Construction Legislative Week in Review November 6, 2014
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On the Inside
Republicans Take Control of the Senate, Increase Majority in the House
Mostly Positive Results for Infrastructure Measures on the Ballot
Mid-Term Elections Impact on Transportation Committees
AGC Joins Coalition Letter on Highlighting Concerns with Federal Contractor Executive Order
Republicans Take Control of the Senate, Increase Majority in the House

Leading up to Tuesday’s election, Republicans were gaining momentum and it was accurately predicted that they would take control of the Senate.  However, they exceeded expectations by winning 52 seats (they could potentially reach as many as 55 once all elections are decided). In addition, the party increased their total of governorships in the face of virtually all predictions projecting GOP losses.

Alaska and Virginia have yet to be called and Louisiana will be decided in a December run-off. Senate Committee leadership will now all change to Republican, and the membership ratios between the two parties will reflect the full Senate's new partisan division that will be finalized in the next few weeks.

The Louisiana Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) has ended with Landrieu barely finishing in first in the state's "jungle" primary (42 percent) and came nowhere close to obtaining 50 percent of the vote needed to win the election. The three Republicans on the ballot received a total of 55.8 percent of the vote, so it is very likely that Cassidy prevails in next month’s head-to-head matchup. Additionally, with Democrats losing their majority, Landrieu has lost one of her chief selling points to voters – her power as chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In early 2013, not many people thought Republicans could obtain the Senate majority. But, 2014 brought low approval ratings for President Barack Obama and the Democrats, which turned the tide in favor of Republicans despite the GOP having even lower approval numbers. This 2014 election featured a unique voting pattern because both parties were unpopular in the public’s eye. The low mid-term turnout factored heavily into these results, just as it did in 2010. We continue to see a pattern where Republicans do well in the low turnout elections and Democrats excel in the higher turnout, presidential election years. Expect this state of political flux to continue into the 2016 cycle and likely beyond.

In the House, the GOP showed strong incumbent retention as it only lost two seats – FL-2 represented by Rep. Steve Southerland and NE-2 represented by Rep. Lee Terry.  Rep. Vance McAllister (R) also lost, but that seat will remain in Republican control following a run-off next month.  Additionally, Republicans picked up at least 15 seats for a current net gain of 13. With 11 races too close to call and two headed for a run-off, the GOP may well expand its majority to the 250 plateau. Two notable Democratic incumbent losses include Rep. John Barrow (GA-12), who was defeated by former AGC Georgia president Rick Allen (R), and 19-term Rep. and Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (WV-3) was defeated by Evan Jenkins (R).

Committee leadership and membership will be tweaked somewhat, but most chairmen will remain in their current positions. Major posts such as House Ways & Means, Agriculture, and Oversight and Government Reform will choose new chairmen.

Going into the election, 47 seats were open. Added to the number of incumbent defeats, the freshman class will likely feature at least 60 new members when all of the votes are counted, 43 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

Republicans also increased their national majority in state Governors from 29 to 31. Democrats drop to 18, with likely one Independent (Alaska's Bill Walker who appears to have unseated Gov. Sean Parnell (R)).

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or Return to Top

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Mostly Positive Results for Infrastructure Measures on the Ballot
Billions in Construction Bonds Approved, Some Defeats

Big bond measures and infrastructure ballot initiatives ended up being a mixed bag for the 2014 general election. States secured more than $11 billion in construction funding measures and bonds while sending a few infrastructure measures back to the drawing board.

California voters backed Proposition 1 more than two to one, approving $7.5 billion in bonds for funding water quality, supply, and infrastructure improvements.  The bond would fund new dams in Central and Northern California, clean up groundwater in Riverside and Los Angeles counties and restore much of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, by almost the same margin against, voters in Louisiana rejected an amendment that would have capitalized a state infrastructure bank for transportation projects.

Texas overwhelmingly secured about $1.7 billion from oil and gas severance taxes for transportation construction. Wisconsin and Maryland each passed measures by wide margins, around 80 percent, to establish dedicated transportation trust funds, and in Wisconsin’s case to create a Department of Transportation. But, Massachusetts passed a measure that would eliminate its state gas tax indexing to inflation. Maine passed a series of bonds that will fund $31 million in construction of new facilities for research facilities, laboratories, and clean water in addition to $4 million in loans for small businesses.

School construction also showed big successes with New York securing $2 billion in bonds for school construction and New Mexico approving $141 million in higher education, special schools, and tribal schools. Rhode Island passed $258 million in bonds for many types of construction including higher education, cultural facilities, mass transit, and clean water construction.

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or Return to Top

Mid-Term Elections Impact on Transportation Committees

The Senate flipping from Democrat to Republican control will result in new chairmen for the four Senate committees with jurisdiction over the surface transportation reauthorization, while the House will see some changes to its committees with jurisdiction.  The current authorization was extended until May 31, 2015, which means the new Congress needs to not only reauthorize the bill prior to May 31, but also provide revenue into the Highway Trust Fund which is projected to run out at some point in May or June.

 First, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) will assume the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) who will likely remain the committee’s top Democrat.  Senators Inhofe and Boxer have a long history of bipartisan success in working on previous highway bills, most recently passing the GROW Act out of their committee by unanimous consent last Congress.  Secondly, the Senate Banking Committee – with jurisdiction over the federal transit programs – will be chaired by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) with the top Democrat spot likely being taken by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  Thirdly, the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman will be John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will serve as the committee’s top Democrat.  Lastly, and perhaps most important is the Senate Finance Committee.  The Finance Committee is tasked with finding the approximately $100 billion in revenue necessary to write a five year surface transportation reauthorization.  The committee will now be led by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) while current Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will now serve as the ranking member. 

In the House, the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will continue to be chaired by Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.).  However, there will be a change in leadership on the Democrat side of the committee.  Ranking Member Nick Rahall (R-W.Va.) was defeated and his likely successor as the committee’s top Democrat is Peter DeFazio of Oregon.  The committee’s Highway and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-Wis.) did not seek reelection and his spot is speculated to be filled by Congressman Sam Graves(R-Mo.).   In addition to the surface transportation reauthorization, the committee agenda will likely include legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard, passenger rail programs, and the Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Like the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee is tasked with the finance portion of the surface transportation reauthorization.  Current Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is retiring, he will likely be replaced by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).   As the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan’s budgets called for limiting Highway Trust Fund investments to the revenue brought in through the gas, diesel and related fees.  The Ryan Budgets would have resulted in significant cuts to federal transportation programs. 

AGC is committed to working with all members of Congress to ensure that a top priority of the 114th Congress is to fix the Highway Trust Fund and expeditiously authorize federal transportation programs.

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

AGC Joins Coalition Letter on Highlighting Concerns with Federal Contractor Executive Order

Following a meeting last month  attended by AGC , U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz,  along with other administration officials and stakeholders on President Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order, AGC joined with other national associations in a letter outlining our concerns with the executive order.

The EO purports to help federal agencies “identify and work with contractors with track records of compliance” with labor laws in order to “reduce execution delays and avoid distractions and complications that arise from contracting with contractors with track records of noncompliance.” It imposes several new obligations on federal contractors and contracting agencies, increasing the burdens and risks for covered contractors. It does not cover federally-assisted contracts.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or Return to Top

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