Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org November 17, 2011
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On the Inside
TAX
U.S. House Passes 3 Percent Withholding Repeal; President to Sign
BUDGET/ENVIRONMENT
Transportation Appropriations and Continuing Resolution Being Considered; Second "Minibus" Stalls in the Senate
Senate Delays Consideration of Energy and Water Appropriations Legislation
Senators Introduce Amendment to Block Federal Land and Water Grab
Super Committee Nearing Deadline
LABOR/HEALTH
AGC Continues Successful Effort to Deter Federal Agencies from Requiring Project Labor Agreements
Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Health Care Law
ETHICS
AGC Pushes Back Against Administration Effort to Block Senior Officials from Interacting with Employer Groups
TRANSPORTATION
Speaker Boehner, Chairman Mica Announce Plans for Five Year Transportation/Energy Proposal
AGC PAC
Special Deliveries from Carolinas AGC, AGC of East Tennessee and Master Builders of Iowa
TAX
U.S. House Passes 3 Percent Withholding Repeal; President to Sign
 

On Nov. 16, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 674, the 3 Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act.  This week’s legislative victory was the culmination of over five years work by AGC, AGC Chapters, AGC members, and coalition partners to repeal the 3 percent withholding requirement.

The bill passed by a vote of 422 to 0, and follows a 95 to 0 vote in the U.S. Senate last week to repeal the 3 percent income tax withholding requirement permanently.  President Obama has already stated his support for repeal and is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

During the repeal campaign, AGC Chapters and thousands of AGC members heeded the call and sent letters, made phone calls, and met with their representatives and senators in their Capitol Hill offices and at home to educate Congress on why this law needed to be repealed. 

Click here for an overview of what AGC has been doing recently on repeal.

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

BUDGET/ENVIRONMENT
Transportation Appropriations and Continuing Resolution Being Considered; Second "Minibus" Stalls in the Senate
 

This afternoon, the House of Representatives started debate on H.R. 2112, a so-called “minibus” bill that provides federal funding for the Departments of Transportation; Housing & Urban Development, Agriculture; and Commerce/Justice/Science).  Once the "minibus" passes the House, it will be considered by the Senate where it is also likely to pass.   The funding level in the "minibus" represents a $7 billion decrease from last year.  Among the items getting “zeroed-out” for no funding are high speed rail and a national infrastructure bank.

The House also passed a measure known as a continuing resolution to keep the rest of the government funded through Dec. 16, by a vote of 298 to 121.  That short term measure will be considered by the Senate this evening.  AGC played a critical role in ensuring that funding for transportation infrastructure programs remained at near current levels in the House’s short term measure.

The minibus is an improvement over an earlier House appropriations transportation bill that would have cut federal highway funding by $14 billion.  The Senate version of that same bill would have maintained current funding levels.  AGC communicated with members negotiating the final minibus bill, urging them to accept the Senate funding levels.  AGC succeeded in getting the final funding level for the highway program at $39.883 billion (including $1.662 billion in emergency relief) which is nearly identical to the prior years’ funding level.  Below is a list of other programs and their fiscal year 2012 funding levels as provided in the "minibus.”

FY 2011(enacted)

FY 2012 (conference)

Federal-aid Highways (obligation limit)

$41.107 billion

$39.144 billion

Federal-aid Highways (obligation limit)

$41.107 billion

$39.144 billion

Federal-aid Highways (Emergency Relief)

$1.663 billion

FTA Formula/Bus Grants (Obligation Limit)

$8.343 billion

$8.361 billion

FTA Capital Investment Grants

$1.597 billion

$1.955 billion

TIGER Discretionary Grants

$527 million

$500 million

Amtrak

$1.503 billion

$1.439 billion

FAA Airport Grants (Obligation Limit)

$3.515 billion

$ 3.350 billion


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

Senate Delays Consideration of Energy and Water Appropriations Legislation
 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last night delayed consideration of the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill until after Thanksgiving.  This legislation included $31.6 billion for energy and water programs, including funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with funding for financial services and the Department of State and foreign operations.  Earlier in the week, Sen. Reid had hoped to move forward with legislation; but when that effort failed after numerous senators objected, Reid attempted to move the energy and water legislation as a stand-alone bill.  That effort, however, was delayed when senators attempted to add numerous amendments, slowing debate.  

While Reid intends to resume consideration of energy and water after the Thanksgiving break, action – or inaction – by the super committee before the Nov. 23 deadline will likely impact further progress on the funding bills for water, energy and other crucial government programs.   AGC will continue to track this important debate and provide updates as they become available.

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

Senators Introduce Amendment to Block Federal Land and Water Grab
 

Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) filed an amendment last week to the Energy and Water Appropriations “Minibus” that would stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing a complex rulemaking that would greatly expand the federal government’s permitting authority over state and private land and water resources.  AGC has fought several legislative and regulatory attempts in recent years to expand the reach of federal Clean Water Act “wetlands” permit coverage.

The Barrasso/Heller amendment will block EPA’s efforts to fast-track its proposed guidance document with minimal public involvement and without congressional oversight.  The guidance would make a complex process more complex and it will drastically expand the number of permits that will be required. It would expand the definition of “waters of the U.S.” to include ditches and other locations where water flows only during, and for a short duration after, rain and snow falls.  Never before in the history of the Clean Water Act has federal regulation defined these places as “waters of the U.S.” 

The implications for construction are significant, particularly given the four million miles of roads – and their ditches – in the U.S.  Under the draft guidance, presumably any and all construction work on these roads would require costly and time consuming permits by the federal government before work could begin. 

Moreover, expanding federal control over water would interfere with the ability of individual landowners to develop building or infrastructure projects, including housing, schools, hospitals, roads, highways, agriculture and energy facilities.

AGC urges members to contact their senators in support of the Barrasso/Heller amendment.  Please use the tools on AGC’s Legislative Action Center to write your senator now.  The Senate may vote on the amendment upon its return from Thanksgiving.

For more information on EPA and the Corp’s effort to circumvent Congress and fast-track regulation, click here.

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

Super Committee Nearing Deadline
 

As the Bipartisan Committee on Deficit Reduction (super committee) runs up against their deadline of Nov. 23 to produce a budget cutting package, AGC continues to advocate for continued investment in infrastructure and comprehensive tax and entitlement reform.

Washington waits as the members of the super committee enter the final stretch in their attempts to cut at least $1.2 to $1.5 trillion from the national debt over 10 years.  Republican demands for entitlement cuts and Democrat demands for increased revenue continue to complicate the committee’s deliberations.  There is, however, hope that a compromise can be reached in the next several days.

As the super committee’s plan becomes public, AGC will analyze and report on the impact the plan will have on the construction industry.  In particular, AGC will be looking for a revenue source for surface transportation and water infrastructure reauthorization, funding for federal construction programs and tax reform.

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


Return to Top
LABOR/HEALTH
AGC Continues Successful Effort to Deter Federal Agencies from Requiring Project Labor Agreements
 

AGC is again attacking agency efforts to impose Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects.  This week, AGC sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Navy Facilities Engineering Command expressing strong concerns against their decisions to impose a project labor agreement (PLA) on three separate projects.

Monday, AGC sent a letter to the Corps’ Fort Worth District questioning the potential use of a PLA for the Comstock Border Patrol Task Order.  AGC also sent a letter to Corps’ Omaha District addressing the potential use of PLAs on large-scale construction projects within the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area, which contains Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy.  AGC sent a third letter on Monday to naval officials regarding the potential use of PLAs for a large-scale construction project within the Joint Base Andres, Camp Springs, Maryland area, which includes the construction of an ambulatory care center.

While AGC neither supports nor opposes PLAs in general, AGC strongly opposes government mandates for PLAs on publically funded construction projects.  AGC is committed to free and open competition in all public construction markets and believes that publically-funded contracts should be awarded without regard to the lawful labor relations policies and practices of the government contractor.  To date, all 32 letters AGC has submitted to federal agencies in opposition to PLA mandates has resulted in withdrawal of their PLA requirement.  AGC will continue to submit letters encouraging free and open competition on all federal contracts.

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

Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Health Care Law
 

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review cases challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The decision by the court was expected and the court will begin to hear arguments during the spring session with a possible decision this summer, only months before the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. AGC opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 because it would make employer-sponsored health care more expensive and more complex, making  it more difficult for small and large businesses to offer health care to their workers.

The court will decide whether the individual mandate is constitutional. The court will also determine if the plaintiff’s have standing prior to the imposition of the penalties. If the individual mandate is determined to be unconstitutional, it is unclear whether the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the bill. The court will also determine if the expansion of the Medicaid program is constitutional. The court is not specifically addressing the employer mandate.

AGC’s General Counsel, Mike Kennedy, was quoted in a recent ENR article on the court’s decision to hear the case. Kennedy says, “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding the law, which is a burden on the economy.” AGC will continue to monitor the case and its impact on the industry.

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

ETHICS
AGC Pushes Back Against Administration Effort to Block Senior Officials from Interacting with Employer Groups
 

On Nov. 14, 2011, AGC submitted comments to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on a proposed rule that would impose limits on a federal employee’s ability to attend meetings and events held by any organization that employs lobbyists, regardless of whether the meeting would hold educational value for the federal government.

AGC is greatly concerned that the administration views employer groups like AGC as adversaries working to exert undue influence over federal agencies and their employees. AGC respects the knowledge and expertise of the career procurement workforce and believes strongly that the government significantly benefits from an honest and thoughtful discussion about procurement from both sides of the table. AGC is concerned that the proposed changes will result in poor public policy decisions.  Creating public policy in an airtight vacuum by disallowing open communication between the federal agencies, and AGC and similar associations’ members will limit the agency’s ability to respond to industry trends and innovations.

AGC will continue to follow the proposed comments and urge OGE to withdraw the proposed rule as currently written.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Speaker Boehner, Chairman Mica Announce Plans for Five Year Transportation/Energy Proposal
 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), and other House Republican leaders announced at a press conference today their plans to soon introduce H.R. 7, the "American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act". The legislation will include a five-year reauthorization of the surface transportation programs and will allow for expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, oil shale production, and Arctic National Wildlife Reserve oil exploration. Speaker Boehner said the revenue made available from the increased domestic energy production would be linked to the Highway Trust Fund. Experts including Chairman Mica say the energy provisions will not fully fund the program. AGC is also urging the Super Committee to identify additional funding sources for the program during their deliberations. Boehner said the bill will be introduced in the coming weeks and moved through the House by the end of 2011.

The following summary of the bill’s provisions were provided:

Fund High-Priority Projects- The bill would remove federal requirements that currently force states to spend highway money on non-highway activities, helping to ensure that our nation’s highways and bridges are repaired and properly maintained and that federal dollars are spent on our most critical infrastructure needs.

Speed Up Bureaucratic Approvals- The bill would speed up bureaucratic approvals and streamline the project delivery process – the real hurdles delaying improvements to highways, bridges, and other projects – with reforms like concurrent review that will cut the project review and permitting process in half.

Eliminate Needless Programs- The bill would eliminate and consolidate nearly 70 surface transportation programs that are either duplicative or not in the federal interest.

Embrace More Private-Sector Involvement- The bill would reform financing programs to increase private sector involvement in infrastructure.

Enhance Safety Programs- The bill would strengthen safety programs and give states more flexibility to develop innovative safety initiatives that save lives.

Include No Earmarks- Like every bill passed through the House since the American people entrusted Republicans with a majority, this one will have no earmarks in it.

At a separate press conference T&I Committee and Subcommittee ranking Democrats Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Peter DeFazio (Or.) said that the Republican plan is short on details and that the energy provisions do not generate sufficient revenues to support long term surface transportation funding needs. 

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

AGC PAC
Special Deliveries from Carolinas AGC, AGC of East Tennessee and Master Builders of Iowa
 

AGC chapters continue to make their presence known to members of Congress through the AGC PAC. Recently, members of the Carolinas AGC, AGC of Tennessee, and Master Builders of Iowa delivered federal AGC PAC checks to Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), and Tom Latham (R-Iowa).

These lawmakers represent the construction-friendly federal candidates AGC PAC seeks to support. Each of these congressmen holds at least a 90 percent AGC voting record and voted to repeal the 3 percent tax withholding mandate. Understanding the importance of the construction industry in spurring an economic recovery, these lawmakers are receptive to hearing about the issues important to AGC contractors.

Pictured above, left to right, are Rep. Mick Mulvaney and AGC PAC South Carolina Chairman Scott Fant, Sloan Construction Company.


Pictured above, left to right, are Reece Thomas, Sequatchie Concrete; Rep. Scott DesJarlais; Jimmy Lail, Raines Brothers, Inc. and Executive Officer of AGC of East Tennessee; Bruce Case, Construction Consultants and past Chairman of AGC of East Tennessee; and Joe Hailey, Ross Glass and Board Member for AGC of East Tennessee.  


Pictured above, left to right, are Alan Koch, Vice Chairman on the Master Builders of Iowa Board of Directors; CEO of Henning Construction in Johnston, Iowa; and Rep. Latham.

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

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