Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 31, 2013
Spacer
AGC Home Page
Email our Editor
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Subscribe
Printer Friendly
AGC Political Toolkit
Advertisement
Take Action!
On the Inside
DEBT LIMIT
Senate Passes Bill to Increase Debt Limit
IMMIGRATION
Congress and President Bring Immigration Reform to the Forefront
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Sandy Aid Bill Signed Into Law
House Bill & Senate Panel Address Harbor Maintenance
LABOR
Reports on Multi-Employer Pension Plans Released
Victory in Challenge to NLRB "Recess Appointments"
AGC-Backed Legislation Opposing Government Mandated PLAs Introduced
ADMINISTRATION
Transportation Secretary LaHood to Leave Cabinet
CONGRESS
Caretaker Named to Massachusetts Senate Seat
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin Announces Retirement
AGC EVENTS
Small Business Contracting with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs: The Process & Pitfalls
USACE Safety Manual Revision Roundtable at 2013 AGC Federal Contractors Conference
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
DEBT LIMIT
Senate Passes Bill to Increase Debt Limit
 

This afternoon, the Senate followed the House and passed the bill (H.R. 325) to suspend the current public debt limit until May 19.  The bill does not cover new spending and suspends members of Congress’ pay if they do not pass a budget resolution before April 15, 2013. The bill passed by a vote of 64-34 and now goes to the President for his expected signature. Action now moves to sequestration, the funding of the federal government and the new May 19 deadline to once again act on the debt limit.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
Advertisement
IMMIGRATION
Congress and President Bring Immigration Reform to the Forefront
 

On Jan. 28, a group of eight Republican and Democrat Senators released a Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform with the hope of introducing and debating legislation later this spring. The framework from Senators Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Graham (R-S.C.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Rubio (R-Fla.), Bennet (D-Colo.), and Flake (R-Ariz.) contained four basic principles: a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the country that is contingent on improving border security;  increasing visas for highly skilled workers; a new mandatory employer verification system (different from the current federal contractor E-Verify system); and establishing a guest-worker program.

A day after the Senators’ rollout, President Obama released a fact sheet outlining the Administration’s immigration reform priorities. It includes bringing undocumented workers into legal status and other provisions, but it makes no mention of any low-skilled guestworker program.  It also stresses enforcement on employers and creates a “labor law enforcement fund’ to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.”

In the House, a small bipartisan group is working on their own priorities for reform and they are expected to release more information on it in the coming weeks.

AGC has a number of priorities for immigration reform and will be working to ensure they are ultimately included in legislation. They include eliminating vicarious liability for subcontractors hiring; ensuring penalties are commensurate with any violations; establishing an opportunity for earned legal status of undocumented workers; creation of a new visa program to legally alleviate worker shortages; ensuring any new law will preempt the patchwork of state and local laws around the country; and requiring that any new mandatory electronic verification system must be reliable and that mandates should cover only new hires and include reasonable deadlines and liability safeguards.

Immigration reform remains a top priority for President Obama for his second term; however, getting comprehensive immigration passed by both the House and Senate remains an uphill challenge. Smaller, piece-meal legislation may ultimately be all that Congress can pass.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Sandy Aid Bill Signed Into Law
 

On Tuesday – following Monday’s Senate passage– President Obama signed into law the $50.5 billion Hurricane Sandy Supplemental bill that passed the House over two weeks ago.  The vote on final passage was 62-36.  Before final passage, there was an amendment offered by Senator Lee (R-Utah) to offset the cost of the bill.  The Lee amendment required 60 votes to pass and failed by a vote of 35 – 62.  Along with the $9.7 billion in aid President Obama signed into law Jan. 6, federal aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy now totals $60.4 billion.

Here is a breakdown of funding for various construction accounts identified by AGC.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
House Bill & Senate Panel Address Harbor Maintenance
 

Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-La.) recently introduced the “Realize America’s Maritime Promise Act” (H.R. 335), which will ensure that amounts credited to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are used for harbor maintenance. Instead of using the full amount of the Harbor Maintenance Tax collected each year to maintain all federal navigation channels at their authorized depths and widths, only about half of annual HMTF revenues are actually used for their intended purpose. As a result, about $7 billion dollars meant to help keep our ports and harbors open for the efficient and safe marine transport of commerce has been spent on other priorities.

On Jan. 31, the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on the topic of the HMTF. Committee members overwhelmingly noted their support of using HMT revenues for harbor maintenance. Prior to the hearing, AGC sent those senators a letter noting the need to both act now and  to prepare the nation’s ports and harbors for the increased trade expected in the future, thereby remaining globally competitive. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) estimates that full channel dimensions at the nation’s busiest 59 ports are available less than 35 percent of the time. Additionally, with the Panama Canal expansion, both Mexico and Canada are actively working on improving their ports to handle larger ships carrying more cargo.

AGC applauds Rep. Boustany, Senate EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and EPW Ranking Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) for their efforts to advance this issue in the new Congress. AGC will continue to work with members of both the House and Senate to help pass this important legislative measure.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
LABOR
Reports on Multi-Employer Pension Plans Released
 

On Jan. 29, 2013, the federal the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) agencies sent Congress several reports on multi-employer pension plans insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). These reports provide information on the financial health of multi-employer plans and the PBGC’s multi-employer insurance program, but make no recommendations. First, ERISA requires an evaluation every five years to determine whether current PBGC insurance premium levels support the multi-employer benefits guarantee. Second, the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006 mandated a study on the effects of the law on multi-employer plans, including the impact on small employers. These two reports were due to Congress in 2011. Additionally, PBGC issues an annual “exposure report” that examines the future solvency of its insurance programs.

The reports show the PBGC has a significant funding shortfall; the ratio of retirees to workers is increasingly putting additional downward pressure on the system; a growing number of individual plans have significant funding shortfalls; and the PBGC is headed toward insolvency without corrective action.

The findings paint a sobering picture of the issues facing the PBGC and employers involved in these pension plans. AGC is actively working – along with other stakeholders – to present recommendations to congress and the federal agencies on reforms to the system to ensure that the system going forward is sustainable for participating employers and retirement income security for participants is protected. AGC held a webinar on Jan. 29 that outlined the recommendations AGC is proposing, along with the other stakeholder organizations in the construction industry, as well as other industries involved in multi-employer plans.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
Victory in Challenge to NLRB "Recess Appointments"
 

On Jan. 25, with the help of the AGC-supported Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an important court challenge was won.   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB – a key case (of several separate cases) challenging the validity of three “recess appointments” President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January 2012.  The court agreed with CDW and the Chamber that the appointments were “constitutionally invalid” because the Senate was actually not in recess when the appointments were made.  Accordingly, the five-member Board lacked a quorum when it decided the underlying legal issues affecting employer Noel Canning.   The decision could have significant implications, calling into question the validity of all decisions made by the Board since January 2012, as well as the validity of Richard Cordray’s appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was made under the same circumstances as the Board appointments. 

NLRB Chairman Marc Pearce responded to the ruling by issuing a statement asserting his belief that the appointments will ultimately be upheld and reporting that, in the meantime, the Board will continue to issue decisions.

AGC will closely follow any further developments in this case and other cases challenging the appointments.  It is possible that the issue will ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
AGC-Backed Legislation Opposing Government Mandated PLAs Introduced
 

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) recently introduced the “Government Neutrality in Contracting Act” (S.109/H.R. 436) in both the Senate and House, respectively. This legislation would prohibit federal contracting agencies from mandating that contractors and unions enter project labor agreements (PLAs) on direct federal projects. In addition, the bill would preserve the right of contractors and unions to voluntarily negotiate and execute project labor agreements on federal projects, if they so choose.

This AGC-supported legislation falls directly in line with the association’s position on such government mandated PLAs. Specifically, 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. Visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center to write to your Representatives urging support of this legislation.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
ADMINISTRATION
Transportation Secretary LaHood to Leave Cabinet
 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood publicly announced this week that he will not be serving in the second term of the Administration. Secretary LaHood said that he would remain in the position until the President’s selection for a replacement has been confirmed by the Senate. While speculation on who might replace the secretary has already begun, there has been no indication from the White House as to who that might be. LaHood is a former House member from Illinois and the only Republican serving in the president's Cabinet. LaHood is credited with increasing the visibility of transportation as a national issue and for his focus on safety issues, particularly distracted driving.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
CONGRESS
Caretaker Named to Massachusetts Senate Seat
 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sen. John Kerry to succeed Hilary Clinton as the next Secretary of State. Moving quickly to fill the Senate seat vacancy, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Mo Cowan, his former chief of staff, to replace the commonwealth’s senior Senator and serve as a caretaker until the June 25 special general election.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.-5) is the only announced special election candidate from either political party, but Boston Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.-8) is expected to join the race before week's end. Democratic Party leaders have worked hard to give Markey an unimpeded march to the nomination, but a Lynch candidacy means that there will be a significant Democratic primary to be decided in an April 30 election.

Little definitive action has occurred on the Republican side, but the party's nominee will likely be either former Sen. Scott Brown, ex-Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, or former state Senator and 6th District congressional candidate Richard Tisei.  Former Gov. Bill Weld is unlikely to enter the contest. Should Brown decide to run, he will almost assuredly have an unopposed primary, thus providing him an opportunity to build momentum for what will be a very difficult special general campaign.

Since Markey's late December 2012 announcement, he has failed to develop a major statewide presence and may have lost valuable time. With last week's MassINC poll (1/16-19; 435 Mass. registered voters) projecting Brown to be holding a 53-31 percent lead over the Malden area Democratic Congressman, and now with at least a moderately competitive primary challenge from Rep. Lynch potentially on his hands, this race is quickly becoming more interesting. The final field of candidates will formulate over the next few days and then the real race will begin.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin Announces Retirement
 

The open Iowa campaign is expected to include competitive party primaries as well as a tough general election race.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that all four of Iowa's sitting U.S. Representatives could jump into the Senate or Governor's race, but the true field of candidates will take some time to forge, as the Harkin retirement decision came as a bit of a surprise.

The Iowa Republican primary could become very interesting.  Five-term Gov. Terry Branstad announced he would not seek the Senate seat. Clearly, with five statewide wins under his belt, he would be the Republicans' strongest candidate.  He is expected to seek re-election to an unprecedented sixth non-consecutive gubernatorial term. 

Turning to the congressional delegation, the Republican establishment is eager to support Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa-3) for a statewide U.S. Senate race.  After winning a bruising paired incumbent general election with veteran Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa-3) 52-44 percent this past November, Latham has developed an extremely strong political finance base that would serve him well in a statewide contest.  He would be a strong general election candidate.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa-4), however, is considered of opposite strength to Mr. Latham.  Like the Des Moines area Congressman, Mr. King also had a difficult re-election battle in 2012, but won handily.  He defeated Christie Vilsack – the wife of former Governor and current US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) – by a relatively strong margin (53-45 percent) in one of the most expensive combined campaigns in the country.  King is a favorite of the grassroots side of the Republican Party and formidable in any primary battle.  He is likely to be a weaker candidate in the general election, however.

For the Democrats, 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley is virtually certain to be in one of the two top statewide races.  Reported last week to be considering running for Governor - a key reason many believed Sen. Harkin was sure to run for re-election, otherwise Mr. Braley would have been overtly building support for an open Senate race - the eastern Iowa Congressman will probably run where Branstad does not.  Should the Governor seek re-election, count on Braley to run for the Senate.  Regardless of what becomes of his eventual statewide political plan, it appears clear that Mr. Braley's 1st District House seat will host a hotly contested 2014 open seat campaign.

Second District Rep. David Loebsack is less of a statewide possibility.  Though he may consider running, his political apparatus is not nearly as strong as Braley's and would definitely be weaker against the Republicans in a tough statewide open seat campaign.

The other Democrat who must be considered more in play today than before the Harkin announcement is former Gov. Chet Culver.  Mr. Culver, who was elected in the Democratic wave year of 2006, is the son of ex-US Senator John Culver.  Like his father who served one lone Senate term, Chet Culver failed to win re-election to his statewide post.  The ex-Governor had already indicated that he is considering another run for his old job but, as the Senate seat has become vacant, his options have potentially grown.

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

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
AGC EVENTS
Small Business Contracting with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs: The Process & Pitfalls
AGC Webinar: Thursday, Feb. 14 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET
 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continues to boast an annual construction budget of over $1 billion. As a result, the VA remains a federal owner with work for contractors, especially small businesses. But, many small business contractors have had difficulty even obtaining needed verifications to bid the work.

During this webinar, participants will learn about:

  • The VA's construction budget and why it could remain untouched by congressional spending cuts;
  • The Center for Veterans Enterprises (CVE) verification process and how to avoid the pitfalls;
  • How to challenge a CVE denial and examples of how this is done;
  • Status protests at the U.S. Small Business Administration and Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization; and
  • Potential false claims liability.

Farah Shah, an attorney with Fox Rothschild LLP who specializes in these matters, will lead the discussion on Thursday, Feb. 14 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET.

To register or for more information, please click here. Return to Top

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
USACE Safety Manual Revision Roundtable at 2013 AGC Federal Contractors Conference
 

AGC will hold a special roundtable session that provides attendees with an opportunity to give input on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Safety Manual (EM-385) revision process directly to USACE and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) safety representatives. The roundtable will be held April 24 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET during the 2013 AGC Federal Contractors Conference at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.   

Construction safety professionals are highly encouraged to attend. This will be the last opportunity to comment on the revision process through AGC with USACE and NAVFAC safety representatives in the room before the new safety manual is issued.

To register for only this roundtable session, please click here. For more information and to register for the entire 2013 Federal Contractors Conference (which includes this roundtable session), please click here. Return to Top

Share: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook

AGC Townhouse, 53 D Street SE • Washington, DC 20003 • 202.547.1625 (phone) • 202.547.1635 (fax)• www.agc.org
AGC Home | About AGC | Advocacy | Industry Topics | Construction Markets | Programs & Events | Career Development | News & Media

To ensure delivery of AGC’s Construction Legislative Week in Review, please add 'communications@agc.org' to your email address book or Safe Sender List. If you are still having problems receiving our communications, visit our white-listing page for more details.

© Copyright The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. All Rights Reserved.