Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org April 3, 2014
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On the Inside
LABOR
Stop the NLRB's Attempt to Reinstate “Ambush” Election Rule
HEALTHCARE
U.S. House Passes Bill Changing “ObamaCare” Employer Mandate
HARDHATS FOR HIGHWAYS
Set Up Meetings with Your Reps – They Will be in Your District in 2 Weeks!
TRANSPORTATION
House Republican Budget Impacts the Highway Trust Fund
AGC Asks for DERA Funding in 2015 Appropriations Bill
TAX
Expired Tax Provisions Process
House Budget Calls for Pro-Growth Tax Reform
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Army Requests New BRAC-Round at Congressional Hearing
House Panel Reviews USACE Civil Works FY 2015 Budget
CONGRESS
Outlook on U.S. Senate Races
Two Influential Republican Committee Chairmen Announce Retirements
LABOR
Stop the NLRB's Attempt to Reinstate “Ambush” Election Rule
 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has re-issued a proposed rule on representation-case procedures with a public comment deadline of Monday, April 7, 2014.

The rule mirrors a 2011 rule that was ultimately invalidated by a court on procedural grounds. The proposed rule, known as the “quickie election” or “ambush election” rule, would expedite the union representation election cycle to as little as 10-21 days from the union's filing of a petition for an election. This scenario is bad for both employers and employees. It would deny employers due process by limiting review of critical issues such as identifying the appropriate bargaining unit and voter eligibility until potentially after the vote is held. It would also limit workers’ access to information and provide inadequate time for workers to consider information about joining the union.

The rule would have a particularly difficult application in the construction industry due to the complexity of identifying the appropriate bargaining unit and of determining voter eligibility, and due to the often decentralized nature of construction workplaces operated by the same employer.

Please take a minute to submit comments to the NLRB for the public record on why the rule should be withdrawn through AGC’s Regulatory and Legislative Action Center.

Also, legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to roll back the proposed rule and the Legislative Action Center will deliver letters of support for the legislation as well.  More information on the rule can be found on 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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HEALTHCARE
U.S. House Passes Bill Changing “ObamaCare” Employer Mandate
 

Today, the House voted 248-179 – with 18 Democrats joining all Republican members – in favor of modifying the Affordable Care Act’s (also known as “ObamaCare”) definition of a full-time employee. The current law defines full-time employees as those with 30 hours of service per week, which is below the 40-hour standard many employers use today and is not in line with current workforce practices.

AGC supported H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, which would replace the definition with a higher standard more in line with current practices – 40 hours of service per week. If the change in the law is adopted, disruptions in the labor markets can be avoided and compliance with the Affordable Care Act will become less complex. The bill now goes to the Senate where it remains uncertain if and when the bill would be considered.

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

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HARDHATS FOR HIGHWAYS
Set Up Meetings with Your Reps – They Will be in Your District in 2 Weeks!
Report Meetings and Share Pictures at www.HardhatsforHighways.org
 

Your Senators and Representatives will be back working in your home districts April 14-25.  It is the perfect opportunity to set up meetings to discuss the importance federal highway funding has on your company and your job. We need to flood Congressional offices with in-person meetings where you present a company hardhat with the Hardhats for Highways decal.

We also encourage you and your employees to send “e-Hardhat” letters telling them to take action. Your involvement is critical to the success of this campaign and getting Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.

Does April not work for you?  Your Representatives will be home working in your district again May 12-16. Your Senators will be home during a district work period May 26-30.  Make an appointment to visit the District office closest to you. Bring a hardhat with your company logo and affix a “Hardhats for Highways” decal listing the number of jobs in your company that will be affected if funding is cut off. While these are the best times to visit, don’t hesitate to set up appointments at other times and visit with their staff members.

You can also bring the message to your Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C by participating in the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Fly-In on June 10-11.

Get involved. To date, Hardhats for Highways has already distributed 12,500 hardhat decals to companies in the construction industry. More than 1,500 “e-Hardhat” letters have been sent to 261 different Congressional offices in 43 states.

For more information, please contact Brynn Huneke at (703) 837-5376 or brynn.huneke@agc.org Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
House Republican Budget Impacts the Highway Trust Fund
 

This week, the House Budget Committee approved a budget for fiscal year 2015 on a partisan vote.  The budget is expected to be voted on by the full House next week.  This year’s House budget is somewhat unnecessary considering the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 – which became law in January – established spending totals and funding allocations for fiscal year 2015.  For this reason, the Senate is not planning on taking up a budget resolution this year.

Even though the budget is largely irrelevant, it does have the potential to set the terms for how the House deals with the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the reauthorization of MAP-21.  Assuming adoption of the House budget, the budget impacts the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the reauthorization of MAP-21 in three ways. First, the budget provides for a reserve fund to act as a placeholder that would allow Congress to identify additional revenue streams and increase investment levels beyond what the Highway Trust Fund can currently support.  Second, the budget once again requires that any transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund be fully offset.  Lastly, the budget assumes a one-year shutdown of all new Highway Trust Fund spending in fiscal year 2015.  This means that all revenue going into the fund will be used to pay previous years’ obligations – reducing spending from about $50 billion to $39 billion in 2015. 

Approval of the budget further emphasizes the fact that Congress needs to act immediately to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for the remainder of this year and beyond in order to prevent draconian cuts and to allow for a full reauthorization of MAP-21.

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

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AGC Asks for DERA Funding in 2015 Appropriations Bill
 

AGC, along with a broad-based diesel coalition, sent letters to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees encouraging them to include $30 million in their fiscal year 2015 funding bill for grants, loans, and rebates made possible by the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA).  The program has an annual authorization of $100 million.

AGC chapters – working with AGC of America – have won millions in federal funds to support AGC members’ voluntary “retrofit” projects.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program has awarded and distributed funding provided by DERA through a competitive grant program to incentivize and support many clean-diesel projects.  AGC chapters and members have voluntarily applied for and won millions of dollars in EPA diesel retrofit grants, in addition to leveraging millions more in matching and in-kind contributions to help their members afford the high cost of reducing emissions from construction equipment.

Future federal funding for the DERA program remains uncertain.  The president’s fiscal year 2015 budget failed to provide any funds for DERA.   AGC is focused on ensuring both the administration and Congress recognize the importance of the program and that they provide greater financial assistance to the many equipment owners who seek a fair and effective way to reduce emissions from existing fleets of off-road equipment

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

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TAX
Expired Tax Provisions Process
 

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee approved by voice vote a modified version of the “Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act”, which Chairman Ron Wyden released earlier this week to retroactively extend the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. The legislation would revive and extend for two years the tax preferences.

The approved measure contains over 50 provisions with an estimated cost of $86 billion. The EXPIRE Act contains six provisions AGC has advocated for in the underlying measure. AGC sent a letter to the committee outlining policies important to the construction industry, including adequate financing for the Highway Trust Fund and Inland Waterways Trust Fund, as well as addressing the multiemployer pension plans.

AGC provisions in the EXPIRE Act:

  • Increased expensing limitations Section 179 property
  • Bonus depreciation
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit
  • New Markets Tax Credit
  • 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements
  • Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (Section 179D)

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

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House Budget Calls for Pro-Growth Tax Reform
 

On Wednesday, House Budget Committee approved 22-16, in a party-line vote, a draft fiscal 2015 budget resolution that would adhere to the discretionary budget authority of $1.014 trillion for fiscal 2015.  This budget calls for a number of pro-growth tax reform policies including:

  • Simplify the tax code to make it fairer to American families and businesses
  • Reduce the amount of time and resources necessary to comply with tax laws
  • Substantially lower tax rates for individuals
  • Consolidate the current seven tax brackets
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent
  • Adopt a more competitive system of international taxation

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

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Army Requests New BRAC-Round at Congressional Hearing
 

U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno recently testified before the House Armed Services Committee in support of a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in fiscal year 2017. With a reduction of some 200,000 active duty troops since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and increased cuts, the Army representatives underscored the Department of Defense’s (DOD) deep desire and need to undergo a new BRAC round.

Secretary McHugh specifically noted the need to reduce excess base facility capacity. He noted that in the continental U.S., 15 to 20 percent of the facilities on bases are either underutilized or sheer excess.  McHugh requested $6 billion to implement a BRAC process to solely dispose of these excess facilities that, he stated, would save $2 billion annually in maintenance costs. According to the Army, on a net $13 billion investment, the 2005 BRAC round is producing a net stream of savings of $1 billion a year.  Unlike previous years, members of Congress were not squarely opposed to the idea of a BRAC. However, many remained somewhat skeptical and requested more details on DOD’s plan for a new BRAC round.

AGC will continue to work with members of Congress to support a new BRAC-round that would save our nation billions of dollars in the long-term.

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

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House Panel Reviews USACE Civil Works FY 2015 Budget
 

On April 2, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Commanding General Thomas Bostick and Assistant Secretary of the Army—Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy defended President Obama’s proposed nearly $1 billion cut to the Civil Works funding accounts in fiscal year (FY) 2015 before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Compared to the enacted FY 2014 funding levels for Civil Works programs, the president’s FY 2015 budget includes a $531 million cut to the construction account, a $261 million cut to the operation and maintenance account—which funds dredging and harbor maintenance projects—and a $62 million cut to the Mississippi River and Tributaries account—which funds construction and dredging projects in the lower Mississippi region.

In a letter to the Subcommittee, AGC reminded members of Congress that a time when much of the nation’s water resources infrastructure has exceeded its design-life, is not adequately prepared for natural disasters, or is simply under-maintained, the president’s proposed cuts are irresponsible and Congress must oppose them. AGC additionally urged Congress to not miss the tremendous opportunity to complete the legislative process and pass a final Water Resources Reform and Development Act and prevent the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) over-reach through the regulation process on the definition of “waters of the U.S” in the Clean Water Act. AGC has been closely involved throughout the WRRDA legislative process and the waters of the U.S. discussions.

AGC will continue to oppose these senseless and irresponsible cuts to the Civil Works programs, to push for enactment of a final WRRDA bill, and advocate against EPA’s proposed expansion of jurisdiction over more waters in the U.S.

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

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CONGRESS
Outlook on U.S. Senate Races
 

Many political pundits and election handicappers are suggesting that Republicans will successfully wrest the Senate majority away from the Democrats in the November election. Even famed statistician Nate Silver, who correctly predicting the 2008 presidential election outcome in 49 of the 50 states and the 2012 presidential election outcome in all 50 states, gives the GOP a 60 percent chance of winning the majority. Watch Silver's take on the races during a recent broadcast of "This Week."

Currently, 36 seats are up for election - 21 Democratic and 15 Republican. The GOP needs a net gain of six seats to win the majority. Even if Democrats lose five of their own seats and do not make a single Republican pick-up, they still retain control because Vice President Joe Biden (D) breaks any tie vote in a 50-50 Senate.

The current outlook map looks as follows:



The three Democratic retirements in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia are critical to Republican majority chances. Sweeping this trio of states will put them in launching position to assume Senate control, so it is imperative, from the GOP perspective, that the candidates run mistake-free campaigns in each place.

Counting the three conversions and those races currently in the Republican column, the GOP would then have 46 seats as compared to the Democrats' 44, with 10 undecided. Eight of the 10 are now in Democratic control, meaning the Republicans have achieved their early cycle goal of expanding the political playing field. It is also possible that three more states could conceivably become competitive before November arrives, each in Democratic control. Those are Minnesota (Al Franken), Oregon (Jeff Merkley) and Virginia (Mark Warner).

The GOP could hit a major bump in the road, however, if they stumble in several primaries, resulting in weak general election candidates. The situation in Georgia and Mississippi, and potentially Kansas, could yield primary upsets, which may well change the general election picture.

Assuming no surprises in the 26 campaigns (16R wins; 10D victories) in states highlighted above in blue or red, the majority will be decided in the 10 most hotly contested general election races. They are:

  • Alaska (Mark Begich)
  • Arkansas (Mark Pryor)
  • Colorado (Mark Udall)
  • Georgia (open; Saxby Chambliss retiring)
  • Kentucky (Mitch McConnell)
  • Iowa (open; Tom Harkin retiring)
  • Louisiana (Mary Landrieu)
  • Michigan (open; Carl Levin retiring)
  • New Hampshire (Jeanne Shaheen)
  • North Carolina (Kay Hagen)

Of these 10, Republicans gain the majority by winning any five races, exactly half of the subset. Doing so would propel them to 51 seats. Democrats retain control by winning any six of the 10.

Once more, the importance of Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia emerges for Republicans. Converting the seats actually permits them to win a smaller number of the battleground states than their counterparts, even though the former begins in a distinct minority. Failing to sweep the aforementioned three returns the edge to the Democrats, and greatly diminishes GOP chances of seizing majority control.

Should the playing field expand to include Minnesota, Oregon, and Virginia, then Republican chances grow even stronger, as all three are Democratic-held states. If the battleground number does increase, then the GOP would only need to win five of the 13 to gain control, whereas Democrats would be forced to win nine to retain power.

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

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Two Influential Republican Committee Chairmen Announce Retirements
 

MI-8

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers' surprise retirement announcement is igniting a political scramble in south-central Michigan. The open 8th District should remain in Republican hands, but if Democrats can create a political wave in either the Governor or Senate race that translates into a turnout driver, then witnessing a competitive open seat campaign here becomes probable.

Two Republicans have officially entered the contest. Former state Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Bishop and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett will run for the CD-8 seat. In addition to serving the maximum eight years in the Senate, Mr. Bishop was twice elected to the state House.

For Democrats, the person seemingly taking the lead in actively pursuing the contest is Ingham County Clerk and former state Representative Barb Byrum. Her mother, Diane Byrum, then a Michigan state Senator, lost to Rogers by only 111 votes in 2000, the last time this district was open. Other potential Democratic candidates are state Rep. Sam Singh, and Lansing Board of Education President Peter Spadafore.

MI-4

On Monday, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced he would not seek reelection for another term in Congress. Chairman Camp’s announcement clears the way for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to take the helm of the committee next year.

Potential candidates will be making fast moves to enter these two new open seat campaigns. It appears that state Sen. John Moolenaar (R-Midland), who represents a large portion of the congressional district in the legislature, is a probable candidate and could open with the inside track to securing the nomination and the seat. Expect more people from both parties to come to the forefront during the next few weeks.

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

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