Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 7, 2016
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On the Inside
HEALTHCARE
Congress Passes Legislation to Repeal Major Portions of ObamaCare, President Plans to Veto
TRANSPORTATION
2016 State Gas Tax Changes
Omnibus Legislation Releases $2.1 Billion in Earmarked Funds
2016 ELECTIONS
Iowa Gearing Up for Democratic & Republican Caucuses
UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE
FEEDBACK REQUESTED: 811 Needs Contractor Input
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Federal Contractors Conference Early-Bird Rate Expires 1/31
HEALTHCARE
Congress Passes Legislation to Repeal Major Portions of ObamaCare, President Plans to Veto
 

Both the U.S. House and Senate passed legislation, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, which would repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Congress has voted to repeal parts of the Act more than 50 times since the law’s passage in 2010. However, this the first time legislation repealing the law will make it to the president’s desk. President Obama plans to veto the legislation and based on the votes thus far Congress will likely be unable to override the veto, leaving the Act intact.

Despite the Republican-controlled Congress’s inability to repeal the entire Act, some small, incremental changes have been successful. In late December 2015, Congress was successful in enacting a two year delay of the 40 percent excise tax also known as the “Cadillac tax” on employer-sponsored health plans. In addition, the health insurance tax on fully insured health plans was suspended for calendar year 2017 and the medical device tax was suspended for two years.

AGC will continue to advocate for additional changes to the Act in 2016. Some of the top issues include a permanent repeal of the Cadillac Tax, ending small businesses Health Reimbursement Account penalties, reducing employer reporting requirements, changing the “full time” employee definition and simplifying rules for seasonal employees.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
2016 State Gas Tax Changes
 

Congress’s repeated failure to increase the federal gas tax has resulted in eighteen states enacting laws since 2013 to increase or reform their taxes in order to provide additional funding for transportation infrastructure.  The recently signed-into-law transportation bill, the FAST Act, does provide five years of slightly increased funding for federal-aid highway and transit programs but fails to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund – continuing to place the burden on states to find additional funding for transportation infrastructure.

According to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, Jan. 1 brought gas tax changes to nine states – 5 cuts and 4 increases.  The gas taxes in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and West Virginia will see cuts, while Nebraska, Utah, Maryland and Florida will see increases.  In most cases, the cuts are the result of falling gas prices, as those states' tax is tied to the price of gas.  The exceptions being North Carolina (gas tax tied to population growth and energy prices) and Pennsylvania (scheduled slight decrease).  This chart outlines the state gas tax changes that took effect on Jan. 1.

AGC remains focused on addressing the long-term solvency of Highway Trust and working with our chapters to increase revenue for transportation infrastructure at the state and local levels.

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

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Omnibus Legislation Releases $2.1 Billion in Earmarked Funds
 

The fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, passed by Congress at the end of December, includes a provision allowing states to use federal-aid highway funding that was previously earmarked for specific projects to be used for other projects located nearby. Specifically, the provision allows states to transfer funding authority from projects that had funds earmarked 10 or more years ago but have used less than 10 percent of their dedicated funds, to other projects within a 50 mile radius. The Federal Highway Administration reports that Congress has allocated funding for more than 6,700 projects that was never used. Of that number, approximately 1,300 projects meet the 10 year/10 percent requirement with approximately $2.1 billion in funding still available. According to the Eno Transportation Weekly publication, the $2.1 billion of budget authority for highway projects will result in $500 million in new outlays in fiscal year 2016 and another $1.4 billion over the following seven years. States have up to three years to reprogram the earmarked funds or they are lost forever.

Congressional earmarks have long been included in both the transportation authorization legislation and annual appropriations measures. The language allocating these funds usually specifies that they are available for that project until expended. Over the years, the amount of unused, earmarked funds has grown because the project may not be on a state’s priority list, the earmark may not provide enough funding to cover the cost of the construction or states may not have matching funds. The Federal Highway Administration will soon be issuing guidance to state Departments of Transportation on how to utilize these available funds.

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

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2016 ELECTIONS
Iowa Gearing Up for Democratic & Republican Caucuses
 

If you’ve watched any presidential election coverage lately, you’ve no doubt heard a lot about the upcoming Iowa caucuses.  Unlike most voters who will participate in a primary election by casting a ballot early or at a polling location on election day, Democratic and Republican voters in Iowa will meet in person to caucus in all of the state’s 1,681 precincts on Feb. 1.

Here are two videos which help explain the differences between the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

         

In a review of the RealClearPolitics polling average for December, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has an almost 13 point edge over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 50 to 37 percent.  Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley garners just six percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has overtaken businessman Donald Trump to lead the GOP field.  The top five candidates are Cruz (31 percent), Trump (27.4 percent), Florida Senator Marco Rubio (11.6 percent), Dr. Ben Carson (9.2 percent), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (4.8 percent).

Having said that, it is important not to place too much emphasis on early polling.  According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, “In Iowa, on average, only 35 percent of voters had come to a final decision before the final month of the campaign.”  In fact, 48 percent of Republican voters made up their minds in the final week leading up to the 2012 caucuses.  On current undecided voters, Silver added, “…the percentage must be even lower now — perhaps something like 20 percent of voters are locked in.”

A more realistic poll of Iowa Republican voters would be as follows:

Candidate

Support

Undecided

80 percent

Ted Cruz

5 percent

Donald Trump

5 percent

Ben Carson

3 percent

Marco Rubio

3 percent

Jeb Bush

1 percent

Mike Huckabee

1 percent

Rand Paul

1 percent

Following the caucuses, candidates will quickly head to New Hampshire where voters participate in the nation’s first presidential primary on Feb. 9.

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

Since this will be the first electoral event in both parties’ presidential nominating contests, much media attention is given to polling in advance of the caucuses not to mention the results on caucus night. Return to Top

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UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE
FEEDBACK REQUESTED: 811 Needs Contractor Input
 

We are conducting a survey on behalf of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national association representing the underground utility industry and the 811 Number. The 811 “Call Before You Dig” campaign reminds homeowners and professional contractors of the steps required to mark underground utilities before any digging begins.

If you have ever called before digging, we ask that you take one minute to provide feedback that will directly impact the evolution of the 811 “Call Before You Dig” effort.  Currently, the campaign stresses that one call, to the national 811 telephone number, is all it takes to start the process. However the use of mobile, online and other platforms to access 811 services, the “Call Before You Dig” message may need to be modernized. In 2016, CGA will debut a new tagline that better represents current and future practices. All of the questions in this brief survey relate to the development of the new tagline.

Your feedback is critical as we work together to keep our communities safe and connected.

Click here to take the brief survey.

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

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Federal Contractors Conference Early-Bird Rate Expires 1/31
Save $75 on Registration Fee; Held May 10-11 in DC
 

Register before January 31 for the 2016 AGC Federal Contractors Conference (FEDCON) and save $75 off the registration fee. FEDCON—held May 10-11 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.—is the premier conference for federal construction contractors to discuss the latest projects, policies and contracting issues facing the industry with federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facility Engineering Command, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, General Services Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of State, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.

In addition to substantive discussions and presentations with federal agencies, attendees will hear from legal experts about the latest federal regulations that will impact their businesses and may have the opportunity to continue a dialogue with federal agencies after the conference. During the Federal Law and Regulation Workshop, leading federal construction attorneys will address executive orders, Small Business Administration and Federal Acquisition Regulation rules, and case law trends your company needs to know to work in the federal market. And, when the conference concludes, AGC member attendees will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing dialogue and meetings with agency headquarters later in the year.

For more information and to register, go to meetings.agc.org/fedcon Return to Top

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