Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org May 9, 2013
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On the Inside
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
WRDA Hits Senate Floor
Democrats Re-Introduce Clean Water SRF Reauthorization Bill
$600 Million in BP Oil Spill Restoration Projects Identified
IMMIGRATION
Immigration Reform Moves to Senate Committee
TAX
JCT Report Outlines Comments to House Tax Reform Working Groups
Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on Small Business and Pass-Throughs
“Max & Dave” Launch Website Reminiscent of the 30-year old “Write Rosty” Campaign
Debt Prioritization Bill Passes in House
LABOR
House Approves Comp Time Legislation
Court Agrees with CDW, Strikes Down NLRB Posting Rule
AGC Responds to USACE PLA Inquiry
ELECTIONS
Political Redemption for Mark Sanford
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WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
WRDA Hits Senate Floor
TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Senators to Pass WRDA NOW
 

This week on the Senate floor, Senators debated amendments to S. 601 – the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA). Debate is expected to continue through early next week. Please TAKE ACTION NOW and urge your senators to pass 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.

The provisions within this WRDA bill represent months of bipartisan effort and compromise that will help allow for critical water resources project investments and timelier project delivery. For example, the bill would authorize projects without the use of earmarks, but rather through a process of authorizing completed Chief of Engineers reports that have been referred to Congress by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works by the date of enactment. The bill would also 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 by FY 2019. Lastly, a provision in this measure would allow for the leveraging of government funds for water infrastructure projects through an innovative financing pilot project program that can help our nation meet its infrastructure improvement needs.

AGC continues to actively engage Congress on this important piece of legislation. On May 8, AGC sent a letter to Senators highlighting the need for WRDA and the merits of this bill. AGC has helped lead multiple coalition efforts to press for WRDA passage. Recently, 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 the recent AGC Federal Contractors Conference 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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Democrats Re-Introduce Clean Water SRF Reauthorization Bill
 

This week, Rep. Tim Bishop (Ranking Member of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee) reintroduced the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2013, along with Reps. King (R-N.Y.) and Young (R-Alaska) and the entire democratic caucus of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill – functionally identical to legislation the Congressman introduced last Congress – would reauthorize the clean water state revolving loan fund at $13.8 billion over five years. The legislation would also establish a clean water trust fund (with a provision studying future possible funding sources) and create a new federal program of direct loans and loan guarantees for water infrastructure.

"I am pleased that this legislation has garnered bipartisan support for introduction, and I am also pleased that Republican and Democratic staff on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have had several productive meetings to discuss this issue and explore a collaborative path forward.  I look forward to working with Chairmen Shuster and Gibbs and Ranking Member Rahall to advance long-term, sustained investment in our nation’s wastewater infrastructure that has broad support from cities and communities around the country, industry, utilities, environmental groups, unions, equipment suppliers, and engineers," said the Congressman during his floor statement. This bill is not expected to advance beyond where it went last year, but is intended as a marker for where the Democrats stand on this issue.

Earlier this year, the AGC co-chaired Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) Executive Committee sent a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Leadership praising their work to develop a “big four” clean water infrastructure funding bill. AGC will continue to advance the ongoing bipartisan discussions on the development of a truly bipartisan effort on water infrastructure.

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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$600 Million in BP Oil Spill Restoration Projects Identified
Projects in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas
 

On May 6, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified nearly $600 million in environmental restoration projects in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to help address the damage of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While this development represents significant construction investment, it is important to note that these identified projects are not yet at the solicitation phase, but rather still face a period of public comment and environmental review before becoming “street ready.”

On April 20, 2011, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion to fund early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to begin addressing injuries to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As the first step in this accelerated process, a collection of 10 early restoration projects – expected to cost a total of $71 million – have already been identified and project implementation has begun in most cases. The most recently identified $600 million of projects comes in addition to the $71 million previously identified.

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
 

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee began considering the much discussed Senate “Gang of 8” immigration bill – The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. 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.
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TAX
JCT Report Outlines Comments to House Tax Reform Working Groups
 

On May 6, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) published a report in response to the work conducted by the 11 Ways and Means (W&M) Committee Tax Reform Working Groups. The mission of each working group was to review current law in its designated area, research relevant issues, and compile related feedback from stakeholders, academics and think tanks, practitioners, the general public, and colleagues in the House of Representatives.

Ways and Means Committee members conducted private bipartisan meetings on May 8 to further examine some of the working group issues, followed by a similar meeting May 17 to cover the rest of the landscape. The committee sessions come on top of meetings the Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have been convening with rank-and-file GOP lawmakers on tax reform, as key Republicans try to build support and keep the conversation going on Capitol Hill.

The JCT pamphlet is 560 pages of proposed policy summarization without any policy endorsements. There are no revenue estimates associated with the report. The document provides an exhaustive description of present law (e.g. entities, rates, thresholds, limitations), then goes on to summarize 12 tax reform proposals from Simpson-Bowles, Sens. Wyden-Coats, Rep. Woodall, Think Tanks, etc. (on the areas of individual/corporate rates, payroll taxes, estate and excise taxes). The final portion highlights the feedback received by the 11 various working groups. There are no names of outside groups connected to the working group comments; rather generalizations of certain provisions that are supported or where there may be areas of concern without further explanation).

The report can be downloaded from the JCT website here. Comments to the W&M Working Groups can be located here.

For more information, please contact Brian Lenihan at (202) 547-4733 or lenihanb@agc.org. Return to Top

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Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on Small Business and Pass-Throughs
 

On May 15, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures (SRM) will hold a hearing on the small business and pass-through entity tax reform discussion draft released on March 12, 2013, by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). The committee released the discussion draft to solicit feedback on the details of the draft proposals, which the committee intends to include as part of comprehensive tax reform legislation that broadens the tax base, lowers tax rates, and simplifies the tax code for households, small businesses, and corporations.

Ways and Means Chairman Camp asked SRM Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) to schedule this hearing to gather analysis from outside experts on the details of the discussion draft. In announcing the hearing, SRM Chairman Tiberi stated, “Small businesses employ half of the private sector workforce and earn about half of all business income in the United States, so it is a major concern that nine out of ten small businesses are forced to rely on paid tax preparers because the tax code is too complicated for them to understand.  We need our entrepreneurs using their capital to invest and create jobs, not to fill out paperwork and tax forms, and one of the Committee’s top priorities in tax reform is to help them do that.” 

Information on the hearing can be found on the Ways and Means Committee website here.

For more information, please contact Brian Lenihan at (202) 547-4733 or lenihanb@agc.org.
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“Max & Dave” Launch Website Reminiscent of the 30-year old “Write Rosty” Campaign
 

On May 9, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) launched a website and a Twitter handle aimed at inviting taxpayers to offer comments and complaints about how to change the tax code. Developed in partnership with the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), TaxReform.gov will serve as a platform for the American public to weigh in on tax reform. The website highlights the work already underway including the 50 combined hearings between the two committees, as well as the discussion drafts and policy papers that have been released.

Former House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) pursued a similar nationwide write-in when he encouraged a nationally televised audience in 1985 to send him letters of support for reforming the tax code addressed to “Rosty." As a result, Rostenkowski received more than 75,000 letters and post cards from the public.

For more information, please contact Brian Lenihan at (202) 547-4733 or lenihanb@agc.org.
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Debt Prioritization Bill Passes in House
 

On May 9, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 807, the “Full Faith and Credit Act” by a 221-207 vote.  In the event the debt of the U.S. government reaches the statutory debt limit, H.R. 807 would allow the Treasury Secretary to issue debt to the extent necessary to pay principal and interest on certain obligations as outlined in the bill, such as borrowing for debt obligations and Social Security. In other words, it does not raise the debt ceiling, but instead would provide clarity about what was to be done when the Treasury Department hit the limit.

The most recent increase in the debt limit came in February, when President Obama signed into law a bill to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling through May 18. Currently, the debt subject to limit stood at $16.7 trillion. Budget experts estimate that if the Treasury Department takes so-called “extraordinary measures” – steps that allow a few extra months to finance Social Security, military salaries and other payments past May 19 – the debt ceiling would not be reached until late September or early October.

AGC continues to monitor the negotiations on the national debt and its implications on other fiscal policies being debated in Congress. For more information on the Full Faith and Credit Act, you can visit the House Rules Committee webpage here.

For more information, please contact Brian Lenihan at (202) 547-4733 or lenihanb@agc.org.
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LABOR
House Approves Comp Time Legislation
 

On May 8, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1406), which would allow private-sector employers the option to offer workers the choice of paid-time-off or “comp time”, in lieu of compensation, for overtime hours worked in a workweek.  The bill passed 223-204, mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing.

H.R. 1406 would allow employers to offer employees a choice between cash wages and accruing comp time for overtime hours worked. Employees who want to receive cash wages would continue to do so. No employee can be forced to take comp time instead of receiving overtime pay.  The employer and the employee would be required to complete a written agreement to use comp time, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee. Where the employee is represented by a union, the agreement to take comp time must be part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the union and the employer.  The bill retains all existing employee protections in current law, including the 40 hour work week and how overtime compensation is accrued. The bill adds additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary. Employees could accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay cash wages for any unused time at the end of the year. Workers are free to ‘cash out’ their accrued comp time whenever they choose to do so. Finally, it would require the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the extent private-sector employers and employees are using comp time, as well as the number of complaints filed with and enforcement actions taken by the U.S. Department of Labor.

AGC previously sent a letter of support of the legislation. Despite passage of the bill in the House, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to make further progress this Congress.

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

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Court Agrees with CDW, Strikes Down NLRB Posting Rule
 

In another victory for the AGC-supported Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit) has invalidated a regulation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that required most private-sector employers to post designated notices informing employees of certain rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), including the right to organize.  As previously reported, the Board published the controversial final rule in August 2011, but put implementation on hold after the D.C. Circuit issued a temporary injunction on the rule.  The court has now permanently enjoined the rule.  The CDW was a co-plaintiff in the case, the National Association of Manufacturers v. NLRB (D.C. Cir., 5/7/13).  To read more, please click here.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org
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AGC Responds to USACE PLA Inquiry
 

On May 9, AGC sent a letter opposing the possible use of a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District for the construction of a conference center and dormitories for the U.S. Customs & Border Protection's advanced training center in Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

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
Political Redemption for Mark Sanford
 

Seemingly against all odds, former Governor Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) successfully re-claimed his former congressional seat with a stunning 54-45 percent victory over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch on Tuesday night in South Carolina. The race drew major national attention because of Mr. Sanford's highly publicized extra-marital affair and alleged violation of his divorce agreement, along with the Democratic nominee being the sister of Comedy Central television personality Stephen Colbert. Ms. Colbert Busch's inability to dodge the liberal label, however, proved to be her undoing in this conservative Charleston-anchored 1st Congressional District.

It's rare when a nominee winning a seat that overwhelmingly favors his party is considered an upset, but that's exactly what happened last night. Sanford, running as a Tea Party endorsed fiscal hard-liner, successfully made his budget discipline message the focal point of the campaign and not his continuing personal scandals.

The Democrats poured a steady stream of money into the race, sensing that they could steal a solidly Republican seat and use the victory as a building block to support their 2014 House majority plan. Last night's defeat is clearly a setback for them. When the final accounting is completed, the tally will likely show that Colbert Busch and the outside organizations supporting her or opposing Sanford spent between $1.7 and $2 million. Mr. Sanford, accompanied by very little outside spending, will come closer to, but will likely fall under, $1 million in total expenditures.

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

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