Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org September 6, 2012
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On the Inside
2012 ELECTIONS
Democratic Platform Offers Mixed Messages on AGC Priorities
LABOR
Administration Releases Important Health Care Law Guidance
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Comments on EPA's Proposal to Tighten Fine Particulate Matter Standards
ADMINISTRATION
GSA Announces New Public Building Service Commissioner
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2012 ELECTIONS
Democratic Platform Offers Mixed Messages on AGC Priorities
 

The Democrat platform was adopted this week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.  Overall, the platform fails to outline specific Democratic plans or positions in what we consider to be key policy areas.  The platform does touch on several issues relevant to AGC priorities including, tax, infrastructure, immigration, labor and employment, regulations, and energy. 

Here is a summary of AGC priorities mentioned in the Democrat Platform.

Taxes:   No specifics except for tax-cuts for families who make less than $250,000 a year and closing loopholes and deductions for the largest corporations and highest-earning taxpayers.  There was no mention of estate tax, alternative minimum tax or any other taxes that expire at the end of 2012.  The platform does support unspecific tax cuts for small businesses that make new investments, hire workers or increase wages.

Infrastructure:  The platform calls for an "immediate investment” for highways, transit, rail and aviation. It also calls for the creation of a national infrastructure bank with part of the savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The platform wrongly gives sole credit to President Obama and Congressional Democrats for the two years of funding provided in MAP-21.  The platform is effusive about the reforms in the bill but it makes no mention of addressing our long-term transportation funding needs.  The platform also supports “sustainable development” (passenger rail, bike paths, pedestrian paths, etc.). It has been reported that the president or vice president will offer specific details on transportation in their speeches at the Democratic Convention tonight.

Labor and Employment:  The platform gives credit to the president for his appointments to the National Relations Board and the National Mediation Board.  The platform says that the administration will “continue its fight against the exploitive practice of employers fraudulently misclassifying workers as independent contractors” and oppose “Right to Work”, “paycheck protection”, and “Save our Secret Ballot” measures in Congress.

Immigration:  The platform reiterates the president’s position in support of comprehensive immigration reform that allows illegal immigrants to get on a path towards citizenship.

Regulations:  The platform rejects the argument that certain regulatory rules and protections need to be rolled back for the economy to grow but does acknowledge rules should be simpler and more flexible and regulations should be based on sound science.

Energy: The platform adopts an all-of-the above energy position with an emphasis on cutting “big oil” tax subsidies while expanding the clean energy sector.

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

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LABOR
Administration Releases Important Health Care Law Guidance
 

Late last week, the Obama Administration released two pieces of guidance that are important to employers. The Treasury Department released IRS Notice 2012-58, describing safe harbor methods that employers may use to determine which employees are treated as full-time employees for the purpose of the employer responsibility provisions, along with other issues. Another document released by the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services – CCIIO/Multi-Agency – is guidance to assist stakeholders with implementation of the 90-day waiting period limitation for health care benefits.

Both notices will be in the Internal Revenue Bulletin 2012-41, dated Oct. 9, 2012.  AGC is evaluating the documents and will provide comments detailing the unique nature of the construction industry and how these regulations may be applied to employers in the industry.  

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

ENVIRONMENT
AGC Comments on EPA's Proposal to Tighten Fine Particulate Matter Standards
Association Also Weighs in on the Treatment of Air Data Influenced by Exceptional Events
 

AGC recently submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on proposed revisions to its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).  AGC also commented on draft guidance to improve the Agency’s Exceptional Events Rule.  That rule allows EPA to exclude certain air-quality monitoring data when determining whether or not an area violates a NAAQS.

National Air Standards for Fine Particulates

EPA proposed revisions to its NAAQS for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on June 29, 2012.  EPA has agreed to finalize the air quality standards by Dec. 14, 2012, as part of a lawsuit settlement in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Washington, D.C. Circuit brought by environmental groups and certain states. 

Within two years of setting a new NAAQS or revising an existing standard, the Clean Air Act directs EPA to formally identify or “designate” areas as “unclassifiable/attainment” (meeting the standard or no evidence indicating a violation), “nonattainment” (not meeting the standard), or “unclassifiable” (insufficient information to designate as attainment or nonattainment, but likely to be violating).  A nonattainment designation may trigger restrictions on the use/operation of construction equipment as well as federal sanctions, including emissions caps limiting economic development and the loss of federal highway transportation dollars.

Exceptional Events Rule

EPA recently released for public comments its draft guidance to improve the process for implementing the Agency’s Exceptional Events Rule (EER). The EER allows EPA to exclude certain air-quality monitoring data when determining whether or not an area violates a NAAQS.  States face strict deadlines to make attainment determinations that could hinge on whether or not data affected by exceptional events are included or excluded. Failure by any state to comply with federal air standards could jeopardize federal funding for transportation projects in the state, among other harmful sanctions.

Under the EER, EPA may flag certain air monitoring readings as “exceptional” and exclude data from nonattainment determinations if a local air agency demonstrates that an exceptional event, such as a wildfire or dust storm, caused an air quality violation. AGC chapters and members in arid western states face significant air quality challenges brought on by chronic wildfires, dust storms and high winds; they report that EPA has not consistently applied its EER.

For a more detailed summary of AGC’s comments, click here.

For more information, contact Leah Pilconis, Senior Environmental Advisor to AGC, at pilconisl@agc.org. Return to Top

ADMINISTRATION
GSA Announces New Public Building Service Commissioner
 

On Sept. 4, General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Dan Tangherlini announced the selection of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, to head the Public Building Service (PBS).  PBS is charged with negotiating leasing and development deals for many of the federal government’s nonmilitary agencies, overseeing 374.6 million square feet of federal workspace.

In her previous position, Robyn oversaw the military’s portfolio of about 29 million acres of property, 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of building space around the world. She also headed the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. During her three years as deputy undersecretary, Administrator Tangherlini noted that, “Dorothy has gained valuable experience working with GSA to identify ways that this agency and DOD can encourage greater innovation and cost efficiency from construction firms and make federal buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.” Tangherlini also noted the scrapping of the PBS board of directors, which played a major role in strategic planning. He cited his desire to more clearly establish Robyn’s authority and responsibility.

AGC and its members look forward to working with Dorothy Robyn in her new role.

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

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