Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 29, 2015
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
CBO Projects Highway Trust Fund Shortfall This Summer
Senate Kicks Off Highway Bill Efforts
House Highway Trust Fund Bill Introduced
Dueling Letters to Congress on Gas Tax Increase
ENERGY
Keystone Bill Passes Senate
LABOR
AGC Continues to Advocate for Federal Changes to the Federal Workforce System
AGC-Supported Groups Sue NLRB Over “Quickie Election” Rule
AGC Opposes USACE- and GSA-mandated PLAs
AGC EVENTS
Congress Needs to Hear from You – Transportation Funding is Running Out!
Get Ahead of Your Competition at the AGC Federal Contractors Conference
TRANSPORTATION
CBO Projects Highway Trust Fund Shortfall This Summer
Ask your Rep. to Support Finding a Funding Solution through www.HardhatsforHighways.org
 

This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their semi-annual Economic and Budget Outlook, in which they updated their ten-year solvency projections for the Highway Trust Fund.  With an unfavorable outlook, it is important that Congress finds a long-term funding solution for the Highway Trust Fund.  Please ask your representative to sign the bipartisan House transportation funding letter and commit to supporting transportation funding initiatives.  The letter will be sent to House leadership next week.

CBO estimates that both the Highway and Transit accounts of the Highway Trust Fund will end 2015 with balances of less than $500 million.   Because the Department of Transportation has indicated that it needs at least $4 billion in cash in the Highway Account and $1 billion in cash in the Transit Account to make payments to states in a timely manner, CBO estimates that without additional Congressional action, both accounts will have trouble meeting obligations sometime this summer and that payments from the Highway Trust Fund to state and local governments will likely slow.  Over the 2015 to 2025 period, they estimate that the cumulative shortfall in the Highway Account will be $125 billion and $43 billion in the Transit Account.

The report affirms that the “Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014” has simply delayed the inevitable insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.  It is critical that AGC and our members continue to tell Congress to fix this issue. 

Please contact your legislators through the Hardhats for Highways campaign and encourage your representative to sign onto the bipartisan transportation funding letter.  More than 220 House members have already committed to signing the letter – if your member has signed on, please send them a thank you for supporting our industry.

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

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Senate Kicks Off Highway Bill Efforts
 

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW) held its first hearing as committee members begin the process of moving a highway bill.  The committee, chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), heard from U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx; the governors of Alabama, Connecticut, Vermont and South Dakota; and the South Dakota Secretary of Transportation. 

The hearing focused on the need to reauthorize MAP-21 and fix the Highway Trust Fund before the current extension expires on May 31.  Since the EPW committee has jurisdiction over the highway portion of the transportation bill, much of the discussion circled around what reforms can be made to make highway projects more efficient, with Secretary Foxx agreeing with many committee members that the goal of the next bill should be to build on the reforms of MAP-21 and improve project delivery.  The governors and the South Dakota DOT Secretary spoke of the lack of certainty facing their states due to the failure of Congress to provide a well funded multi-year reauthorization bill.

AGC submitted a statement for the hearing, urging Congress to move a multi-year bill and offering recommendations on how to address the financial challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund. 

EPW plans on holding another hearing during the week of Feb. 2.  Putting together a reauthorization bill is the committee’s top priority this year and AGC looks forward to working with them in moving their bill.

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

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House Highway Trust Fund Bill Introduced
 

Yesterday, Maryland Democrat John Delaney and New York Republican Richard Hanna introduced an AGC-supported bill that would use revenue from a one-time tax on U.S. companies’ earnings held overseas to fund the next surface transportation bill.

The bill would provide an estimated $120 billion in revenue for the Highway Trust Fund – enough for six years of solvency at increased levels, as well as creating a $50 billion infrastructure fund, which, according to Delaney’s office, would be leveraged to finance as much as $750 billion in new infrastructure projects in transportation, water, energy, communications, and education.  In the Senate, bipartisan solutions to solve the highway funding crisis are also taking shape.  Today, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Md.) announced a proposal to provide a corporate tax holiday for U.S. companies’ overseas profits and pledging to use that revenue to fund highways.  Unlike the House bill, Senators Paul and Boxer have not introduced legislation based on their proposals.

Although AGC is still focused on increasing revenue into the Highway Trust Fund via a gas tax or other user fees, we welcome all ideas that add to the current debate on how best to address the short- and long-term challenges facing transportation funding.

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

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Dueling Letters to Congress on Gas Tax Increase
 

With the price of gasoline and diesel fuel at significantly reduced levels and the Highway Trust Fund facing a significant funding deficit sometime within the next six months, there has been a heightened level of discussion about the merits of raising the motor fuels tax to address transportation infrastructure needs. Three organizations representing users of the transportation system – all of whom would have to pay the additional taxes – weighed in to support an increase. The American Trucking Association, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a joint letter to all Members of the 114th Congress urging them to improve our nation’s infrastructure and increase the federal fuel user fee before May 31. The letter pointed out that, “There are many challenges that Congress must address this year, but we believe that finding a solution for funding the Highway Trust Fund is at the top of that list. Rather than continuing to resort to short-term funding patches that only delay tough decisions, our organizations support action to address the issue pragmatically, immediately and sustainably. While no one wants to pay more, we urge you to support an increase to the federal fuels user fee, provided the funds are used to ease congestion and improve safety, because it is the most cost efficient and straightforward way to provide a steady revenue stream to the Highway Trust Fund.”

In response, fifty anti-tax groups have sent a letter opposing a hike in the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. The fifty groups include some better-known conservative organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth and the American Energy Alliance, as well as a multitude of more obscure groups. The letter said, in part, "A higher gas tax means higher prices not just on gas, but on goods and services throughout the economy. These increased costs would inevitably be passed down to consumers, resulting in a regressive tax hike on middle- and lower-income Americans." The letter also objected to transportation funds being used for non-transportation and Davis-Bacon wage requirements.

The Chamber/AAA/ATA letter also included an educational infographic developed by the organizations for lawmakers and the general public explaining how the Highway Trust Fund works and how it supports transportation infrastructure improvements through funding from highway user fees.

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

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ENERGY
Keystone Bill Passes Senate
Additional AGC-Supported Energy Bill Passes House
 

In the Senate, after three weeks of deliberation of more than 40  amendments, legislation supporting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline passed by a vote of 62-36 with nine Democrats joining all Republicans in favor of passage.  The Senate included some amendments not in the original house bill, so the Senate will either send their version to the house for a vote or they will request a formal conference to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.  The Obama administration has threatened to veto the legislation.

This week, the House of Representatives approved H.R 351, the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, a bill to help expedite the approval of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. The legislation was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 277 to 133. It would ultimately end the unnecessary delays blocking the export of U.S. LNG by requiring the Department of Energy to issue a decision on export applications following the conclusion of environmental review of the LNG facilities.

AGC and our coalition partners in the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA) supported passage of the bill because expanding the market for U.S. LNG would create an additional 150,000 jobs in the supply chain, many of which would be in the construction industry. 

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

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LABOR
AGC Continues to Advocate for Federal Changes to the Federal Workforce System
Industry Must Address the Need to Train and Recruit the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers
 

Following the release of an AGC survey on the outlook for construction firms hiring in 2015, AGC continues to evaluate federal programs that can deliver skilled workers to alleviate the construction industry’s workforce shortage. The survey showed 80 percent of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2015, while only seven percent expect to reduce headcounts. The survey, conducted as part of Ready to Hire Again: The 2015 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook, indicates that most contractors are optimistic about the year ahead and ready to expand, but will have to cope with challenges including worker shortages and regulatory burdens. The survey shows that if the predictions hold true, industry employment could expand this year by the most in a decade and thus further exacerbate  the worker shortage.

AGC has been monitoring the implementation and regulatory actions associated with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Initially, the Departments of Labor and Education were expected to publish proposed rulemakings related on the transition and implementation of the act earlier this month; however, those timelines have now been pushed out until Spring 2015 and no additional guidance has been issued.  In preparation for these pending regulations, last month, AGC joined our stakeholder partners in the Opportunity America Jobs and Careers Coalition in sending a letter to the administration regarding the employer measures in the law.

The letter centered on the enhanced incentives for employers to partner with the workforce system to design and provide occupational training. It also recommends all elements of the measure should be objective, not subjective, and that all measures should be as streamlined as possible, requiring minimal additional paperwork from employers. The letter went on to propose the short list of objective performance indicators to be included: hires, retention rates, money spent on training, in-demand industries and occupations and industry credentials. These were recommended because all of these metrics are factual and data-based. They reflect outcomes rather than inputs and should require little if any additional reporting by employers

AGC will continue to work with stakeholders, Congress and the administration on the successful implementation of WIOA, as well as additional federal programs including reforming and reauthorizing the Perkins Act, which funds many career and technical education programs.

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

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AGC-Supported Groups Sue NLRB Over “Quickie Election” Rule
AGC to Cover Rule at Upcoming Convention
 

Two AGC-supported employer groups and other interested parties have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging the National Labor Relations Board’s new representation-case procedures rule.  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. 

The lawsuit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both of which AGC is an active member, along with the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the Society for Human Resource Management.  The complaint asserts that the rule violates the National Labor Relations Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and employers’ constitutional rights to free speech and due process.  Among other claims, the complaint challenges the rule as impermissibly limiting employers’ rights to communicate with employees about unionization by dramatically shortening the period between the filing of a union election petition and the holding of the election.

AGC will hold a session about the rule during its 96th Annual Convention in San Juan, PR, on March 18 at 2:30 p.m.  Attorney Rick Samson of Ogletree Deakins will explain what the rule does, how it affects both open-shop and union construction contractors, and how contractors can minimize associated risks.  To register for the convention or get more information, go to http://meetings.agc.org/convention

For more background on the rule and AGC’s comments opposing the rule, click here and here.

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

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AGC Opposes USACE- and GSA-mandated PLAs
 

Recently, AGC sent letters opposing the possible use of a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by: (1) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District for the construction of Fort Jackson Basic Training Complex (BTC) IV, Phase I 51937, at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina; and (2) construction of a new Training Center located at Fort Pickett in Virginia (“Training Center Project”).

AGC neither supports nor opposes contractors’ voluntary use of PLAs on government projects, but strongly opposes any government mandate for contractors’ use of PLAs. AGC is committed to free and open competition for publicly funded work, and believes that the lawful labor relations policies and practices of private construction contractors should not be a factor in a government agency’s selection process.

Visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center to write to your Senators urging their support of legislation that ensures that government agencies remain neutral in PLA decisions. AGC is working with members of the House to introduce the same legislation in that chamber. 

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

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AGC EVENTS
Congress Needs to Hear from You – Transportation Funding is Running Out!
Participate in the TCC Fly-In, April 14-15
 

This spring, without help from Congress, funding for highway, bridge & transit construction projects is projected to once again run out.  Your company’s future is reliant on Congress finding a solution to the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.  Face-to-face visits with your senators and representative are critical to affecting change.   

The Transportation Construction Coalition’s (TCC) Fly-In will take place April 14-15 in Washington, D.C., just weeks before the current funding bill is set to expire and the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money. It is important that Congress hear from our industry at this critical period. Please plan to be part of the Fly-In and visit with your Congressional delegation.

AGC has also scheduled a meeting with Federal Highway Administration and a Washington briefing to update you on all of the issues that will impact your business. Please read more details and register for the meetings at www.agc.org/tcc_fly-in .

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

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Get Ahead of Your Competition at the AGC Federal Contractors Conference
Register Now & Save $100!
 

Want to learn about the latest federal agency projects set to hit the street in your market? Need to brush up on the latest barrage of federal regulations your business must follow?  Attend the AGC Federal Contractors Conference May 12-14, 2015, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. to learn all this information and more to help ensure you stay ahead of your competition.

Top agency headquarters’ representatives scheduled to attend include those from the:

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Military Construction & Civil Works Programs)
  • Naval Facilities Engineering Command
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Center
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of State
  • National Nuclear Security Administration
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation

For more information, please visit meetings.agc.org/fedcon.    Return to Top

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