Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org May 4, 2017
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On the Inside
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Testifies Before Senate on Environmental Permit Streamlining
INFRASTRUCTURE
House Members are Pushing for a Highway Trust Fund Fix as Part of Tax Reform
Congress Completes Fiscal Year 2017 Funding Bill
How You Can Get Involved in Infrastructure Week
LABOR
AGC-Supported Career and Technical Education Bill introduced in Congress
House Approves Comp Time Legislation
House Passes Health Care Bill, Begins Repeal Process of Affordable Care Act
AGC EVENTS
Register for the AGC Financial Issues Summer Meeting
AGC Federal Contractors Descend on DC
ENVIRONMENT
AGC Testifies Before Senate on Environmental Permit Streamlining
 


AGC’s head of Environmental Law and Policy Leah Pilconis testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at a hearing entitled “Infrastructure Project Streamlining and Efficiency: Achieving Faster, Better, and Cheaper Results.” AGC took the opportunity to discuss many of the ideas in its new document “Reforms for Improving Federal Environmental Review and Permitting,” which were well received.

AGC focused on three of its recommendations at this hearing. First, Congress should require a nationwide merger of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting processes, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a 404 permit at the end of the NEPA process, based on the information generated by NEPA. Data show these processes take the longest, are the most costly, and are subject to the most disagreements. 

Second, the monitoring, mitigation and other environmental planning work performed during the NEPA process, and included the final Environmental Impact Statement / Record of Decision, must satisfy federal environmental permitting requirements unless there is a material change in the project. Time and money is wasted on redoing project analyses and reviews and on collecting duplicate information from permit applicants.

And third, Congress must consider a reasonable and measured approach to citizen suit reform to prevent misuse of environmental laws. These lawsuits can take years to resolve and, in far too many cases, litigation impedes projects that are vital to the renovation and improvement of our nation’s infrastructure. AGC will continue to advocate in Congress and with the Administration for additional infrastructure funding and additional environmental permit reform as new opportunities arise.

You can read AGC’s full statement and view our flow chart of environmental permits.

For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org Return to Top

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INFRASTRUCTURE
House Members are Pushing for a Highway Trust Fund Fix as Part of Tax Reform
Tell your Rep. to Sign Bipartisan Letter to Support a Long-Term Highway Trust Fund Fix
 

As the push continues for Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund, a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives are circulating a letter calling for a permanent Highway Trust Fund fix to be included in any tax reform package. If you recall, Representatives Graves and Holmes-Norton circulated a similar letter last year (check here to see if your Rep. signed the 2016 letter) that was signed by 130 bipartisan members of the House. Help us to significantly increase that number by contacting your Representative and asking them to sign on to the Graves/Holmes-Norton letter. So far, 91 members of the House have signed onto the letter.  See if your member has signed on and, if so, send an email thanking them for their support.

The FAST ACT provides funding certainty for the Highway Trust Fund through fiscal year 2020.  However, following the FAST Act's expiration, the Highway Trust Fund will face cuts of approximately $18 billion per year.  A permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund needs to be found in order to eliminate these cuts.

The letter – which is being circulated by Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Ranking Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia) – is asking House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ranking Democrat Richard Neal (Mass.) to fix the Highway Trust Fund in any tax reform package that the committee considers.

For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org. Return to Top

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Congress Completes Fiscal Year 2017 Funding Bill
Maintains Funding for Federal Construction Accounts
 

This week, the House and Senate agreed to a funding bill at an annualized spending rate of $1.165 trillion for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30. The House passed the bill by a vote of 309-118 with 178 Democrats and 131 Republicans voting in support of the bill. The Senate passed the bill by a 79-18 vote. Overall, the bill is mostly status quo with nearly $120 billion for federal construction accounts tracked by AGC.  The total number is nearly identical to fiscal year 2016-enacted levels but $17 billion less than the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the president prior to the expiration of the current short-term funding bill on Friday.

The bill provides the increased funding levels for federal highway and transit programs that was provided in the FAST Act, and ignores a call by President Trump for cuts to the TIGER grant program and limits to the transit capital grants for ongoing transit projects. Additionally, the bill provides slight increases for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program and maintains funding for worker training and education programs critical to addressing the construction industry’s skills shortage.  The one program to see significant cuts was the construction account for the General Services Administration. Additionally, Department of Labor enforcement agencies funding remains largely unchanged with only modest cuts to Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Unlike previous years, the bill included very few policy riders, however, AGC was successful in once again including provisions that would restrict the use of local hire requirements on highway and transit projects that have federal funding. The bill also included policies riders that prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from issuing an electronic election voting rule and increase the H-2B visa cap— a program for temporary, seasonal, low-skilled workers.

For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org Return to Top

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How You Can Get Involved in Infrastructure Week
 

AGC of America is once again one helping to support and promote Infrastructure Week – a national week of education and advocacy that brings together American businesses, workers, elected leaders, and everyday citizens around the message: #TimeToBuild.  During the week – May 15-19, 2017 – advocates around the country will highlight the state of our nation’s infrastructure and encourage lawmakers to invest in and modernize our roads, bridges, highways, airports, waterways, ports, and water systems.

AGC of America will be engaged in a social media campaign during the week to help educate the broader public and Congress about the many benefits of investing in our aging infrastructure.  In addition, all AGC chapters and member firms can sign up to become Affiliates of Infrastructure Week.  All Affiliates have access to a number of downloadable resources, including suggested social media content, template press release, template op-ed/blog post and a message guide.  In addition, there are already a number of activities taking place in cities around the country during Infrastructure Week. Please feel free to reach out to the groups organizing those events to participate.

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

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LABOR
AGC-Supported Career and Technical Education Bill introduced in Congress
AGC Calls for Swift Passage
 

Legislation reauthorizing and updating the Perkins Act was introduced in Congress today. The legislation, the Strengthening Career And Technical Education For The 21st Century Act, is similar to an AGC-supported bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly last year but failed to advance in the Senate.

AGC remains hopeful that Congress will finally finish reauthorizing the legislation this year. AGC’s priorities have centered around: aligning education with local and regional economic needs, encouraging and promoting work-based learning, and spurring development and acceptance of industry recognized credentials. AGC has also advocated for an increase in federal funding for the CTE programs and reverse the trend over the last several years of level funding.

The Perkins bill authorizes funding for career and technical education programs, providing more than $1 billion annually to high schools and post-secondary vocational training programs. The bill was last authorized over a decade ago, and it no longer addresses the skills gap in today’s workforce. This new legislation gives greater flexibility to states on how they spend their allotments, improves performance metrics and aligns the programs with other education and workforce training legislation: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Similar to other education and workforce training programs, the success of the program rests on how it is ultimately implemented and how well employers collaborate and engage with educators in their local and state communities. Additional information on the bill can be found here

For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org Return to Top

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House Approves Comp Time Legislation
 

On May 2, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow private-sector employers the option to offer workers paid-time-off or “comp time”, in lieu of compensation, for overtime hours worked in a workweek. The bill passed mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing. AGC has for years supported extending this choice to the private sector, allowING individual employers and their employees to choose the best fit for them. It is important to note the legislation does nothing to address Paid Sick leave mandates, which is a separate issue that AGC is working to find legislative relief from.

Despite passage of the bill in the House, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to make further progress this Congress at this time. More information on the bill can be found here.

For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org Return to Top

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House Passes Health Care Bill, Begins Repeal Process of Affordable Care Act
 

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) after months of heated and contentious negotiations among Republicans and the administration on the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AGC originally opposed the ACA because we did not believe that it created a framework to reduce health care costs, but instead increased new compliance and complexity problems for employers. The reforms provided in the AHCA will reduce complexity and compliance problems for employers and help reduce the cost of health care so employers can maintain and expand the health care benefits they offer their employees.

AGC has long supported the employer-provided health care model while, at the same time, ensuring that it is easy and affordable for employers to provide coverage to their employees. AGC supports increased flexibility to offer construction employers the ability to expand coverage to their employees and limit the financial hardships of purchasing health care services and the repealing of onerous taxes will lead to health insurance premium savings.

The outlook for Senate action remains uncertain. However, if a repeal bill does pass the Senate it would likely be different than the bill that passed the House today, which would lead to further changes and compromises before being signed into law. Today’s vote starts the repeal process but changes to the law remain in the works.

For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org Return to Top
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AGC EVENTS
Register for the AGC Financial Issues Summer Meeting
June 27-29 | Minneapolis, Minn.
 

The AGC Financial Issues Committee (FIC) Summer Meeting will be held June 27-28, 2017, Loews Minneapolis. Visit the meeting site to register TODAY & book your stay! With tax reform moving front and center, and the IRS is seeking comments on FASBs Revenue Recognition standard – discussions with the featured speakers including senior tax-writer Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) invited, AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson, andFASB staff will be critical.

For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org or (202) 547-3350. Return to Top

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AGC Federal Contractors Descend on DC
Federal Agencies Make Significant Announcements
 

Hundreds of federal construction contractors descended on Washington, D.C., this week to meet with major federal construction agencies and members of Congress at the AGC Federal Contactors Conference. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Department of Veterans Affairs, General Services Administration, Small Business Administration, Bureau of Reclamation and Natural Resources Conservation Service participated, with several agencies making significant announcements about their respective programs.

Among the many highlights, NAVFAC’s commander Rear Admiral Bret Muilenburg discussed his vision for the agency’s future and partnering with the construction industry. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Veterans Affairs jointly discussed progress on the Corps execution of VA construction projects over $100 million. The Small Business Administration discussed the new all small mentor-protégé program, and pitfalls firms should avoid. GSA gave updates on the $1 billion courthouse construction program and on the Public Buildings Reform Board that will make recommendations of at least $8 billion worth of underutilized and vacant federal properties.

At this year’s FedCon, AGC partnered with the National 8(a) Association for a business-to-business matchmaking session where several dozen prime contractors and subcontractors met to find qualified small businesses to fill subcontracting positions or to form mentor-protégé relationships. Additionally, federal contractors discussed strategies and answered questions on two contractor-led panels: (1) Change Orders, REAs, and Claims, and (2) CPARS and past performance evaluations.

Presentations and other information from the conference will be made available to registrants this week.

For more information, please contact Jordan Howard at Jordan.Howard@agc.org or (703) 837-5368. Return to Top

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