Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org March 21, 2013
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On the Inside
Immigration
Construction Industry Under Attack Urge Your Senator to Stand Up for the Construction Industry in Immigration Debate
BUDGET
Federal Funding In Place through September 30 for All Federal Agencies
House Approves Budget Senate Version Likely This Week
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Senate Panel Unanimously Approves Water Resources Development Act Bill
AGC Signs on to Letter Calling for Protection of Tax Exempt Municipal Bonds
CONGRESS
Mark Sanford Clears the First Hurdle of His Political Comeback
AGC EVENTS
Federal Agencies to Discuss P3 Market at 2013 Federal Contractors Conference
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Immigration
Construction Industry Under Attack Urge Your Senator to Stand Up for the Construction Industry in Immigration Debate
 

A bi-partisan group of 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.) – are working on an important piece of immigration reform – the future temporary worker visa program. These Senators are currently considering excluding the construction industry from any future temporary worker visa program. That would make construction the only industry not eligible to legally bring in temporary workers if they are needed.  Very few details have been agreed upon, but this is the first contentious issue being fought over. The construction industry employs nearly 6 million people; forecasts show the industry adding two million more people to construction payrolls by 2020. The last time major immigration reform was signed into law was 1986, so if this bi-partisan group continues to move forward along these lines, the construction industry may be forced to comply with these rules for decades.

Tell your Senators to object to any effort to exclude construction employers from being able to access legal foreign temporary workers in the future. The scope of the temporary worker visa program should be the same for all industries. Your Senator needs to know that singling out an industry makes no sense.  The nation’s immigration policy should be guided by economics and sound rational policy across all industries.  It should not be guided by fear and misconceptions.  Taking away the tools our industry may need in the future will only hurt the industry's ability to adapt to economic cycles and growth in the future.  Please call or write your Senator now as negotiations are nearing completion.

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

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BUDGET
Federal Funding In Place through September 30 for All Federal Agencies
Sequester Remains But Agencies Gain Some Flexibility & Includes Increased Transportation Funding
 

Following a strong personal push by AGC lobbyists and a grassroots effort by AGC members, the Senate included increased funding levels for federal highway and transit programs for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.  The bill, H.R. 933, the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, survived a cloture vote of 63-36 (less than 60 yes votes would have killed the bill) and ultimately passed the Senate by a vote of 73-26.  The funding measure then easily passed by the House of Representatives today by a vote of 318-109.   It now goes to the president for his signature. 

Passage of the bill maintains the MAP-21 authorized funding levels of $109 billion for two years.  Without the Senate including the increased levels in their bill, it was estimated to shortchange highway funding by $555 million and transit funding by $117 million.

The bill was partly a continuing resolution and an omnibus appropriations bill as it included five individual appropriations bills: Defense, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Commerce/Justice/State.  H.R. 933 leaves in place the $85 billion in cuts from the March 1 sequester, but by changing the account-level priorities within each agency in the five individual appropriations bills, the respective agencies can lessen some of the more disruptive effects of the sequester. For the other bills not included in either version of the package, H.R. 933 simply extends the existing continuing resolution (Public Law 112-175) through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2013.  Unfortunately, the prohibition on new starts for federal construction projects continues for those agencies not included in the five individual appropriations bills.

Also included in the bill was funding for the Clean Water Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF). The Clean Water SRF received $1.45 billion and the Drinking Water SRF received $908.7 million – a total cut for the SRFs of $27.5 million, or a 1 percent reduction from FY12. It is important to remember, however, that last Congress, the House Interior/Environment Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 53 percent cut in its FY 2013 bill for the Clean Water SRF and a cut of nearly 10 percent for the Drinking Water SRF. The Rural Utilities Service Rural Water and Waste Disposal Loan Program, however was one of the few winners, receiving $524.4 million, an increase of $11.4 million, or 2 percent, over FY 2012.

As the House and Senate begin fiscal year 2014 appropriations process, AGC will continue to advocate for Congress to provide adequate investment levels for federal construction programs. 

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org
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House Approves Budget Senate Version Likely This Week
 

On Thursday, the House completed action on Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) version of a FY 2014 budget resolution mostly by a party-line vote of 221 to 207. While the budget resolution is nonbinding, it nevertheless establishes the overall framework for funding government programs for next year. The Ryan budget provides an ambitious plan to balance the federal budget and have a $7 billion surplus in 10 years.  To get there, the budget forecasts cuts of $5.7 trillion – compared to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline –calls for the repeal of ObamaCare, and calls for lowering the  top tax rate to 25 percent.   

The House budget projects a significant drop in highway and transit spending in FY 2015 because of insufficient Highway Trust Fund revenue and would restrict the ability of Congress to transfer general fund revenue to help bail it out. In addition, unlike last year, this year’s resolution does not include a “reserve fund” that would allow transportation spending to rise above current Highway Trust Fund (HTF) supported levels even if lawmakers agree to additional revenue increases. In the text explaining the numbers in the budget is the following statement: “The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending." The explanation goes on to talk about high-speed rail, stating "high-speed and other intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services. The budget eliminates these projects."

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray’s version of the budget is currently being debated and is expected to be approved before the spring recess begins next week.  The Senate budget – the first in four years -takes a much different tact than the House.  It calls for increased revenue of $923 billion over 10 years and $875 billion in spending cuts.  The Senate’s version does not aim to balance the budget; instead it would impose tax increases by eliminating certain deductions and is estimated to result in annual deficits of approximately $500 -$600 billion in 10 years.

For transportation, the Murray budget keeps funding slightly below current levels over the next 10 years.  However, the plan calls for $50 billion in immediate (FY 2013) transportation investment, $10 billion in FY 2013 to fund an infrastructure bank, $10 billion for Corps of Engineers water projects, and $20 billion for high-tech investment.  The bill does not detail where this additional infrastructure spending would come from.  The Murray budget contains a reserve fund to allow transportation spending to increase should Congress raise the necessary revenue. A second reserve fund would also be established for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund spending.

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

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INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Senate Panel Unanimously Approves Water Resources Development Act Bill
 

On March 20, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This bill represents a bipartisan effort to address our nation’s aging navigational system of inland waterways, coastal harbors and ports, locks and dams, and flood control protections and a commitment to restore critical environmental areas.

In the letter to EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.), AGC noted that the bill represents a positive step forward towards making long-desired, critical water resources infrastructure projects a reality.  The bill would allow projects with completed Chief of Engineers reports to be authorized in an efficient manner.  In addition, the bill would seek to further leverage government funds for water infrastructure projects through an innovative financing pilot project program—referred to as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)—which can help our nation meet its infrastructure improvement needs. Also, AGC noted its appreciation for the bill’s commitment to help ensure that the nation’s federally-maintained harbor and port navigation channels are fully maintained by expending Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues for their authorized and intended purpose.

Although this WRDA bill is not perfect, it is the first step in what needs to be a truly bipartisan and a bicameral effort.  As the bill works through the legislative process, AGC will support additional reforms in the area of project delivery and environmental streamlining to more quickly complete critical water resources infrastructure so taxpayers can reap the rewards of their benefits. 

For more information, contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org.
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AGC Signs on to Letter Calling for Protection of Tax Exempt Municipal Bonds
 

AGC and a diverse group of more than 55 national coalition partners representing state and local governments, housing and infrastructure developers, transportation groups and private industry, have urged the U.S. Senate to support the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds which local and state governments use to build America’s schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, airports, public transit, water systems and other essential public infrastructure.

In a letter sent March 20 to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the group expressed concern about language in the Senate Fiscal 2014 Budget Resolution which suggests the possibility of a cap being placed on tax expenditures which could include the exemption for interest earned on municipal bonds.  The groups are seeking assurance that the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds will not be changed as part of comprehensive tax reform.

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org
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CONGRESS
Mark Sanford Clears the First Hurdle of His Political Comeback
 

On Tuesday, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) easily claimed the top position in the 1st Congressional District's special primary last night, capturing 37 percent of the vote within a huge field of sixteen Republican candidates. He will advance to the April 2nd run-off election against former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, who nipped state Sen. Larry Grooms for second place.

The former Governor and three-term Congressman broke 40 percent in his home of Charleston County, the district's most populous region. But, in terms of the fast approaching run-off election, even his 41 percent finish in Charleston is a light year away from scoring a 50 percent plus one vote majority. District-wide, 63 percent of the Republicans who went to the polls chose a candidate other than Sanford, even though the former Governor has universal name identification. Still, considering the hardened negative image after his extra-marital affair with an Argentine mistress became international news, Mr. Sanford's showing last night does indicate that he retains a base of residual support.

Mr. Bostic, the man the ex-Governor will face in the run-off election, claimed 13 percent of the vote, edging state Sen. Grooms' 12 percent. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, finished fourth with 8 percent. It was a disappointing night for the sitting Republican state legislators. Aside from Grooms, none of the other three came close to reaching the top tier as state Reps. Andy Patrick (7 percent), Chip Limehouse (6 percent), and Peter McCoy (2 percent) all performed poorly. 

Though heavily outspent, Mr. Bostic commanded a strong grassroots campaign and his background as a public official, community activist, major non-profit organizer, and attorney will compare favorably to Sanford. He will now be in a position to take advantage of the opportunity to coalesce the vast majority of the anti-Sanford votes.

For the Democrats, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert, captured almost all of her party's votes. She scored a 96-4 percent win versus former congressional nominee Ben Frasier, who spent less than $10,000 on the primary race.

It is clear that last night's primary election was a victory in Mark Sanford's quest for a political comeback. But, will it be short lived? In looking ahead to the next challenge, a head-to-head contest against a highly credible opponent, this election performance might mark the last such win he experiences.

Sanford has time and money on his side. Bostic clearly has a strong organization and the ability to contrast Sanford's negative image. Should Bostic win the run-off, the seat will be his as Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch will be no match for a more positive Republican. Should Sanford squeak through to obtain the nomination, then she will be very much alive and the national GOP will again have to expend large amounts of money to protect what should be a very safe seat.

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org
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AGC EVENTS
Federal Agencies to Discuss P3 Market at 2013 Federal Contractors Conference
April 23-25 | Washington, D.C.
 

In addition to discussions with lead personnel representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Energy, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Overseas Building Operations, and more, this year’s 2013 Federal Contractors Conference attendees will hear from a panel of construction industry and federal agency experts on public private partnerships (PPP) for both horizontal and vertical projects. 

During the PPP session, a concessionaire—the Bank of Montreal and a contractor attorney working on the Presidio Parkway PPP in San Francisco—will discuss the potential risks, rewards and opportunities for all construction contractors seeking innovative financing opportunities. Additionally, representatives from GSA and FHWA will discuss the federal opportunities their agencies have for PPP work on the building and highway markets.

As federal construction funding continues to stagnate, innovative financing options will likely be considered viable funding supplements. Consequently, the individual agency sessions at the conference will include questions for agency representatives concerning their plans to explore PPP project options.

For more information or to register, visit www.agc.org/fedcon.
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