trust Fund can support.  Based on Highway Trust Fund Projections, the estimated total funding that would be provided in the House bill would be $219 billion over six years.  This is approximately a thirty percent cut from current levels.  Mica’s bill will be at lower levels, however, it is widely expected that the bill will refocus the federal surface transportation programs, eliminate non-core funding categories, expedite project delivery, streamline the environmental review process, and provide additional innovative financing tools to move projects forward. 

In the Senate, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) had indicated last week her intentions to release the Committee portion of the surface transportation bill this week.  AGC and other transportation stakeholders met with Boxer and her staff this morning and were informed that their bill will not be released this week, although they are very near full agreement on a bipartisan bill supported by Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla).  The EPW bill, unlike the House bill, is being written to provide funding levels at current authorized amounts plus inflation.  The number that Boxer provided in a statement on May 25 was $339 billion over six years.  The challenge for the Senate bill at those levels is that the Highway Trust is not bringing in enough revenue to support a $339 billion bill.  The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the revenue portion of the bill and, in this political and budgetary environment, it will be very difficult to come up with the money to fund a six-year bill. 

The Senate is exploring a possible alternative, which includes moving forward on a two year bill at current authorized funding levels plus inflation.  This bill would also be a compromise bipartisan effort with program reform, environmental streamlining, and expedited project delivery policies.  The rationale in doing the two year bill is that, according to the Highway Trust Fund projections, the federal surface transportation programs funded from the Trust Fund would need an additional $12 billion over the two years ($6 billion annually) to meet the levels proposed by Boxer and Inhofe.    If the bill is longer than two years, the annual number needed to fund the program doubles from $6 billion to approximately $12 billion. 

It should be noted that the situations in the House and the Senate remain very fluid.  AGC, along with our fellow transportation stakeholders, will continue to work with the Senate and House Committees in moving the reauthorization process forward. 

We encourage you to visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center where you can get more information on surface transportation reauthorization, as well as information on how to contact your Member of Congress.  It is imperative that we as an industry let our elected officials know the importance of passing a multi-year reauthorization bill.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or Return to Top

Bill Introduced to Privatize Amtrak

On Wednesday, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Schuster (R-Penn.) unveiled a plan for privatizing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor away from the federally-owned passenger railroad. The route runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston. 

The legislation would turn over responsibility of the Northeast Corridor to a public-private partnership and would mandate that all other Amtrak routes be opened up to competition. Chairman Mica intends to mark up the legislation next week after hearing comments from the public on the bill.

The bill is divided into three sections:  Northeast Corridor, Intercity Passenger Rail, and Long-Distance Passenger Rail.  The Northeast Corridor section would change the way the corridor is owned and operated.  The draft bill would transfer all Amtrak owned property (right-of-way track, stations, equipment, etc.) to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  Once the transfer is complete, DOT must seek out an entity to operate and upgrade passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor in cooperation with the federal government under a public-private partnership.  The remainder of the bill establishes two different processes for Amtrak’s other routes. The Intercity Passenger Rail section provides a process by which individual state supported routes can be privatized.  If a state decides to open a current Amtrak route for competition, the amount of the federal subsidy for that particular route currently given to Amtrak will be given to the state or states to operate the route with the winning bidder. The Long-Distance Passenger Rail section provides for the possible privatization of Amtrak’s long distance routes, which lose the most money.  In this case, DOT will select the winning bidder and that winning bidder would have to continue to provide the same level of rail service on these routes.

In addition to marking the bill up next week, Mica plans to include it as part of the surface transportation reauthorization bill. 

AGC will continue to analyze the impact of the bill on our members and report any new developments.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or Return to Top

House Education and Workplace Subcommittee Holds First Hearing on Pensions for the 112th Congress

On Tuesday, June 14, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions held a hearing to review the state of private pension plans and the challenges facing plan sponsors, workers and retirees.   The challenges facing both single and multiemployer pension programs was not directly discussed in the hearing, however, this action indicates that Congress does realize that there are still challenges facing this retirement vehicle. 

The majority of defined benefit plans have been negatively impacted by the recent financial crisis. The losses give rise to concerns for potential additional contribution increases, deep benefit cuts, or both. The financial crisis also exacerbated funding problems that certain multiemployer plans were already facing prior to the market downturn.

AGC is working with a broad coalition of multiemployer plan stakeholders coordinated by the National Coordinating Committee on Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) to begin discussions on long-term reforms to bring stability to multiemployer pension plans.  AGC will work with Congress as the conversation on pension reform continues.

For more information, please contact Kelly Knott at (202) 547-4685 or Return to Top

Mandatory E-Verify Bills Introduced in House and Senate This Week

As expected, the House Judiciary Committee introduced a bill mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers this week.  The Legal Workforce Act sets mandatory phase-in participation to the E-Verify system for all new hires, some beginning as early as six months from enactment for employers, based on the size of the company.  Re-verification of an employer’s existing workforce is an option; however it would be required in certain situations.   Currently, the E-Verify program is voluntary unless one is a federal contractor.

AGC has been in discussions with Committee staff on this legislation and the bill contains many of the priorities we feel are needed in a mandatory program.  There is no vicarious liability, penalties seem reasonable, the “knowing” standard remains as a liability standard, and there is federal preemption.  The federal preemption would allow states, localities and municipalities authority over business licensing.   The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill on June 15 and hopes to have a vote in Committee in the near future.

On the Senate side, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced a bill Wednesday called the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act.  This bill was put together without any input from business groups.  Instead of a phase-in based on size, all businesses would have to use the system within one year.  It also requires certification by the general contractor that a subcontractor is using the E-Verify system. 

AGC remains a steering committee member of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC), which is dedicated to working on immigration issues with both the Administration and Congress. AGC is viewed by both those in the coalition and on Capitol Hill as a leader in the immigration debate and on how to work with employers on this sensitive issue.

For more information, please contact Kelly Knott at (202) 547-4685 or Return to Top

White House-Led Budget Negotiations Resume

The bipartisan budget negotiations led by Vice President Biden resumed this week with participants from both parties citing that progress has been made.  Both parties have expressed their desire to resolve the negotiations prior to the July 4 recess. The group is working on a plan to reduce the deficit in order to win support in Congress to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion by August 2. 

Republicans have been very vocal in insisting that at least $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years would be needed for the debt ceiling to be raised.  It is believed that the group has thus far talked primarily about discretionary spending and agreed to about $1 trillion in deficit reduction.

At this point there are no indications that revenue raisers would be included in the deficit reduction deal primarily because of the Republican opposition to raising taxes.  The high unemployment rate and continued poor economic data have given new life to possible inclusion of revenue raising policies as part of the package.  This leaves open the possibility for an agreement to boost the economy in a final deal. 

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or Return to Top

AGC Project Labor Agreement Policy Update

On June 14, 2011, AGC sent a letter to the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing comment on their solicitation regarding the potential use of project labor agreements (PLAs) for the Santa Ana River Mainstem, Lower Santa Ana River Channel, Reach 9 - Phase 2A, Prado Dam , Riverside County, California.  AGC also sent comments on June 16, to the Fort Worth District for the Hospital Nutrition Care Department Addition/Alteration, Phase I, project at Joint Base in San Antonio, Texas.  AGC reiterated to the Fort Worth District USACE its arguments opposing the potential use of PLAs in the San Antonio and other areas within the Fort Worth District boundaries. 

These letters are the latest of AGC's continuing efforts to educate government agencies about PLA issues and implications. While AGC neither supports nor opposes PLAs in general, AGC strongly opposes government mandates for PLAs on publicly funded construction projects. AGC is committed to free and open competition in all public construction markets and believes that publicly-funded contracts should be awarded without regard to the lawful labor relations policies and practices of the government contractor.

Meanwhile, Congress also moved to limit the use of government-mandated project labor agreements.  On May 24, 2011, the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to the FY2012 Military Construction/VA Appropriations bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to require by contract the use of a PLA for projects funded during fiscal year 2012.  However, the amendment was stripped out during a floor vote on June 13 after the House voted 204-203 in favor of an amendment, offered by Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), that struck the PLA language from the bill.  AGC sent a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to oppose the LaTourette amendment on Project Labor Agreements.  This could potentially be the last vote on this issue in the 112th Congress.

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

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