Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org March 26, 2015
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On the Inside
LABOR
ACTION NEEDED: Tell Congress to Close Skills Gap
BUDGET
Republican Budgets Headed Toward Bi-Cameral Conference Next Month
TRANSPORTATION
Comments Needed on DOT Proposal to Allow Local Hire Preferences
Meet with Your Congressmen during April Recess – Ask for Investment in Transportation
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC-Supported Anti-Reverse Auction Bill Introduced
House Advances AGC-Supported Construction Procurement Reform Legislation
Register for AGC Federal Contractors Conference
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Meets with OMB on Interaction of Water Rules
TAX
Congressional Tax Hearings Address Reform and Estate Taxes
Early-Bird Registration Open for AGC Financial Issues Summer Meeting
2016 ELECTIONS
Cruz Makes it Official – Announces Candidacy for President
LABOR
ACTION NEEDED: Tell Congress to Close Skills Gap
 

AGC, along with a coalition of stakeholders, are urging Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Perkins is an existing avenue that helps students prepare for secondary and postsecondary education by providing access to federal dollars to offset the cost of career and technical education (CTE) programs. The Perkins program’s authorization ended in 2013 but has been operating under annual funding bills since then. AGC hopes Congress will reauthorize and reform the program this year.

The program is separate from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which passed last year and will be fully implemented later this year focuses on placing adults in in-demand jobs. Perkins is important because it is geared at younger individuals and plays an important role in closing the skills gap.

The reforms being advocated to Perkins include:

  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and
  • Promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.

AGC urges you to contact your members of Congress by using the Legislative Action Center and ask them to reauthorize Perkins along with reforms. After you complete the process of sending a letter to Congress, AGC will include your company’s name on a broad coalition letter to Congress.

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

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BUDGET
Republican Budgets Headed Toward Bi-Cameral Conference Next Month
 

On Wednesday, the House approved a Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolution, H. Con. Res. 27, by a 228-199 vote, with 17 Republicans voting in opposition. The pivotal vote for successful passage of a final version came minutes earlier, when House Republicans voted 219 to 208 to adopt a substitute amendment that increased the limit on war spending to $96 billion and removed a requirement that any of it to be offset, a rare voting strategy used by leadership to give conservatives a chance to vote on their priority, while also allowing a vote on an amendment that leadership and defense hawks needed for final passage.

The Republican-backed proposal cuts spending by $5.5 trillion while not raising taxes, balances the budget within 10 years, repeals Obamacare, and includes an extra $20 billion in military spending sought by defense hawks. The House had earlier defeated several alternative budget proposals, including one favored by deficit hawks.

On Thursday, the Senate remained focused on dispensing with amendments and passing the chamber’s budget resolution, S. Con. Res. 11.  Senators entered the famed “vote-a-rama” by mid-day, starting a flurry of successive votes that will ultimately lead to final passage. Over 600 amendments have been filed thus far. The votes are purely symbolic but they can nevertheless be used to generate political momentum for an idea.

By a vote of 59-40, the Senate passed an amendment—introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)—that would help restrict the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act’s definition of federal navigable waters, which require, for example, 404 permits for construction. As of publication, the Senate may also consider amendments to prohibit government-mandated project labor agreements—introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.),—help ensure increased funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is actually spent on Harbor Maintenance—introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), – and prevent increasing revenue (including gas taxes or other user fees) for the Highway Trust Fund – introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Following passage of a final measure in the Senate, Budget Committee and Leadership staff will begin to gather together on how to proceed to a formal conference on the two budgets during the week of April 13, when members of Congress return from a two-week congressional recess. The two resolutions must be combined and adopted by both chambers in identical form. To help keep track of filed amendments, the Republican Policy Committee has put a publicly-available amendment tracker on their website.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
Comments Needed on DOT Proposal to Allow Local Hire Preferences
Visit AGC’s Action Center at www.agc.org/take_action
 

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) established a pilot program that will allow state and local governments to use local geographic hiring preferences on their federal-aid highway and federal transit assisted contracts. The pilot program is effective immediately and will last one year. DOT also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to make these changes permanent by altering existing Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations. Read the pilot program proposal here and the Notice of Proposed Rule Making here.

FHWA and FTA regulations have traditionally prohibited the use of local hire preferences because of their impact on competition; however, there have been efforts by some in Congress to allow their use. A provision in last year’s transportation appropriations legislation allowed transit agencies to use local hiring requirements on FTA-funded projects for FY 2015.

AGC urges members and chapters to submit comments on this proposal. The comment period is very short, ending on April 6, 2015. While AGC has requested that the time be extended there is no assurance that this will happen. 

You can submit either submit comments directly to DOT or through AGC’s Action Center.

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

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Meet with Your Congressmen during April Recess – Ask for Investment in Transportation
Take Part in the Hardhats for Highways Ten-Week Grassroots Blitz
 

Congress needs to understand the need to fix the Highway Trust Fund before the current extension expires.  In addition to the five “e-hardhat” letters that we are asking you and your employees to send to your Senators and Representative one-by-one, every two weeks over the next ten-week period, we also encourage you to schedule in-person meetings with your Congressmen during their upcoming two-week recess, March 27- April 12.   

The current short-term funding patch for transportation programs is set to expire May 31 unless Congress works to provide a long-term funding solution and a multi-year transportation bill to keep these programs afloat.

Your senators and representatives need to hear from you; please meet with your congressmen and give them a company hard hat with the Hardhats for Highways decal indicating the number of employees in your company that will be affected if Congress fails to invest in transportation infrastructure.  Please also take the time to have both you and your employees send an email to your members of Congress.

For more information, please contact Brynn Huneke at brynn.huneke@agc.org or (703) 837-5376.  Return to Top

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
AGC-Supported Anti-Reverse Auction Bill Introduced
Prohibits Reverse Auctions for Construction Contracts
 

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) introduced AGC-supported legislation that would help prohibit reverse auctions for direct-federal construction services contracts. The Commonsense Contracting Act of 2015, H.R. 1444, would prohibit reverse auctions for all federal small business set-aside construction contracts, including for the performance of construction work for facility, infrastructure and environmental restoration projects as well as the delivery and supply of construction materials to construction sites. Please ask your representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 1444.

AGC testified in favor of prohibiting reverse auctions for construction services before the House Small Business Committee on Feb. 12. The committee passed H.R. 1444, along with other AGC-supported procurement reform provisions, by a unanimous vote on March 25.

Again, please take action and ask your representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 1444 to help prohibit reverse auctions for construction services contracts.

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

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House Advances AGC-Supported Construction Procurement Reform Legislation
 

On March 25, two committees in the House—the Small Business and Armed Services Committees—took action on AGC-supported construction procurement reform legislation.  The House Small Business Committee unanimously approved a construction procurement reform bill and the House Armed Services Committee introduced a Department of Defense-specific procurement reform bill that would both:

  • Improve reporting of federal agency contract bundling and consolation in an effort to increase contracts let and thereby providing more full and open competition; and
  • Prevent small business construction contractors from having to purchase manufactured goods—like fixings, furniture, equipment, steel and drywall—from only small business manufacturers. This legislation comes from a recent court decision, which left an opening in a current rule that has previously applied only to contracts for goods to also apply that rule to contracts for services, including construction.

In addition, the House Small Business Committee approved bill would: (1) help prohibit reverse auctions for federal construction services contracts; and (2) prevent agencies from eliminating joint venture or teaming arrangements where the companies within the entities have no prior past or relevant experience together as such a specific entity. The House Armed Services Committee bill would also (1) help ensure increased and permanent funding for acquisition workforce training; and (2) encourage military personnel to join the acquisition workforce.

AGC testifiedin favor of many of these construction procurement reform before the House Small Business Committee on February 12. AGC will work with members of the House Armed Services Committee to include these provisions, and other pro-construction industry procurement reforms, in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which has passed Congress and become law each year for over 50 consecutive years.

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

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Register for AGC Federal Contractors Conference
Last Chance to Save $100!
 

The latest project forecasts, expert insight on upcoming regulatory hurdles, and ample networking opportunities with agency decision makers are critical to being competitive in the federal construction market. Join construction industry leaders and their federal agency counterparts at the Federal Contractors Conference on May 12 -14 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., to take advantage of such essential information and the many networking opportunities. REGISTER TODAY or before March 31 to save $100 off your registration.

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
  • Architect of the Capitol
  • The Smithsonian Institute
  • Department of State
  • National Nuclear Security Administration
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation

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

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ENVIRONMENT
AGC Meets with OMB on Interaction of Water Rules
 

AGC and its industry partners from the Waters Advocacy Coalition met with the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to discuss the federal water quality standards (WQS) regulation proposed by EPA and its interaction with the proposed change in the definition of “Waters of the United States.” Both proposed rules attempt very significant changes to large portions of the Clean Water Act, and AGC and its industry partners do not believe that the agencies are evaluating the true economic costs of either rule, nor are the costs of the changes in either rule being adequately taken into account by the other rule. Taken together, these two rules are likely to give EPA and the states more authority to impose more costly and onerous controls on construction project that may impact water quality or have other “unacceptable” consequences.

As reported by AGC, the WOTUS rule opens the door for a lot more wet areas to become federally-controlled “Waters of the United States.”  States must set WQS (designate uses and establish water quality criteria) for all newly regulated WOTUS, including potentially 4.6 million miles of “ephemeral” tributaries (including ditches and other stormwater conveyances) and innumerable small wetlands and ponds in riparian and floodplain areas. The greater number of water-bodies subject to WQS will increase states’ obligations to set reporting and attainment requirements.  Specifically, CWA Section 303 requires states to identify and develop clean-up plans (Total Maximum Daily Loads or pollutant caps) for all “impaired” waters that do not meet state WQS to bring these waters into compliance.  This will translate to tighter NPDES permit restrictions and conditions on construction in and around federal waters.

In addition, CWA Section 401 requires the applicant of a federal permit to discharge to a WOTUS (e.g., Section 402 stormwater or Section 404 dredge-and-fill) to obtain “certification” from the state that the discharge activities, like construction work, will comply with state water quality standards and goals. This also will translate to tighter permit restrictions and conditions on construction in and around federal waters.  Obtaining 401 certification is often a costly and time-consuming process.

AGC strongly disagrees with EPA’s assertion that its WOTUS proposal will have little to no effect on state water quality standards, implementation/TMDL plans or certifications under the Clean Water Act. 

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

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TAX
Congressional Tax Hearings Address Reform and Estate Taxes
 

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act, which was the first vote of its kind in a decade, to repeal the estate tax for small businesses and farms.  Concurrently, the administration’s FY 2016 budget sought to expand the estate tax by modifying the step-up basis of assets with a few exceptions. The GOP proposal has little chance of becoming law and would be issued an immediate presidential veto threat if passed by both chambers of Congress. The House is expected to take up the measure, presumably culminating with “tax day” on April 15.

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

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Early-Bird Registration Open for AGC Financial Issues Summer Meeting
June 8-9, 2015 | Colorado Springs, Colo.
 

The AGC Financial Issues Committee (FIC) Summer Meeting will be held June 8-9, 2015 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. The link to the meeting’s registration page is here. The meeting is geared toward member company AGC member company CFOs, Treasurers, Finance Directors, Controllers, Tax Directors and other senior accounting professionals. Members have an opportunity to learn as well as formulate positions on tax and accounting matters that directly affect the bottom line and operations of AGC member companies of all sizes and specialties. Current FIF projects include helping construction companies to prepare for the new Revenue Recognition Accounting Standard Update that goes into effect in 2017.

Meetings center around discussions with FASB reps, congressional representatives, practitioners, and financial officer breakout groups on topics including internal controls, project performance reviews and using technology like Box.com in operations or accounting functions. Attendees also have an opportunity to network and discuss a wide variety of topics, including: audit issues faced by construction companies; congressional action on tax policy; and an economic outlook for the industry.

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

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2016 ELECTIONS
Cruz Makes it Official – Announces Candidacy for President
 

Under the backdrop of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his intention to seek the nation’s highest office.  He is the first person to officially declare his national candidacy in either party.  The earliness of his move suggests he is preparing for an involved constitutional legal battle since questions surround his eligibility to run for president. 

According to Article II, Section I of the Constitution, “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to the office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”
 
This passage will likely be the subject of arguments directly pertaining to the Cruz candidacy, as his Canadian birth will take the “natural born citizen” phrase to a new level of legal discussion.  We will remember the controversy that dogged President Obama’s candidacy, regarding whether or not he was actually born in Hawaii.
 
It is important to know that each state controls its own ballot access, and all 50 have a different set of qualification procedures.  Therefore, it is possible that Mr. Cruz may face a lawsuit pertaining to his eligibility for every state nomination process he attempts to enter.  Losing even one of the suits could completely derail his campaign.
 
So, in addition to making issue and policy pronouncements during the upcoming primaries and caucuses, Mr. Cruz will also be explaining his position that he is a “natural born citizen” because his mother was an American citizen at the time of his birth, thereby qualifying him to run for President. 
 
The Cruz candidacy will be an interesting run for several reasons not the least of which as a potential source for a landmark legal decision.

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

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