Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 23, 2014
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On the Inside
Executive Branch
AGC Weighs in on State of the Union
Federal Contracting
AGC Opposes USACE Government-Mandated PLAs
LEED Platinum and Gold Ban Removed for DOD Construction
GSA FY 2014 Construction Funding For Space Consolidation Efforts
Elections
Sen. Tom Coburn Announces Retirement
Sen. David Vitter Makes Gubernatorial Run Official
A Strong Candidate Emerges to Challenge Sen. Mark Warner
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Executive Branch
AGC Weighs in on State of the Union
 

This week, AGC CEO Steve Sandherr sent a letter to President Obama, preceding his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 28.  The letter asks the president to deliver definitive bipartisan solutions to ensure more investment in our nation’s aging infrastructure.

Specifically, the letter urges the president to offer reasonable solutions to address the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, call for the creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund for water infrastructure projects, and commit to working with Congress to increase private sector investment in infrastructure projects. This letter is a followup to a letter Sandherr sent the president in November, urging the president to provide a true ipartisan solution to the Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy. 

The president has used previous State of the Union addresses to show his support for increasing infrastructure investment - AGC hopes he will once again stress the importance of investing in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, and water systems and demonstrate the leadership necessary to ensure the funding is available to make those investments. However, in the past the president has failed  to provide a solid way to pay for his infrastructure proposals. 

AGC also joined 24 members of the Coalition for Fair Effective Tax Rates to call on President Obama to address comprehensive tax reform in his State of the Union address. As a prominent member of the management committee, AGC has advocated that tax reform broadens the tax base, while lowering tax rates for corporations, pass-through businesses and individuals alike.  AGC has been educating lawmakers and key stakeholders on the negative impact that high effective tax rates have on job creation and economic growth for the construction industry (one of the highest among all industries at 31 percent). The letter can be viewed here.

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

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Federal Contracting
AGC Opposes USACE Government-Mandated PLAs
 

On Jan. 21, AGC sent a letter opposing the possible use of a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District for two projects at Fort Bragg, N.C.

AGC has sent over 80 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 christiansonj@agc.org Return to Top

LEED Platinum and Gold Ban Removed for DOD Construction
Green Globes May Also be Considered by DOD Agencies
 

The Department of Defense (DOD) may now consider and award projects that include LEED Platinum and Gold certifications. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2012 included a ban on FY 2012 funds for LEED gold or platinum construction for DOD. That ban was extended and expanded in the NDAA for FY 2013, not only to FY 2012 and FY 2013 funds, but all DOD funds whether appropriated or not.  On Dec. 26, 2013, President Obama signed the NDAA for FY 2014, which did not extend that ban in any form.  

This congressional determination comes on the heels of DOD’s decision in November to permit the use of both the Green Building Initiatives’ Green Globes and U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for third party green building certification.

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

GSA FY 2014 Construction Funding For Space Consolidation Efforts
Congress Willing to Spend Money on Construction to Save Money in Long-Run
 

The appropriations law Congress passed last week sets the General Services Administration’s (GSA) FY 2014 construction funding at $1.5 billion—about $500 million for new construction and $1 billion for repairs and alterations. That’s more money for GSA construction than the last three fiscal years’ funding combined.

Within the appropriations law, Congress created a GSA “Consolidation Activities” funding account with $70 million in addition to the funding noted above. This underscores and shows Congress’ willingness—for the first time—to specifically fund GSA’s primary policy initiative: to reduce the square-footage footprint of the federal facilities portfolio.  Under this account, preference is given to consolidation projects that achieve a utilization rate of 130 usable square feet or less per person for office space. The majority of this funding—$69.5 million—is set aside for a new construction and repair project to meet the housing requirements of the U.S. Federal Southern District Court in Mobile, Ala.

AGC has long advocated before members of Congress that construction funding helps save money in the long-run. The construction of space-efficient federal facilities will decrease total operating and maintenance costs.  AGC will continue to work with Congress and GSA to ensure that adequate and additional funding is specifically set-aside—not to the detriment of other construction funding accounts—for consolidation activities that will help taxpayers in the long-run.

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

Elections
Sen. Tom Coburn Announces Retirement
 

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) announced last week that he will resign from Congress at the end of 2014, thus allowing a replacement special election to occur on the regular 2014 election calendar.

Recently, Mr. Coburn was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer and has also battled with melanoma and colon cancer in the past. However, his battle with prostate cancer is not the reason he is leaving. Upon his original election in 2004, he pledged to only serve two terms. The decision means he will leave after 10 years of service. Previously, the senator served three terms in the House.

Sophomore Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) has already announced his statewide candidacy. In just one day following Lankford’s announcement, the Senate Conservatives Fund made negative statements about the congressman regarding his votes on the budget, the debt ceiling, and pertaining to funding the Affordable Care Act. The SCF’s statements might be a signal that freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1), a Tea Party favorite, will enter the campaign. The Tulsa congressman confirms he is considering doing so. 

In other related developments, Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) filed a Senate exploratory committee. Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK-4), who is in the state to attend his Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony (Mr. Watts quarterbacked the University of Oklahoma football team from 1977-80), confirmed that he is "thinking" about running for the Senate. 

For the Democrats, former Gov. Brad Henry and ex-Attorney General Drew Edmondson continue to maintain a public silence about the race. On the other hand, former state Senator and Lt. Governor candidate Kenneth Corn (D) says he is considering declaring his candidacy, while ex-Lt. Governor and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Jari Askins (D) and former U.S. Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) have both declined to run.

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

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Sen. David Vitter Makes Gubernatorial Run Official
 

Rumors have been swirling for months that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) was seriously considering a gubernatorial run. On Tuesday, the two-term senator made it official and announced his intention to seek the state’s top post. 

With Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) term-limited and ineligible to seek a third term, the time may be right for Vitter. In a November 2013 poll from Southern Media & Opinion Research, Louisiana residents had a 60 percent approval rating of the senator. 

Like California and Washington, Louisiana has a jungle primary in which all candidates are featured on the same ballot regardless of political party. As of now, Vitter’s competition is Minority Leader of the state House of Representatives John Bel Edwards (D), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R). Other candidates may enter the race as well. 

If Vitter wants to avoid a run-off election, he must receive 50 percent plus one vote. In the event that he or any candidate falls short of this goal, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election.

Should the senator win, he would need to resign his U.S. Senate seat for which he, as governor, would appoint a successor to serve the remainder of his term, which runs through 2016.

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at 202-547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org Return to Top

A Strong Candidate Emerges to Challenge Sen. Mark Warner
 

With optimism growing in national Republican circles that the party can capture the Senate majority this November, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie made his candidacy official last week when he announced his challenge to Sen. Mark Warner (D).

Gillespie, also a former chairman of the Virginia Republican Party and a Capitol Hill staff member - beginning his career with former Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX-26) who would later become Majority Leader - may be embarking upon what most believe is a daunting task. But, there are some budding trends that suggest a Warner upset is at least within the realm of possibility.

Though the senator is one of the most prepared politicians in the country, Virginia is still a state that could swing either way, particularly in low turnout elections. Unquestionably, the state is trending toward the Democrats, especially when looking at elections since 2004 (with the exception of those in 2009 and 2010), but it is not so far beyond the "purple" range as to make a Republican victory scenario unrealistic.

While there is no doubt that Sen. Warner must be rated a strong favorite in 2014, the Republicans fielding a potentially strong candidate against him - a person such as Ed Gillespie - will force the senator and the Democratic Party leadership to respond seriously and expend major resources to secure victory. From a national Republican strategic perspective, making Virginia a competitive arena helps achieve the party goal of expanding the electoral playing field because their majority prospects are dependent upon a GOP wave forming. Maximizing the number of contested seats is a key tenet toward creating such a political climate.

While recent Virginia electoral trends and the incumbency factor certainly cut for Sen. Warner, Mr. Gillespie possesses important strengths of his own. First, with his wide array of national contacts and public exposure, the former RNC chairman has the ability to raise the kind of money necessary to compete in a major U.S. Senate race. Second, his experience in the campaign world and having social and electronic media expertise, the former RNC chairman possesses a compelling presence, command of issues, and the ability to go toe-to-toe with an experienced senator in debates, public appearances, all while delivering media messages.

Both men will have whatever resources are required from both an internal and external campaign perspective. Interest groups supporting both candidates will invest in the Virginia campaign, and the race should attract a great deal of national media attention.

Sen. Warner has twice won statewide office in Virginia, once as Governor in 2001 and for his current post in 2008. He racked up a winning senatorial percentage of 65 percent and scored 52 percent in the Governor's campaign. In his first run for public office, Mr. Warner fell to then-Sen. John Warner (R) 47-53 percent in 1996.

The campaigns will likely be decided around the national political mood, and particularly in relation to how the Obamacare issue plays out. If millions lose their health insurance, and/or the premium costs rise to excessive heights, then many Democratic office holders who supported the legislation, like Sen. Warner, could find themselves treading in vulnerable waters. If the situation stabilizes and improves in the coming months, then a more normal incumbent-friendly political trend will likely take hold.

In any event, it is apparent that Ed Gillespie challenging Sen. Mark Warner is at least a short-term positive Republican Party development, irrespective of the election's ultimate outcome.

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at 202-547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org Return to Top

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