Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 10, 2014
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On the Inside
LABOR
Congress Approves AGC-Supported Legislation Reforming Workforce Development System
TRANSPORTATION
House/Senate Committees Move to Shore Up Highway Funding
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
House Approves Record Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Spending
AGC Opposes Automatic Debarment Legislation
TAX
House Scheduled to Vote on Bonus Depreciation Legislation
AGC EVENTS
Register for the AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
Registration for the AGC Highway & Utilities Contractors Conference is Open!
2014 ELECTIONS
Miss. Senate Race: Chris McDaniel Should Concede
LABOR
Congress Approves AGC-Supported Legislation Reforming Workforce Development System
 

Yesterday, the U.S. House overwhelming passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by a vote of 415-6. The vote came on the heels of the Senate’s 95-3 vote two weeks ago. The strong number of votes in both the House and Senate were a rare display of bipartisanship. The legislation is now expected to be signed into law by the president in the coming days.

AGC supported the legislation because it will streamline the workforce development system, giving states greater flexibility to address worker shortages and strengthening employer engagement. The bill refocuses federally funded workforce training towards in-demand occupations, in-demand skills, real-world job opportunities, and real-time business needs that help prepare workers for jobs in construction. It would give priority consideration to training that leads to industry-recognized credentials. It also offers significantly enhanced incentives and opportunities for employers and employer associations to engage in these efforts more actively. Lastly, the bill strengthens registered apprenticeship programs already in existence.

The reforms of the workforce development system include many priorities from AGC’s Workforce Development Plan for the 21st Century, which was released earlier this year.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
House/Senate Committees Move to Shore Up Highway Funding
 

Both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee moved legislation today to provide sufficient revenue to the Highway Trust Fund in order to keep highway and transit programs operational until May 31, 2015. The House bill included language extending MAP-21 authorization, at current levels, to May 31, while the Senate bill did not. However, the Senate provided sufficient revenue to carry the program until June 1 and is expected to add extension language at some point.

Both bills provide $10.8 billion in revenue, which would come from general fund transfers. To allow for the transfer, both bills provide budgetary offsets which are generally the same, but with a few small differences. The bills rely primarily on extending customs fees on importers, taking money from the leaking underground storage tank fund (LUST) and changing rules on private pension contributions to pay for the extension. The Senate bill relies somewhat less on these provisions, but also provides additional revenue from other minor tax law changes.

Much of the debate surrounding these bills centered on the length of the extension. Many believe the best opportunity to address a long-term transportation authorization bill with a revenue increase is during a “lame duck” session of Congress following the November 2014 midterm elections. However, others feel that the lame duck will be short and unproductive. Before approving the House bill, the Ways and Means Committee rejected – by a vote of 23-16 - an amendment offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would have limited the extension for the trust fund through the end of the year to give lawmakers time to approve a long-term surface transportation funding plan.

In the Senate committee, a similar amendment was offered by Senator Thomas Carper (D-Del.) to reduce the amount of revenue provided to approximately $8 billion, which would have only carried the program through the end of 2014. That amendment was rejected by a 10-14 vote. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also released a statement urging that the extension be limited to the end of the year with a long-term reauthorization in mind.

Both the House and Senate are expected to take up these bills next week and the hope is to work out differences between now and end of July.

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

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
House Approves Record Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Spending
 

On July 9, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a record amount of funding for maintaining the nation’s ports and harbors through dredging activities. The House voted 281-137 to pass an amendment by Reps. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) that added $57 million to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The amendment actually brings the HMTF to the funding level Congress authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, a bill which only 11 members of Congress voted against. That funding level is now over $1.1 billion, representing 67 percent of the total annual revenue generated by the harbor maintenance tax. For years, less than 50 percent of those revenues went to harbor maintenance.  

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

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AGC Opposes Automatic Debarment Legislation
 

On July 9, AGC sent a detailed letterand joined with an industry business coalition in a letter to the House of Representatives strongly  opposing legislation  automatically debarring federal contractors for any violation—or even claims thereof—of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The legislation came in the form of an amendment introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D- Minn.). The Ellison Amendment would prohibit the use of funds allocated under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works and Department of Energy funding bill from being used to enter into a contract with any person who discloses, via the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding that resulted, or could have resulted in a finding of fault and liability related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As of press time, the amendment has not been voted on.

In its letter, AGC noted that debarment represents the absolute last, most dramatic measure that the government may take to protect the public interest from a truly dishonest contractor that willfully or recklessly violates the law. Debarment is the business equivalent of the death penalty for a contractor that relies upon government contracts to sustain its business. AGC opposes the Ellison Amendment because the Federal Acquisition Regulation already has a well-reasoned debarment process, and the amendment would automatically debar contractors for violations of the FLSA five years ago—regardless of remedial actions taken by contractors, among other reasons.  

Legislation similar to the Ellison amendment was adopted in last minute changes to the House Transportation and Department of Defense spending bills.  AGC has met with members of the House and Senate to educate them about the unintended consequences of the Ellison Amendment to help ensure that such short-sighted legislation is not enacted into law.

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

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TAX
House Scheduled to Vote on Bonus Depreciation Legislation
 

On Friday, the House of Representatives is expected to approve another bill that permanently extends an expired tax provision. H.R. 4718 would expand and make permanent 50 percent bonus depreciation for qualified property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2013. While bonus depreciation is not classified as a traditional “extender,” it does keep the focus on the expired tax provisions. Coupled with the higher Section 179 limits (H.R. 4457), the bonus depreciation bill goes a long way towards moving the tax treatment of business investment towards general expensing; a concept many economists have argued is good for the economy. The legislation is the fourth tax bill to be approved by the House in the past two months.

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

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AGC EVENTS
Register for the AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
Register Now and Save at meetings.agc.org/agc_cfma
 

Jointly sponsored by AGC and the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), the 18th Annual AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference will be held Nov. 5-7, 2014 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. This three-day conference offers programs and workshops designed specifically for financial professionals in the construction industry. The 36 interactive sessions will cover the latest industry issues and their financial implications.

Register by Friday, Sept. 6 for special “Early Bird” discounts.  Additional discounts are available for subsequent registrations from the same firm.  Register now and save up to $210 – or 25 percent off the standard registration fee. Participants may earn up to 20 continuing professional education (CPE) credits. 

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

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Registration for the AGC Highway & Utilities Contractors Conference is Open!
meetings.agc.org/highwayutilities
 

Get up to date information on a variety of Issues that will impact the highway, transportation and utility construction markets over the next year. The 2014 AGC Highway and Utilities Contractors Conference will be held Nov. 13-15, 2014, at the Omni LaCosta in San Diego, Calif.  Industry professionals from companies involved in building highway, bridge, utility and underground construction, transit, airport runway and rail projects will benefit from this conference.  Presentation and discussions on major trends in highway and utility construction will be featured, including:

  • Washington Update
  • Highway Trust Fund/Reauthorization
  • MAP-21 Implementation
  • Highway Trust Fund & Water Trust Fund Innovative Financing
  • New Technology Developments: BIM, CIM & Intelligent Compaction
  • Alternative Contracting
  • Potential Environment, Work Force and Other Regulations
  • Project Case Study

For more information, please contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or Scott Berry at berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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2014 ELECTIONS
Miss. Senate Race: Chris McDaniel Should Concede
 

Media coverage is increasing of what may be an impending legal challenge to the Mississippi U.S. Senate Republican run-off election result from defeated candidate Chris McDaniel. Now certified as a 7,667 vote loser to Sen. Thad Cochran, McDaniel has a daunting task before him if he is to achieve his eventual goal of reversing the result.

At the heart of the issue are the new voters who cast ballots in the run-off election, but did not participate in the Republican primary. Under Mississippi election law, there is no requirement to vote in a primary election prior to being part of the associated run-off. It is illegal, however, for a voter to cast a ballot in a primary of one party and then participate in the run-off of the opposite party. According to the McDaniel campaign, thousands of Democrats voted in their own primary and then appeared at Republican run-off polling places.

Since our elections are conducted by private ballot, it will be extremely difficult for the McDaniel camp to prove illegally cast ballots were Cochran votes. Even if he could find a way to accomplish this feat, the electoral clock is ticking against him. 

There is not enough time to hold a new runoff election, as federal elections now require all absentee ballots be mailed 45 days before the election.  Legal action would also take more than the allotted time available.  Since the U.S. Senate contest is a federal election, the general election will take place on November 4 whether the Republican Party has a candidate or not. Should the process deteriorate to the point where a clear GOP winner is not determined, the election would proceed sans a Republican nominee.

Now that Sen. Cochran is the official party nominee, it will take an extraordinary effort to remove him from the ballot.

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (703) 837-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org Return to Top

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