Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 4, 2014
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Bipartisan Support for Transportation Funding in House
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Advances Legislative Priorities in Defense Bill
TAX
House Sends One-Year Extension of Expired Policies to Senate
House Passes Fuel Tax Increase for Inland Waterways
ENVIRONMENT
EPA Proposes Tighter Ozone Air Quality Standards
LABOR
OFCCP Announces Final Rule on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
ELECTIONS
Louisiana Voters Head Back to the Polls Saturday
No President Portman in 2016
AGC SURVEY
Help AGC of America Craft the 2015 Annual Outlook
TRANSPORTATION
Bipartisan Support for Transportation Funding in House
Ask Your Reps to Sign Letter through Hardhats for Highways
 

Although a gas tax increase in the lame duck was declared dead this week by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), there was some positive news with four members of the House circulating a bipartisan letter in support of transportation funding. 

The letter, authored by Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Members Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Dan Lipinksi (D-Ill.), along with Ways & Means Committee Members Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), seeks to build momentum and send a message to Republican and Democrat House leaders that passing a multiyear transportation reauthorization bill with a sustainable funding source is a high priority going into the 114th Congress.  The letter calls for an end to the cycle of short-term extensions of transportation funding. It is supported by a wide variety of stakeholders all of whom are encouraging all members of the House to sign on.

AGC is working closely with Representatives Ribble, Lipinski, Reed and Pascrell and leading the efforts of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) in asking all members of the House to sign the letter. 

We encourage all AGC chapters and members to contact their Representative and urge them to sign on through our Hardhats for Highways campaign.

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

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Advances Legislative Priorities in Defense Bill
Design-Build and Reverse Auction Reforms Move Forward
 

On Dec. 2, the House and Senate Armed Services released the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (NDAA) bill, which includes AGC-supported provisions on design-build and reverse auction procurement reform impacting Department of Defense construction contractors.  The bill was considered by the House yesterday and is expected to be considered by the Senate later this week or early next week. Reports indicate that this bill will likely be enacted before Congress adjourns this year.

Concerning design-build procurement, the bill would limit the shortlist in the two-phase design-build process to no more than 5 finalists on DOD agency contracts exceeding $4 million (see Section 814 of the bill). In the event a contract officer (CO) would like to include more than five finalists in the two-phase design-build process, that CO would: (1) have to provide written documentation of how exceeding five finalists is consistent with the purposes and objectives of the two-phase selection procedures; and (2) obtain the approval of the head of the agency contracting activity, i.e., the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or commanding Rear Admiral of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.  

On reverse auctions, the bill would explicitly prohibit reverse auction procurement for design-build construction services on military construction contracts (see Section 824 of the bill). In addition, the bill would place restrictions on single bidder reverse auctions through DOD procurements.

Both of these provisions will be effective the day the president signs the NDAA bill into law. However, the reforms will require Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) changes. As a result, two DFARS cases will likely open to implement these provisions. In the event a DFARS reverse auction case is opened, AGC will push DOD to completely prohibit the procurement of construction services through reverse auctions.

AGC has pressed for design-build reform and the prohibition of reverse auctions for construction services throughout this Congress and will continue to press for their final enactment. While these provisions are a positive step forward, AGC will continue to advocate for further reform in the new Congress in 2015 that address the entire federal government.

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

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TAX
House Sends One-Year Extension of Expired Policies to Senate
 

On Wednesday, the House approved H.R. 5771, the “Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014,” by a 378 – 46 vote. The $41.6 billion tax extenders legislation restored approximately 52 expired tax provisions for fiscal year 2014, including nine AGC tax priorities (i.e. 179 expensing, bonus depreciation, R&D).

The Senate is expected to address the bill by the middle of next week. Opposition from the White House and Democratic Senators dashed the prospect of a two-year plan in late November, which led House Republican leadership to the vote on the one-year package.  On Nov. 19, AGC sent a letter to members of Congress laying out the provisions critical to the construction industry.  AGC will continue to press for permanency of the provisions during the tax debate in the coming months of the new 114th Congress.

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

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House Passes Fuel Tax Increase for Inland Waterways
Supports Increased Investment in Lock & Dam Infrastructure
 

On Dec. 3, the House of Representatives passed a provision that would increase a fuel tax that benefits inland waterway lock and dam construction and maintenance projects. The provision would raise the fuel tax from 20 cents to 29 cents per gallon on barges using the inland waterway system.  This excise tax revenue is deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The tax increase would be effective for fuel used after April 1, 2015.

The provision was included in H.R. 647, the ABLE Act, a bill providing for tax incentives for individuals with disabilities. Action now moves to the Senate, where 74 senators are listed as cosponsors that support the ABLE Act.

AGC fully supports increasing this user fee to improve lock and dam infrastructure on our nation’s inland waterways. 

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

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ENVIRONMENT
EPA Proposes Tighter Ozone Air Quality Standards
 

After years of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Nov. 26 that it is proposing to strengthen the federal ozone air quality standards to within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb), while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb. The current ozone standard, set in 2008, is at 75 ppb.

The proposal would greatly increase the number of counties that face “nonattainment” — thereby triggering the formation of state implementation plans (SIPs) to reduce ozone emissions. EPA maps show that 358 counties would violate a 70 ppb standard, based on 2011-2013 monitoring data.  An additional 200 counties would violate a 65 ppb standard, raising the total to 558 counties.  (To see an EPA map of the areas/counties out of compliance with the current 2008 ozone standard, click here.)

Industry groups have billed the new ozone proposal the most expensive regulation ever; the National Association of Manufacturers has put the costs at $270 billion a year.  However, by law, EPA must set the air quality standard based on what the best science says is safe to breathe, and not on how much it will cost to get there. (The law provides for cost considerations in other areas of implementing pollution rules.) Still, EPA said the economic benefits would outweigh the costs by a wide margin.

Construction companies will feel the effects of tighter ozone limits, mainly via restrictions on equipment emissions in areas with poor air quality, as well as additional controls on industrial facilities and planning requirements for transportation-related sources (indirect impact).  Notably, nonattainment counties that are out of compliance with CAA ozone standards could have federal highway funds withheld. 


EPA also proposed to set the secondary ozone standard, a limit that is meant to protect plants and other environmental attributes, at the same level. EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, and the agency plans to hold three public hearings. EPA will issue final ozone standards by Oct. 1, 2015.

You can also view the proposal, or read AGC’s latest Federal Air Quality Standards Update.

For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org Return to Top

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LABOR
OFCCP Announces Final Rule on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
 

On Dec. 3, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced final regulations implementing Executive Order 13672 (EO).  The EO prohibits federal contractors with contracts of $10,000 or more, and their subcontractors, from engaging in employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity. The final rule will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will apply to federal contracts entered into or modified on or after that date.

The EO was signed by President Obama on July 21, 2014.  It requires federal contracting agencies to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as prohibited bases of discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Clause mandated by Executive Order 11246.  The final rule solidifies this requirement, but does not require contractors to collect any information about applicants’ or employees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

All employers, whether engaged in government contracting or not, should note that both the OFCCP and the EEOC had already adopted the position that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Executive Order 11246 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For more information on the OFCCP’s new final rule, visit www.dol.gov/ofccp/LGBT.   Return to Top

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ELECTIONS
Louisiana Voters Head Back to the Polls Saturday
 

Three congressional races will be decided in Louisiana this Saturday. Voters head back to the polls because the state employs the jungle primary system. On Nov. 4, all candidates appeared on the same primary ballot regardless of political party affiliation. Since no candidate in three races received an outright majority of the vote, no one was elected. As a result, the top two finishers in each race now advance to a final run-off election.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) is expected to defeat three-term Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). A recent poll had the Congressman leading by double-digits, 53-38 percent. With both political parties ending their media advertising and the intangibles cutting against Ms. Landrieu since the run-off began, it appears that Mr. Cassidy is headed for victory. Should he be successful, the new Senate will divide 54 Republicans to 46 Democrats.

The 5th District finds a battle between Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D) and physician Ralph Abraham (R), a first-time candidate. They both out-paced scandal-plagued Rep. Vance McAllister (R), who finished a poor fourth. Given the districts Republican leaning, an Abraham win is expected.

Down in the 6th District, former chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Garret Graves (R) has opened up a huge 61-35 percent advantage over former four-term Governor and Congressman Edwin Edwards (D). The latter also served eight years in federal prison on bribery and racketeering charges. The district is heavily Republican, so Graves is expected to defeat the former governor.

Should these two races go to Republicans as expected, the new House breakdown will be 246 Republicans to 188 Democrats. It would give the GOP its largest majority since World War II.

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

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No President Portman in 2016
 

On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that he would not seek the presidency in 2016, and will instead run for re-election.

In a released statement, he said, "With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role.  I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”

In the last few elections, Mr. Portman has played Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Barack Obama in the debate prep for the GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees.  It is rumored that he was also on the VP shortlist for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.).  Mr. Portman would likely be considered again for the #2 spot, but he has stated that he would prefer to not be considered for the job.  That doesn’t mean the next nominee won’t have him high on his or her list.

Before returning to Congress, Mr. Portman served as President George W. Bush's Director of the Office of Management and Budget after a short stint as the administration's U.S. Trade Representative.  Before that, the Senator was elected to six terms in the House of Representatives. 

For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or ashinoffd@agc.org. Return to Top
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AGC SURVEY
Help AGC of America Craft the 2015 Annual Outlook
Take the Survey Today
 

Each year around this time, AGC asks you – our members – to predict what next year will be like for your business.  Questions focus on expectations for market performance, hiring, labor market conditions, plans to acquire equipment, etc.  Please take a moment to complete the survey hereWe will spend the rest of November and the better part of December asking members to complete the survey.  After that we will work with AGC’s chief economist Ken Simonson to analyze the results, which we will release in early January to the media and members. As in the past, we will also prepare state-specific outlooks for every state where we have a sufficiently robust response. 

Thanks in advance for all your help and support, and please contact Brian Turmail at turmailb@agc.org with any questions. Return to Top

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