Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 20, 2012
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On the Inside
FISCAL CLIFF
No Deal Yet on Fiscal Cliff
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Sandy Supplemental Timing Uncertain
TRANSPORTATION
Legislation Proposed to Study Mileage-Based User Fees
DBE Rule Comment Period Closes December 24
LABOR
AGC Opposes USACE Project Labor Agreement Inquiries
SAFETY
AGC to Hold Corps Safety Manual Revision Meeting
CONGRESS
Congressman Tim Scott Selected to Succeed Senator Jim DeMint
Senator Dan Inouye Passes Away at Age 88
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FISCAL CLIFF
No Deal Yet on Fiscal Cliff
Probable House and Senate Session Next Week
 

This week, fiscal cliff negotiations stalled between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).  Instead of moving closer this week, the parties have moved a little farther apart.  The House is voting on two bills that would address both the upcoming tax increases and spending cuts that comprise the fiscal cliff.  The first of the two bills – known as “Plan B” – would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 marginal tax rates for incomes under $1 million. It would also make the Alternative Minimum Tax patch permanent, set the estate tax permanently at this year’s level and make the increase in expensing of depreciable business assets permanent.  It will also prevent an increase in capital gains and dividend rates.   The second bill – The Spending Reduction Act of 2012 – replaces part of the across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, for one year.  President Obama has issued a veto threat on Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B”, which means that in order to avert the fiscal cliff, the Speaker and the President still must come to a compromise that will pass both the House and Senate. 

At this point it is unclear if the fiscal cliff will be resolved.  It is anticipated that the President and the Speaker will continue to negotiate over the next week. AGC weighed in on the fiscal cliff with a letter to the president and House and Senate leaders and will continue to monitor the situation through the Christmas and possibly the New Year’s holiday.

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

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INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Sandy Supplemental Timing Uncertain
 

Following several procedural maneuvers on the Senate floor, consideration of the supplemental appropriation bill for Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery efforts continues.  Under Senate rules, the next step would be a cloture vote to continue debate on the bill.  The cloture vote would require 60 votes to pass.  However, there is no guarantee that a cloture vote will occur. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) must make the decision to move forward with a cloture vote or have a vote on both the $60.4 billion aid package, a Republican alternative bill of about $24 billion offered by Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and other amendments. 

Republicans in the House remain skeptical of the funding levels in the bill and are waiting on the Senate to pass the bill before they decide how to proceed.  There remains the potential that the disaster assistance supplemental could be part of a larger fiscal cliff package, should a deal be struck on the fiscal cliff before the end of 2012.

AGC and our members are encouraged to contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to pass the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Disaster Supplemental. For more information, click here.

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

TRANSPORTATION
Legislation Proposed to Study Mileage-Based User Fees
 

While acknowledging that there is no time left in the 112th Congress to address new legislation, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- Ore.), nevertheless, offered legislation last week that would examine a new way to provide revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. The bill directs the Treasury Department to study the viability of mileage-based user fee to replace the federal motor fuels tax. If this user fee approach is deemed feasible, the legislation would also establish a grant program aimed at ensuring that the technology necessary to implement this new fee system is in place nationwide.

Blumenauer notes that while MAP-21 has provided sufficient revenue for the Highway Trust Fund to remain solvent through the end of fiscal year 2014, about $15 billion more annually is needed just to keep highway and transit funding at 2009 levels. Blumenauer noted that two commissions, as well as an array of policy experts, have suggested that transitioning to a vehicle-miles-traveled system, rather than a gas tax, will help in providing the revenue needed to address our nation’s growing transportation infrastructure deficit. Decreased driving, more energy efficient vehicles, the use of alternative fuels and the lack of political support for increasing the gas tax make it necessary to move towards a different revenue source. Blumenauer’s home state has already implemented a pilot study to test the feasibility of using this system to collect user fees.

AGC has been on record for several years in support of the miles based user fee and strongly supports this legislation.

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


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DBE Rule Comment Period Closes December 24
 

Comments are due by Dec. 24, 2012, on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to make significant changes in its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) rules. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), issued on September 6, 2012, suggests a series of changes in the bidding process, including requiring contractors to submit a list of DBEs that will be used on a project with their bid. In addition, contractors that do not achieve this goal must submit documentation of good faith efforts with their bids. The proposed rule would also tighten down on the certification process that determines whether or not a firm qualifies as a DBE. For a summary of the proposed changes, please click here. AGC of America will be submitting detailed comments on the proposal. A draft version of AGCA’s comments has been shared with chapters to assist them in submitting their own comments on the NPRM.

AGC members are also asked to submit comments on the proposal. Many already have. AGC has prepared a sample comment letter that you can access at AGC’s Legislative Action Center and submit directly to DOT.

If possible, we ask that you formulate your own unique comments and submit those to DOT. They do not have to be elaborate or detailed. A brief expression of concern about the proposed changes is helpful. You can access the DOT docket here to submit your comments directly.

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

LABOR
AGC Opposes USACE Project Labor Agreement Inquiries
 

On Dec. 19, AGC sent two letters opposing government-mandated project labor (PLA) inquiries posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The USACE Wilmington District sought industry comments on two possible PLAs for projects at Fort Bragg, N.C. The jobs are for the construction of two battalion headquarters and company operations facilities.

AGC neither supports nor opposes contractors’ voluntary use of PLAs on government projects, but strongly opposes any government mandate for contractors’ use of PLAs. AGC is committed to free and open competition for publicly funded work, and believes that the lawful labor relations policies and practices of private construction contractors should not be a factor in a government agency’s selection process. 

To view AGC’s letters, please click here and here.

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

SAFETY
AGC to Hold Corps Safety Manual Revision Meeting
 

On Jan. 4, AGC will host a meeting during which AGC members will provide their comments on the second draft of the EM-385 revision (Corps Safety Manual). The meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET and likely end in the late afternoon. After AGC members discuss their comments to the draft, members will voice their concerns to representatives from both USACE and NAVFAC.

The meeting will be held at:

AGC Headquarters
2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Virginia 22201

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Raj Vohra at 703-837-5409 or vohrar@agc.org. Return to Top

CONGRESS
Congressman Tim Scott Selected to Succeed Senator Jim DeMint
 

In South Carolina, surprising many who believed Gov. Nikki Haley (R) would act after the first of the year, announced that she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1) to replace outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R).  Though it was widely reported that Haley was working from a list of five possible appointment candidates, it was viewed that the choice was really between Scott and former First Lady Jenny Sanford. 

DeMint will reportedly resign prior to the new Congress convening on Jan. 3.  This will allow Mr. Scott to be sworn in for a full session.  He will likely run in the 2014 special election and, if successful, will earn the right to serve the entire four years of DeMint's remaining term.  Scott would be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2016.  The Congressman enjoys the strong support of the most conservative elements of the South Carolina Republican Party and at least begins in a very strong position to become a consensus 2014 GOP candidate.  He will become the first African American to represent South Carolina since Reconstruction.

Should the schedule for Senator-designate Scott taking office be as described above, then a special election cycle for his first District House seat will occur in March (party primaries) and April (special general).  Gov. Haley will set the special election schedule once the resignations become official.

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org. Return to Top

Senator Dan Inouye Passes Away at Age 88
 

The passing of venerable Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI) has brought yet another vacancy to the Senate.  Mr. Inouye, first elected to Congress as Hawaii's original member of the House of Representatives in 1959, won his first Senatorial term in 1962.  He served in this post up until yesterday.  He was the Senate’s most senior Senator and also the second-longest serving Senator after the late Robert Byrd.  Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient and the highest-ranking Asian American in U.S. politics. 

Along with retiring seat-mate Daniel Akaka (D), Hawaii had the most senior delegation in the nation.  With Inouye's death and Akaka leaving in January, the state will now have two freshman Senators, losing a combined 70 years in seniority.

The Hawaii seat now becomes the 35th in the 2014 election cycle.  Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) will choose an interim appointment who will serve until a 2014 special election is held concurrently with the regular November vote.  The winner will then serve the remaining two years of Inouye's term, meaning the seat will be contested for a full six-year stint in 2016. 

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org. Return to Top

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