Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 8, 2011
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On the Inside
BUDGET
House-Senate Conference on the Remaining FY 2012 Appropriations Bills Announced
TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Reauthorization Update
BUY AMERICAN
House Democrats Propose New “Buy American” Requirements as Jobs Package
LABOR
U.S. House Passes Legislation Targeting Regulatory Burdens
SAFETY
Pipeline Safety Legislation Moves Through House
BUDGET
House-Senate Conference on the Remaining FY 2012 Appropriations Bills Announced
 

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) announced that the House and Senate will hold a joint Conference Committee meeting on the remaining fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills beginning Dec. 8. AGC has advocated for this measure to come together to ensure the vast majority of the federal construction programs are well funded for the next fiscal year, as this legislation will  include the remaining nine appropriations for fiscal 2012.

The bill, which may be finalized as early as tomorrow, must be filed in the House by Dec. 12 in order to meet the Dec. 16 deadline for when the current continuing resolution expires. If there is a chance that the negotiations are taking too long, it has been speculated that there might be a push for a short, one-week extension to fund the government through Dec. 23, giving negotiators time to hammer a final agreement.

Congress previously approved the Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bills – also known as the “Mini-bus” – in November before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

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

TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Reauthorization Update
 

Senate

As the Senate Banking and Science, Commerce and Transportation Committees aim to markup their respective provisions of the surface transportation reauthorization bill next week, the Senate Finance Committee is not moving any closer to marking up their revenue provisions of the bill.  However, Republican members of the Finance Committee shared their proposed options for funding the legislation – also known as MAP-21 – in a letter sent to Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The letter, which was signed by seven of the 12 Republican members of the Finance Committee proposes the following options to achieve the $12 billion necessary to finance the two-year reauthorization:  $3.5 billion by rescinding funds for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing Loan Program, a $3 billion transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, reclaiming transfers from the Highway Trust Fund to the Land and Water Conservation Fund ($2.5 billion over 10 years), expanded oil and gas production in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf ($5.2 billion over 10 years) and rescinding unspent federal funds (a $30 billion rescission would be required to net the needed $12 billion).

Although many of the suggested options are non-starters, the letter is seen as a positive development that Republicans on the committee are willing to work with Chairman Baucus in securing the money necessary to fund the Senate surface transportation reauthorization bill.  AGC will continue to press all members of the Senate Finance Committee to take action on the revenue title of the bill and will monitor the actions of the Banking and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees.

House

On the heels of the disappointing news last week that the House will not move forward with a surface transportation reauthorization bill this year, a bipartisan group of House Members, led by Congressmen Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Pat Meehan (R-PA) ,  Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and John  Carney (D-Del.), sent a letter to President Obama expressing their support for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.  The AGC-supported letter, calls for a fully-funded bill “with investments above current levels” and was signed by over 111 members of Congress (62 Democrats and 49 Republicans).  This effort, along with the AGC-led letter from Republican House members to Republican Leadership, show a broad base of support for the House to take swift action on moving a transportation reauthorization bill when they return in January.

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

BUY AMERICAN
House Democrats Propose New “Buy American” Requirements as Jobs Package
 

The leading Democrats on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee proposed legislation instituting tough new ‘Buy American’ requirements for construction projects. The bill, “Invest in American Jobs Act of 2011” (H.R. 3533), will require all steel, iron and manufactured goods used in the covered construction categories to be produced in the U.S. Covered categories include federal-aid highway, rail, public transit, Amtrak, aviation, wastewater and FEMA mitigation projects. Many of these categories have pre-existing requirements that would be superseded by this bill’s more stringent requirements. Other programs have little experience with Buy American requirements outside of Recovery Act projects. 

The legislation preserves the traditional opportunities for waivers: where compliance is not in the public interest, where American goods are unavailable in sufficient quantity or of sufficient quality, or where use of American goods increases the total project cost by 25 percent or more. However, the legislation requires regulations to be developed that outline the situations where a public interest waiver would apply (previously it was left to the agencies to determine) and they also remove labor costs from the determination of total project costs. At this point it is also unclear how they will define what constitutes being “produced in the United States” as there are multiple definitions in existing law for different programs covered by this legislation.

While it is unlikely to move on its own, the question now is whether the bill will be inserted into the surface transportation reauthorization legislation that is working its way through Congress. Chairman Mica does not seem opposed to the idea and has been quoted in Politico as saying “I’m basically for it...in principal; I’m a Buy America kind of guy.” AGC will continue to oppose these artificial restrictions on the construction supply chain and educate lawmakers on their negative impacts on our industry.

For more information on Buy American, visit AGC’s Buy American information clearinghouse here.

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

LABOR
U.S. House Passes Legislation Targeting Regulatory Burdens
 

On Dec. 7, 2011, the U.S. House passed H.R. 10, the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act”, by a margin of 241 to 184.  The AGC-supported bill would require Congress to scrutinize major rules and affirmatively approve any new major rule before it could be imposed on employers. The REINS Act is limited to new “major rules” (i.e., rules having an impact on the economy of $100 million or more), therefore impacting only a small fraction of all rules promulgated each year (about 26 rules in the pipeline meet that threshold. They include new regulations on Crystalline Silica, Hours of Service and Hazardous Communications), while covering those with the most significant impact on the economy.

Contractors and project owners must already comply with a myriad of complex federal, state and local legal and regulatory requirements throughout the construction process including, but not limited to, zoning, procurement, environmental, labor, and health and safety. Meeting these requirements has become an increasingly burdensome responsibility for contractors and, in some cases, delaying, if not threatening construction projects and increasing the cost of doing business. Recent studies have put the current regulatory compliance price tag on American businesses and individuals at more than $1 trillion annually.

AGC supported the REINS Act and sent Congress a letter of support. AGC also provided Congressional leaders information earlier this year on specific regulations impacting the construction industry at a hearing on regulatory roadblocks.

In addition to the REINS Act, the House passed two bipartisan bills last week that would require federal agencies to take additional steps to ensure their regulations are not unduly burdensome on businesses. The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act passed 263-159 and the Regulatory Accountability Act passed 253-167. Together, these bills will limit the regulatory burdens placed on businesses and individuals.

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

SAFETY
Pipeline Safety Legislation Moves Through House
 

Legislation that that enhances pipeline safety and reliability in transporting our nation’s utility resources had previously passed two committees in the House. Now, newly agreed upon language to amend the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845), will reauthorize federal pipeline safety programs through fiscal year 2015. Pipeline safety and the prevention of underground facility damages has been a top priority for AGC and this legislation is a significant step forward in the process to provide greater regulatory certainty and predictability for construction contractors.

The bill does a few things of interest to excavators. First, for violations, it increases the penalty ceiling from $100K to $250K and removes the ability to pay from penalty considerations. Second, the bill creates new criteria that a one-call must meet to be eligible for federal grant money:

  • appropriate participation by all underground facility operators, including all government operators;
  • appropriate participation by all excavators, including all government and contract excavators;
  • flexible and effective enforcement under State law with respect to participation in, and use of, one-call notification systems.

Third, the bill also bans one-calls from exempting municipalities, State agencies, or their contractors from their one-call notification system requirements. These provisions would take effect 2 years after the bill becomes law.

Finally, the bill calls for a study on the impact of excavation damage on pipeline safety, focusing on the comparison of the frequency and severity of different types of excavation damage incidents with regards to the various exemptions to the one-call notification system requirements in each State. Previous version of this study focused exclusively on 3rd party excavation damage, but AGC called for the study to include all types of damages to be more comprehensive in nature.

The House may consider the legislation as early as next week, and with the Senate bill already passed through unanimous consent, this may be in time to send a bill to the President’s desk before the end of the year.

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

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