Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org April 26, 2012
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On the Inside
LABOR
Senate Fails to Pass Legislation Blocking “Quickie Election” Rule
TRANSPORTATION
Highway Bill Heads to Conference
TAX
House Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on Tax Extenders
APPROPRIATIONS
Congressional Appropriations Bills Increase Corps Budget Over President’s Request
Policy Rider to Halt EPA Guidance Attached to House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
AGC EVENTS
TAX Meeting to Discuss Expiring/Expired Tax Provisions, the Latest From FASB
FEDCON Attendees Storm Capitol Hill
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LABOR
Senate Fails to Pass Legislation Blocking “Quickie Election” Rule
 

Earlier this week, the Senate failed to pass a resolution of disapproval of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule on representation-case procedures. The vote failed 45-54, mostly along party lines with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) was the only Republican who voted no. The NLRB rule, known as the “quickie election” or “ambush election” rule, would expedite the union representation election cycle to as little as 14 days. It is bad for both employers and employees.

The effective date of the rule remains April 30, 2012.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, both of which AGC is a member, have jointly filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enjoin enforcement of the rule and seeking a declaratory judgment that the rule violates the National Labor Relations Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and the U.S. Constitution. A ruling is expected prior to April 30, 2012.

AGC will continue to monitor and report on developments.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
Highway Bill Heads to Conference
 

Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to meet with the Senate to negotiate a bill funding federal highway and transit programs. House Members approved a motion to go to conference with the Senate (who moved to go to Conference on Tuesday) on the transportation reauthorization bill by unanimous consent, setting up what could be several weeks of discussions with the Senate. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner named 33 conferees to negotiate the House surface transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 4348 which passed last week while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named 14 conferees to negotiate the Senate reauthorization bill, S. 1813.  Conferees will officially commence the conference on Tuesday, May 8.   While the make-up of the Senate and House Democrat conferees is comprised of the senior members of committees with jurisdiction over various parts of the bill, freshman Republican members of the House outnumber their veteran colleagues on the conference committee.  This fact can be seen as an acknowledgement by Speaker Boehner that in order to move a bill out of conference and through the House floor there will need to be buy-in from the influential Republican freshman class.

In conference, the Senate would appear to have the upper hand on most transportation policy issues as  House could not pass most of the policy initiatives in the original Mica bill (H.R. 7).  The House might have some leverage, though, since it could refuse to accept the Senate policy changes and insist on current law. It must be noted that the Keystone approval provision, because of its controversial nature and its political prominence, could deadlock the conference for a considerable period of time.  The environmental streamlining provisions could also be quite controversial.

AGC will work closely with the House and Senate conferees and encourage a quick resolution while urging them to agree on a final product that maintains current funding levels and incorporates many of the reforms proposed by the House and Senate.

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

TAX
House Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on Tax Extenders
 

Both the Committee and the Witnesses stated the obvious point that tax reform is important and probably critical with 100 expired or expiring tax provisions on the to-do list. The hearing witnesses were limited to members of the House who had introduced or cosponsored tax legislation that included “tax extender” items this Congress.  The member witnesses made it clear how difficult comprehensive tax reform will be; each had tax breaks that they wanted to protect and/or promote.

This hearing did not focus on the extension of the "Bush Tax Cuts" which reduced rates on income, it did not focus on the Alternative Minimum Tax and it did not focus on the payroll tax cut.  The hearing did focus on a variety of previously extended temporary tax provisions, commonly referred to as "tax extenders" which affect individuals, businesses, charitable giving, energy, community development and disaster relief.  These provisions have been extended in omnibus "tax extender" bills in the past; however, Congress did not extend the package at the end of 2011.  The Joint Committee on Taxations says that the cost of a one-year extension of these 80 or so "tax extender" provisions is about $43 billion (although the estimate goes up significantly [to more than $80 billion annually] if they are extended for a 10 year period).

Some of the provisions discussed that impact construction included accelerated depreciation of improvements to restaurants, increased expensing for capital investments and tax breaks designed to incentivize investments to reduce energy consumption or produce renewable energy. 

At the end of this year, Congress will need to decide what to do with this list of expiring provisions.  There is a lot of concern that all of the usual "tax extenders" will have to be reduced significantly in both number and cost in a tax reform package. Members of the House used this hearing as an opportunity to push their favored tax breaks in light of the difficult decisions that will have to be made during tax reform.

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

APPROPRIATIONS
Congressional Appropriations Bills Increase Corps Budget Over President’s Request
 

Appropriations panels in the House and Senate this week passed legislation that would increase funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) FY 2013 budget over President Obama’s initial request.

The House Appropriations Committee approved FY 2013 Energy and Water appropriations bill sets the Corps budget at $4.8 billion, an $83.1 billion increase over the president’s budget request but a $187 million decrease from FY 2012 levels. Additionally, the House bill included an amendment offered by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) that would prohibit funding for the Corps to develop or implement new guidance to expand the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee passed the Energy and Water Development bill that includes nearly $5 billion for the Corps.  The bill provides $1.7 billion for construction costs and $2.4 billion for daily operations.  The overall Corps budget is $276 million above the president’s budget request and $5 million above FY 2012.

The House and Senate bills can now move to their respective floors for final chamber consideration. AGC continues to strongly advocate for increased investment in our nation’s civil infrastructure, waterways and flood control projects.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at (703) 837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

Policy Rider to Halt EPA Guidance Attached to House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
 

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $32.1 billion energy and water FY 2013 spending bill Wednesday after adding a policy rider that would bar the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing their guidance that clarifies which U.S. waters fall under federal protection via the Clean Water Act. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) and passed by a vote of 29-20. It prohibits using funds to “develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce” guidance that purports to clarify which waters of the United States fall under federal protection. The guidance, which was proposed in May 2011, and sent to OMB for interagency review and finalization in February 2012, clarified which waters are subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction in response to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

This amendment parallels AGC’s legislative strategy on this issue with legislation introduced in the Senate (with a House companion to follow soon) to stop EPA and USACE from implementing the guidance.

For more info, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.orgor Leah Pilconis at (703) 837-5332 or pilconisl@agc.org.
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AGC EVENTS
TAX Meeting to Discuss Expiring/Expired Tax Provisions, the Latest From FASB
 

In a two day session June 14 and 15 the AGC Tax and Fiscal Affairs Committee (which is transitioning to the Financial Issues Forum)  will be meeting in Washington, DC to discuss the legislative outlook for tax and financial policies, the latest activities at the Federal Accounting Standards Board and the latest actions on construction risk management. 

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

FEDCON Attendees Storm Capitol Hill
 

AGC Federal & Heavy Construction Division members launched an all out offensive on the legislative front during last week’s Federal Contractors Conference in Washington, DC. As part of a series of organized Capitol Hill visits, AGC members provided their federal elected officials information on a range of issues, including small business contracting reform, the prevention of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements, a civilian BRAC for federal office buildings, legislation supporting the dedicated use of harbor maintenance tax revenues for harbor maintenance, legislation to stop the NLRB’s attempt at backdoor card check and passage of a transportation reauthorization bill, among others. There was immediate success from the visits.  During the day of hill visits the House passed a provision that will increase water infrastructure spending coming from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

In total, AGC coordinated more than 80 meetings with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle to discuss these important issues. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, in-person constituent meetings with elected officials are considered the most persuasive tactic of communicating with Congress. AGC will continue to facilitate these essential meetings for its members to further the construction industry’s federal legislative agenda.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at (703) 837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

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