Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org February 13, 2014
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On the Inside
SAFETY
Comment Deadline for Respirable Crystalline Silica Closes
HEALTHCARE
Final Guidance on ACA Employer Mandate Released
LABOR
President Obama Issues Executive Order Raising Minimum Wage
AGC Releases Workforce Development Plan
AGC Participates in Veterans Event at Department of Labor
INFRASTRUCTURE
EPA Releases Report Supporting Beneficial Use of Coal Ash
House Public Private Partnership Panel Holds First Meeting
CONGRESS
Most Endangered House Republican Makes Surprise Retirement Announcement
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SAFETY
Comment Deadline for Respirable Crystalline Silica Closes
 

On Feb. 11, the deadline for public comments for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule on respirable crystalline silica closed.  The proposed rule would lower the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms per cubic meter.  It would also require the establishment of regulated areas or access control plans where exposures will or may be expected to exceed the PEL, such as conducting medical surveillance and the training of workers about silica related hazards.  AGC and other industry stakeholders formed a coalition of two dozen construction trade associations to formulate a comprehensive, unified response to industry concerns with the proposed rule.  The next step in the rule making process is an informal public hearing scheduled to begin March 18, 2014.

AGC of America submitted a comment letter to OSHA and highlighted the work of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition and its detailed comments and economic analysis  on the proposed rule. The coalition also issued a press statement in conjunction with the comments.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org or Kevin Cannon at cannonk@agc.org Return to Top

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HEALTHCARE
Final Guidance on ACA Employer Mandate Released
Enforcement of Mandate Delayed for Some Employers
 

On Feb. 10, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS released their final rules on the ACA’s employer requirements, which go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The final rules have a number of significant changes that AGC and partners in the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition have been working on for the last three years. These changes include a delay in the employer requirements for employers with 50 to 100 employees for an additional year (beginning Jan. 2016). Also, additional transition relief was granted to employers offering coverage in 2015 by requiring them to offer coverage to at least 70 percent of their full-time employees, rather than 95 percent to avoid tax penalties. After 2016, employers will have to offer coverage to 95 percent of their employees. 

Some flexibility was also granted to employers who have non-calendar year plans, along with flexibility for employers who become large employers (exceed 50 full time employees for the first time) during a year. Additional changes on the definition of the look-back period and how seasonal employees and limited duration employees, excise tax penalties, affordably and minimum value tests were also included.

The final rule is quite lengthy and AGC will be working with coalition partners on how to interpret it and continue to work on legislative fixes in the ACA that are not included in the latest round of guidance, such as changing the definition of a full-time employee from 30 hours per week to a more traditional 40 hours per week. To send a letter to your elected officials on changing the definition of a full-time employee, please visit the AGC Legislative Action Center. We are also expecting guidance on the several enforcement issues that were not part of the latest round, including rules on information reporting and premium tax credits.

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

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LABOR
President Obama Issues Executive Order Raising Minimum Wage
Mandate Effective in 2015 and Ties Wage Rate to Inflation Thereafter
 

On Feb. 12, President Obama signed an executive order that will raise the hourly minimum wage direct-federal contractors – i.e. those with contracts directly with federal agencies; not those with contracts from state departments of transportation – pay their employees in 2015 and perhaps each year thereafter.

Specifically, the executive order mandates that federal prime construction contractors and subcontractors pay their employees an hourly minimum wage of  $10.10 under new contracts on and after January 1, 2015. The order also mandates that the Secretary of Labor determine a new minimum wage in 2016 and each year thereafter based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage and Clerical Workers (CPI). If the annual CPI percentage decreases, the minimum hourly wage rate will not decrease.  Under this scenario, the president essentially places the minimum wage on auto-pilot without consideration for business conditions in 2016 and beyond.

How will this mandate work under federal, state and local prevailing wage laws? The order notes that it will not excuse noncompliance with such laws that have a higher minimum wage than that established in the order. However, it does not address and remains a question as to what will happen when the order's minimum wage is above either federal, state or local laws' prevailing wage. It also does not shed light on how contracts issued under a pre-2015 multiple award contract will be impacted.

The executive order instructs the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations implementing this mandate by Oct. 1, 2014. Within 60 days of that, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council must issue regulations in the FAR to provide for inclusion of the minimum wage contract clause in direct-federal solicitations and contracts.

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

Today at a media event in Topeka, Kansas with the AGC of Kansas and the Kansas Contractors Association, AGC released a new Workforce Development Plan. This plan outlines a series of measures AGC is urging national, state and local officials to adopt to make it easier for school districts, construction firms and chapters to establish training programs to help prepare future construction workers.

AGC developed the plan in response to the fact that nearly two-thirds of member firms reported in AGC’s 2014 Annual Outlook Survey that they are already having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill key positions. AGC has also heard from many members that they are worried about future worker shortages that will occur as demand, hopefully, picks up in many parts of the country over the coming months. The plan is designed to complement, and build upon, the steps many of our chapters are already taking to address future workforce needs.

While most of the measures outlined in this plan are targeted to federal officials, there are a number of measures in the plan that state and local officials can take to help. AGC will work with Congress in the coming months on strengthening the nation’s workforce development training programs.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top
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AGC Participates in Veterans Event at Department of Labor
 

On Monday, First Lady Michele Obama announced at a U.S. Department of Labor event that “the construction industry has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans” during the next five years.  During the event, she noted that 100 construction companies have pledged to increase their hiring and cited the broader efforts of many firms and associations in hiring veterans, including the Associated General Contractors of America.  She added that this is the first time a single industry has made such a pledge.

AGC supports the goal of hiring additional veterans and noted to the Department of Labor that even without additional efforts, the industry was on track to hire 80,000 veterans during the next five years given current economic conditions and hiring trends.  One reason the industry is already on track to hire so many veterans is that the industry already hires veterans at a faster rate than the overall economy. While veterans make up 5 percent of the overall workforce, they represent 8 percent of the construction workforce.

There have been no specific initiatives announced by the administration but AGC looks forward to working with the Department of Labor on connecting veterans and soon-to-be veterans with construction firms.

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

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INFRASTRUCTURE
EPA Releases Report Supporting Beneficial Use of Coal Ash
 

Just days after signing a consent decree in a federal lawsuit agreeing to take “final action” on coal ash waste disposal rules by Dec. 19, 2014, this week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report presenting its evaluation of the two largest beneficial uses of encapsulated coal combustion residuals (CCRs):  use in concrete as a substitute for portland cement and as a substitute for mined gypsum in wallboard. EPA’s evaluation concluded that the beneficial use of encapsulated CCRs in concrete and wallboard is appropriate because they are comparable to virgin materials or below the agency’s health and environmental benchmarks. EPA says that the evaluation was reached using a newly developed methodology. In releasing the report EPA’s assistant administrator for Solid Waste said, “The protective reuse of coal ash advances sustainability by saving valuable resources, reducing costs, and lessening environmental impacts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The release of the report was viewed as a very positive development giving some insight into how EPA will be evaluating coal ash (including fly-ash) use in the December regulations. EPA is being urged to regulate coal ash as a hazardous substance which would have significant negative impacts on its use in construction applications and could create new liabilities for its past use. After four years of backing away from a policy promoting beneficial use of coal ash, EPA is finally saying again that at least some uses of fly ash in construction are appropriate.  Support for the beneficial use of coal ash has been going up and down in favor, so the continuance of existing exemption allowing for beneficial use has been in doubt.  AGC has been advocating to EPA and Congress the need to clarify and preserve the beneficial use of coal ash. It is anticipated that the final rule will more fully address all forms of beneficial use.

For more information, please contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org Return to Top

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House Public Private Partnership Panel Holds First Meeting
 

This week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Panel on Public Private Partnerships (P3 Panel) held the first in a series of roundtable discussions on the use of public private partnerships (P3s) in areas under their jurisdiction. These areas include surface transportation, water, aviation, federal buildings, railroads and WRDA-type water projects.  The discussion was focused on surface transportation case studies to help the P3 Panel gain a better understanding of these types of projects. 

The panel, chaired by Representative Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.), heard from representatives of Parsons Brinkerhoff, Transurban, and a State Representative from the Indiana General Assembly.  They discussed lessons learned from P3 projects that they have participated in.  Specifically, the panel shared their thoughts on long-term advantages and disadvantages of different P3 structures, including the range of involvement, scope of responsibility, and degree of risk assumed by the private sector; the challenges that states and public sponsors experienced in developing P3 contractual agreements; and what the private sector looks for when investing in infrastructure projects.  The representatives also shared their belief that P3s are not the solution to our infrastructure crisis and that the most important element continues to be dedicated public funding. 

AGC staff has already started meeting with staff of the P3 Panel.  As the panel continues to explore the pros and cons of the use of P3s in the financing of infrastructure projects, AGC looks forward to sharing the experiences of our members who have participated in P3 projects across the committee’s jurisdiction.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org Return to Top
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CONGRESS
Most Endangered House Republican Makes Surprise Retirement Announcement
 

On Wednesday, eight-term Congressman Gary Miller (R) announced that he would no longer seek re-election surprising many longtime supporters.  The congressman, a homebuilder and real estate developer, has been a strong ally to the association and industry.  During his 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, he earned a 90 percent voting record on AGC-supported legislation.

California, like Louisiana and Washington, uses a blanket primary system where the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.  In 2012, this new system shocked Democrats when two Republicans advanced to the general election in the 31st congressional district – Miller and then-State Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton.  Miller was re-elected with 55 percent of the vote.

Almost immediately, Miller became the top Republican target in the House. The 31st district represented by the congressman leans Democratic.  It performed five percentage points (D+5) more Democratic than the country as a whole in the past two presidential elections.  Furthermore, President Barack Obama carried the district in 2012 with 57 percent of the vote.  

Former Rep. Joe Baca (D) has announced his intention to seek the seat last year and several more Democrats have joined including Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, attorney Eloise Reyes and San Bernadino School Board member Danny Tillman. Miller’s retirement will likely lead to a Democratic pick-up.

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

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