Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org September 29, 2011
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On the Inside
TAX
House Plans October Vote on 3 Percent Repeal
BUDGET
Congress Approves Continuing Resolution; Avoids Another Potential Government Shutdown
AGENCIES
AGC Objects to Labor Department’s “Persuader Rule”
AGC Submits Regulatory Comments
ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
House to Vote Next Week to Block EPA Cement Regulations
New Report Determines EPA Process in Endangerment Finding was Incomplete
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
AGC Carries Water Infrastructure Message to White House
HEALTHCARE
Health Care Reform Law Likely Heading to U.S. Supreme Court
TAX
House Plans October Vote on 3 Percent Repeal
 

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up H.R. 674 as early as the week of October 10 and the full House is planning to vote on the bill as early as the week of Oct. 24.  Please contact members of the House and urge them to cosponsor and support passage of HR 674.

There is still room for additional cosponsors over the next few weeks and top targets include the 72 Senators and Representatives who have cosponsored 3 percent withholding repeal in the past but haven’t yet this Congress.  Find out if yours is one of them and ask him or her to cosponsor the current bill.

Click on your state to find out if your Senators or Representative have yet to cosponsor 3 percent withholding repeal legislation.

Today, there are 248 members of the House and 31 Senators who have signaled their support for repeal of the 3 percent withholding mandate by cosponsoring H.R. 674 in the House and either or both S. 89 and S. 164 in the Senate.  However, a total of 72 members of either the House or Senate  who have cosponsored 3 percent repeal legislation before have yet to cosponsor the new bills.

House Republican leadership has identified repeal as a priority this fall.  With the House expected to vote in Committee in mid-October and vote on the House floor by the end of the month.  AGC needs your help to urge the House members to support H.R. 674 when it comes to a vote.  The bigger the majority in the House the more likely the Senate will take up the bill.

This week, we continue to ask all AGC members and chapters to contact their Senators and Representatives to urge them to cosponsor and vote for HR 674 which will repeal the 3 percent withholding mandate.

Use AGC’s3 percent government withholding website to find additional resources including talking points, IRS regulations, videos on the impact of this legislation, letters sent to Congress by AGC, and ways to become involved.  Please continue to make contact with your legislators and encourage your employees to do the same by using AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

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

BUDGET
Congress Approves Continuing Resolution; Avoids Another Potential Government Shutdown
 

After two weeks of partisan wrangling, Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR) that will allow the government to continue operating through Oct. 4. The legislation was needed to provide a short-term fix, until negotiations for a six-week bill can resume when the House returns from recess next Monday.  The Senate has already approved a six-week bill to fund the federal government through Nov. 18.  A CR is needed because none of the 12 appropriations bills have been passed and signed into law by the Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2011.

Complications were caused by both sides of the political aisle. On Sept. 23, the House passed a CR, but Senate Democrats would not approve the bill because they believed it did not include nearly enough funds for disaster assistance. Democrats called for $6.9 billion in aid; the House-passed CR would provide $2.65 billion in FY 2012 disaster spending.  Some Republicans wanted to reduce the spending level from an annualized rate of $1.043 trillion, which was consistent with the debt limit law approved in early August 2011, but higher than the FY 2011 budget deal approved in April 2011.

AGC continues to closely monitor this developing issue and encourage Congressional leaders to move on all FY 2012 Appropriations bills to bring certainty and predictability to the numerous federal construction programs.

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

AGENCIES
AGC Objects to Labor Department’s “Persuader Rule”
 

AGC and the AGC Labor and Employment Law Council have submitted a comment letter opposing a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  The rule would broaden reporting requirements of labor relations consultants (including attorneys and associations) who conduct activities to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize or bargain collectively.  It would also broaden reporting requirements of the employers who receive assistance from such consultants.  AGC also signed onto comments submitted by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW).

AGC’s comments assert that the proposed rule would ultimately lead to an increase in unintended, unlawful behavior by denying employers access to important advice on how to conduct themselves lawfully, AGC explained how the proposed rule would have a particularly damaging impact on the construction industry due to various unique features of labor relations and labor law in the industry.  AGC also expressed concern about the proposed rule’s apparent inclusion of association-provided advice and education as reportable “persuader” activity.  The comments supplement CDW’s extensive comments addressing how the proposed rule conflicts with the Labor Management Disclosure Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Constitution, fails to satisfy procedural requirements for rulemaking, and imposes a heavy burden on small businesses.  The comment period closed on Sept. 21.

For background information,click here.
For more information on recent Labor and HR issues go to http://www.agc.org/cs/labor.

 For more information, please contact Denise Gold, at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org Return to Top

AGC Submits Regulatory Comments
 

AGC submitted comments to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council on Sept. 29, in response to a proposal by the government that would standardize past performance evaluation factors and performance ratings.  The proposal also would require that all past performance information be entered into the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS), the government-wide past performance feeder system.

AGC's comments centered on concerns that CPARS would retain all interim data in all final performance evaluations, a significant change from the current past performance evaluation process.  In turn, this change would mean that all interim information would also remain in the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS).  AGC strongly recommends that all interim information should be replaced by subsequent interim and final performance evaluations.  The communication process between the government and contractors should continue to be simple by maintaining the proven, successful mode of communication that has already served the federal procurement process well.

To view a copy of AGC's comment, click here.

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

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
House to Vote Next Week to Block EPA Cement Regulations
 

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday, Oct. 5 on H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, which would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite three new proposed regulations for the cement industry. 

Since 2010, EPA has issued three new rules targeting cement makers that impose stringent emission requirements and modify regulation of solid waste.  Together, these three rules could result in the loss of 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in the cement industry.

The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule alone would impose $3.4 billion in new costs on the U.S. cement industry, which is already suffering from record low domestic demand due to economic conditions.  According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), the final rule could jeopardize the viability of 18 of the approximately 100 U.S. cement plants, and place at risk 1,800 jobs in the cement industry and another 9,000 jobs in construction and related industries, and could increase material costs for cement products in housing and infrastructure by as much as 15 percent.  EPA’s Commercial/Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators (CISWI) standard could impose an additional $2 billion in compliance costs on cement makers.  The cement industry’s annual sales were only $6.5 billion in 2009.

H.R. 2681 would provide additional time and guidance for EPA to issue achievable standards for cement manufacturing facilities and supports passage of this important legislation for the construction industry.  Click here to send a letter to your Representative in support of H.R. 2681. 

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

New Report Determines EPA Process in Endangerment Finding was Incomplete
 

Climate change once again moves to the forefront in public discourse after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General released a report criticizing the process EPA used in determining that greenhouse gases (GHG) endanger public health and welfare.  The report, requested by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in April 2010, determines EPA did not complete the necessary peer reviews for a “highly influential scientific assessment,” which was warranted in this case.  Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are calling for committee hearings and further review of the report findings—ensuring that GHGs will be part of the overall discussion on EPA regulations moving forward.

The Inspector General’s concerns expressed in the Sept. 26 report include the process and data quality procedures that EPA undertook in its endangerment finding.  The Office of the Inspector General did not evaluate the scientific data EPA used in support of its decision making.  

AGC has long spoken out against the 2009 endangerment finding, Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, because the finding opened the door for regulation of GHG emissions through various Clean Air Act programs—such as new standards for mobile sources and permitting programs for the new construction and operation of stationary sources (e.g., factories, power plants and other structures).  Indeed, EPA chose to “tailor” portions of the Act as they would relate to GHGs, because of the overwhelming administrative burdens that would have resulted.  These programs are expensive and time-consuming—resulting in even more construction delays and expenses and negatively impacting the construction industry while it struggles in its economic recovery. 

AGC submitted a comment letter to EPA on the proposed endangerment finding and a comment letter on the Tailoring Rule.

For more information, please contact Melinda Tomaino at (703) 837-5415 or tomaino@agc.org Return to Top

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
AGC Carries Water Infrastructure Message to White House
 

This week, AGC met with staff from the National Economic Council, which is primarily responsible for taking ideas and initiatives and translating them into policy for the administration. The primary focus of the meeting was the proposedNational Clean Water Trust Fund (CWTF) and the potential role it could play in the administration’s upcoming policy for the Join Select Deficit Reduction Committee’s work to reduce the deficit. By creating a long-term budget-neutral mechanism to fund water infrastructure, the CWTF acts as a deficit reduction measure. Other potential future roles for the Trust Fund to play in administration policy include the president’s annual budget, which sets the marker for funding the EPA’s State Revolving Loan Funds. AGC will continue to champion the Trust Fund both in Congress and to the administration to ensure the best chance for its creation.

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

HEALTHCARE
Health Care Reform Law Likely Heading to U.S. Supreme Court
 

The Obama administration appealed a 2-1 ruling against the health care law by the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, likely setting the stage for a Supreme Court showdown. The 11th Circuit held that the individual mandate to carry health insurance is unconstitutional. Conversely, the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, held that the mandate is constitutional. Earlier this month, the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., dismissed a challenge to the law on procedural grounds—finding that states and individuals did not have the right to sue over the law until the individual mandate takes effect in 2014.

Circuit splits, such as this one, generally end with the Supreme Court considering the differences between the conflicting decisions.. Assuming the Supreme Court hears the case, a decision sometime next year—prior to the election—is probable.

For more information, contact Jimmy Christianson at 202-547-5013 or christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

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