Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org October 24, 2013
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On the Inside
WATER RESOURCES
Overwhelming Approval of $10 Billion WRRDA Bill in House
BUDGET
Budget Conference to Meet Next Week
HEALTHCARE
Implementation of Affordable Care Act Underway, Reforms Still Needed
Recent Guidance on HRA, Cafeteria Plan and FSA-Related Issues
IMMIGRATION
Renewed Attention on Immigration Reform
ENVIRONMENT
House Science Committee Blasts EPA for Putting Rulemaking Ahead of Science on Clean Water Act
UPDATE: EPA to Host Webinars for Contractors on SPCC (Oil Spill) Inspections
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WATER RESOURCES
Overwhelming Approval of $10 Billion WRRDA Bill in House
Bill Moves to House/Senate Conference Committee
 

On Oct. 23, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), H.R. 3080, by a 417-3 vote. With AGC members sending hundreds of letters of support to their members of Congress and an active AGC lobbying campaign, the WRRDA bill passed by an overwhelming margin, despite opposition from anti-construction funding and environmental groups. AGC would like to thank all of our members and chapters who sent letters in support of WRRDA.

The WRRDA bill authorizes approximately $10 billion for new construction projects—navigation, flood control, locks, dams, and environment restoration—through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Civil Works program.  To view the potential new projects, see pages 155 through 160 of the bill. Aside from authorizing new projects, the bill includes a host of other AGC contractor priorities, including project delivery and environmental streamlining, improving the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, a public-private partnership pilot program that leverages, but does not replace, government funding for water resources projects. You can also find a detailed, side-by-side analysis of the House and Senate bills here.

As with the Senate’s passage of its WRRDA bill S. 601 in May, AGC actively pressed for its WRRDA priorities in the House. AGC met with over 70 House offices, coordinated the signatures of over 50 AGC chapters on a business community WRRDA support letter in anticipation of House action, sent letters of support through two AGC-co-chaired multi-industry coalitions—the Transportation Construction Coalition and the Water Resources Coalition —as well as AGC's own letter of support. AGC continues to advocate and coordinate concerted support for passage of a pro-reform and pro-water resources infrastructure investment WRRDA bill.

Now, a conference committee comprised of members from both chambers will commence to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate WRRDA bills before final passage. AGC will continue to press for enactment of a final WRRDA bill that includes the construction industry’s priorities.

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

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BUDGET
Budget Conference to Meet Next Week
 

With the Senate out this week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been preparing for the commencement of negotiations on tax reform parameters and spending on entitlements as well as other federal programs that will begin on Oct. 30. 

The 25 conference members are charged with coming to an agreement by Dec. 13, and a key aim will be finding a top-line discretionary spending level for fiscal 2014, which began on Oct. 1. As of now, the House and Senate budgets are $91 billion apart on their preferred top-line numbers. 

The government, which re-opened last Thursday after a 16-day shutdown, is now operating under a $987 billion top-line budget. Fifteen days after Congress adjourns, the spending level will be cut by another round of sequestration to $968 billion. 

Funding for the government runs out on Jan. 15 and appropriators hope that a budget agreement will give them enough time to pass a giant omnibus spending bill by that time.

The budget conference could also produce a wider deficit agreement that eases passage of another increase in the debt ceiling by Feb. 7.  

The conference meeting is expected to be broadcast live either on C-SPAN or the Budget Committee's website. 

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

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HEALTHCARE
Implementation of Affordable Care Act Underway, Reforms Still Needed
 

With the most recent Affordable Care Act’s milestone - the Oct. 1 opening of the enrollment into the exchanges less than flawless implementation - renewed focus on the reforms and changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)are underway in Congress. Since the bill was passed in 2010, and later upheld by the Supreme Court, AGC has advocated that the law would not make it easier to obtain health insurance, nor make health insurance more affordable or possible for those who liked their current healthcare plan to keep it. AGC has identified several legislative changes to the law, which include a delay in the individual mandate, changing the definitions of a full-time employee and large employers, reducing and streamlining the complex regulatory burdens, and eliminating costly taxes on insurance providers and manufacturers that do little to improve coverage and make coverage more affordable.

For more information on AGC’s priorities for reform and to send a letter to Congress addressing the changes needed, visit the AGC website. In addition, an overview of the law’s implementation, including new information on the opening of the Exchanges, new proposed rules on information reporting, and updated information on employer contributions to HRAs and health FSAs  – prepared by Washington Council Ernst & Young – is also available on the website. 

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

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Recent Guidance on HRA, Cafeteria Plan and FSA-Related Issues
 

The Treasury Department recently published guidance on the application of the Affordable Care Act and an employer’s ability to use a stand-alone health reimbursement arrangement or other tax-favored arrangement, such as a cafeteria plan, to help employees pay for individual health insurance policies on a tax-free basis. The notice from the Treasury would eliminate these types of arrangements, but the guidance does provide exemptions for Employee Assistance Programs.

For more detailed analysis on the guidance, background and what types of arrangements would be legally permissible in the future, please see a recent memo from the Groom Law Group on Treasury Notice 2013-54.

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

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IMMIGRATION
Renewed Attention on Immigration Reform
 

As Congress moves past the budget and debt ceiling, there are renewed calls from both parties on addressing immigration reform.  In response to the renewed focus on a top legislative priority for AGC, AGC joined coalition partners in the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition in a statement of support for the House to consider immigration.  The statement laid out the importance of comprehensive immigration reform, including the need for legislation to include a visa program for lesser skilled workers when domestic labor is unavailable, a workable and fair employment verification system, along with a mechanism for unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status under strict conditions and after complying with strict criteria.

With immigration reform looking to heat up again, it is important that AGC members take the time to meet and speak with their Representatives on the need to pass immigration reform. Go to AGC’s Legislative Action Center to write a letter to your member of Congress, attend town hall meetings or make in-person visits.

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

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ENVIRONMENT
House Science Committee Blasts EPA for Putting Rulemaking Ahead of Science on Clean Water Act
 

With the simultaneous release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft science report on the connectivity of waters and the submittal of its new proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) sent a letter raising concerns over the draft rule, which is expected to greatly expand the agency’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

In their letter, the chairmen criticize the EPA for pushing through a rule with vast economic implications before the agency’s independent reviewers at its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have had an opportunity review the underlying science, as required by law. “A sweeping reinterpretation of EPA jurisdiction would give the agency unprecedented control over private property across the nation,” the chairmen wrote. “Any attempt to issue a proposed rule before completing an independent examination by the agency’s own science advisors would be to put the cart before the horse.”

The chairmen state, “In light of recent concerns raised by the small business community, the agency’s current approach to CWA jurisdiction appears to represent a rushed, politicized regulatory process lacking the proper consultation with scientific peer reviewers and the American people. If EPA has not already provided SAB with the proposed rule, the House Science Committee urges the agency to do so immediately. Under the law, the advice of scientific experts is a pre-requisite, not an afterthought.”

The letter advises the agency that the Science Committee intends to provide additional questions to the SAB panel related to the new rule in order to ensure that regulations are fashioned with a sound scientific foundation.

The full letter can be found here.

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

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UPDATE: EPA to Host Webinars for Contractors on SPCC (Oil Spill) Inspections
Earlier Session Rescheduled Due to Government Shutdown, New Session Added FREE to AGC Members!
 

Registration is now open for the following webinar sessions that EPA is hosting specifically for the construction industry.  Please register as soon as possible using the links below.  (Note that these links are not accessible from EPA’s website.) 

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. EST:  http://spccwebinar1030.eventbrite.com   
Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST:  http://spccwebinar1107.eventbrite.com

Our prior sessions “sold out” quickly!  EPA staff agreed to add a new session to help meet AGC members’ needs.

For more information on EPA’s SPCC requirements and new enforcement initiative, click here. Return to Top

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