Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 18, 2014
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Ask Your Representatives to Sign Bipartisan Letter in Support of Long-Term Highway Bill
TAX
Congress Approved Extenders for 2014
LABOR
AGC-Backed Pension Reform Signed Into Law
NLRB Issues Final “Quickie Election” Rule
AGC Urges OFCCP to Simplify Compliance Requirements of Pay Secrecy Rule
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Helps Enact Fuel Tax Increase for Inland Waterways Infrastructure
ELECTIONS
Recount Concludes – McSally Defeats Barber
Jeb Inches Closer to Presidential Run

 

The AGC Construction Legislative Week in Review will not be published for the coming two weeks.  The next CLWIR will be published on Thursday, January 8.  Happy Holidays! Return to Top

TRANSPORTATION
Ask Your Representatives to Sign Bipartisan Letter in Support of Long-Term Highway Bill
 

Four House members from two committees most critical to the highway reauthorization are asking their colleagues to sign onto a letter to House leadership that expresses strong bipartisan commitment for addressing transportation needs by providing a long-term funding solution.  It is a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter that is now being circulated by Reps. Ribble (9R-Wisc.), Lipinski (D-Ill.), Reed (R-N.Y.) and Pascrell (D-N.J.) calling for an end to short-term extensions and a revenue source to support a long-term bill. The letter has been sent to all Republican and Democrat House offices requesting their support.  The letter will be sent to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi sometime next spring, demonstrating strong bipartisan support for this legislation. 

We need your help in asking members of the House to sign the letter. Your support is vital to the success of this effort. Please visit Hardhats for Highways and send a message to your representative.

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

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TAX
Congress Approved Extenders for 2014
 

On Dec. 16, the Senate approved H.R. 5771, the “Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014” by a 76-16 vote. The $41.6 billion retroactive package of tax extenders, endorsed by the House on Dec. 3, now heads to the president’s desk for signature. The tax extenders legislation restored approximately 55 expired tax provisions for fiscal year 2014, including the following AGC-supported tax policies:

  • Section 179 maximum deduction limit of $500,000 with a $2 million phase-out;
  • Fifty percent bonus depreciation for qualified property;
  • Fifteen-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements;
  • Reduced 5-year holding period for S-corporation recognition for built-in gains tax;
  • New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC);
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) –  including qualified veterans;
  • Research and Development tax credit;
  • Renewable energy production and investment tax credits (PTC); and
  • Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction under Section 179D.

AGC will continue to advocate for predictable and permanent tax provisions during the ongoing debate to simplify the corporate and individual tax codes when Congress reconvenes next year.

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

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LABOR
AGC-Backed Pension Reform Signed Into Law
 

On Tuesday, the president signed into law the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which eventually passed both the U.S. House and Senate after a tumultuous week filled with partisan politics on unrelated provisions. This nine-month bill funds federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security – which is only funded through Feb. 27. The new law includes a series of association-backed multi-employer pension reforms, all designed to allow employers and employees the opportunity to protect and improve retirement programs.

The pension provisions included in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 were largely based off a national labor-management commission, the National Coordinating Committee of Multiemployer Plans’ Retirement Security Review Commission, which met over an 18-month period to develop reforms to the multiemployer plan system. AGC had a representative on the commission, which studied the challenges facing the multiemployer pension system and designed a series of recommendations that safeguard retirement security and specifically address the challenges facing multiemployer plans. In February 2013, the Commission released the report, “Solutions Not Bailouts: A Comprehensive Plan from Business and Labor to Safeguard Multiemployer Retirement Security, Protect Taxpayers and Spur Economic Growth.” Following the release of the report, AGC testified before Congress and lobbied with other stakeholders to enact the ‘Solutions Not Bailouts’ proposal into law. The culmination of those efforts concluded on Tuesday, when the legislation was signed into law.

Proposals enacted include: technical corrections and enhancements to PPA and prior laws; provisions for mergers of plans when heading for insolvency; and remediation measures for critical and declining plans (provides trustees the authority to suspend benefits if doing so would avoid plan insolvency).

The act also expands PBGC partition authority of eligible multiemployer plans and includes a premium increases for multiemployer plans. The premium increase was added to the bill and was not an original recommendation from the commission. The premiums for the PBGC multiemployer guaranty fund would increase from $13 to $26 per participant for the plan year beginning after Dec. 31, 2014, and would subsequently be indexed.

A significant provision proposed in ‘Solutions Not Bailouts’ not a part of the final legislation was the inclusion of new structures to foster innovative plan designs. The new plan design concept was among AGC’s top priorities and was, unfortunately, dropped prior to the enactment of the law. However, AGC has received favorable reaction from Congressional leaders that the new plan design concepts will be debated and addressed early in the next Congress. The reason for its omission from the final law was not policy related.

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

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NLRB Issues Final “Quickie Election” Rule
 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a final rule revising union representation case procedures to unions’ advantage.  As anticipated, the final rule is nearly identical to proposed rules issued in February 2014 and June 2011.  The rule is due to take effect on April 14, 2015.  AGC and AGC-supported coalitions opposed the rulemaking and are exploring efforts to block implementation. 

The rule – often called the “quickie election” or “ambush election” rule – expedites the

process in cases where a union files a petition for an election to become the exclusive collective bargaining representative of a unit of workers.  Among the numerous changes rendered, the rule:

  • Shortens the time between the union’s filing of the petition for an election and the holding of any pre-election hearing;
  • Limits issues to be litigated at a pre-election hearing to questions concerning the appropriateness of the unit and defers disputes over voter eligibility until after the election;
  • Requires employers to file position statements on a variety of issues before a hearing;
  • Expands the information that employers must give unions to include e-mail addresses and telephone numbers; and
  • Renders post-election review by the Board discretionary. 

The Board asserts that the rule removes “unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of representation cases” by making procedures simpler, more transparent, and uniform across regions.  It has published a fact sheet on the rule, including a chart comparing current procedures to new procedures.

Regardless of the true objective, the effect of the rule is to render union organizing easier by limiting employers’ opportunity to communicate with workers, limiting employees’ opportunity to gather and consider information about union representation, and enhancing unions’ modes of communication with workers.  In the construction industry – where most union contractors operate under “prehire” or “8(f)” collective bargaining agreements – unions may use the changes not only to organize open-shop contractors but to limit union contractors’ flexibility by converting from 8(f) to 9(a) relationships.  (For an explanation of the difference between 8(f) and 9(a) relationships, go to AGC’s online library of Labor & HR Topical Resources, the select the main category “Collective Bargaining” and the subcategory “Collective Bargaining:  8(f) vs. 9(a).”)

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, of which AGC is a member, plans to file a legal challenge in the coming days.  AGC and others in the business community are contemplating additional avenues for preventing implementation of the rule, such as seeking Congressional action, and will alert members of any changes in the status of the rule. 

In the meantime, employers are well-advised to examine employee relations, identify and promptly remedy problems.  For open-shop contractors, this includes reviewing wages and benefits to ensure they are competitive.  Union contractors may not alter wages, hours, or terms of conditions of employment without first bargaining with the union, but should still examine and identify problems to address in bargaining.  They should also assess relationships with and among the various local unions in the area, taking heed of any discord that could lead one union to file an election petition in an effort to thwart a rival union.  All employers should also keep an eye out for organizing activity and train “statutory” supervisors about what they lawfully may and may not do when such activity is underway.  (For information on supervisor “do’s and don’ts,” visit the Labor & HR Topical Resources library, and select the main category “Unions/NLRA” and the subcategory “Union Organizing Campaigns & Representation Elections.”)

For more information, please contact Denise Gold at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org Return to Top

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AGC Urges OFCCP to Simplify Compliance Requirements of Pay Secrecy Rule
 

On Dec. 16, AGC submitted comments to OFCCP in response to its proposed rule prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who disclose compensation.  The rule is in response to Executive Order 13665, signed by President Obama in April 2014.  It applies to federal and federally-assisted contracts and subcontracts, as it amends Executive Order 11246. 

The proposed rule does not compel employees to discuss compensation, nor require employers to publish or disseminate pay data, but protects the rights of employees who voluntarily disclose their own compensation, or that of another employee or applicant.  Employees with access to compensation information for other employees or applicants as part of their essential job function are excluded from protection, unless disclosure is required as a result of an investigation or with regard to discussing their own compensation.  AGC’s comments ask OFCCP to implement compliance requirements that are simple and non-burdensome for contractors.  Specifically, AGC requests that OFCCP eliminate the policy dissemination and posting requirements required for applicants, as well as any management training requirements suggested in the proposed rule.  Instead, AGC asks OFCCP to consider contractors in compliance when the revised Equal Opportunity Clause (EO clause) is included in covered subcontractors contracts and purchase orders, and by posting a revised Federal Poster for employees.

The proposed rule also obligates prime contractors to enforce the new EO Clause as directed by OFCCP.  As a result, AGC’s comments ask OFCCP to insert language into the final rule that will eliminate risks to prime contractors and to project efficiency when subcontractors and vendors are removed for noncompliance with the EO.   

For more information, please contact Tamika Carter at (703) 837-5382 or cartert@agc.org Return to Top

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC Helps Enact Fuel Tax Increase for Inland Waterways Infrastructure
 

On Dec. 16, as part of the tax extenders legislation, the Senate passed a provision that would increase a fuel tax to benefit 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 and will take effect after April 1, 2015. For the last several years, AGC has worked with a coalition of commercial barge, agricultural and labor interests in pressing for this increase in inland waterways infrastructure funding.                                         

The Inland Waterways Fuel Tax generates between $75 million to $85 million per year that is matched by the federal treasury, boosting its total value to between $150 million to $170 million annually. An increase in this tax by 1 cent-per-gallon is estimated to produce additional revenue of between $3 million and $4 million per year, meaning a 9-cent raise in the fuel tax would equate to $27 million to $36 million in additional tax revenue annually, which would be matched by the federal government.

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

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ELECTIONS
Recount Concludes – McSally Defeats Barber
 

Hand counted sampling is now complete in the Tucson-area congressional district recount in both Pima and Cochise Counties, and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper made the results official.  Retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally (R) has defeated two-term Congressman Ron Barber (D) by 167 votes.  In the original count from Nov. 4, McSally led the Congressman by 161 votes.

House Republicans, already anticipating that she will join the conference, have appointed McSally to the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, the very panels upon which Barber currently serves.  This will be a good fit for the Congresswoman-elect given her military background.  While in active duty, she was the first woman in U.S. history to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory as well as command a USAF fighter squadron.

McSally’s election means that Republicans will control 247 House seats, compared to 188 for Democrats, when the new Congress convenes in January. This gives the GOP its largest House majority since 1931.

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

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Jeb Inches Closer to Presidential Run
 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) announced yesterday that he will indeed form a political action committee for purposes of testing his viability in a campaign for president, thus following in his father's and brother's footsteps. The announcement is hardly a surprise based upon Mr. Bush's political moves of the preceding weeks.

Other potential candidates, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as previous 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, are unanimously moving forward with their own political plans regardless of whether or not the legacy candidate enters the race .

Since Republican voters have a history of always turning to their heir apparent in the presidential race, the more establishment-oriented potential candidacies of Bush and Romney must be taken seriously. If they both enter the race, along with adding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the mix, the more centrist voters will likely be split, thus possibly opening the door for fresher candidates like Sen. Paul, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and others.

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

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