Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 8, 2015
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Ask Your Representative to Support Bipartisan House Transportation Funding Letter
Gas Tax in the News
LABOR
House Passes Bill to Reform the "Obamacare" Definition of Full-time Employment
AGC Submits Comments to OFCCP on New Equal Pay Report
AGC Members-Only Webinar on: The New Multiemployer Pension Plan Law
INSURANCE
Congress Passes Terrorism Risk Insurance Act
ENVIRONMENT
EPA Rules Fly Ash Not Hazardous- Allows Beneficial Use to Continue
CONGRESS
Boehner Re-Elected Speaker
Congress Convenes With One Vacant Seat
AGC SURVEY
Help AGC of America Craft the 2015 Annual Outlook
TRANSPORTATION
Ask Your Representative to Support Bipartisan House Transportation Funding Letter
www.HardhatsforHighways.org
 

With gas taxes making news in Washington this week, now is a great time to contact your representative and ask them to sign on to a bipartisan letter in support of needed transportation funding currently being circulated in the House.

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, while 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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Gas Tax in the News
 

As the price of gas continues to drop at the pump and the Highway Trust Fund once again approaches a zero balance, the idea of increasing the gas tax is circulating the halls of Congress.  Several members of Congress made news this week by not dismissing a gas tax increase as one of the potential ways to address the upcoming Highway Trust Fund shortfall, including Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). 

While none of the Senators actually came out in support of increasing the gas tax, the fact that they haven’t completely dismissed the idea is a step in the right direction.  We need to keep Congress’s attention focused on finding a funding solution for transportation infrastructure – so now is the time to contract your members of Congress.  For information on how you can get involved, visit our Hardhats for Highways campaign website.

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

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LABOR
House Passes Bill to Reform the "Obamacare" Definition of Full-time Employment
 

Today, marking one of the first legislative actions of the new Congress, the House passed H.R. 30, the Saving American Workers Act of 2015, by a bipartisan vote of 252-172.  Twelve Democrats crossed party lines and supported the bill. The bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) definition of full-time employee as 30 hours of service per week and replace it with the more traditional 40-hour definition. The ACA's employer mandate to provide coverage to all full-time employees became effective beginning with plan years on or after Jan. 1, 2015. Previous delays of the ACA employer mandate did nothing to change the law's underlining full-time definition of 30 hours-of-service per week.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but never received consideration in the Senate. The strong vote today will likely result in Senate consideration of this legislation in the near future; however, a veto threat from the White House means the bills future remains uncertain.

AGC sent a letter in support of the bill ahead of the House vote and joined the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Healthcare and the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition in letters of support.

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

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AGC Submits Comments to OFCCP on New Equal Pay Report
 

On Jan. 5, AGC submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regarding its proposed rule requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to annually report summary compensation data using a new Equal Pay Report.  OFCCP originally published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking more than three years ago announcing the desire to create such a tool.  The proposed rule is the result of an April 2014 Presidential Memorandum and was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 8, 2014.

If implemented as written, the proposed rule will impact covered contractors with more than 100 employees and a contract, subcontract, or purchase order worth $50,000 or more that covers a period of at least 30 days.  On an annual basis, such contractors would have to submit summary employee compensation data by sex, race, ethnicity, specified job categories, and other relevant data points that including hours worked and number of employees.  OFCCP plans to use the collected data to help direct its enforcement resources.  OFCCP also states that it will release aggregate summary data on race and gender pay gaps by industry and EEO-1 job category to enable contractors to review their pay data using the same metrics as OFCCP, and take voluntary compliance measures.

The proposed rule references compensation discrimination as the basis for the need of summary compensation data collection from federal contractors.  In the comments, AGC expresses appreciation for OFCCP’s objective to protect workers from possible compensation discrimination.  However, the comments explain that new compensation reporting or disclosure requirements for federal construction contractors are not necessary or reasonable for several reasons:

  • OFCCP audits data and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims data do not support the need for such requirements;
  • Compensation paid by federal construction contractors is already regulated by way of the Davis-Bacon Act;
  • Federal construction contractors are already actively increasing wages for all workers in order to recruit and retain skilled labor as well as to comply with the new minimum wage for federal contractors;
  • Tools already exist to help the government and construction companies benchmark compensation;
  • Requested data do not account for a wide variety of factors used to determine compensation such as education, training, experience, industry accreditations, tenure, attitude and job assignment;
  • National wage data are useless for benchmarking purposes in construction due to the highly fragmented, regionalized and project-driven nature of the industry; and
  • Proprietary company information and employee privacy may be compromised.

AGC’s comments ask OFCCP to exempt federal construction contractors from the requirements of completing the Equal Pay Report.  If OFCCP chooses to not honor this request, AGC’s comments ask OFCCP to simplify the requirements of compliance for construction contractors by working with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division to gain access to Davis-Bacon certified payroll data, which contain most of the data desired by OFCCP.   Additional desired data are already collected and maintained by OFCCP.  AGC also suggests amending the certified payroll form.  Either of these approaches to data collection will eliminate new recordkeeping requirements and rely on an existing reporting framework, as directed by the president in the April memorandum.

Should none of AGC’s requests be accommodated, AGC’s comments, at the very least, ask that OFCCP specify in the final rule that only prime and first-tier construction subcontractors are required to complete and submit the Equal Pay Report, and that federally-assisted contractors are not required, as is the requirement for non-construction contractors.  Furthermore, AGC’s comments ask that workers who are exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act be exempt from inclusion in the Equal Pay Report because employers do not currently track hours actually worked by those employees and adding this element of tracking will be difficult and burdensome for contractors to implement.

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

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AGC Members-Only Webinar on: The New Multiemployer Pension Plan Law
January 20th, 2015 l 2:00 - 3:30 p.m., EST
 

The webinar will provide an overview of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 that was included in the recent federal funding bill and was signed into law by the president on Dec. 16. The new law makes the Pension Protection Act permanent along with some technical changes, allows for the potential suspension of benefits for deeply troubled plans and includes PBGC premium increases. The webinar will highlight these changes in the law and its effect on contributing employers. The webinar will also highlight the ongoing advocacy work of the AGC government affairs team and will allow time for Q&A at the conclusion. Click here to register.

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

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INSURANCE
Congress Passes Terrorism Risk Insurance Act
 

On Wednesday, the House approved H.R. 26, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), by a vote of 416-5 vote.  On Thursday, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 93-4.  The TRIA bill would:

  • Extend the Terrorism Insurance Program for six-years;
  • Gradually increases from $100 million to $200 million the aggregate trigger (i.e. the minimum amount of damages from an attack before any federal assistance could become available) at a rate of $20 million a year beginning in 2016;
  • Raise the federal government’s mandatory recoupment from $27.5 billion to $37.5 billion, increasing by $2 billion each year beginning Jan. 1, 2016;
  • Raise the private industry recoupment total from the current 133 percent of covered losses to 140 percent of covered losses; and
  • Increase the co-share between the private sector and federal government to 80-20 percent — up from the current 85-15 percent.

The bill does not include so-called bifurcation for treating nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological (NBCR) attacks differently from more conventional forms of attack – but authorizes a government study on the matter.

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

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ENVIRONMENT
EPA Rules Fly Ash Not Hazardous- Allows Beneficial Use to Continue
 

On Dec. 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will not regulate coal combustion waste, including fly ash, as a hazardous substance and by doing so will preserve the future beneficial use of this product in concrete and most other construction applications. AGC has been actively involved in working to convince EPA that a hazardous designation was unnecessary and would have an extremely detrimental impact on the future use of fly ash and raise liability concerns about its previous use. EPA began work on a rule to regulate the disposal of coal ash following a December 2008 spill from an impoundment at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) facility in Kingston, Tenn. The containment failure put a national spotlight on coal ash impoundment and disposal practices and EPA committed at that time to make a decision on how to address the waste by the end of 2009.  EPA submitted a proposed rule to OMB later that year; however, OMB requested an extension.

AGC first took action on Nov. 7, 2009, in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stating concerns that the agency was moving too quickly in preparing to propose federal requirements for the future management of coal ash. Subsequently, AGC submitted extensive comments on the rules proposed by EPA in 2010, and again in 2011; and in 2013 was able to generate 140 letters from AGC members on the proposed rule. AGC comments urged EPA to weigh the potential impacts of its regulatory options on the beneficial use of coal ash and take into consideration the real environmental benefits of reusing these materials, as well as the lack of negative reports (i.e., alleged or proven damage cases) associated with the beneficial use of fly-ash in many construction applications including concrete and wallboard.

In addition, AGC participated in meetings with EPA to discuss construction industry concerns and also worked with our Congressional allies to get legislation introduced in the House and the Senate in both the 112th and 113th Congresses to prevent EPA from moving forward with a hazardous designation. In the 112th Congress, H.R. 2273 was passed by the House on Oct. 14, 2011 by a vote of 267 to 144. A federal lawsuit was initiated in 2012 by environmental groups to force EPA to take action. As part of a settlement agreement related to the suit, EPA agreed to take "final action" on coal ash waste disposal rules by Dec. 19, 2014.

In commenting on EPA’s December announcement, AGC’s CEO Stephen Sandherr said, ““Our association and its members went to great lengths to make sure that EPA officials appreciated that the construction industry has successfully and safely used fly ash in concrete and other materials for over six decades.  Indeed, construction firms aggressively recycle a host of materials each year, including concrete, steel and asphalt.  And thanks in part to our efforts, they understand that allowing this recycling program to continue will address many of the disposal challenges the energy industry faces with fly ash.” 

“We look forward to working with agency officials to ensure this rule is implemented in a way that continues to allow for the safe and effective use of coal fly ash in construction.”

While today’s rule will allow most beneficial uses of coal ash, some previously approved uses, such as large-scale fill operations, may now be considered disposal and not an approved beneficial use.   AGC will analyze the rule closely to identify any changes to current practices that contractors can expect to see.

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

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CONGRESS
Boehner Re-Elected Speaker
McConnell Takes the Gavel as Senate Majority Leader
 

The 114th Congress convened this week with Republicans controlling both chambers for the first time in eight years.  The first order of business in the House of Representatives was to re-elect John Boehner (R-Ohio), who overcame a small challenge from within his party, as Speaker of the House.  In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) takes over as Majority Leader.

Speaker Boehner defeated Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by a margin of 216-164 with 24 of his fellow Republicans voting against.  Representative Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who waged a last-minute and ill-fated campaign for Speaker, received 12 votes.  The top three House Republican leaders for the 114th Congress are Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.).  On the Democrat side, Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (Md.) return as the Minority Leader and Minority Whip, respectively.

The top three Republicans in the Senate for the 114th Congress are McConnell, Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.).  The Senate Democrats will be lead by Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin (Illinois).

AGC looks forward to working with the new Congress to advance a pro-construction legislative agenda.

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

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Congress Convenes With One Vacant Seat
 

The new 114th Congress convened on Tuesday with already one vacant seat in the House of Representatives headed to special election.  Despite Rep. Michael Grimm (R) saying he would not resign his seat after pleading guilty to one count of tax evasion in December, the man who scored a resounding 53-41 percent re-election victory in the face of a 20-count federal indictment has officially left Congress. 

Under New York election law, the governor must schedule the election between 70 and 80 days from the date of official vacancy.  Also under New York election procedure, the local political parties will choose their respective nominee, meaning there will only be one election before the voting public.

For a time, it looked like former three-term Staten Island Borough president James Molinaro might enter the race as a Conservative Party candidate, but the 83-year old former local political leader is confirming he will not do so. Having a Conservative nominee would clearly weaken Republican prospects of holding the seat.

At this point, the leading contenders are Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan for the Republicans, and six-term Democratic state Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island).  Also mentioned as potential Republican candidates are Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and state Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Great Kills/Staten Island). Former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13) says he is not interested in seeking his former position.

On the Democratic side, in addition to Assemblyman Cusick, former one-term Rep. Mike McMahon (D-NY-13) is being mentioned as a possible candidate. McMahon won the seat when Fossella imploded in personal scandal, but lost to Grimm two years later in the GOP landslide of 2010.


Considering Grimm's strong re-election victory, and the Republican voting history in this Staten Island-based district, the GOP begins the special election as the favorites to hold the seat. Thus, the first campaign of the new 2016 election cycle is already upon us.

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
 

You have one last chance to help AGC work to predict what next year will be like for your business.  These survey questions focus on expectations for market performance, hiring, labor market conditions, plans to acquire equipment, etc.  Please take a moment to complete the survey hereAfter collecting all responses, we will work with AGC’s chief economist Ken Simonson to analyze the results, which we will release Jan. 21 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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