Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 25, 2015
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Senate EPW Committee Approves AGC-Backed Six Year Transportation Reauthorization Bill
Congressional Committees Hold Hearings on Transportation Funding Challenges
2016 ELECTIONS
Can a Former Rising Star Shine Bright Again?
AGC EVENTS
Registration Open for First Ever AGC Utility Infrastructure Conference at ICUEE
Please Tell Us If You Are Having a Hard Time Finding Qualified Workers
TRANSPORTATION
Senate EPW Committee Approves AGC-Backed Six Year Transportation Reauthorization Bill
 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the AGC-supported DRIVE Act, a six-year bill with increased funding recommendations and several new program initiatives. The Committee has jurisdiction over the highway portion of the legislation and now must await action by the Finance Committee on the revenue portion, the Banking Committee on the transit segments, and the Commerce Committee on safety.

Nevertheless, it was an important first step in the process. AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr participated in a press conference with the bill’s primary sponsors, Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), where Sandherr noted that getting a long-term bill is vital and failure to act will have real impact on commuters’ wallets and the economy’s performance.

Here are some of the key highlights of the act:

  • Funding increase above inflation: $278 billion in Highway Trust Fund contract authority over six fiscal years (FY 2016-2021). This is about a 3 percent increase over current funding levels plus inflation.
  • New freight program: Directs DOT to establish a national highway freight network to consist of the primary highway freight system, critical rural and urban freight corridors and any part of the Interstate system not designated as part of the primary highway freight system. Approximately $2 billion per year is distributed to states for projects that encourage efficient freight mobility (i.e. access to energy production, agriculture, mining, intermodal facilities and ports).
  • Assistance for Major Projects (AMP) Program: Provides between $300 and $450 million per year in contract authority for a new grant to give extra federal funding to critical high-cost projects that are difficult to complete with existing funds. The program is similar to the TIGER grant program that the Transportation Department has been operating the past several years. The Federal Highway Administration (not the Department) is the lead agency for awarding these grants through a competitive national solicitation process. The bill gives specific criteria for selecting projects.
  • Tolling: Allows unlimited tolling of new Interstate lane construction and strikes existing limitations on HOV conversion to HOT lanes. Keeps the interstate toll pilot program limited to three states, but imposes a "use-it-or-lose-it" provision that could shift authorization for tolling from one state to another if states do not adopt tolling expeditiously. Sets up a marketplace where states can buy and sell toll credits.
  • Continues Reforms and Fine Tunes Project Delivery Process: Additional environmental streamlining provisions are added to address the EIS process. It directs DOT to create a website review process to increase transparency and create a clearinghouse of best practices. The act also improves collaboration between federal agencies and ensures that agencies do not unnecessarily delay the process.
  • Prioritizing bridge safety: Dedicates additional funds to bridge projects and incentivizes states to take a risk-based asset management approach. Allows states to bundle several bridges into one package for environmental review and construction. Removes barriers to critical bridge projects due to nesting birds.

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

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Congressional Committees Hold Hearings on Transportation Funding Challenges
Repatriation and Transportation Financing are the Focus
 

This week, two congressional committees held hearings exploring the use of repatriation to fill the Highway Trust Fund revenue gap and additional financing for transportation infrastructure, respectively.  Congress must identify sources of revenue to fill the gap and pass a long-term transportation bill before the end of July, when the current extension expires, in order to keep highway & bridge construction projects running. AGC continues to push for a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and supports innovative financing options that would increase the use of public-private partnerships, among other measures, to address our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.

The House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures held a hearing examining options for using revenue from repatriated foreign earnings from U.S. based corporations as a way to fill the $90 billion dollars needed to maintain Highway Trust Fund spending at current levels. The committee is tasked with identifying a revenue source that will allow for a long-term transportation reauthorization bill to move through the House of Representatives. They have yet to coalesce around a plan – although Chairman Paul Ryan has clearly stated that an increase in the gas tax is off the table – and are looking at various options, including repatriation.

Using repatriation as a way to pay for the next transportation bill has been widely discussed since Former Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp included it in his 2014 tax overhaul draft and the Obama Administration proposed using it to pay for their reauthorization – the GROW Act.  Both the Camp plan and the administration’s proposal would set a mandatory (deemed) repatriation tax while a proposal from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would allow for a voluntary repatriation of foreign earnings. AGC’s white paper explains the difference between mandatory and voluntary repatriation.

While the House seems to be very interested in using repatriation as a way to patch the Highway Trust Fund, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) remains opposed to the idea.  In fact, Hatch held a hearing to examine financing alternatives and additions to federal and local infrastructure financing. Finance Committee members heard from witnesses including former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation about ways states can partner with the private sector to provide innovative financing options to address their transportation infrastructure needs.

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

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2016 ELECTIONS
Can a Former Rising Star Shine Bright Again?
 

The presidential field grew by one this week, bringing the total number of announced candidates to 17 – four Democrats and 13 Republicans. On Wednesday, two-term Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced his intent to become the GOP presidential nominee.  

At one time, Mr. Jindal was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, and was on a path to become one of his party’s top presidential contenders. His fall from the national limelight began followings his less-than-stellar delivery of the 2009 Republican State of the Union response. Coupled with a series of gubernatorial missteps, Mr. Jindal now finds himself as one of the nation’s least popular governors. Currently, his approval rating stands at 27 percent as he faces a $1.6 billion deficit in the state budget.

This one-time GOP star barely registers in recent national polling.  The latest RealClearPolitics Average pegs his support at 0.8 percent. 

Mr. Jindal began his political and public policy career at an early age.  At 24, Mr. Jindal was appointed the secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals.  While overseeing an agency representing 40 percent of the state’s budget, he took the state’s Medicaid program from a $400 million deficit to a $220 million surplus.  Four years later, he was appointed president of the University of Louisiana.  At 30, Mr. Jindal was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation.  After serving in this role for two years, he returned home to Louisiana to run for governor.  He lost the 2003 gubernatorial election, but was elected the following year to the U.S. House, where he served for two terms.  In 2007, Mr. Jindal was successful in his second bid to become governor.

Still considering a bid are Vice President Joe Biden (D), who will decide by August 1; Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.); 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 atashinoffd@agc.org or (202) 547-5013. Return to Top

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AGC EVENTS
Registration Open for First Ever AGC Utility Infrastructure Conference at ICUEE
Register by July 15, 2015 and Save $75!
 

AGC will be hosting its first ever Utility Infrastructure Conference, Sept. 29–Oct. 1 in Louisville, Kentucky. Join other contractors, owners and key industry constituents involved in every aspect of utility infrastructure construction for high-quality education sessions, the premier utility construction equipment expo, and networking opportunities.

This year’s conference will be co-located with the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE), which is the largest industry event focused exclusively on the utility infrastructure market, with over 17,000 industry professionals attending ICUEE 2013. All conference session will take place inside the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Sessions will focus on the challenges Kokosing Industrial Inc. faced while constructing the Columbus, OH HRT facility and how they overcame those challenges, the challenges and opportunities in managing a multi-generational workforce, and how OSHA’s new Confined Space Entry final rule will impact utility construction contractors. AGC will also host a legislative & regulatory update on the Expo Demo Stage, and will partner with the Common Ground Alliance for an Underground Damage Prevention lunch.

Register now to take advantage of the early bird rates!

For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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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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