Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 23, 2015
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
Senate Begins Debate on Long-Term Highway & Transit Bill
ENVIRONMENT
AGC-Supported Coal Ash Bill Passes House
LABOR
Proposed Overtime Rule Prompts Congressional Hearing, AGC Continues to Take Action
TAX
Register for the AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
Finance Committee Approves Tax Package
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Department of Veterans Affairs’ Construction Reforms Advance
2016 ELECTIONS
Another Republican Jumps on the Presidential Bandwagon
TRANSPORTATION
Senate Begins Debate on Long-Term Highway & Transit Bill
Thank You for Contacting Your Senators and Asking Them for Their Support
 

The Senate voted 62-36 yesterday to begin debate on the long-term highway & transit bill known as the “Drive Act.” The vote now opens the bill up for debate, amendments and hopefully approval before the July 31 program expiration deadline. Thank you to all who contacted their senators asking them to support beginning debate on this bill.  Please now take a moment to thank your Senators who voted “yes” and express your disappointment to your Senators who voted “no” to move this transportation bill forward in the Senate.

Today’s vote became necessary when a similar Senate vote failed yesterday largely along party lines. Democrats were concerned that they had not been given enough time to review the proposed bill after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) announced they had reached an agreement. A summary of the changes to the offsets and the original bill can be found here and here.   A summary of the entire DRIVE Act can be found here.

This is not the end but rather the start of a serious effort to end the long string of short-term extensions that have plagued the highway and transit programs over the last several years. The bill still faces many obstacles before it can be adopted, including efforts to attach extraneous amendments unrelated to transportation. If the Senate adopts the bill, it then faces an uncertain future in the House, which has already passed a five-month extension through the end of the year. Both the House and Senate will be in recess for the month of August, so time is short.

AGC chapters and members were very active in contacting their senators over the past several days through the Hardhats for Highways campaign. In order to have a successful outcome, contact with your elected representatives is vital.

AGC will be monitoring the debate and will alert you when further contact may be necessary on key provisions impacting the construction industry. Your support is necessary and appreciated. 

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

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ENVIRONMENT
AGC-Supported Coal Ash Bill Passes House
 

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 258-166 legislation introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.) to roll back certain parts of the Environment Protection Agency’s regulations of coal ash. A similar bill has been introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).  Senator Hoeven will offer his legislation as an amendment to the highway & transit bill currently being debated on the Senate floor.

The agency issued regulations on the disposal of coal ash in December 2014.  This legislation would improve EPA’s rule by putting states in charge of implementing coal ash rules and ensuring that proper protections are in place to defend public health, the environment, and jobs.  A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here.

AGC support the efforts of Rep. McKinley and Senators Hoeven and Manchin to ensure that the EPA’s regulation on coal ash does not have further negative impacts on the construction industry.

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

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LABOR
Proposed Overtime Rule Prompts Congressional Hearing, AGC Continues to Take Action
 

Only July 23, the House Education and Workforce Committee hosted a hearing to review the impact of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s proposed rule to change the overtime regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. AGC partnered with a joint employer coalition group dedicated to advocating the interests of employers with regard to the proposed changes, which submitted a letter to the House Committee highlighting the impact of the proposed changes on employers.

The proposed rule, if implemented, would raise the salary threshold for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions from $23,660 to a 2016 level of $50,440 annually, and index for inflation thereafter. The rule did not recommend any specific changes to the duties test; however, it remains unknown how or if the administration will address it in a final rule.

The deadline for public comment is Sept. 4, but AGC recently submitted a request for 60-day extension.  The extension would allow AGC to fully review the proposed rule’s impact on the construction industry and offer additional time for AGC’s members to investigate and evaluate the number of employees that would be impacted by the rule within their individual businesses. Examples of how the proposed rule would impact construction businesses will be critical in getting the Wage and Hour Division to understand the impact of this rule on the industry.

Additional information on the proposed rule can be found on the Labor department’s website.  For more information on the act, click here or visit AGC’s Labor & HR Topical Resources webpage.  The primary category is “Wages and Benefits” and the secondary category is “Fair Labor Standards Act.”

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

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TAX
Register for the AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference
Register Now and Save at meetings.agc.org/agc_cfma
 

Jointly sponsored by AGC and the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), the 19th Annual AGC/CFMA Construction Financial Management Conference will be held Nov. 4-6, 2015 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. This three-day conference offers programs and workshops designed specifically for financial professionals in the construction industry. The 32 interactive sessions will cover the latest industry issues and their financial implications.

Register by Friday, Sept. 4 for special “Early Bird” discounts.  Additional discounts are available for subsequent registrations from the same firm.  Participants may earn up to 20 continuing professional education (CPE) credits. 

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

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Finance Committee Approves Tax Package
 

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a two-year, $95.6 billion tax extenders package by a 23 to-3 vote with Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) voting against the package. Chairman Hatch noted in his opening statement, “that this year marked the first time in 20 years that a new Congress began with the tax extenders already expired. In other words, we began this Congress with a built-in disadvantage when it comes to tax policy.” 

The committee’s action places the Senate ahead of the House in renewing 52 individual, business and energy tax provisions including all of the expired AGC tax priorities. The expired provisions would be retroactively extended from 2015 through the end of 2016. Although, no Senate floor time has been scheduled to debate tax legislation – outside of provisions that raise revenue for the Highway Trust Fund – expect the full Senate to address expired provisions in the early fall.

To date, the House has approved a number of “permanent” tax bills including H.R. 636 which includes increased expensing allowances under Section 179 and the reduced recognition period for built-in gains; as well as H.R. 880 that would simplify and make permanent the research and development credit.

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

FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Department of Veterans Affairs’ Construction Reforms Advance
 

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health this week passed The Construction Reform Act of 2015, introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), that would require another federal construction agency to execute U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) construction projects above $100 million. Under the bill, federal construction agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or General Services Administration could execute construction projects for the VA under project-specific agreements reached by the VA and respective agency.

In a letter to House VA Committee members, AGC noted its general support for H.R. 3106. However, AGC warned that Congress must allow sufficient time for federal construction management agencies to properly assess their staffing levels and make internal arrangements to effectively and efficiently execute these VA construction projects. Additionally, the VA should remain the construction manager on existing construction projects, with limited exception, as changing federal owners mid-construction would present further difficulties and delays. 

AGC also sent a letter to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee making a similar request about a transfer of VA construction projects. The Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2016 (NDAA bill), H.R. 1735, includes a provision that would also require another federal construction agency to perform VA construction projects above $100 million. The House-passed NDAA bill did not include such a provision. As such, legislators are reconciling the differences between the two NDAA bills to draft a final bill—called a conference report—that both chambers could pass later this year.

Earlier this Spring, AGC called for another, well-qualified federal construction agency to execute major construction projects (projects above $10 million) for the VA. AGC has met with VA Secretary Robert McDonald twice to discuss its concerns as well as reforms the agency should consider implementing.

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

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2016 ELECTIONS
Another Republican Jumps on the Presidential Bandwagon
 

On Tuesday, Ohio Governor John Kasich announced his intention to officially enter the Republican presidential primary. He becomes the 16th Republican candidate who will qualify for the ballot. The field is expected to swell to its maximum size when former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore joins the contest next month.

Prior to being twice elected governor of the Buckeye State, Mr. Kasich’s public service included a stint in the Ohio Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. While in the House, the governor rose up in the GOP ranks to become chairman of the House Budget Committee. He opted not to seek re-election in 2000, but instead formed a presidential exploratory committee. Due to weak fundraising, Mr. Kasich ended his presidential ambitions, only to resurrect them this election cycle.
 
Mr. Kasich begins well back in the second tier of candidates. He has a built-in advantage in that his home state of Ohio – just recently, and with Kasich himself signing the legislation – enacted a new election law that places their 66 Republican National Convention delegates in the Winner-Take-All category.
 
The Governor also increased his own stakes as a way to boost himself, when he signed the legislation in June. Though winning his home state would provide him a sound base of delegates from which to grow, his action could well end his campaign, too. Should he prove uncompetitive in the early states, losing his own state could well cost him all viability. 

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

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