Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org April 21, 2016
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On the Inside
LABOR
AGC Supports Immigration Bill to Create Pilot Program for Temporary Less Skilled Worker Visas
LABOR
AGC Calls on Congress to Block Labor Department Overtime Rule
SAFETY
AGC-backed Suit to Block Fedís New Silica Rule to Be Heard in DC Circuit Court
WATER RESOURCES
Pipeline Safety Bill Clears Committee
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Championed Language Included in Senate Transportation Funding Bill
TRANSPORTATION
FHWA Proposes Highway Performance Measurements- Suggests Addressing Global Warming
TRANSPORTATION
AGC-Supported FAA Bill Passes Senate
ENERGY
Senate Passes Energy Bill Ė Includes AGC Supported Provisions
LABOR
AGC Supports Immigration Bill to Create Pilot Program for Temporary Less Skilled Worker Visas
 

This week Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced legislation, Willing Workers and Willing Employers Act, which would create a pilot guest worker program designed to address the gap that currently exists between temporary visa programs for seasonal workers and the H-1B visa program for highly-skilled immigrants. Under current laws, there are no legal options for lesser skilled immigrants to meet current or projected future workforce needs. Immigration reform, including a guest worker program, is a component of AGC’s Workforce Development Plan aimed at alleviating the construction industry’s workforce shortage.

While Congress is not expected to consider this legislation or any other substantive immigration reform ahead of the November elections, the bill introduced this week shows a willingness among some members of Congress to consider balanced immigration reform legislation. AGC joined a broad group of employers in the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition in a letter thanking Senator Flake for his efforts.

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

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LABOR
AGC Calls on Congress to Block Labor Department Overtime Rule
 

This week AGC joined with hundreds of national and regional employer groups in support of the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act.  This legislation would require the Department of Labor to perform a detailed impact analysis prior to implementing their proposed changes to overtime pay requirements increasing the minimum salary threshold from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year. Employers with exempt employees who earn an annual salary less than $50,440 will be impacted. 

The legislation would block the current rule from taking effect but it would not prevent a future increase in the salary threshold. It merely requires a more detailed examination of the rule by the Labor Department before it can be finalized. AGC is urging members to use the AGC Action Center and send letters to their members of Congress supporting the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act.

More detailed information can be found here.

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


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SAFETY
AGC-backed Suit to Block Fedís New Silica Rule to Be Heard in DC Circuit Court
 

Court officials announced late last week that an AGC of America-backed lawsuit to block the Obama Administration’s misguided new silica rule will be heard in the D.C. Circuit Court.  AGC, via the Louisiana AGC, filed suit in the 5th Circuit earlier this month to block the measure, arguing that the Administration established a new standard that is beyond the technological limits of current dust removal equipment. As a number of other groups filed similar motions in other circuit courts, judicial officials were forced to select a venue via random lottery.  While the DC Circuit is considered less favorable than the 5th Circuit, some of the circuit’s prior case law does appear favorable. 

As we mentioned in our earlier communications on this lawsuit, the legal challenge is a long, lengthy, and far-from certain tactic. That is why AGC is continuing to push for legislation in Congress to force the Administration to put in place workable silica measures that will be far more effective in improving workplace health and safety.

For more information, contact Kevin Cannon at cannonk@agc.org or 703-837-5410.

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WATER RESOURCES
Pipeline Safety Bill Clears Committee
 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and advance the cause of pipeline safety. H.R. 4937, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, is a four-year reauthorization that improves pipeline safety by closing gaps in federal standards. It is also designed to enhance the quality and timeliness of agency rulemakings, promote better usage of data and technology to improve pipeline safety, and provide regulatory certainty for citizens, the safety community, and the industry. The legislation was reported unanimously out of Committee for future consideration by the full House.

During the committee markup process, amendments were offered that would apply new, extremely restrictive “Buy America” requirements on all pipelines permitted by PHMSA. They would establish a database that tracks the origin of pipelines put in place but defines foreign materials far too broadly. AGC weighed in with lawmakers, noting opposition to what would have been the most restrictive definition of American iron and steel at the federal level to date. The requirements would have mandated that all steel processes, including melting and pouring, take place in the US. Furthermore, the iron ore that comprises said iron and steel would have to be mined in the US. Both amendments ultimately failed to meet approval and did not make it into the final bill. AGC will continue to fight domestic materials sourcing expansions.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
AGC Championed Language Included in Senate Transportation Funding Bill
 

The Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2017 budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), which included a key provision AGC requested that would set certain conditions on a US DOT pilot program that enables the state or local grant recipients to utilize local or geographical, economic-based, and veterans hiring preferences on federal-aid highway and federal transit projects. The language is identical to a provision that AGC was successful in getting included in last year’s omnibus appropriations bill. The provision requires a grant recipient to certify that a local hire requirement will not force the layoff of a company’s employees, will not significantly increase the cost of the project and that they will not impose local hire requirements unless they can certify that there is an available, trained workforce in the local area.  

AGC is working with members and staff on the House Appropriations Committee to get this provision included in their fiscal year 2017 transportation funding bill.

On the Highway Trust Fund obligations front, the Senate bill provides FAST Act investment levels for federal-aid highways ($43.266 billion) and transit ($9.734 billion). Additionally, the bill provides $525 million for the TIGER grants and $2.338 billion for transit Capital Investment Grants.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
FHWA Proposes Highway Performance Measurements- Suggests Addressing Global Warming
 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking this week detailing performance measurements for congestion, freight, and on-road mobile source emissions for the National Highway System which it was required to do in the 2013 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) reauthorization law. Under the proposal, states would be required to monitor, report, and set targets for improving performance by measuring travel reliability, peak-hour congestion, freight movements, and on-road emissions of pollutants like ozone. The performance measures would then be used to manage investment of federal-aid highway funds to achieve these state performance goals, which ultimately would help make progress towards meeting national goals. Generally, the measurements are considered an improvement in managing the program and in demonstrating to the public the benefits achieved from federal investments in highways. One of the national commissions set up in earlier SAFETEA-LU legislation called for the establishment of performance measures.

The notice, however, proposes to go beyond MAP-21 requirements by attempting to use the rulemaking to address the Administration’s climate agenda by expanding the proposed rule to include greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal asks for comments on whether (and how) to establish performance measures for climate-related (greenhouse gas) emissions. The notice also asks for comment on whether or not the off-road emissions from off-road construction equipment should be used in this metric. These measures could then be used as a determining factor in whether to move forward with highway or bridge improvement projects. The comment period on the rule is open for 90 days and AGC will be responding to the request.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
AGC-Supported FAA Bill Passes Senate
 

As reported last week, the Senate was working towards finalizing an AGC-supported reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. This week they passed the bill with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 95-3.

The bill now heads to the House where they have several options on how to proceed prior to the expiration of the current FAA authorization on July 15.  As this process plays out, AGC will work to ensure the final FAA bill addresses the construction industry’s priorities.

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


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ENERGY
Senate Passes Energy Bill Ė Includes AGC Supported Provisions
 

This week the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 by a vote of 85-12.  The comprehensive energy bill included several provisions supported by AGC, including reauthorizing the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program through 2021 at the current authorization level of $100 million per year.  Further updates on DERA status and grant availability can be found here.

Additionally, the bill implements two issues advanced by AGC and our coalition partners in the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance—approval of LNG export licenses and easing permitting restrictions on construction of natural gas pipelines.

The Senate bill must now be reconciled with a previously passed House energy bill.  AGC will continue to work to ensure that the final energy bill includes these provisions.  

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

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