Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 14, 2012
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On the Inside
ENVIRONMENT
ACTION NEEDED: Tell Your Senators to Halt EPA Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Overreach
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
Senate Stalemate Delays Critical Flood Control Dam Funding
TRANSPORTATION
Conferees Continue Discussions Despite Public Discord
IMMIGRATION
Senate Committee Removes Immigration Provision that Singled out Construction Industry for New Immigration Restrictions
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ENVIRONMENT
ACTION NEEDED: Tell Your Senators to Halt EPA Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Overreach
 

The Senate began consideration of the Farm Bill and its amendments this week. Among those offered, Senator Barrasso (R-Wyo.) presented his AGC-backed legislation that halts forthcoming final guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) describing their new jurisdictional determinations. The final guidance document – which describes EPA and the Corps’ view of their authority to regulate all waters and wetlands — significantly changes and expands which water features are subject to federal jurisdiction and permit requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA). AGC is urging its members to contact their Senators and ask for their support for the Barrasso Amendment.

EPA and the Corps issued draft guidance  in May 2011 on “Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.” As this guidance document moved from proposal to final form, concerns, including those raised in AGC’s comments, were not addressed. The guidance document  was sent in final form to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Feb. 21, 2012. This increase in jurisdiction could increase construction costs and project delays with expensive permits that take years to obtain. There is already an extensive backlog of these Section 404 permits, and this will likely add to it.

Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-Fla.) and Ranking Democrat Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), along with Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). The strong bipartisan showing from these committees shows the concern both parties have about the far-reaching and catastrophic impact this guidance would have on some of the economy’s largest sectors. This bipartisan support lead to this legislation bypassing markup in subcommittee – it was  marked up in the full committee late last week. There the legislation garnered bipartisan support, winning approval 33-19.

Visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center to tell your Members of Congress that EPA has gone too far.

For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org or Leah Pilconis at (703) 837-5332 or pilconisl@agc.org. Return to Top

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WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
Senate Stalemate Delays Critical Flood Control Dam Funding
 

Today, the U.S. Senate delayed consideration of a farm bill that would authorize $150 million for the nation’s only dam rehabilitation program. The stalemate came as a result of lawmakers’ inability to reach agreement on the number of amendments to be offered on the legislation.

The Small Watershed Rehabilitation program assists local communities with improving aging flood control dams, thereby helping to address public health and safety needs before a tragic dam failure occurs. The current $15 billion infrastructure of 11,000 flood control dams and conservation practices in 2,000 watersheds provides $2 billion in annual benefits to over 47 million citizens. As it stands, nearly one-fifth of those 11,000 dams have reached the end of their 50-year planned service life. By 2016, almost two-thirds of the watershed dams will have reached this milestone.

AGC continues to strongly advocate for sorely needed investment in our nation’s aging infrastructure, including its dams.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5310 or christiansonj@agc.org.   Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
Conferees Continue Discussions Despite Public Discord
 

House and Senate Committee staffs continue to discuss proposals and exchange language on a variety of issues as part of the conference committee negotiations to develop a compromise transportation reauthorization bill with the hope of getting a bill completed by the June 30 deadline. The majority of discussions have focused on project delivery and environmental streamlining reforms.

However, despite the progress in the discussions, the key principals on both sides of the Hill yesterday publicly called on the other side to compromise. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.),  joined by seven other Democratic senators, held a rally in front of the Capitol building, complete with a backdrop of ready-mix trucks and other pieces of construction equipment. The group of Senators urged House Republicans to get behind passage of a bill before the deadline. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) responded with a statement saying he's "disappointed in the fact that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals." Neither side seems willing to cut deals that will put reforms in place for the next 15 months.

AGC joined 16 others groups in a joint letter to the 47 conference committee members calling on Congress to pass an adequately funded transportation bill by the end of the month. The letter pointed out that, "It is critical that this legislation be enacted by June 30, the date on which the programs will expire without further Congressional action. A six-month extension is not the way to go. This approach could further exacerbate the Highway Trust Fund's financial crisis and cause states to cut back on transportation investments during what should be the peak construction season."

In addition, the Transportation Construction Coalition, co-chaired by AGC, launched a radio ad campaign targeting the districts of four GOP congressmen on the conference committee. "With billions of dollars at stake, and thousands of good-paying jobs, it is time for Congress to take action," the ad says. “Will your congressman be part of the problem, or part of the transportation solution?" The ad urges constituents to contact their representatives immediately. Those targeted were Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio).

We are now at a critical time in the negotiations. If you have not contacted your senators and representatives in the past two weeks about the need to pass this bill now, please take the time to  do so by going to AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

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

IMMIGRATION
Senate Committee Removes Immigration Provision that Singled out Construction Industry for New Immigration Restrictions
 

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would block two U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules on temporary foreign workers. The H-2B visa program permits employers to hire low-skilled foreign workers to come temporarily to the U.S. and fill temporary or seasonal labor for industries that include construction. The DOL rules would have imposed new restrictions on all industries.  The provision struck from the Senate Bill would have delayed the implementation on all industries except construction. The Amendment passed 19-11 with four Democrats joining all Republicans on the committee in support.  

Passage of the amendment was significant because without it, the bill would have created a precedent where immigration law was developed to the detriment of a single industry.  AGC was concerned that separating the construction industry from the rest of the business community could complicate the industry’s chances of being included in future comprehensive immigration proposals. AGC supported the Amendment.

Additional immigration reform legislation is not expected to pass this Congress. AGC will continue to work with congress and stop them from creating dangerous precedents for future immigration debates.  

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

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