Possibility of Government Shutdown Remains Uncertain
Because of the uncertainty of government funding over the
next few days, AGC has compiled a Government
Shutdown Resource Center that includes information on what contracts
will be in jeopardy and which will be unaffected. The document also gives advice on how to
proceed with federal owners if certain approvals may be needed or if there are
question about how to bill costs associated with delays caused by the
Congress Remains at an Impasse
Following 21 hours of theatrics on the Senate Floor by
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over defunding Obamacare, the Senate voted to
proceed to consideration of the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) by a
vote of 100-0. The House-passed CR
included language about defunding Obamacare; however, following the unanimous
Senate vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) started the process towards
amending the House CR and, through Senate procedures, he has ensured that no
other Senators can offer amendments. Votes
on the Senate amendments will continue tomorrow and through the weekend.
The Senate CR makes a series of substantive changes to the
House-passed CR, including: changing the expiration date from Dec. 15 to Nov.
15, eliminating language that prioritizes certain payments if Congress fails to
increase the debt limit and removing the language defunding Obamacare. The Senate is on schedule to pass their CR on
Saturday, if not earlier. The CR will
then head back to the House where its fate is uncertain.
House Republican leaders will have to decide whether to pass
the amended bill or send it back with changes.
If the House decides to amend the Senate bill, all 100 Senators would
have to unanimously support the House-amended bill in order to get it the
President’s desk by midnight on Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown. If the House employs that strategy, there is
the potential of a one-week CR that would provide the House and Senate time to
pass yet another, longer CR.
The situation is, and will likely remain, very fluid leading
up to next Monday. House Republicans
have yet to find consensus regarding an end-game strategy. It is clear that leadership wants to pass a
CR and avoid a shutdown of the government and instead, rally their conservative
members for the debt-limit battle. The
House will initiate the battle this week when they will unveil their debt limit
legislation. The debt limit package is
expected to include a suspension of the debt limit until the end of Dec. 2014, a
one-year delay of Obamacare, tax reform instructions, House-passed energy and
regulatory bills (i.e., Keystone Pipeline and Coal Ash) and mandatory spending
reforms. The debt ceiling needs to be
raised no later than Oct. 17 according to a letter
to Congress from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
The debt limit strategy being employed by the House is opposed by the president
who prefers a clean increase and continues to refuse to negotiate over raising
the debt ceiling.
Congress has once again backed itself in a corner and
continues its pattern of governing via crisis and short-term extensions. How these two issues will ultimately be resolved
AGC is joining more than 175 other groups urging the House
and Senate to finalize work on a continuing resolution and an increase in the
debt limit so that they can deal with the real causes of the country’s long
term debt problems. The letter – which will go to all members of the House and
Senate tomorrow – says in part, “Congress cannot continue ‘kicking the can down
the road:’ it’s time to take corrective action to address the unaffordable path
of entitlement spending, to stabilize federal finances and to undertake
fundamental tax reform to strengthen the American Economy.”
For more information,
please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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OFCCP’s New Affirmative Action Rules Effective March 24, 2014
On Sept. 24, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of
Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (OFCCP) long-anticipated final rules on veterans and individuals with disabilities (IWD)
were posted in the Federal Register.
Both rules increase the affirmative action requirements of direct
federal contractors and subcontractors.
The agency pre-released each of the final rules in August but announced
that they would not go into effect until 180 days after being published. The
effective date of both rules is March 24, 2014.
However, for contractors with a written affirmative action program in
place at that time, the affirmative action program requirements do not go into
effect until the beginning of the next plan year.
Although AGC supports OFCCP’s goals and objectives, AGC is
disappointed with the agency’s decision to finalize the two regulations, in
particular due to the lack of need for the rules and the costs associated with implementing
and complying with the new requirements.
However, after several meetings with government agencies, legislative
efforts and press campaigns, AGC persuaded OFCCP to reduce the regulations, as
proposed, by more than 50 percent. While
contractors will be required to do more than is currently required, the impact
on contractors is minimal compared to what was suggested in the proposed
rules. (For more on the veterans
proposed rule, click here. For more on the disability proposed rule,
To learn more about these rules, please click here.For
more information, please contact Tamika Carter at (703) 837-5382 or email@example.com.
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AGC Responds to USACE PLA Inquiry
On Sept. 24, AGC sent a letter opposing the possible use of
a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Alaska District for the FY14 design-build Mechanical-Electrical Building (MEB)
construction project at Fort Greely, Alaska.
AGC has sent over 75 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. To view AGC efforts opposing government
mandated PLAs, click
here. For more information, please contact Jimmy
Christianson at 703-837-5325 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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New Developments in Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
Last week brought three important developments in the
ongoing battle over federal jurisdiction of waters of the U.S. in the Clean
Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (Corps) sent the draft proposed rule on ‘Waters of the U.S.’/Clean
Water Act jurisdiction to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for
interagency review. The proposed rule comes from increased pressure on the
agencies to abandon the strategy of issuing non-regulatory guidance to their
regional entities interpreting their Clean Water Act jurisdiction. This guidance
has been held up in its own interagency review at OMB since 2012. The content
of the draft proposed rule is not yet public. It is very likely that this rule
will expand federal jurisdiction.
In regards to the aforementioned guidance, OMB’s database
officially marked the guidance as withdrawn. EPA has not yet (and likely
doesn’t intend to) publicly invalidate the guidance. With the guidance having
never been officially finalized, there is nothing to officially withdraw. But
the fact that EPA has withdrawn the guidance from OMB consideration means they
won’t be pursuing the guidance and the rule simultaneously, which was one of
industry’s biggest concerns.
At the same time, the proposed rule went to OMB, EPA release
their draft report “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to
Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence”
for public comment. This document contains the scientific review that will
support the EPA/Corps assertion of expanded jurisdiction. The report concludes
streams, including perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, are
physically, chemically, and biologically connected to downstream rivers”
open-waters in landscape … are physically, chemically, and biologically
connected with rivers”
Isolated waters “provide
numerous functions that can benefit downstream water quality and integrity” but
“it is difficult to generalize about their effects on downstream waters from
the currently available literature”
These conclusions support the idea that if all waters are
connected (or could be connected), then all waters are essentially ‘Waters of
the US’ under the Clean Water Act and fall under federal jurisdiction. Rather
than completing the review of the science first so that the science properly
informs the rulemaking, the public review of this science is happening on a
parallel track to the evaluation of the proposed rule by OMB.
AGC will continue to work its industry partners in the
Waters Advocacy Coalition to provide the industry reaction to the Connectivity
science, and will continue to watch for the publication of the proposed rule.
For more information, please contact Scott Berry at email@example.com or
Leah Pilconis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senate Committee Looks at Highway Trust Fund Solvency
In its continuing effort to lay the groundwork for
next year’s need to reauthorize the highway and transit programs, the Senate
Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing Wednesday to
address the status of the Highway Trust Fund and examine options for providing
the revenue needed to keep the trust fund operating. EPW chairwoman Sen.
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the hearing by reading from a statement
submitted by AGC, which highlights the dire situation facing the HTF at the end
of FY 2014 – at this point in time, there will be an insufficient balance to
allow for new federal funding obligations, again calling for continued support
for increasing the traditional motor fuels tax, while allowing for inflation
adjustments and identifying new revenue sources. Sen. Boxer suggested that in
looking at the idea of replacing the 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline
purchases with a sales tax fee paid by oil wholesalers, she believes the option
would help close an approximately $20 billion annual shortfall in
transportation funding. There was not unanimous support for this idea among
Committee members present and Senator Boxer pointed out that this decision is
in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee, but is a concept she will encourage
the committee to look at.
The hearing included an industry panel that
uniformly pointed out not only the need to raise the needed revenue, but to do
it quickly to avoid program disruptions next year. A second panel included
testimony from members of two commissions established to look at the future of
the federal transportation programs and how to fund them. Panelists Jack
Schenendorf and Kathy Ruffalo both called for the need for Congress to continue
the user pay system that has been so successful in the past. Schenendorf said a
25- to 40-cent per gallon gas tax increase is necessary to start meeting future
needs. Also on this panel was Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Sean
Connaughton, who talked about the state’s success last year to increase
transportation funding, which included a change in the collection of user-fees
similar to the idea suggested by Sen. Boxer.
Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a member of the EPW
Committee, but also chair of the Finance Committee, said he hoped to address
increasing the federal gas tax or finding other ways to raise revenue for
highway and transit programs as part of the tax reform effort his committee
will be taking up. He said that including this as part of a larger bill might
increase its chances of success. Sen. Baucus said his goal is to move a
comprehensive tax reform bill later this year.For more information,
please contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or email@example.com.
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AGC-Supported Bill Passes House
AGC joined several of their colleagues in the trucking and
bus industry in supporting H.R. 3095, a bill that
will ensure that any action taken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (FMCSA) regarding obstructive sleep apnea among commercial truck
and bus drivers may occur only after a formal rule making process. The bill passed the House by a vote of 405-0 and
now heads to the Senate.
The bill is necessary because FMCSA has been considering
sleep apnea through “regulatory guidance,” which doesn’t ensure due process for
companies that employ drivers with Commercial Driving Licenses. Formal rulemaking will ensure the process considers
the views of stakeholders and the medical community on the best screening,
testing, and treatment methods.
AGC will continue to work with our trucking and bus
colleagues to ensure FMCSA proceeds only through a formal rulemaking process. For more information,
please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Alabama Special Election
Alabama voters went to the polls in the first of three
elections to choose a successor to resigned Rep. Jo Bonner (R) last night, who
departed the House in August to accept a position at the University of Alabama.
The end result met predicted expectations, as Democratic former state
Representative candidate Burton LeFlore easily won his low turnout primary with
70 percent of the vote. He now awaits the winner of the Nov. 5 Republican
Of the nine GOP candidates, two will advance: former state Senator and
gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne (35 percent) and businessman and former
congressional candidate Dean Young (23 percent). For
more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or email@example.com.
The remaining seven candidates, three of whom ran significant campaigns, are
eliminated from further competition. State Rep. Chad Fincher placed third with
16 percent, conservative columnist Quin Hillyer was next at 14 percent, and
former Republican National Committee deputy chief of staff Webb Griffith
finished fifth, garnering 11 percent. The remaining four candidates all pulled
less than 400 votes.
The special election turnout rate was relatively low, but Republicans dominated
among the voters who did participate. Almost 52,000 people cast ballots in the
GOP election versus just 4,300 for the Democrats. The eventual Republican
nominee will be a heavy favorite in the Dec. 17 special general election.
Though Mr. Byrne finished first last night, he is by no means guaranteed to win
the run-off. In fact, he was in an identical position in the 2010 Governor's
campaign, but failed to secure the nomination in the subsequent head-to-head
Three years ago, Mr. Byrne placed first in that primary, too, but fell in the
run-off to now-Gov. Robert Bentley by a relatively stiff 56-44 percent margin.
Interestingly, Mr. Bentley only secured second place by a 166-vote spread in
the statewide contest. We'll see on Nov. 5 whether the first-place qualifier
breaks the majority barrier or if history will repeat itself.
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