Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org February 23, 2012
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
House GOP Leadership Discussing Revamping Reauthorization Proposal
Senate to Begin Consideration of Transportation Bill Next Week
ATA Challenges New Hours of Service Restrictions
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Steers EPA Clear of Environmental Extremes in New 2012 Stormwater Permit
Four States & Certain U.S. Territories Affected by New 2012 Stormwater Permit
Like EPA Mud Rules? Help AGC Tell EPA about Runoff Sampling Obstacles
INFRASTRUCTURE
FCC Rules to Prevent GPS Interference
HR/TAXES
IRS Issues Guidance for Employers on Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans
AGC Urges OFCCP to Exempt Construction Industry from Section 503 Disabilities Regulations
Legislation to Challenge NLRB Rules Introduced in Congress
AGC PAC
AGC PAC Wants You to Win a FREE iPAD 2
Presidential Race Tightens in Michigan as the Debate Shifts
Advertisement

TRANSPORTATION
House GOP Leadership Discussing Revamping Reauthorization Proposal
 

Rumors are circulating on Capitol Hill today that the Republican leadership is considering redrafting the five year surface transportation reauthorization bill and replacing it with a bill of eighteen month duration. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) acknowledged that a “revamped approach” is being considered. The spokesman also said that Speaker Boehner still intends to link the transportation bill with expanded opportunities for domestic energy production. Concern about some provisions in the bill currently being considered, including the change in the revenue source for the transit program, is weakening overall support. Details about the proposal are still under consideration and will not be finalized until next week at the earliest when the House returns from its Presidents week recess. 

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

Senate to Begin Consideration of Transportation Bill Next Week
 

The Senate will vote to begin debate on a bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill next week.    It is anticipated that Republicans and Democrats will come to an agreement on what amendments will be voted on when the Senate resumes consideration of the transportation bill, hopefully clearing the path to final passage. 

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

ATA Challenges New Hours of Service Restrictions
 

On Feb. 14, American Trucking Associations (ATA) filed a petition with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the court to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) final hours-of-service rule. ATA pointed out in its lawsuit that the rules that have been in place since 2004 have contributed to unprecedented improvement in highway safety. The lawsuit challenges the steps FMCSA took in changing the rules that do not meet the required legal standards.

FMCSA released its latest revision to the truck driver hours-of-service regulations in December 2011. The rules are effective on July 1, 2013, except for the change to the definition of on-duty time which becomes effective Feb. 21, 2012. For more information on the rule, please click here.

AGC commented twice on the proposed rule change recommending that FMCSA: maintain the construction exemption but increase the distance coverage to a 100-air-mile radius; continue to allow 11 hours of driving time in each driving window; continue to allow the existing 14 hours maximum on-duty time within driving window; and “on duty” time for construction drivers should not include waiting time to deliver product. AGC was successful in having the construction exemption included in statute in 1993.

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

ENVIRONMENT
AGC Steers EPA Clear of Environmental Extremes in New 2012 Stormwater Permit
 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized its 2012 construction general permit (CGP). The CGP applies to and authorizes stormwater discharges from construction projects that disturb one or more acres of land in the areas where EPA is the permitting authority.

While far more burdensome than the agency’s old permit, the new permit is a far cry from the one that EPA proposed in April 2011. Specifically, AGC persuaded EPA to make all of the following changes that AGC’s Environmental Forum considered most important:

  • Omitting numeric turbidity limits or monitoring requirements;
  • Eliminating “benchmark” limits or monitoring requirements for discharges to impaired waters;
  • Including flexibility for contractors to meet permit requirements; and
  • Excluding electronic or online reporting of stormwater data

Notwithstanding AGC’s successes, compliance with the 2012 CGP will require substantially greater cost and effort. Most of the new or expanded requirements are deemed by the agency to be necessary to implement the non-numeric provisions in its 2009 “Effluent Limitations Guidelines” for the “Construction & Development Industry” (C&D ELG rule) – which the agency has not suspended, and are still in effect. 

Read all the details concerning this important development and about AGC’s efforts by clicking HERE.

For more information contact Leah Pilconis at Pilconis@agc.org or Jimmy Christianson at christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

Four States & Certain U.S. Territories Affected by New 2012 Stormwater Permit
 

Effective Feb. 16, EPA’s 2012 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) CGP applies in four states—(1) Idaho; (2) Massachusetts; (3) New Hampshire; and (4)  New Mexico—the District of Columbia; Puerto Rico; all other U.S. territories, with the exception of the U.S. Virgin Islands; federal facilities in four states—(1) Colorado; (2) Delaware; (3) Vermont; and (4) Washington—and most Indian lands and for a few other specifically designated activities in specific states.   

If you are planning a new project located in an area where EPA is the permitting authority, or if you will continue to work on a project that is currently covered by the 2003 or 2008 CGP, you are required to obtain coverage under the new 2012 CGP by the deadlines specified in the permit.

Read all the details concerning this important development and about AGC’s efforts by clicking HERE.

For more information contact Leah Pilconis at Pilconis@agc.org or Jimmy Christianson at christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

Like EPA Mud Rules? Help AGC Tell EPA about Runoff Sampling Obstacles
 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remains committed to developing a first-time, nationwide requirement dictating how much dirt in stormwater can run across active construction sites, and making construction site “operators” potentially liable for penalties under the Clean Water Act (up to $37,500 per day per violation) if the water leaving their sites is too “muddy.” Known as a numeric  turbidity limit,  the EPA is asking for public comments on issues concerning this lurking—but not finalized—mud rule by March 5.

Specifically, EPA is soliciting feedback on issues relating to collecting stormwater samples in the field and analyzing monitoring data. EPA is also looking for more information on the performance of stormwater treatment technologies in general. For a list of specific questions on which AGC needs contractor-members’ input, click HERE.

You can help ensure that AGC has a well-informed and comprehensive response to EPA by clicking HERE.

For more information contact Leah Pilconis at Pilconis@agc.org or Jimmy Christianson at christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

INFRASTRUCTURE
FCC Rules to Prevent GPS Interference
 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected LightSquared’s plans for a 4G broadband network. The decision was largely influenced by final recommendation from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is a joint panel consisting of nine federal agencies. The NTIA sent a letter to the FCC saying the group “cannot support” further deployment of LightSquared’s technology since there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference of the company’s transmissions with GPS signals at this time. AGC was part of a coalition effort to block Lightsquared’s initiative because of its potential impact on the use of GPS in construction.  LightSquared is considering its next step, possibly legal action against the FCC and/or GPS industry. Thanks to all AGC members who shared their concerns with elected officials on this potential interference.

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

HR/TAXES
IRS Issues Guidance for Employers on Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans
 

On Feb. 9, 2012, the IRS released guidance and forms that employers may use to claim the newly-expanded tax credit for hiring veterans as outlined in the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.   

Enacted Nov. 21, 2011, the VOW Act provides an expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit to businesses that hire eligible unemployed veterans, and for the first time, also makes the credit available to certain tax-exempt organizations.  While the VOW Act offers many direct benefits to personally assist the nation’s veterans, such as education and training programs, for employers, the law provides tax incentives when qualifying, unemployed veterans are hired and begin work between Nov. 22, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2012. 

Up to $2,400 in tax credits are available for employers who hire veterans who have been unemployed at least four weeks; up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been unemployed longer than six months; and up to $9,600 for employers that hire veterans who have service-connected disabilities and have been unemployed longer than six months. 

For additional information on the VOW Act, click here.  For details on claiming the credit, click here.

For more information, please contact Tamika Carter at (703) 837-5382 or cartert@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC Urges OFCCP to Exempt Construction Industry from Section 503 Disabilities Regulations
 

On Feb. 21, 2012, AGC submitted comments on the Dec. 9, 2011, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (OFCCP) notice of proposed rulemaking, which would implement significant revisions of the regulations governing affirmative action requirements for direct federal contractors and their subcontractors with respect to individuals with disabilities as required by Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.  AGC fully supports OFCCP’s stated overall goal of increasing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. However, AGC believes the requirements of complying with this rule, if implemented, would be extremely burdensome on construction contractors due to the unique nature of the construction industry.  As a result, AGC’s comments ask OFCCP to exempt the construction industry from the requirements of the proposed rule, with 125 AGC member-companies requesting the same via comments submitted through AGC’s online Action Center.  

If implemented, the proposed rule would impact all stages of direct federal contracting and subcontracting for employers.  Specifically, the proposed rule would require covered employers to:

  • Meet a national utilization goal of 7 percent per job category of individuals with disabilities and a sub-goal of 2 percent for individuals with severe disabilities;
  • extend an offer to self-identify as an individual with a disability pre-hire, post-hire and annually;
  • track and maintain several new data points on disabled referrals, applicants, and hires, and maintain the data for five years;
  • sign written linkage agreements with a minimum of three employment sources for individuals with disabilities, per establishment and perform a self-critical analysis of the effectives of each;
  • create a file for every known disabled applicant and employee, to include every opportunity for which he or she was considered (vacancy, training and promotion), and a statement outlining the reason for rejection if not selected;
  • conduct annual meeting and training programs for all employees and management;
  • perform and document annual reviews of job descriptions listing the physical and mental job qualifications for all job openings and provide an explanation regarding why each requirement is related to the job;
  • develop internal procedures to further inform employees about the affirmative action plan; and
  • develop extensive specified written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodation.

To read more about the proposed rule, click here.

Originally, OFCCP issued a comment deadline of Feb. 7.  Given the importance of the proposal and feedback received from an AGC-hosted a conference call with its HR Forum Federal Subforum to discuss the implications of the proposed rule, AGC submitted a letter to OFCCP requesting an additional 60 days to more thoroughly review and comment on the newly proposed requirements.  The request was denied.  In a second attempt, AGC submitted a follow-up letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis regarding AGC’s disappointment with the denial of the original request, asking again for a 60-day extension of the comment period.  While a 60-day extension was not approved, OFCCP extended the comment deadline by 14 days. 

For additional information, contact Tamika C. Carter, PHR at cartert@agc.org or 703-837-5382. Return to Top

Legislation to Challenge NLRB Rules Introduced in Congress
 

Last week, a resolution was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would block the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) “ambush” election rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The highly controversial final NLRB rule revises procedures in cases where a union files a petition for an election to determine whether it will become the exclusive collective bargaining representative of a unit of workers. The effective date of the rule is April 30, 2012.

The CRA establishes a special legislative process for disapproving regulations issued by federal agencies by passing a joint resolution and presidential approval. If passed and approved by the president within the next 60 days, the ambush election rule would be blocked and future efforts to reissue the rule would also be blocked. The legislative process for the CRA only requires a simple majority in the Senate, 51 votes opposed to the 60 votes that typical legislation must clear to overcome a filibuster. The resolution is likely to pass the House and because of the simple majority requirement in the Senate it is possible it could pass the Senate however presidential approval of the resolution remains unlikely.

A lawsuit challenging the rule was filed by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, of which AGC is a member, to block the rule.  AGC will continue to monitor and report on developments.

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

AGC PAC
AGC PAC Wants You to Win a FREE iPAD 2
 

Want to be entered to win a free iPAD2? You can by simply completing AGC PAC’s prior approval form at www.agc.org/pac.

Before AGC PAC can ask you to support its cause, it must have prior approval to do so. Completing the form does not obligate you to support the PAC. Rather, it merely allows AGC PAC to fully communicate with you.

For each year you grant the PAC prior approval, you will have a chance to win an iPAD 2 during the PAC Raffle held Thursday, March 15 during the AGC Legislative Luncheon at the AGC Annual Convention in Hawaii. You don’t need to be present to win!

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

Presidential Race Tightens in Michigan as the Debate Shifts
 

As reported last week, don’t count Gov. Mitt Romney out in Michigan based on weeks-old polls. Down by more than 10 points there last week, Romney is now in a statistical dead heat with Sen. Rick Santorum according to the latest polls. A Romney loss in Michigan, his childhood home, would be a devastating blow to his campaign. Both Michigan and Arizona hold their primaries on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Though there has been a shift towards social issues during the debates, AGC PAC hopes that candidates will remember that the nation, and especially the construction industry, still suffer from the worst recession in decades. The construction industry's unemployment rate in January was 17.7 percent, not seasonally adjusted. That’s double the all-industry rate of 8.8 percent.

Construction spending for 2011 as a whole dropped for the fifth straight year, down 2 percent from 2010 and 34 percent from the record set in 2006. Translated into hard dollars, the industry is down revenues of approximately $400 billion annually since its reaching its peak in 2006.

Whether you see presidential or congressional candidates this election year, AGC PAC asks that you please remind them about what matters to your construction business.  Meanwhile, AGC PAC will continue to monitor the field for construction-friendly candidates worthy of AGC members’ support.

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

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