Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org October 31, 2013
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On the Inside
SAFETY
OSHA Extends Silica Rule Comment Deadline
LABOR
House Hearing on Multiemployer Pension Reform Focused on AGC Support Recommendations
BUDGET
Budget Conference Conducts First Meeting
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Opposes Federal Agency Reverse Auctions for Construction
GSA Recommends LEED and Green Globes for Federal Buildings
TRANSPORTATION
Freight Panel Issues Report
AGC EVENTS
AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
Registrater for the AGC Winter 2014 Financial Issues Forum
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SAFETY
OSHA Extends Silica Rule Comment Deadline
 

On Oct. 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it would be extending the public comment period on its proposed silica rule by 47 days. The original deadline to submit public comments had been Dec. 11, but has been pushed back to Jan. 27, 2014. AGC submitted a request to extend the deadline by 90 days in order to best respond to the proposed rule’s 87 detailed questions. This extension now allows AGC to work with its members to properly formulate an effective response. AGC is also working with a coalition of nearly two dozen construction industry trade associations that represent all facets of the industry to craft a response to the proposed rule.

AGC has numerous concerns with the rule, which, as it stands, would reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) to airborne crystalline silica in half. AGC’s preliminary analysis of the rule reveals that complying with the rule is neither technologically or economically feasible; control methods outlined in the rule contradict existing safety practices in the industry; and OSHA’s failure to detail how the new requirements would reduce illnesses. The industry has made significant progress in the last four decades in preventing silica-related disease under existing regulations and AGC believes the real problem is the failure to achieve compliance with the current PEL. Correcting that failure should be the focus of OSHA's efforts and will likely achieve the best results.

AGC is soliciting input from members on the compliance costs and regulatory burdens the new rule would place on the industry. For more information on the proposed rule and to provide input to AGC, please visit the AGC website.

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

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LABOR
House Hearing on Multiemployer Pension Reform Focused on AGC Support Recommendations
 

On Oct. 29, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, held a hearing entitled, “Strengthening the Multiemployer Pension System: How Will Proposed Reforms Affect Employers, Workers, and Retirees?" The hearing is the latest in a series of hearings on multiemployer pension reform and includes recommendations on reform from stakeholders. Starting in 2011, the committee has been examining the challenges facing the multiemployer pension system, including changing demographics, unfunded benefit liabilities, and the projected insolvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. 

The hearing focused on The National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) comprehensive recommendations to reform the multiemployer pension system, which includes new plan designs and additional tools for plans in deep financial distress. AGC participated in the NCCMP’s nearly two year effort, working to ensure that the interests of the construction industry are fairly and justly represented.  The hearing was an opportunity to discuss how NCCMP’s proposed reforms might affect workers, employers, and retirees.  AGC remains hopeful legislation to overhaul the system will occur during the current congress. For more information on the hearing, click here. You can find more information – including the full report – on the proposed solutions offered up by the unique partnership of business and labor groups, including AGC, which brought these issues to the Hill here.  You can also find an extremely helpful document on the myths versus facts of the abovementioned "Solutions, Not Bailouts" here.

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

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BUDGET
Budget Conference Conducts First Meeting
 

On Oct. 30, the 29 budget conference members charged with coming to an agreement on revenue and spending between the two chambers of Congress met for its first public meeting in the Capitol. The initial gathering began with opening statements by each member, which all centered around finding comity and common ground, while staking out boundaries on potential spending cuts to the middle-class, Medicare beneficiaries and defense programs, as well as changes to tax revenues that the conference will concentrate on for the next six weeks.

AGC sent a letter to the conferees outlining industry priorities on taxes, entitlement spending, sequestration and investment in the nation’s infrastructure. The conference is charged with coming to an agreement by Dec. 13, and a key aim will be finding a top-line discretionary spending level for fiscal year 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 leaders of the conference, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), will continue to meet privately with each other to lay out parameters and identify areas where principles overlap. The next meeting of the budget conference is expected to be broadcast live either on C-SPAN or the Budget Committee's website on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

On the tax reform front, Budget Chairman Ryan – also a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee – noted that the tax-writing committees, not the budget conferees should have final say on revisions to the tax code. Chairman Ryan said, “Our tax code is full of carve-outs and kickbacks. We need to get rid of them. And bipartisan talks [over tax reform] are just the way to do it....If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we're not going to get anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) addressed those who have questioned the chances for tax reform during a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, where he said the tax reform “issue is not going away.” Chairman Baucus also addressed how he plans to work with the ongoing budget conference. “I look forward to working with Chairman Murray and Chairman Ryan on the tax and entitlement components of their discussions," Baucus said during his speech. He promised to continue to work on a “parallel track” with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to keep going forward with tax reform.

For more information, please contact Brian Lenihan at (202) 547-4733 lenihanb@agc.org Return to Top
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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Opposes Federal Agency Reverse Auctions for Construction
 

On Oct. 31, AGC sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opposing the agency’s procurement of construction services using online reverse auctions. Specifically, AGC took issue with 14 VA construction services awards—valued at nearly $3 million – that were procured through online reverse auctions.

AGC strongly advocates against the use of reverse auction procurement for construction services. In its letter to the VA, AGC notes that the complexities of these processes simply do not compare to the purchase of an off-the-shelf commercial item. The reverse auction process ignores the unique nature of construction. General contractors, specialty contractors, subcontractors and suppliers offer and provide a mix of services, materials and systems. They do not “manufacture” buildings, highways, or other facilities.

To supplement its arguments, AGC shared its position paper on reverse auctions for construction services procurement and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ report, highlighting why it abandoned the use of reverse auctions for procuring construction services nearly ten years ago. AGC also recently testified against the use of reverse auction procurement for construction services before the House Small Business Committee.  AGC-backed legislation prohibiting the practice is currently under consideration for introduction this Congress.

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

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GSA Recommends LEED and Green Globes for Federal Buildings
 

On Oct. 25, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) sent the U.S. Department of Energy its long-awaited recommendations for the federal government’s use of green building rating systems.  GSA recommends that agencies use either the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 2009 or the Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) Green Globes 2010 — with a minimum goal of achieving LEED Silver or 2 Green Globes certification levels for new buildings.

The six recommendations GSA sent to the Secretary of Energy are summarized below.  Read the full recommendations here.

  1. Agencies should continue to use third-party certification systems.
  2. Agencies should choose between LEED 2009 and Green Globes 2010.  New construction and major renovation projects should aim to achieve at least a LEED Silver or 2 Green Globes rating level.  Existing buildings should set a minimum goal of achieving LEED Certified or 1 Green Globe rating level.  (USGBC and GBI offer rating systems for existing building.)
  3. Agencies should use credits that align with federal requirements.  In addition to mandatory requirements, the rating systems provide option credits that individual projects can seek to achieve.  GSA is recommending that agencies choose credits that align federal requirements, which would aid the agencies in using the rating systems as a tool to achieve their statutory and executive order green building requirements.
  4. Agencies should select only one system on an agency, bureau or portfolio basis.  GSA does not recommend that a single agency use both rating systems interchangeably; although, it does not suggest prohibiting that practice.
  5. GSA should establish a process to keep current with revisions to the rating systems.  LEED 2009 and Green Globes 2010 have both been revised since GSA’s 2012 review and subsequent recommendation.  GSA proposes to work with other agencies within one year of a third-party finalizing a new version of its rating system to discuss whether the federal government should adopt the newest version.
  6. The Federal government should participate in the ongoing development of green building rating systems.

For more information, please contact AGC’s Melinda Tomaino at tomainom@agc.org or (703) 837-5415. Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
Freight Panel Issues Report
 

Earlier this year, Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure created the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation to examine the current state of freight transportation in the United States and how improving freight transportation can strengthen the economy.   The Panel, which issued their final report this week, was led by Chairman John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Members Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

The panel found what AGC and other transportation stakeholders have consistently claimed – that the current state of highway infrastructure does not adequately serve the need of the moving goods throughout the country. Further, they said it was critical for Congress to address the looming shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund in 2015.  In addition to highways, the panel looked at the movement of goods across all modes, rail, water and air.  Some of the key recommendations made by the panel to Congress include:

  • Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network;
  • Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation on which freight movement relies, and incentivize additional private investment in freight transportation facilities, to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the freight transportation network;
  • Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods;
  • Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance through a grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection. Projects eligible for such funding would have a regional or national impact on the overall performance of the multimodal freight network identified by the Secretary of Transportation;
  • Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Army, to identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation that would provide the necessary investment in the nation’s multimodal freight network and align contributions with use and expected benefit of increased investment in such a network; and
  • Review, working through the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means, the Secretary’s freight funding and revenue recommendations and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.

Although the panel did not offer any specific recommendations on how to address funding for our nation’s critical infrastructure, they do recognize the importance of freight movement to our nation’s economy and highlight the need for sustainable sources of revenue for investing in the nation’s multimodal freight network.

AGC is encouraged by the report from the panel and looks forward to working with Members of Congress and the administration to ensure that the recommendations made by the panel are addressed.  

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

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AGC EVENTS
AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
 

Last week, over 470 construction company owners, CFOs, CPAs and consultants attended the successful 17th Annual AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference, jointly sponsored by AGC and the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA). During 36 interactive sessions over the three-day meeting, owners and financial professionals heard from leading experts in the fields of accounting, tax, financing, IT, insurance and sureties, health care, fraud, workforce strategies, contracting, claims and risk management.

Speakers included Larry Mackiowak and Hugh Reynolds from Crowe Horwath LLP, Tim Sznewajs from FMI Capital Advisors, Cullen Walsh from FASB, and John Armour from CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.

Mark your calendars for the 18th Annual AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference, which will be held Nov. 5-7, 2014 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev.

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

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Registrater for the AGC Winter 2014 Financial Issues Forum
 

Join AGC member company CFOs, CEOs and other senior accounting professionals Jan. 9-10, 2014, in Miami, Fla. for the AGC Financial Issues Forum (formerly the Tax and Fiscal Affairs Committee Meeting). Be sure to make your hotel arrangements by Wednesday, Dec. 18 to take advantage of group rates.

The conference will feature in-depth discussions with fellow contractors, legislative representatives and AGC staff, and delve deep into the latest financial and accounting issues impacting the construction industry.

To register online, please visit www.agc.org/fif.

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

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