Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org May 2, 2013
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On the Inside
INFRASTRUCTURE
TAKE ACTION: Urge Senate to Pass WRDA NOW
IMMIGRATION
Immigration Reform Moves to Senate Committee
ENVIRONMENT
D.C. Circuit Rules EPA Has Authority to Change, If Not Revoke, Wetlands Permits After Army Corps Has Issued Them
TRANSPORTATION
Obama Nominates Transportation Secretary
LABOR
AGC Responds to USACE PLA Inquiry
ELECTIONS
Massachusetts Special Election Markey vs. Gomez
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INFRASTRUCTURE
TAKE ACTION: Urge Senate to Pass WRDA NOW
 

Next week, the Senate will consider passage of S. 601 – the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA). If passed, WRDA will help provide funding to address our nation’s aging navigational system of inland waterways, coastal harbors and ports, locks and dams, and flood control protections. It will also provide funding for the restoration of many critical environmental areas in our country. Take action NOW and urge your senators to pass WRDA.

The bill’s project authorization process will modernize and quicken the approval process for these critical project investments.  In addition, further leveraging government funds for water infrastructure projects through the bill’s innovative financing pilot project program can help our nation meet its water infrastructure improvement needs. The bill also includes a commitment to help ensure that the nation’s harbor and port navigation channels are fully maintained by expending Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues for their authorized and intended purpose.

AGC continues to actively engage Congress on this important piece of legislation. This week, AGC helped lead multiple coalition efforts to press for WRDA passage. On April 29, AGC and 50 of its chapters joined a total of 168 organizations—comprised of construction industry associations, labor unions, and farm groups, among others—in a letter supporting Senate passage of the WRDA bill. The AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition and Water Resources Coalition also plan to send letters to the Senate urging passage of WRDA. In addition to these efforts, AGC members from across the country stormed Capitol Hill to press for WRDA passage in conjunction with AGC’s Federal Contractors Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

Your contractor voice is essential to highlight the importance of WRDA reauthorization. Again, NOW is the time to take action and urge your senators to pass WRDA.

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

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IMMIGRATION
Immigration Reform Moves to Senate Committee
 

Beginning next Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering the much discussed Senate “Gang of 8” immigration bill – The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The current bill is the work of a small, bipartisan 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.) – and the committee process will allow for the opportunity for greater input and modifications. The current bill addresses many AGC priorities by giving employers certainty that they have complied with the law and certainty that they have received authentic documentation from newly hired employees. The bill also eliminates the patchwork of local immigration laws and provides new avenues for legal immigration by creating a legal status for undocumented workers currently in the United States. The bill would require employers use E-Verify, comply with and retain records of the verification process, and prohibit employers from “knowingly” hiring an undocumented worker.  The bill also includes a temporary worker program; unfortunately, the program places unique restrictions on the construction industry that prevent construction from fully utilizing the future temporary worker visa program.

The future temporary worker visa program remains one of the most controversial issues and would be of limited use for the construction industry. While the proposed program allows for multiyear visas, it contains a cap of the number of visas eligible for use in the construction, and only after they prove no U.S. workers are willing to work for the same wages. The program would limit the number of visas to 15,000 for construction industry workers and would be prohibited if the unemployment rate for a specific job occupation in a local metropolitan area exceeds 8.5 percent.  

AGC will continue to work with the Senate to improve the immigration bill and AGC continues to work with the House on its ideas for immigration reform. The process in the House may follow a more traditional committee process followed by smaller components of immigration reform, rather than one comprehensive immigration reform bill. For more information or to send letters urging comprehensive immigration reform with a workable guest worker program for the construction industry visit the AGC website.

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

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ENVIRONMENT
D.C. Circuit Rules EPA Has Authority to Change, If Not Revoke, Wetlands Permits After Army Corps Has Issued Them
 

In a startling industry defeat, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to change, if not revoke, Section 404 “dredge-and-fill” discharge permits that have already been approved and issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. USEPA, No. 12-5150 (D.C. Cir. April 23, 2013). The federal court ruled that CWA Section 404(c) grants EPA this power “whenever [it] determines” that the discharge will have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on identified environmental resources. 

Under the D.C. Circuit’s decision, even after a regulated entity lawfully obtains a Section 404 permit from the Corps, EPA can exercise its authority – independent from the Corps – to withdraw some or all of the approved disposal sites from the permit at any time during the life of that permit.  As a result of this precedent, the regulated community may face a continued risk to investment in any project requiring a Section 404 discharge permit, even after a permit has been issued, and even where EPA itself was involved in and approved the issuance of the permit in the first place.

A more comprehensive report can be found here.

 For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org or Scott Berry at berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
Obama Nominates Transportation Secretary
 

This week, President Obama nominated Anthony Foxx to serve as the next Secretary of Transportation. Foxx is currently serving as the Mayor of Charlotte, N.C., but announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. Foxx is set to replace Ray LaHood, who announced his resignation soon after President Obama’s reelection.

The 41-year-old Foxx, elected mayor in 2009, has expressed support for the administration's livable-cities concepts, which promote transit projects and non-motorized vehicles over motorized vehicles, as well as the expansion of high-speed passenger rail connecting major metropolitan regions. While Foxx has no national transportation experience, Charlotte built a streetcar project connecting parts of the city's downtown, as well as added a third runway at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, during Foxx’s tenure as mayor. Foxx has also been advocating an extension of the light-rail system to the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Prior to becoming mayor, he served on the Charlotte City Council for four years and served as chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee.

AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said of the nomination, “It is encouraging that President Obama has decided to nominate someone with first-hand experience of the significant challenges posed by our chronic under-investment in infrastructure and years-long and broken regulatory review process.  Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has a unique opportunity to promote new sources of revenue to address chronic shortfalls in federal funding for our aging network of highways, bridges and transit systems.  In addition, he will be well suited to ensure that the Department of Transportation takes the steps required in the most recent surface transportation legislation to significantly reduce the time it takes for federal officials to approve new transportation infrastructure.  We will never be able to compete globally if it takes over a decade to approve new ways of moving goods and services from one point to another in this country.”

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

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LABOR
AGC Responds to USACE PLA Inquiry
 

On May 2, AGC sent a letter opposing the possible use of a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District for the design and construction of a new 320-person AIT Barracks located at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif.

AGC has sent over 60 letters to federal agencies opposing  PLA mandates and bid preferences during the Obama Administration, most in response to agency announcements that a PLA mandate or preference was under consideration for a particular project or an anticipated set of projects in a particular area. Of those, only one PLA mandate has been issued to date.  

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.

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

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ELECTIONS
Massachusetts Special Election Markey vs. Gomez
 

As projected, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.-5) defeated his House Democratic colleague, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.-8), in Tuesday night’s special U.S. Senate party primary election. Markey racked up an expected 57-43 percent margin over Lynch, with a turnout of more than 530,000 Democratic voters. All of the candidates are vying for Secretary of State John Kerry's Senate seat, now held by interim Sen. Mo Cowan (D).  When all of the expenditures are totaled, Markey will have exceeded the $5 million mark in spending; Lynch a little over $2 million. 

On the Republican side, private equity investor and former U.S. Navy veteran Gabriel Gomez convincingly won his primary, defeating former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow. Gomez scored 51 percent to Sullivan's 36 percent and Winslow's 13 percent. Just over 182,000 Republicans participated in their primary election. Late polling also forecast Gomez to be leading the GOP field, but sample sizes from the public polls were so small as not to be considered reliable. The Gomez expenditure level is not clear at this point in time, but the other two Republican candidates spent less than $300,000 on their campaigns.

The special general election, which is scheduled for June 25, appears to be Markey's to lose. Massachusetts is one of the most loyal Democratic states in the nation, and the party leaders are taking no chances with this campaign in light of the 2010 special election results when then-state Sen. Scott Brown (R) upset Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) for the right to replace the late Ted Kennedy (D).

However, Gabriel Gomez is an interesting candidate. He is a self-made businessman who grew up in Los Angeles with his Columbian parents. He won entrance into the Naval Academy and went on to become a Navy SEAL upon graduation and active duty service as a pilot. Gomez has the potential of attracting national attention. With his Hispanic heritage and diverse background, he could become the type of candidate for whom the Republicans thirst. But it remains to be seen if the National Republican Senatorial Committee will fund the race or concede it in the face of difficult voting patterns and opposing a majority party whose leaders will leave no stone unturned in order to secure a Markey victory.

The winner will enter the Senate immediately upon his election. Since the seat is in-cycle for 2014, the new Senator will serve only the balance of this Congress. He is eligible to run, however, for a full six-year term in the regular election. Though this campaign has yet to produce any surprises so far, Gomez's presence in the general election could make things more intriguing than originally expected.

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