Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org February 26, 2015
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On the Inside
INFRASTRUCTURE
President Vetoes Keystone Bill
SAFETY
AGC Responds to NAVFAC Fatalities and Safety Concerns
TRANSPORTATION
Majority of House Sends Bipartisan Transportation Letter to House Leaders
Senate Transportation Hearing Focuses on Need for Long-Term Bill
ENVIRONMENT
Federal Contractors Must Plan for Flood Risks from Climate Change, Per New Executive Order
LABOR
Take Action: Stop the NLRB's “Ambush” Election Rule
AGC Again Opposes USACE-Mandated PLAs
TAX
Senate Committee Hearing Addresses Tax Reform
INFRASTRUCTURE
President Vetoes Keystone Bill
 

On Tuesday, President Obama vetoed a House- and Senate-passed bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  The president claimed that the bill bypassed the State Department’s process of determining whether the project is in the national interest.  According to the White House, once that determination is made, “there will not be a significant delay in announcing the results of that review and ultimately making a decision on the project.” 

In the meantime, the Senate plans to hold a vote on March 3 to override the veto.  It is unlikely, however, that they will succeed as they are five votes short of the 67 votes necessary to override a presidential veto.

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

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SAFETY
AGC Responds to NAVFAC Fatalities and Safety Concerns
 

In January, NAVFAC Rear Admiral Kate Gregory sent AGC and all NAVFAC contractors a letter about her concerns for corporate construction safety given seven recent fatalities. Admiral Gregory requested AGC’s thoughts on means to improve safety on the jobsite.

AGC responded to her letter, articulating AGC and its members’ commitment to safety, delineating what safety services and opportunities AGC provides its members and identifying several safety initiatives NAVFAC may consider. Those safety initiatives include:

  • Consistent and Accurate Safety Direction. NAVFAC HQ should consider establishing a policy under which: (1) one government safety representative will have authority to alter worksite safety protocol; and (2) project RFPs specifically state the safety requirements contractors must follow on particular projects.
  • Encourage Corporate Commitment to Safety in All AGC Member Firms. NAVFAC should consider reengaging with its contractors to reinforce and celebrate safety excellence, not just failures.
  • Encourage Safety Reporting. NAVFAC should consider a non-punitive approach to promoting incident and near-miss reporting by contractors.  

AGC will continue to work with NAVFAC and AGC members to learn from these unfortunate events and to promote a culture of safety in the construction industry.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at christiansonj@agc.org or Kevin Cannon at cannonk@agc.org Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
Majority of House Sends Bipartisan Transportation Letter to House Leaders
 

This week, a majority of the House sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) showing strong bipartisan support for passing a multiyear transportation reauthorization bill with a sustainable funding source.  The letter – which was signed by nearly 300 members of the House – also calls for an end to the numerous short-term extensions of transportation authorization.

AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr issued a statement on the release of letter.  AGC and our colleagues in the Transportation Construction Coalition worked closely with Representatives Reed Ribble (R-Wisc.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.Y.) in urging House members to sign the letter.  In addition, many AGC chapters and members personally reached out to their Representatives, contributing to the high number of supporters of the letter.

Our job, however, is nowhere close to done.  Over the coming weeks, AGC and our members will continue to pressure Congress to enact a long-term transportation bill with a sustainable funding source.  For more information on how you can get involved, please visit our Hardhats for Highways campaign site.

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

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Senate Transportation Hearing Focuses on Need for Long-Term Bill
 

Yesterday, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee held their second hearing as they look to complete a highway bill prior to the expiration of the current extension on May 31.

Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) heard from a panel that included Utah and California transportation officials, as well as representatives from the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce, all of whom stressed the importance of a well-funded multi-year highway bill on the business community.

Chairman Inhofe used the hearing as an opportunity to denounce the notion of “devolution” by asking the witnesses if “devolution” would harm their states and their businesses; they all agreed that it would.  Many conservatives in Congress have used the debate over how to fund the Highway Trust Fund as an opportunity to push “devolution”, which would cut federal funding, and force states to raise their own transportation taxes to make up for a reduced federal program.  

Inhofe also reiterated his intention of moving a bill prior to the May 31 deadline, while recognizing the challenges of finding the revenue necessary to fund a multi-year bill. 

AGC will continue to urge House and Senate leadership to take action on a long-term bill in the coming weeks.

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

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ENVIRONMENT
Federal Contractors Must Plan for Flood Risks from Climate Change, Per New Executive Order
 

On Jan. 30, President Obama released new Executive Order 13690, “The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS),” as directed by the President’s Climate Action Plan.  Notably, the order expands the definition of “floodplain” (higher flood elevation and expanded flood hazard areas) by creating a new national minimum standard that all federal agencies must use – and builders must follow – for all federally-approved or funded projects. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is soliciting public input on newly released “guidelines” that will instruct federal agencies on how to implement the new standard.

At the president’s request, FEMA has published for public comment draft instructions on how federal agencies should go about implementing the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.  Click here to directly access and review the draft guidelines.

Of great importance to federal contractors, the new standard requires federal agencies to update their flood-risk reduction strategies and expand the flood elevation and hazard areas they use when deciding where and how new development, redevelopment, and construction occurs.  In their planning of federally-funded buildings, roads and other infrastructure projects, federal agencies must use one of three approaches to account for the impact of possible flooding from rising sea levels or more extreme precipitation (see below for more details).  In turn, federal builders will need to meet the selected requirements during construction.

The guidelines, once final, will direct federal agencies in implementing the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which they will do through agency-specific policies, guidelines and procedures.

To read more, click here.

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

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LABOR
Take Action: Stop the NLRB's “Ambush” Election Rule
Contact your member of Congress Today, Rule to Take Effect April 14
 

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) rule on representation-case procedures goes into effect on April 14, 2015. Known as the “quickie election” or “ambush election” rule, it would expedite the union representation election cycle to as few as 14 days from the union’s filing of a petition for an election. It is bad for both employers and employees. It would deny employers due process by limiting review of critical issues such as identifying the appropriate bargaining unit and voter eligibility potentially until after the vote is held. It would also limit workers’ access to information and provide inadequate time for workers to consider information about joining the union.

The rule would have a particularly difficult application in the construction industry due to the complexity of identifying the appropriate bargaining unit, determining voter eligibility in the industry, and due to the decentralized nature of construction workplaces operated by the same employer.

This week, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace sent a letter  to the U.S. Senate supporting legislation blocking the ambush election rule. The legislation could be considered as early as next week.    Please send a letter to your members of Congress supporting legislation to roll back the rule before its effective date.

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

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AGC Again Opposes USACE-Mandated PLAs
 

Recently, AGC sent two letters opposing the possible use of a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One letter addressed concerns about a possible PLA mandate for an intake diversion dam in Montana, while the other opposed consideration of PLAs within the Charleston District area of jurisdiction.

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 opposing government mandated PLAs. AGC is working with members of the House to introduce the same bill in that chamber.  

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

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TAX
Senate Committee Hearing Addresses Tax Reform
 

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to hear from economists and public policy professors on the context of comprehensive tax reform. Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked witnesses about integrating corporate and individual income taxes into a single level of taxation. Ranking Member Wyden (D-Ore.) focused his questions on simplifying tax paperwork and funding for infrastructure. Expert witness Laura Tyson, who served as head of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Finance panel that Congress should maintain accelerated depreciation, as well as others that “actually enhance new investments.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Committee announced a hearing on “Tax Fairness” for March 3 with a three-witness panel of Lawrence B. Lindsey, who served as an economic advisor to both Bush presidents; Deroy Murdock, contributing editor at National Review; Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; and Steven Rattner, chairman of Willett Advisors LLC in New York.

Additionally, the Finance Committee Tax Working Groups announced a schedule of activities with a goal for releasing final report of recommendations for reform to the chairman and ranking member during the week of May 25. Working Group co-chairs will set their own schedule, but will include weekly education sessions for members and roundtable discussions in mid-April.

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

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