Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 18, 2015
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Hardhats for Highways: Six Weeks until Current Extension Expires
AGC Calls for User Fee Increase as House Ways and Means Committee Convenes Hearing on Highway Trust Fund
House and Senate Committees Convene Hearings on Highway Trust Fund
AGC Co-Chaired a Transportation Construction Coalition Launches New Nationwide Advertising Push for Highway Trust Fund Fix
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Senate Vote Expected on AGC-Supported Amendment Opposing Reverse Auctions
AGC Blocks Army Rule that Would Eliminate 400 Contracting Officers
AGC Members Meet with VA Secretary & Deputy Secretary
LABOR
AGC Suggests Improvements to New Workforce Training Regulations
Obama Administration Releases Regulations on Implementing Multiemployer Pension Reform
AGC Successfully Defends Zero-Tolerance Drug Policy
2016 ELECTIONS
Sixteen Presidential Candidates…and Counting
AGC SURVEY
Please Tell Us If You Are Having a Hard Time Finding Qualified Workers
TRANSPORTATION
Hardhats for Highways: Six Weeks until Current Extension Expires
Use the Fourth of July Recess to Meet with Your Congressmen In-Person
 

With just six weeks until the most-recent extension for highway & transit programs expires – on July 31 – the Fourth of July Congressional recess is the perfect opportunity to schedule an in-person meeting with your Senators and Representative.  Use this time to educate your members of Congress on the real impacts their inaction has had on your business and employees.  Spread the Hardhats for Highways message and tell them to fix the Highway Trust Fund and pass a long-term highway & transit bill.

While members of Congress are home from June 29 – July 6 bring them a company hard hat with a Hardhats for Highways decal affixed, highlighting the number of employees in your company who are affected by Congress’ failure to find the money necessary to keep highway and transit programs running. If you would like assistance with scheduling meetings, please contact Brynn Huneke at brynn.huneke@agc.org.

If you are unable to schedule in-person meetings, please send the newly-updated “e-hardhat” letter to your Congressmen and urge your colleagues and employees to do the same.

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

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AGC Calls for User Fee Increase as House Ways and Means Committee Convenes Hearing on Highway Trust Fund
 

AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr joined with Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and other association leaders during a June 17 media event to call on Congress to raise the highway user fee to pay for a new long-term surface transportation bill.  During the media event, Sandherr said that raising the gas tax was not as hard as some predict.  He noted that 89 percent of legislators who voted to raise their state gas tax or equivalent user fee during the past two years were re-elected to office.  And he added that once members of Congress begin to review their options, they are likely to have the same eureka moment that every bipartisan group has had – that raising the gas tax is the best possible option for addressing chronic funding shortfalls.

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

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House and Senate Committees Convene Hearings on Highway Trust Fund
 

The House and Senate tax writing committees both held hearings this week to examine options for the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. As a backdrop to the hearings, AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr joined with Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and other association leaders during a media event calling on Congress to raise the gas tax to pay for a new, long-term surface transportation bill. 

Unfortunately, House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) does not share AGC’s support for increasing the gas tax.  At the beginning of his committee’s hearing, Chairman Ryan made it clear that he wants to address the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund without entertaining increasing the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. The only members of the committee who actually advocated for an increase in the motor fuels tax were Representatives Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), both of whom have introduced legislation to increase fuel taxes. The American Trucking Association’s witness also called for an increase in the motor fuels tax. Other options to address the revenue need – which the Congressional Budget Office predicted at the hearing would total $125 billion over 10 years – that were discussed included a vehicle miles traveled tax, a fee on increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands and the revenue from a mandatory tax on U.S. corporate overseas earning. None of these alternatives will be able to address the immediate shortfall the trust fund is facing at the end of July. The Select Revenue Subcommittee will hold a hearing next week to discuss repatriation as an option for addressing infrastructure needs.

The Senate Finance Committee held their hearing today. In his opening comments Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that his goal as chairman is to find a way to fund a long-term infrastructure bill. However, he also said, “While I know the idea has some support, I don’t think a massive increase in the gas tax could be enacted into law.”  Former Transportation Secretary pointed out the need for increased investment in transportation infrastructure and called for increasing the gas tax. In contrast, the Heritage Foundation witness downplayed the need for investment and said that rather than raise the federal gas tax, a better policy would be to phase down the federal tax and let states pay for their own road projects.

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

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AGC Co-Chaired a Transportation Construction Coalition Launches New Nationwide Advertising Push for Highway Trust Fund Fix
 

The AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition launched a new nationwide advertising push this week designed to encourage Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.  The new campaign, which includes TV and radio spots, as well as targeted digital advertising, is being targeted at members of Congress and politically active commuters in key Congressional districts.  These commuters are being asked to sign a new petition that can be found on FixTheTrustFund.org.  The advertising effort is designed to complement AGC's Drive Better Roads campaign and similar efforts being coordinated by other member organizations of the Coalition.

For more information contact Brian Turmail at turmailb@agc.org or 703-459-0238. Return to Top

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Senate Vote Expected on AGC-Supported Amendment Opposing Reverse Auctions
Tell Your Senators Why Reverse Auctions Do Not Work for Construction
 

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced the AGC-backed Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act, and included the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  This bill would prohibit federal agencies from procuring construction services through reverse auctions. Please urge your senators to co-sponsor the bill and support this amendment.

Both the bill and amendment are identical. In addition to addressing reverse auctions, this legislation would reform design-build procurement – by reasonably limiting the second-step design-build shortlist and one-step design-build procurements – and help prevent individual sureties from using illusory assets – i.e., vacation homes, coal mine waste – to back their bonds.

As co-chair of the Construction Industry Procurement Coalition, AGC and its coalition allies sent members of the Senate a letter urging them to support the amendment to the Defense Act. The Senate could consider this amendment this week. The House already passed its version of the Defense Act, which included provisions prohibiting reverse auctions and requiring individual sureties to use real assets to back their bonds.

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

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AGC Blocks Army Rule that Would Eliminate 400 Contracting Officers
 

Last week, AGC helped eliminate a rule issued by the Department of the Army to the Army Federal Acquisition Regulation that sought to remove contracting authority from 400 engineers within the Army Corps of Engineers. The rule would have removed construction experts from having the authority to make construction contracting decisions on Corps projects. The Army issued this rule without providing for any public comment and claimed that such a rule would not impact the contracting industry.

At the urging of AGC, Representatives Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) sent the Army a letter calling for the implementation of this rule to cease and allow for further oversight of an otherwise behind-closed-doors rulemaking process. AGC met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement Harry Hallock with several AGC members to articulate why such a rule made no sense for the Army, the Corps or the construction industry.

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

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AGC Members Meet with VA Secretary & Deputy Secretary
Discussion Focuses on Sensible Reforms to VA Construction Program
 

AGC arranged for several large and small members to meet last week with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson to discuss the agency’s construction program. While AGC and its members noted the problems they collectively face in the field, the bulk of the discussion centered upon ways the VA could reform its construction program.  Some of those reforms included the establishment of decisions resolution boards, an industry peer review program, and standardized agency facility designs.

Secretary McDonald and Deputy Secretary Gibson welcomed the feedback, sought collaborative solutions and encouraged continued dialogue with AGC and its members. AGC noted its continued desire to partner with them and their agency.

This meeting comes after AGC took the unprecedented step of calling on Congress to remove and replace VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management as construction manager of the agency's major construction program (projects above $10 million) with the best-qualified federal owner through thoughtful transition process.

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

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LABOR
AGC Suggests Improvements to New Workforce Training Regulations
 

AGC joined other groups this week in commenting on draft regulations of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act . The regulations will largely dictate how the act is implemented and ultimately its effectiveness on training skilled construction workers. AGC supported passage of the bill last year as it streamlines the workforce development system, gives states greater flexibility to address worker shortages and strengthens employer engagement.

AGC’s comments submitted to the Department of Labor, Department of Education and the Employment and Training Administration largely focused on ways to enhance incentives to allow employers to partner with the workforce system to design and implement occupational training programs. The association stressed that the employer measures should be objective, not subjective, and should be streamlined to keep employer burdens to a minimum by identifying a short list of performance indicators the administration should consider. AGC also offered recommendations on: membership of workforce boards, One-Stop delivery and apprenticeship, industry recognized credentials, work-based training and pay for performance contracts.

AGC will continue to identify opportunities to assist the administration in aligning the public workforce system with employer needs.

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

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Obama Administration Releases Regulations on Implementing Multiemployer Pension Reform
 

The federal agencies tasked with implementing the AGC-backed Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 issued proposed final regulations this week that will govern the implementation of the new law. The regulations from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and Internal Revenue Service address the suspension of benefits and the partitioning of plans under the Act. View the PBGC press release,final rule and the suspension of benefits guidance from IRS.

The agencies are soliciting another round of comments, which are due August 18, despite the rules becoming final and beginning to take applications once they are published in the federal register tomorrow. In addition, the Treasury Secretary has appointed an individual to oversee the benefit suspension program.

AGC commented on the previous information request from the administration and will evaluate the interim final rules and comment as appropriate.

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

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AGC Successfully Defends Zero-Tolerance Drug Policy
 

Siding with AGC of America, the AGC of Colorado and the Colorado Contractor’s Association, the Colorado Supreme Court has unanimously held that a state law insulating Colorado residents from prosecution for making medical use of marijuana does not require the state’s employers to tolerate the same or apparently any other use of the drug.  The decision extends well beyond employees who use marijuana on the job, or show up under the influence of it.  In fact, the case involved an employee who used marijuana only at home and during non-working hours. 

Strictly speaking, the case is limited to the medical use of marijuana but its logic would extend to any recreational use that the state has similarly sought to decriminalize.  How the case will affect other states, and how they interpret and apply any similar laws that they have adopted, is much harder to predict.  In the absence of much or any other case law on the other state laws that seek to legalize marijuana, the case could influence thinking outside Colorado.

Additional information can be found here.

For more information, please contact Denise Gold at goldd@agc.org or Tamika Carter at cartert@agc.org.   Return to Top

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2016 ELECTIONS
Sixteen Presidential Candidates…and Counting
 

Two more individuals officially declared their intention to seek the presidency this week, bringing the total number of announced candidates to 16 – four Democrats and 12 Republicans.

On Monday at Miami-Dade College, former Florida Governor and presidential son and brother, Jeb Bush, formally declared his national candidacy.  Mr. Bush’s speech focused on what he believed to be failures of the current administration and the likelihood that similar policies would continue under a President Hillary Clinton. 

Mr. Bush’s first campaign for public office was in 1994 when he narrowly lost the Florida gubernatorial election by two percentage points.  He ran again four years later defeating the state’s lieutenant governor.  When voters re-elected him in 2002, Mr. Bush became the state’s first two-term Republican governor.  In addition to his service as Florida’s chief executive, Mr. Bush has also had a successful career in the private sector working in the banking, real estate, and telecommunications industries.

The national RealClearPolitics Average of recent national polls has Mr. Bush leading the field with just 10.8 percent.  Nipping at his heels are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (10.6 percent), Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (10 percent), and Dr. Ben Carson (9.4 percent).  Mr. Bush also leads in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

As promised, businessman Donald Trump also announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination before what he claimed were thousands of people at his palatial Trump Towers in New York City.  The media estimated the in-room audience to be less than 1,000, and recent reports allege that Mr. Trump may have hired extras to make the room look fuller.

Mr. Trump is not expected to be particularly competitive. His favorability numbers are consistently among the worst of any Republican candidate by a large margin; in some polls his negatives triple his positive rating. The new candidate also says he will self-fund his presidential campaign, and certainly has the money to do so. Talk as he may, Donald Trump is no threat to win the Republican nomination.

The presidential contest also includes Dr. Ben Carson (R), former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.), former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), businesswoman Carly Fiorina (R), former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.), former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Also considering a bid are Vice President Joe Biden (D) who will decide by August 1,  Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.) who is expected to announce on June 24, Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio), Governor Scott Walker (R-Wis.) who is expected to announce in July, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.).

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

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AGC SURVEY
Please Tell Us If You Are Having a Hard Time Finding Qualified Workers
Is Your Construction Company Facing Worker Shortages?
 

We continue to hear from many of you that the labor market has become tighter since AGC of America last surveyed its members about the extent of workforce shortages.  While it is clear that worker shortages are a growing concern, and in some cases a significant problem, for many contractors, we feel it is important to continue our efforts to better quantify where these shortages are taking place, how severe they are, and what steps firms are taking to both cope with tight labor markets and improve the supply of new, qualified workers. That is why we are asking you to take a few minutes to complete the following workforce survey that we prepared.  Your responses will help us better define the problem to elected and appointed officials, the media, educators and your peers within the business community.  The more people understand the scope, and consequences, of a tight construction labor market, the more likely they are to act on the measures we identify in our Workforce Development Plan that are designed to make it easier for school systems, local associations and private firms to establish career and technical education and training programs.

For more information, please contact Nahee Rosso at rosson@agc.org or 703-837-5348. Return to Top

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