Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 27, 2013
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On the Inside
IMMIGRATION
Senate Immigration Bill Passes Senate, Future in House Uncertain
BUDGET
Transportation Appropriations Bills Pass House and Senate Committees
Committees Approve Energy & Water (U.S. Army Corps Civil Works) Appropriations
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Corps FY 2013 Work Plan Released for Civil Works
TAX
Tax Reform Update
LABOR
AGC Responds to Federal Aviation Administration PLA Inquiry
TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Bond Proposal Introduced
Foxx Confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Transportation
CONGRESS
Ed Markey Wins Special Election
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IMMIGRATION
Senate Immigration Bill Passes Senate, Future in House Uncertain
 

Today, the Senate voted 68-32 to pass S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Throughout the debate, AGC advocated that successful legislation must strengthen national security, create a fair and efficient employment verification system, create a program for temporary guest workers to meet future workforce needs in the less-skilled sectors, and find a reasonable and rational way of dealing with the current undocumented population in the United States.  In AGC’s view, the Senate bill that passed today met many of these priorities.  However, it fails to address the construction industry’s future workforce needs with the restrictions to the temporary guest worker program that have been placed on our industry.

The unique and arbitrary restriction on the construction industry’s use of a future guest worker program will restrict future growth in the industry. The construction industry – which currently employs nearly six million workers – would be limited to only 15,000 (and even less in the early years) guest worker visas annually. Restricting the future flow of one industry is not only arbitrary, but will prove to be an unworkable method for dealing with worker shortages and is inconsistent with the rest of the legislation. For the rest of the economy, the program is designed to take the market demands into account when setting caps. Construction will be the only industry forced to comply with an arbitrary hard cap.

That being said, the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that passed is a complex package and will impact all industries and all employers. Many of AGC’s priorities were addressed and AGC will work to refine the legislation as it heads to the House. AGC will also continue to advocate for the removal of the caps placed on the construction industry for guest workers and hope to develop fair and efficient immigration legislation for all industries when the House begins its debate. As of now, it remains uncertain what path the House will take to reform our immigration system. AGC members should continue to reach out to their representatives in support of comprehensive immigration reform and ensure that the House doesn’t repeat the Senate’s mistake in placing unique and arbitrary caps on the construction industry.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org
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BUDGET
Transportation Appropriations Bills Pass House and Senate Committees
 

Thursday was a busy day on Capitol Hill with both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passing their FY 2013 funding bills.  AGC supported the funding levels for federal highway and transit programs in both bills reported out of the House and Senate Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittees.

The House and Senate bills’ funding for highways are identical in that they both provide MAP-21 authorized levels of $40.3 billion.  The Senate bill, which provided $10 billion more in discretionary funding than the House bill, creates a new $500 million general fund bridge program.  In terms of transit, both bills provide MAP-21 levels ($8.6 billion) for the Highway Trust Fund programs within the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).  The remaining FTA funding comes from the general fund, where the House provided $1.8 billion and the Senate slightly over $2.0 billion.  Both bills funded the Airport Improvement Program at $3.35 billion.

The House and Senate treat the TIGER grant program very differently.  The House bill does not provide any funding for TIGER grants and goes further by rescinding $237 million unspent FY 2013 funds.  The Senate, again working under a higher discretionary spending cap, provides $550 million for the TIGER discretionary grants.

The next step for the bills is consideration on the House and Senate floor.  It is unclear when they will act, but the House is anticipated to take up their FY 2014 THUD bill not long after returning from the Fourth of July recess.

AGC will continue to push for full funding for transportation infrastructure programs when the bills are considered on the floor.

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

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Committees Approve Energy & Water (U.S. Army Corps Civil Works) Appropriations
 

On June 26 and 27, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively, approved their versions of the FY 2014 Energy and Water appropriations bill. The AGC-supported bills will fund the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works’ construction program. As it stands, the Senate’s bill would provide for $396 million more than the House bill and $446 million more than the president’s budget request.

For a complete, line-by-line analysis of all Civil Works’ accounts and funding levels as requested by the president and proposed by the House and Senate, click here.  To view what projects the House bill would fund, see page 26 and onward of the House Appropriations Committee Report. The Senate has not yet released its report.

AGC continues to maintain that through regularly investing adequate funding to maintain our nation’s inland waterways, ports and coastlines and to protect cities from floods and storm damage, our economy will grow, jobs will be created and the need for large disaster assistance aid will be diminished and more lives will be saved with improved construction.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at (703) 837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org
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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Corps FY 2013 Work Plan Released for Civil Works
 

This week, the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters released its FY 2013 Work Plan for the Civil Works program. The Work Plan lists the funding levels for all Civil Works projects, studies, navigation projects, and national programs. 

Why did the Corps only now release its FY 2013 Work Plan with just 3 months left in the fiscal year? Two reasons: Congress and the White House.  Congress enacted a full year FY 2013 appropriations bill in March of this year—six months into FY 2013—and added multiple budgetary caveats with the addition of sequestration and other mandatory across-the-board cuts.  For the last 3 months, the White House Office of Management and Budget has been determining how to allot funding based on those cuts.

Under the Work Plan, the Corps receives $4.718 billion after a 2 percent across-the-board cut and another cut taken for sequestration. That compares to a FY 2012 figure of $5.002 billion and results in a cut of slightly over 5.5 percent. 

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

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TAX
Tax Reform Update
 

With the recent culmination of the Senate Finance Committee bipartisan tax policy meetings last week and the subsequent 10th policy option paper published, the tax-writing committee chairmen – House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) now need to create a clear path forward before draft language can be considered in the Ways and Means Committee by the end of the fiscal year.

The months of July and August will consist of more member meetings, the chairs’ national tour, and the eventual drafting of legislative language by Ways and Means committee staff with input from committee members. For more information on the committees’ literature released to date, you can visit here.

Start of Bicameral Bipartisan Lunches

On June 25, 12 members gathered with Chairman Camp and Chairman Baucus to commence the first of many bipartisan lunch meetings at Kelly's Irish Times in D.C. – (3 members from each political party from both chambers) – a haunt of former Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), who chaired the Finance Committee during the 1986 tax reform effort. The goal is to engage members on- and off- the tax committees and hear perspectives from the upper and lower chambers’ membership in an intimate setting.

A Framework for Reform

On June 27, with four weeks to go before the month-long congressional recess – Chairmen Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released a letter outlining a basic framework for moving a tax reform bill through the Senate. The Finance leaders asked all Senators to formally submit legislative language or detailed proposals for what tax expenditures should be included in a reformed tax code by July 26, with special attention given to bipartisan proposals. The announcement did not include a definitive date for a committee markup of a reform bill, but did mention that the committee was in the “home stretch.”

The committee’s letter is not nearly as detailed as the Bowles-Simpson “Chairmen’s Mark” Deficit Reduction Plan released by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010. According to the Fiscal Commission’s final report, the “Zero Deduction Plan within the Commission’s proposal is like the Reagan/Bradley tax reform of the 1980s on steroids.” But much like the “zero-plan,” the Finance Committee is requiring that tax provisions be justified based on a three-part test (i.e. grow the economy; make the tax code fairer; or effectively promote other important policy objectives) before they are incorporated into a bill to reform the tax code.

Max & Dave Road Show

Chairmen Camp and Baucus will begin their tax reform tour following the Independence Day recess with the first event in Minneapolis on July 8, before heading to Philadelphia, Denver and Memphis in the following weeks.  The chairmen will highlight various portions of the tax code and make the case for comprehensive reform to the public. More details on dates and cities will be released in the future.

IRS Scandal Hearing

Separate from the committee’s reform efforts, Ways and Means conducted a hearing on June 27, focusing on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) 30-day report on the practice of discriminating against applicants for tax-exempt status based on their personal beliefs.  Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Daniel Werfel, was the lone witness and addressed the status of corrective actions being taken by the IRS.

During these critical months, AGC staff will continue to advocate for common sense reforms to current provisions that affect contractors of all sizes and promote investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

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


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LABOR
AGC Responds to Federal Aviation Administration PLA Inquiry
 

On June 19, AGC sent a letter opposing the possible use of project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by the Federal Aviation Administration for construction of a new air traffic control tower at Tuscon International Airport in Tucson, Ariz.

AGC has sent over 70 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.
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TRANSPORTATION
Transportation Bond Proposal Introduced
 

Today, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Allison Schwartz (D-Pa.) introduced the AGC-supported Transportation and Regional Infrastructure Project (TRIP) bonds legislation.  TRIP Bonds would allow states to issue up to a total of $50 billion – $1billion per state – in bonds for transportation infrastructure projects over a six-year period.  AGC has been working in the House and Senate to build support for this proposal and will continue to educate members of Congress as to the importance of providing innovative financing tools to complement dedicated transportation funding.

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

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Foxx Confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Transportation
 

Today, the former Mayor of Charlotte, N.C., was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the United States Secretary of Transportation with a 100 – 0 vote. Secretary Anthony Foxx is replacing Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced his resignation soon after President Obama’s re-election.

Foxx respected the custom of handling infrastructure investment as a bipartisan issue during his confirmation process stating, “there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port, air field, or rail system. We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation’s infrastructure”.

Secretary Foxx will be faced with several challenges.  He comes on board 15 months prior to the expiration of MAP-21 and at a time when the Highway Trust Fund is projected to be unable to meet its obligations sometime in fiscal year 2015.  AGC looks forward to working with Secretary Foxx on reauthorization, funding and ensuring the U.S Department of Transportation implements the major policy reforms in MAP-21. 

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

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CONGRESS
Ed Markey Wins Special Election
 

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.-5) successfully claimed Secretary of State John Kerry's (D) former Senate seat, but his margin of victory was a bit under what a Democrat normally scores.  Markey will soon be sworn into the Senate and serve the balance of the current term.  He is eligible to run for a full six-year stint in November of 2014.  Entering the Senate after 36 years of service in the House, Mr. Markey now becomes the longest-serving Representative ever to be elected to the Senate.  

Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez ran well.  Leading Markey through the first 40 percent of vote counting, he succumbed when the Boston precincts and heavy Democratic towns in eastern Massachusetts reported their numbers.  In the end, Markey won 55-45 percent, pulling away late in the contest.  Over 1.17 million individuals participated in yesterday’s election, representing about 27 percent of the total state electorate of 4.34 million voters, which is relatively high for a special election. 

Mr. Gomez had a strong candidate profile as an investor, businessman, Naval Academy graduate and Navy SEAL.  Gomez did not run as a conservative, but attempted to position himself as a moderate in order to attract a larger base of support.  However, this strategy failed for Gomez as he fell to Markey, as often happens.  Particularly in a lower turnout special election, those most likely to cast ballots are the more politically interested and motivated voters.  Therefore, the base Republican voter is less excited about a moderate, or centrist, candidate, while in this case the base Democrats had a bonafide liberal in Markey to support creating more of a driver for them.

Sen. Mo Cowan (D) has been serving in an interim capacity since Gov. Deval Patrick (D) appointed him, just after Mr. Kerry accepted his national position.  Cowan will step down as soon as Senator-elect Markey takes the oath of office.  Until the New Jersey special election is held in October, the Senate will remain in a partisan division of 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans.

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