Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 17, 2014
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On the Inside
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Testifies at Hearing on EPA’s Expanded Clean Water Act Permit Veto Authority
Several Bills Addressing Industry Concerns about Clean Water Act Permits and EPA Regulatory Practices Clear Committee Hurdle
LABOR
AGC Responds to WSJ Editorial on Multiemployer Pension Plan Reform
TRANSPORTATION
House Passes Highway Funding Patch – Action Shifts to Senate
Administration Announces New Infrastructure Initiative
INSURANCE
Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Extension Passes Senate
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
House Passes Corps Civil Works Funding Bill
House Passes GSA Funding Bill
2014 ELECTIONS
Tuesday’s Run-off Results
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Testifies at Hearing on EPA’s Expanded Clean Water Act Permit Veto Authority
 

On July 15, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to explore the expanded view of authority that the courts have affirmed for EPA under section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act. AGC’s Senior Environmental Advisor, Leah Pilconis was on hand to testify.

AGC testified that the EPA’s authority should not extend beyond the traditional permit process, and that once the Corps of Engineers issues a permit, the contractor should not have to worry about a retroactive permit veto years after construction has already begun. AGC is concerned to see EPA take a much more expansive view of its authority and argue that it can come in before, during, or after the Corps has issued a permit.

Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) agreed, saying in his opening statement, “Revoking a permit after it has been issued and when no violations of the permit have occurred is unsettling.  It is an arbitrary and irresponsible way for government to act.” He added, “I consider this regulatory overreach to be a fundamental property rights issue.  With this new and broad interpretation of its powers, EPA is setting itself up as the ultimate manager of land use and economic development in the nation.”

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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Several Bills Addressing Industry Concerns about Clean Water Act Permits and EPA Regulatory Practices Clear Committee Hurdle
 

On July 16, following a hearing on EPA’s expanded Clean Water Act Permit veto authority, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a markup to move several bills to the full House. Among them were three AGC-supported pieces of legislation designed to improve the process for Clean Water Act permits and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall regulatory process. These bills included the Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014, designed to define a clear window for EPA to exercise its veto authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. This would address the issue of retroactive vetoes of the permit years after construction had begun as well as preemptive vetoes, removing large swaths of land from development before a permit has even been requested. The measure was introduced by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio).

Also approved was the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 requiring the agencies go back to the drawing board on the “Waters of the United States” proposed rule jointly published by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, and compels open consultation with state and local officials to develop a consensus about those waters for which there is a significant nexus so as to warrant the assertion of federal jurisdiction.. The measure was introduced by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) with bipartisan support.

Rounding out the trio of AGC-supported bills was the Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.). This legislation is designed to set predictable limits on Clean Water Act permit review times from the Corps and EPA. It also has provisions to force EPA and the Corps to better factor the economic impacts of their regulations into their rule-writing process.

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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LABOR
AGC Responds to WSJ Editorial on Multiemployer Pension Plan Reform
 

In case you missed it, today’s Wall Street Journal included a Letter to the Editor from AGC of America CEO Stephen Sandherr and North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey regarding our industry’s efforts to reform and protect multiemployer retirement. The letter was written in response to a July 5 editorial that erroneously suggested unions were seeking a taxpayer-funded bailout of multiemployer retirement plans. As Sandherr and McGarvey pointed out, the plan we helped craft, “Solutions Not Bailouts,” calls for reforms to current pension laws to protect business pension investments and retiree benefits. It also gives plan trustees of deeply troubled plans the option to voluntarily reduce some benefits to protect retirees from the more severe cuts they would incur if their plans defaulted. The one thing the plan does not call for, however, is a taxpayer-funded bailout.

AGC continues to push Congress to enact the legislative proposal this year. We remain hopeful the legislative proposal will include many of the reforms we outlined in “Solutions Not Bailouts.” However, we still need local grassroots support.  AGC has provided a template letter to send to your elected officials in support of these reforms on the AGC Legislative Action Center.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
House Passes Highway Funding Patch – Action Shifts to Senate
 

This week, the House, by a vote of 367-55, approved H.R. 5021, a $10.8 billion Highway Trust Fund patch which provides sufficient revenue to maintain current funding levels through May 2015. The bill also extends MAP-21 authorization for the highway and transit programs for eight more months. It received strong bipartisan support from 181 Republicans and 186 Democrats, while 45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it. Revenue needed to support the patch came from a general fund transfer which was off-set by a variety of tax code adjustments. AGC and our coalition partners in the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) and the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) urged the House to support H.R. 5021 to avoid a disruption in payments to states, while urging Congress to take action to enact a long-term transportation bill by the end of the year.  

The action now heads to the Senate where debate about limiting the extension until Dec. 31, 2014 is expected, with the hope of forcing consideration of a long-term transportation bill following the mid-term elections in November. The Senate Finance Committee has already passed a bill that provides the same amount of revenue as the House bill, although using some different off-sets for the general fund transfer. It is expected that the Finance Committee bill will also be offered as an amendment.

It is fully anticipated that a patch will be approved before Congress leaves for its August summer recess. Additional revenue for the Highway Trust Fund is necessary to avoid a slowdown in reimbursements to states for on-going highway construction projects in the next few weeks. 

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

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Administration Announces New Infrastructure Initiative
 

Today, President Obama announced a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the initiative, the administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center – housed at the Department of Transportation – to serve cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure. 

In addition, the president will be launching an interagency working group, chaired by Transportation Secretary Foxx and Treasury Secretary Lew to coordinate a focused review of federal infrastructure policies. The working group will report back within 120 days with recommendations for additional executive actions to support private investment in other areas of infrastructure and to grow the pipeline of infrastructure projects.

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

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INSURANCE
Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Extension Passes Senate
 

Today, the Senate passed legislation to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) by a vote of 93 – 4. TRIA was initially created after the 9/11 attacks when terrorism insurance was either no longer available or offered, but prohibitively expensive. The program creates a government backstop, should another terrorist attack occur, that would help cover the costs of such an attack once a certain monetary threshold was met. The law is set to expire at the end of 2014 if Congress does not act.

The House has a competing proposal that would raise the triggers for when claims could be paid. AGC supports an extension of TRIA and urges the House to work with the Senate on passing a bill to avoid an expiration of the law.

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

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
House Passes Corps Civil Works Funding Bill
Includes $1 Billion More Than President’s Request
 

Only July 10, the House passed the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015on a 253-170 vote. Within that bill, the House approved over $5.1 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works program. That figure amounts to $1 billion more than President Obama requested for FY 2015.

The funding bill includes notable, record-high annual funding levels for Civil Work’s construction and operation and maintenance (O&M) accounts.   Within the O&M account, the bill also approves over $1.1 billion for harbor maintenance dredging, also a record figure. You can find the projects recommended by the president by clicking here.

Account*

FY 2012

FY 2013  (after Sequester)

FY 2014

FY 2015

President’s Request

FY 2015

House Bill

Construction

$1,694

$1,587

$1,656

$1,125

$1,711

O&M

$2,412

$2,287

$2,861

$2,600

$2,964

MR&T

$252

$238

$307

$245

$260

FUSRAP

$109

$100

$103

$100

$100

Flood Control & Coastal Emergency

$27

$26

$28

$28

$28

Investigations

$125

$119

$125

$80

$115

TOTAL

$4,619

$4,357

$5,080

$4,178

$5,178

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet voted on its version of this bill. Last month, Senate Democrats pulled the bill from committee consideration to avoid votes on amendments regarding climate change, coal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations to expand federal jurisdiction over water. There is no indication that the Senate will move forward on the bill.

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

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House Passes GSA Funding Bill
AGC Opposes Automatic Debarment Amendment
 

On July 16, the House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2015, which funds the General Services Administration (GSA), by a 228-195 vote. The bill includes slight decreases in funding for GSA in FY 2015, as compared to FY 2014. However, the House bill comes in about $700 million less than the president’s request. Of particular note, the House would only fund land port-of-entry projects for Customs and Border Protection through the construction and acquisition account and ignore the facility needs of all other executive agencies completely. To view what projects the House would provide GSA funding for, see pages 57 to 63 of the House Committee Report.  To view the president’s request for GSA, click here.

While the bill was on the House floor, AGC sent a letter encouraging members of Congress to support amendments increasing funding for GSA’s Public Buildings Fund. In addition, AGC noted its strong opposition to an amendment that would automatically debar a federal contractor for a violation—or even an accusation thereof—of the Fair Labor Standards Act. For more information on AGC’s effort against automatic debarment on this, click here.

The Senate has not passed any of the 12 annual appropriations bills to date. It is considered unlikely that the Senate would pass its version of the GSA funding before the election. As such, the likelihood of a continuing resolution that freezes spending levels from FY 2014 is increasingly likely as the November election approaches.

GSA Accounts

FY 2012

FY 2013*

FY 2014

FY 2015

President’s Request

FY 2015

House Bill

Construction & Acquisition

$50,000,000

$50,000,000

$506,178,000

$745,449,000

$420,460,000

Repairs & Alterations

$280,000,000

$280,000,000

$1,076,823,000

$1,256,738,000

$965,817,000

TOTAL

$330,000,000

$330,000,000

$1,583,001,000

$2,002,187,000

$1,386,277,000

*Please note that these GSA accounts did not experience sequestration cuts in FY 2013.

GSA Repairs & Alterations

Account Breakdown

FY 2014

FY 2015

President’s Request

FY 2015

House Bill

Major Repairs & Alterations

$593,288,000

$666,472,000

$402,282,000

Fire & Life Safety Program

$30,000,000

$40,000,000

$40,000,000

Energy & Water Retrofit & Conservation Measures

$5,000,000

$40,000,000

n/a

Consolidated Activities

$70,000,000

$100,000,000

$100,000,000

Basic Repairs and Alterations

$378,535,000

$390,266,000

$378,535,000

Judiciary Court Security Program

n/a

$20,000,000

$20,000,000

Real Property Disposal

n/a

n/a

$25,000,000

TOTAL

$1,076,823,000

$1,256,738,000

$965,817,000

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

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2014 ELECTIONS
Tuesday’s Run-off Results
 

Following their respective second place finishes in primary elections, Baptist pastor Mark Walker and Alabama think tank founder Gary Palmer won major upset victories in their respective North Carolina and Alabama Republican congressional run-off elections.

Alabama

Mr. Palmer defeated state Rep. Paul DeMarco by a whopping 64-36 percent margin. Palmer had finished 13 points behind DeMarco in the June 3 Republican primary, but with all but one of the defeated candidates endorsing him, the second place primary finisher easily overtook DeMarco. Mr. Palmer now becomes the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democrat Avery Vise in what is one of the safest Republican congressional districts in the country.

North Carolina

Congressman Howard Coble (R) is retiring after 15 terms in the House Pastor Mark Walker easily defeated Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. Tuesday night in the Republican run-off election. On May 20, Berger paced the field with 34 percent of the vote. Walker was a surprise second place finisher, garnering 25 percent, which was strong enough to eliminate seven other candidates.

Berger is the son of Phil Berger Sr., the state Senate President. Controversy arose in the run-off campaign when Walker filed ethics and Federal Election Commission complaints against the Berger operation, and Phil Sr., specifically. Phil Berger Sr. is a former officer of the Republican State Leadership Committee, and made alarge contribution to the Berger-aligned Super PAC.

Though Rep. Coble and the local Republican establishment were clearly behind Berger, Mr. Walker was able to coast to a 60-40 percent win. With the 6th District voting heavily Republican, Mark Walker should cruise to victory in the general election against former University of North Carolina administrator Laura Fjeld (D).

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

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