Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 23, 2011
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On the Inside
Highlights in This Week's Issue
TAX
3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract Cosponsors
AGC Surveys Members on Potential Impact of the 3 Percent Withholding Tax
National Labor Relations Board Issues a Proposed Rule to Accelerate Union Representation Elections
CONGRESS
Congressional Budget Office Releases Bleak New Budget Outlook and Discussions Take Unexpected Turn
Bill Introduced That Would Shift Regulating Powers from EPA to the States
Hearing Held on Privatizing Rail Service
House Bill to Expedite Offshore Drilling Permits Passes, Moves to Senate
20th Consecutive FAA Extension Introduced
Senate Reauthorization Bill Close to Introduction
AGC Supports Bill Protecting Use of Fly Ash
AGENCIES
Administration Announces "Campaign to Cut Waste," Congress Works in Tandem
Highlights in This Week's Issue
 

AGC asks our members how the implementation of three percent withholding will affect Contractors and continues to ask you to send letters to you Members of Congress on this important issue.  The National Labor Relations Board has issued a proposed rule on union elections.  Congress continues to work on surface transportation legislation, has introduced a bill that would shift some of EPA's regulating powers to States, and introduced another FAA extension. Return to Top

TAX
3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract Cosponsors
 

The House cosponsor number has grown from 36 during the week of the AGC convention to 167 this week.   In the Senate we have more cosponsors of repeal already than at any time since enactment. There is still room for growth in the House, there are currently, 103 former cosponsors in House that have yet to cosponsor.  It is a very bipartisan bill in Congress (123 GOP, 44 Dems).  More than 1,000 AGC members responded to the 3% survey 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 Campbell, John [CA-48] - 6/21/2011
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] - 6/21/2011
Rep Griffin, Tim [AR-2] - 6/21/2011
Rep Rogers, Harold [KY-5] - 6/21/2011
Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21] - 6/21/2011


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


The Senate added no new cosponsors this week.


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
shoafj@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC Surveys Members on Potential Impact of the 3 Percent Withholding Tax
Feedback needed by July 1, 2011
 

AGC is in the process of surveying members about the 3 percent withholding tax.  The survey, which is designed to measure the potential impact of the new tax on member firms, is part of a broader effort AGC is undertaking to educate members and the media about the need to repeal the incredibly costly new provision. 

Here is a link to the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2W66JXJ

We are asking members to complete the survey by July 1, and intend to share the results with the media and members of Congress.  We would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide in encouraging as many members as possible to complete this survey. 

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

National Labor Relations Board Issues a Proposed Rule to Accelerate Union Representation Elections
 

On June 22, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposed rule that would compress the time frame between a call by the unions for a vote and the election. This would be done by eliminating the pre-election request for review and any waiting period associated with such a review.  Among other changes, the proposed rule also calls for the disclosure by employers of employee phone numbers and email addresses before an election.

This proposed rule is being referred to as an effort to have “quickie” elections, which was part of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (“card-check” bill) that did not make it through Congress.  It would limit the time that employers have to share their viewpoint about union representation with their employees. 

AGC is reviewing this proposed rule carefully and expects to file comments opposing the rule within the 60-day comment period.

For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at (202) 547-3350 or shoafj@agc.org. Return to Top

CONGRESS
Congressional Budget Office Releases Bleak New Budget Outlook and Discussions Take Unexpected Turn
Deficit Reduction Meetings Continue
 

Vice President Biden continues to lead bipartisan deficit reduction meetings with Congressional leaders as their self-imposed July 1, deadline for a plan on increasing the nation’s debt ceiling while making spending cuts and providing budgetary reforms approaches.  However, lead House negotiator Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) withdrew from the discussions today citing a need for Presidential leadership to take tax increases off the table before he returns to negotiation.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued the annual Long-Term Budget Outlook, which details an increasing federal debt.   The Outlook is focused on federal government debt held by the public, which is a subset of the total debt that does not include debt the federal government owes to itself (such as the debt owed by the government to the Social Security Trust fund). The report creates two scenarios.  The first adheres to current law, while the second incorporates changes to current law, such as extending current tax cuts or continuing the annual patch on the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

CBO specifically cited growing health care costs and the aging baby boomer population as major drivers of government spending.  CBO estimates that federal health spending is set to grow from less than six percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) today, to more than nine percent by 2035.

Over the last 40 years, public debt has averaged 36 percent of GDP.  At the end of 2008, public debt was about 40 percent of GDP.  By the end of 2011, CBO anticipates that public debt will reach 69 percent of GDP, 7 percentage points higher than last year.  Using the current law estimate, the public debt is expected to grow to 76 percent of GDP by 2021.  Using the alternative estimate, which anticipates no patch of the Alternative Minimum Tax and the “doc fix” (Congress’s annual decision to ease limits on Medicare physician pay), public debt would exceed 100 percent of GDP by 2021, 109 percent of GDP in 2023, and 190 percent of GDP by 2035.  The historical high for public debt as a percentage of GDP is 109 percent.   Many budgetary experts believe that the alternative estimate presents a more realistic picture of our nation’s fiscal situation.

CBO believes that continued large deficits will reduce national savings, increase interest rates, lead to more borrowing from other countries, reduce domestic investment and reduce income growth. The large deficits will reduce Congress’s ability to respond to future economic downturns or financial crises.  In addition, CBO predicted that the higher debt levels could lead to a sudden fiscal crisis. 

CBO does not make specific recommendations in the outlook.  However, they appear to be sending a clear message to policymakers currently debating our short and long term fiscal situations that they will need to increase revenues substantially, decrease spending, or adopt some combination of the two approaches.

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

Bill Introduced That Would Shift Regulating Powers from EPA to the States
 

On June 22, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 2018, by a vote of 35 to 20, that would shift certain regulating powers away from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and into the hands of the states by amending the Clean Water Act. The bill is backed by Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), as well as Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.V.). The legislation would give the states regulatory powers over water, wetlands and mountaintop-mining currently under the purview of EPA.

Republicans view the bill as an attempt to control the current Administration’s EPA Proponents for the bill cited increases in regulation of mountaintop-removal mining, such as the decision to revoke the permit of a proposed mine in West Virginia, as well as the constricting of state water pollution limits in Florida. Such measures, Republicans argue, are unnecessary and detrimental to job creation, as the red tape a business must go through to acquire the proper permits greatly delays operations and drives up costs.

Democrats argue that the bill would undermine EPA’s ability to update state water pollution limits and permits after new pollutants are discovered. They also noted that states downstream would be affected by the actions taken by the states upstream, which, under the proposed bill’s structure, would not require the same regulatory conditions for water pollution. There was an attempt by the minority to amend the bill to strip it of its efficacy; however, the amendment was struck down and the bill passed through unchanged.

In the end, the bill made it through the Committee in a largely party-line vote, and reports are that House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), hopes to have the bill on the House floor for a vote before the end of the summer.

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

Hearing Held on Privatizing Rail Service
 

On Wednesday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on a draft bill that would improve the nation’s intercity passenger rail system by leveraging private sector investment and increase competition along the Northeast Corridor. The bill has the potential to create new jobs in rail construction, operation, and station-related development.

The bill would separate the Northeast Corridor from Amtrak-owned to a private entity to operate and upgrade passenger rail service under a public-private partnership.  The bill would also open competition for a number of intercity passenger rail services on state-supported routes as well as long-distance routes.

The Chairman of the Committee, John Mica (R-Fla.) 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 oneills@agc.org. Return to Top

House Bill to Expedite Offshore Drilling Permits Passes, Moves to Senate
 

The House passed legislation this week designed to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska. The legislation, the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011, requires the Environmental Protection Agency to take final action on a permit application in six months or less, and it would limit opponents’ ability to appeal permits. The measure joins other GOP-sponsored oil and gas drilling bills the House has easily passed this year, however this one has garnered support in the Senate as well. Alaska’s two senators, Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich, have introduced companion legislation. AGC will continue to monitor this legislation as it progresses through the Senate.

For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

20th Consecutive FAA Extension Introduced
 

The House introduced the 20th short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization.  The legislation, H.R. 2279, must be considered by the House by tomorrow afternoon because the House is not in session next week and the current extension expires June 30, 2011.  This extension would extend Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes and Airport Improvement Program contract authority through July 22, 2011. 

This latest extension will give the House and Senate Committees additional time to negotiate on their unresolved issues.

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

Senate Reauthorization Bill Close to Introduction
 

AGC participated in a meeting today with Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) who called together transportation and construction industry groups to lay out a very ambitous plan for release of a Committee draft bill, at least one hearing and Senate consideration of surface transportation reauthorization legislation before the end of July.

Chairman Boxer reported that she will introduce a bill the week of July 11, schedule hearings on the bill the following week and then mark up the legislation the week of July 25. She said she is working closely with Republican members of the committee to draft a bill that will have bipartisan support. Boxer indicated the Committee’s bill is being written to provide funding levels at current authorized amounts plus inflation.  She is still working to identify enough  federal funds to keep the bill at current level, and she is working with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to find the additional revenue necessary to support those funding levels. She also reported that there are ongoing talks with the chairs of the two other Senate committees (Commerce and Banking Committees) that have jurisdiction over other segments of the legislation and they are moving forward in drafting those portions.

The bill will consolidate some 87 different programs down to 30. Reforms will be made in the environmental review process to speed project delivery. The criteria for project eligibility in the enhancement program will be tightened so that only true transportation projects will be funded. The bill will include a freight title to emphasize interstate commerce. Also the innovative financing program known as TIFIA, which provides loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit for project owners, and has been very successful in moving projects to construction, will be expanded.

Boxer said she wants to have a bill completed before the current authorization expires on September 30, 2011, so that additional short term extensions will not be necessary.    The House Transportation Committee may also release a bill in early July.

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

AGC Supports Bill Protecting Use of Fly Ash
 

On June 22, AGC sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee members in support of legislation to manage coal combustion residuals, e.g., fly ash, as nonhazardous waste. The industry uses these materials, and has for more than 60 years, in the construction of roads, bridges, buildings and other critical infrastructure.  The markup of the bill was originally scheduled for June 23, but was delayed until after the July 4th holiday recess reportedly to allow more time to strengthen bipartisan support.

The legislation, introduced by Representative David McKinley (R-WV), H.R. 1391: Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, would amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to manage coal combustion residuals as a nonhazardous waste.  The legislation empowers the states to use their already robust waste management programs to cover coal combustion residuals. It also allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) some oversight and authority to ensure the effectiveness of those programs. EPA also would retain its authority to take action in times of “imminent hazard.”

The legislation comes in response to EPA’s 2010 proposal of new rules to regulate the disposal and management of coal combustion residuals.  The agency proposes to regulate the waste as either hazardous or nonhazardous waste.  Of the two options, AGC supports regulation as a nonhazardous waste.  AGC is concerned that a hazardous waste designation—or even the threat of the designation—would create a stigma against the use of fly ash, one of the most widely and successfully recycled products used in construction. 

For additional information on coal combustion residuals, read the May 31 Observer article or visit EPA’s website.

For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at (703) 837-5315 or tomainom@agc.org.   Return to Top

AGENCIES
Administration Announces "Campaign to Cut Waste," Congress Works in Tandem
AGC Will Monitor Implementation to Protect Contractors from Baseless Fraud Claims
 

On June 13, Vice President Joe Biden announced the launch of a government wide "Campain to Cut Government Waste."

The plan, detailed in an Executive Order signed by President Obama on June 13, 2011, describes the campaigns two key initiatives:

  1. The creation of a new Oversight and Accountability Board; and
  2. Regular Cabinet meetings to report progress to the Vice President.

Building on the execution of the Recovery Act, Biden announced the establishment of a new oversight and accountability board to help federal agencies improve their performance and reduce waste, fraud and abuse across government.  The head of the new board will be former Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney, who has been heading the recovery board since passage of the Recovery Act. 

The mission of the new Board is to allow taxpayers the same ability to track where dollars are going and to track spending beyond Recovery Act dollars. The Board will be composed of eleven members, including agency Inspector Generals, Chief Financial Officers or Deputy Secretaries, an official from the Office of Management & Budget, and other such members President Obama may designate.  The new Board will work closely with Chairman Devaney and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to expand the benefits of this new, more effective way of doing business.

The Executive Order also strengthens accountability, directing Cabinet members to report progress cutting waste and delivering results directly to Biden. He will hold regular meetings with Cabinet members and requires agency Chief Operating Officers, generally Deputy Secretaries, and Chief Financial Officers to report progress regularly to the Office of Management and Budget. As one of the campaign’s first steps, the Administration will target duplication and waste among federal websites. There are almost 2,000 separate websites across the federal government. Accordingly, the Administration will immediately put a halt to the creation of new websites and shutdown or consolidate 25 percent of the 2,000 sites over the next few months and set a goal of cutting the number of separate, stand alone sites in half over the next year.

Also on June 13, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced legislation to create a similar oversight board. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, would establish an independent body to track federal spending, including grants, contracts, loans and agencies' internal expenses, on a single electronic platform, using consistent reporting standards and data identifiers, and making all of the information available to the public. The DATA Act makes several major pro-transparency reforms, including:

  • Establishing a universal standard of recipient reporting for money received from the federal government directly to an independent database. This has widely been credited as the key to the success of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in catching and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in stimulus spending.
  • Collecting all agency expenditure data and combining it with the recipient reported data. This will allow agencies, Congress, and citizen watchdogs to discover waste and inefficiency in government and expose systematic financial management problems that lead to improper payments.
  • Creating a permanent successor to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the body established by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to ensure transparency, and giving that board similar powers to ensure all federal spending is transparent to the public. The new board is designated as the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board (FAST Board).
  • Directing the new FAST Board to establish common identifiers and consistent reporting standards for all federally collected data.

The FAST Board will be tasked solely with receiving, organizing and publishing federal spending information. Chairman Issa first met with Biden in November of last year to discuss spending transparency and using the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board as a model for building a transparent and accountable government. Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney will testify at an Oversight Committee hearing on federal spending transparency and the solutions that the bill proposes on Tuesday.

The text of the legislation can be viewed here. A section by section summary of the legislation can be viewed here.

AGC is working with Congressional Oversight leaders and the Federal Agencies as plans for implementation of these transparency efforts progress.

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

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