Construction Legislative Week in Review September 5, 2013
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On the Inside
Fourth Quarter Legislative Preview
Seventy Four Percent of Construction Firms Report Having Trouble Finding Qualified Workers
2014 Toss-Up Races: Part Two of a Three-Part Series
Fourth Quarter Legislative Preview

As the Congressional recess comes to a close, AGC has remained active on several fronts to advance the interests of the construction industry. Here is what AGC’s Government Affairs Team projects for the remainder of the year:

The 2014 Budget, Sequestration and the Debt Limit

Congress faces two fast approaching, major deadlines upon its return: (1) Oct. 1 and the start of fiscal year (FY) 2014; and (2) the reaching of the debt limit, projected for mid-October. 

Concerning the FY 2014 appropriations process, both the House and the Senate remain far apart. Earlier this year, both chambers passed budgets capping discretionary spending at different levels. The House capped FY 2014 spending at post-sequestration levels ($966 billion), while the Senate capped spending at pre-sequestration levels ($1,055 billion). The result is a $91 billion gap between spending caps in the House and Senate budgets, reflected in each of the separate appropriations bills the congressional bodies have considered. The House has only passed 4 of the 12 appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed none.  Consequently, all signs point to passage of a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which could range from 1 month to 3 months in length and fail to provide guidance and needed funds to federal agencies and as well as prohibit new direct-federal construction project starts. Reports indicate that spending under a CR would likely be frozen at post-sequestration FY 2013 levels. However, some Republicans have threatened to shut down the government if Obama-care is not defunded.

As for the debt limit debate, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently announced that the debt limit will be reached sometime in mid-October. Congress set the debt limit in May at $16.7 trillion. T o date, both political parties have generally stuck to their positions.  Republicans want more spending cuts as a result of raising the limit, while President Obama and Democrats refuse to negotiate on the debt limit. If no agreement is reached, President Obama and Congress risk a national credit default and the downgrading of U.S. credit. AGC continues to advocate for adequate federal construction investment that helps address our nation’s military, transportation and federal facility needs and for real solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems. 

WRDA Action Expected in House

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is expected to take up its version of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill this month. The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version a WRDA bill by an 83 to 14 vote in May.  If the House passes a WRDA bill, a conference committee comprised of members from both chambers will commence to reconcile the differences between the bills before final passage.

AGC has actively advocated for sufficient investment to maintain and improve our nation’s flood control, inland waterway, and marine port systems, as well as to complete environmental restoration projects. In addition, AGC continues to fight for a WRDA bill that streamlines decades of laws and regulations that delay projects before construction begins, dedicates Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues for harbor maintenance and leverages with private funds, but does not replace public dollars with private for building water infrastructure. AGC will continue to press for enactment of a WRDA bill that includes the construction industry’s priorities, as mentioned above.

Water Infrastructure Funding

Most water infrastructure legislative measures are stuck in limbo and will likely remain there for the remainder of the year. SRF reauthorization has not garnered the necessary bipartisan support to advance beyond the introduction of a single democrat-heavy bill. The Chairman of the subcommittee of jurisdiction has not yet indicated his intention to introduce competing legislation this year. Bills that would create a Clean Water Trust Fund and remove the volume cap for water/sewer on private activity bonds remain unintroduced but could come before the end of the year. The trust fund bill is still in the process of garnering bipartisan support before introduction, while the PAB bill already has the bipartisan support it needs but faces the legislative bottleneck of the Ways & Means Committee. Until tax reform legislation is released, the bill will likely remain unintroduced.

The brightest hope for water infrastructure may be in a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). A version of this alternative finance program (based on a popular program in the transportation sector) made it into the Senate version of WRDA, and the House is looking to finalize its version for markup either at the same time as their version of WRDA or closely thereafter. AGC will continue to monitor these developments and push for funding for water infrastructure from all avenues.

Tax & Fiscal Affairs

When members return, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is expected to brief members of his own conference on the legislative product his staff compiled over the August recess. Staff-level briefings have already begun with various congressional offices, and Chairman Camp will begin to lay out an outline of his language in order to put his committee on the same page in preparation for a potential committee markup of a bill in October/November timeframe. Many tax policy experts do not expect significant movement on tax reform due to other legislative priorities and a truncated congressional schedule; sharp ideological divides remaining on revenue, and scant support from leadership on either side of the aisle seen as a major hurdle for the House and Senate committee chairmen going in to the fall agenda. However, tax reform is still considered a bargaining chip, along with the Keystone pipeline and renewable fuel standards (RFS), as leverage for Republicans going in to the debt ceiling negotiations.

Federal Procurement: Counting Lower Tier Small Business Subcontractors

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives adopted the AGC-supported “Make Every Small Business Count Act of 2013” (H.R. 2232) language that would allow prime contractors to count lower-tier small business subcontractors towards their small business goals.  This AGC-backed legislation was amended into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA) without objection, which then ultimately passed by a 315-108 vote.  Action has moved to the Senate, where AGC is working with key senators to introduce a similar bill there as well as to offer an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA.

Current law only allows prime contractors to count first-tier small business subcontractors towards their goals. This simple record keeping change in H.R. 2232 will encourage prime contractors to make sure small businesses have the opportunity to compete for subcontracts at every tier, thereby allowing more opportunities for small business growth.  AGC testified in support of H.R. 2232 before the House Small Business Committee in May.

Transportation Infrastructure Funding

As Congress returns from their August recess, AGC will continue our efforts to urge them to address the looming shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund starting in 2015 prior to expiration of MAP-21 in September 2014.  AGC, along with other transportation stakeholders, remains focused on educating Members of Congress on the impacts of the projected annual $15 billion shortfall.  As the House and Senate craft a comprehensive tax reform package, AGC is encouraging them to address the Highway Trust Fund revenue gap in any final package.   For more information and to contact your elected official visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at Return to Top

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Seventy Four Percent of Construction Firms Report Having Trouble Finding Qualified Workers
Nationwide Survey Finds Most Firms Worry There Are Not Enough Craft Workers Available to Meet Growing Demand for Construction as Officials Call for Immigration and Education Reform to Help

Seventy four percent of construction firms across the country report they are having trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots amid concerns that labor shortages will only get worse according to the results of an industry wide survey released today by the Associated General Contractors of America.  Association officials called for immigration and education reform measures to help avoid worker shortages.

“Many construction firms are already having a hard time finding qualified workers and expect construction labor shortages will only get worse,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America.  “We need to take short and long term steps to make sure there are enough workers to meet future demand and avoid the costly construction delays that would come with labor shortages.”

Read the full release here.

Click here for AGC’s analysis and survey results. View the national results here.

To view survey results by state:
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina

For more information, contact Brian Turmail at Return to Top
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2014 Toss-Up Races: Part Two of a Three-Part Series

Last week, the two Republican toss-up seats were profiled. Today, we look at the five toss-up seats held by Democrats in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina and Utah.

Arizona’s 2nd Congressional district

In May 2012, Ron Barber (D) succeeded his former boss when he won a special election over Republican Jesse Kelly. An election was called following Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) resignation from Congress after being critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head during an assassination attempt. Barber was also injured in the same attack. Once sworn in, the former district director, now Congressman, dispelled the rumors of being a “caretaker” for the seat when he announced his intentions to seek a full term in November.

When Kelly decided against a general election rematch, Republicans selected Martha McSally as their nominee. McSally is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and has the distinction of being the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, and first to command a fighter squadron in combat. Even though voters personally liked McSally, she was not able to defeat Barber. In July, McSally announced her decision to run again, setting the stage for a re-match.  

AZ-2 leans Republican (R+3). In the last two presidential elections, Sen. John McCain (R) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R) narrowly beat President Barack Obama (D) by 0.9% and 1.5%, respectively. Recent polling for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) finds McSally already pulling to within one point (45-46%) of the Congressman. The polling margin is almost identical to the November result. In the actual campaign, Mr. Barber eked out a 50.4 - 49.6% win, a margin of just 2,454 votes of more than 292,000 ballots cast.

California’s 52nd Congressional district

The Nov. 6 runoff between Congressman Brian Bilbray (R) and Port of San Diego Commissioner Scott Peters (D) was one of the closest congressional races last election cycle. How did Bilbray, a seven-term incumbent, lose his re-election when in previous cycles he had won by comfortable margins? Simply put, redistricting. The independent state board that redrew California’s congressional districts made CA-52 more Democratic when it included more liberal areas around San Diego like La Jolla. In just one election cycle, this district went from leaning Republican (R+2) to leaning Democratic (D+2). This four-point swing in a presidential election year, coupled with Bilbray’s unpopularity, was enough for Peters to eke out a win. 

Republicans are eager to bring this seat back into their column and have found a top recruit – former City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, “Nationally, it's hard to find a recruit Republicans are more excited about than DeMaio. DeMaio isn't your typical GOP candidate - he is pro-choice, stresses the environment, backs gay marriage and is openly gay himself.”

So far, voters are responding to DeMaio’s “anti-government-waste” message. DeMaio is proving to not only be a strong fundraiser, but is also polling well - two surveys actually posted DeMaio ahead of Peters by 10 and 11 points from data collected two months apart. However, don’t count Peters out, as he is likely to have considerable financial support to defend this seat. His wife is part of a wealthy family and they have joint assets which have been valued at $86 million. Peters tapped these funds in 2012 by loaning himself $2.7 million. Organized labor will also heavily back Peters since DeMaio angered many unions by pushing pension reform while on the city council.

Florida’s 26th Congressional district

The third time’s the charm for Rep. Joe Garcia (D). After two unsuccessful bids, Garcia finally won election to Congress in 2012 after defeating freshman Rep. David Rivera (R) with more than 53% of the vote. Had Rivera not been scandal-plagued and on the verge of indictment, it’s likely this race would have had a different outcome.


FL-26 is a new congressional district created as a result of redistricting. It is a Hispanic/Latino majority district and includes all of Monroe County (from the Everglades down to Key West) as well as southwest Miami-Dade County (Homestead area). It is the only district in the country to have voted for McCain in 2008 and Obama in 2012. Currently, it has a slight Republican advantage (R+1).

Given Garcia’s rough start to his congressional career and the district demographics, Republicans have made him one of their top 2014 targets. Vying for the Republican nomination is Miami Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall and former Miami-Dade Commission Chair Joe Martinez.

North Carolina’s 7th Congressional district

In 2012, NC-7 had the closest finish of any U.S. House race. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) was re-elected to a ninth-term over former state Senator David Rouzer (R) with a mere 654-vote margin from more than 336,000 ballots cast. What makes McIntyre’s re-election unusual is that it was in a strongly Republican district (R+12) that voted for McCain (57.6%) and Romney (59.1%) in the last two presidential elections.

Having been born, raised, educated and employed in the state has given McIntyre the ability to relate with ease to his constituents. He is a “known commodity” to them and Republicans have felt comfortable re-electing him. Will Rouzer be able to overcome this? Currently, his path to the Republican nomination is clear. This was not the case in 2012 as a bruising primary created a fractured party ahead of the general election. Rouzer struggled and found it tough to raise the necessary funds to take on the incumbent. As a result, the NRCC had to come to the rescue with significant ad buys. With Rouzer already running again and facing a mid-term turnout model without President Obama leading the Democratic ticket makes McIntyre one of the most endangered Democrats in Congress.

Utah’s 4th Congressional district

Democrat Jim Matheson was first elected in 2000 to Congress and represented constituents in the state’s 2nd district. When redistricting split his old seat up in 2012, Matheson opted to run in the state’s newly created 4th district.

UT-4 consists of Salt Lake City’s southern suburbs and is the 53rd most Republican House district (R+16). Almost 70% of its voters voted for Romney in 2012.  When Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, an African American Mormon (who after her GOP Convention speech was billed as a rising star), sought the nomination, Republicans believed they found the challenger who could defeat Matheson. However, contrary to almost all polls taken in advance of the election, Matheson defeated Love by just 768 votes.

How did the Congressman outperform Obama by almost 34,000 votes? According to the Cook Political Report, “Some point towards a "Bradley effect" (Love is Haitian-American), while others say tacit support for Matheson from LDS Church elders in the final month of the race reinforced that he was the choice of longtime Utahans, while the more recent transplant Love was already leaving the state for the national stage.” Whatever the case may be, Love has decided to try again. While the midterm electorate would normally benefit Love, Matheson will be helped by not having Romney on the top of the ticket.

 Featured next week are the toss-up Senate races.

For more information, contact David Ashinoff at Return to Top

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