Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 20, 2017
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On the Inside
REGULATIONS
Trump Administration Releases New Details on Regulatory Agenda
IMMIGRATION
H-2B Seasonal Worker Visa Cap Increased for 2017
TRANSPORTATION
Tell Your Representatives to Support Increased Airport Infrastructure
House Committee Approves FY 2018 Transportation Funding
Department of Transportation Guidance on Bidder DBE Submittals Pending
BUDGET
House Budget Resolution Moves Forward
TAX
AGC Submits Comments to Senate Finance Committee on Tax Reform
REGULATIONS
Trump Administration Releases New Details on Regulatory Agenda
Silica, WOTUS, Paid Sick Leave, Local Hiring and More
 

The Trump administration released new details on its regulatory and deregulatory plans. Issued July 20, the 2017 Spring Unified Agenda provides some answers and many questions about the future of major regulatory issues facing AGC contractors. On the positive side, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its goal to issue a new rule on the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act by the end of this year and kicked the can on new stormwater regulations as well as lead paint rules for public and commercial buildings. Also, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signaled the withdrawal of regulatory efforts to further address: the establishment of an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2); noise in construction; combustible dust; and preventing back over injuries and fatalities. On the negative side, OSHA did not provide any details on plans for its silica standard, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council provided its plan to issue a final rule to cement the direct federal contractor paid sick leave regulation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) punted on any effort to withdraw the local hiring proposed rule and has still left in place the existing pilot program.  

On the whole, the Trump administration has slowed the federal regulatory machine. In the first five months of 2017, the administration’s regulatory efforts produced quantifiable annualized cost savings estimated at $22 million, compared to $6.8 billion in annualized costs due to rules finalized during last five months of fiscal year 2016. AGC remains engaged in the legal fight against the silica rule and will push back on DOT and the FAR Council decisions on local hiring and paid sick leave, respectively. For more details, read the 2017 Regulatory Road Ahead.

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

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IMMIGRATION
H-2B Seasonal Worker Visa Cap Increased for 2017
 

On July 19, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor issued a final rule authorizing a one-time increase in the number of H-2B visas, which allow foreigners to work in seasonal positions. The rule increased the annual 66,000 visa cap by 15,000 for such workers and expires on September 30.  AGC supports a permanent expansion of the H-2B visa statutory cap by exempting returning seasonal workers who have followed the law from counting against the limit. Additionally, changes should be made to the visa program to better fit the distinct needs of the construction industry.

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

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TRANSPORTATION
Tell Your Representatives to Support Increased Airport Infrastructure
 

The House of Representatives has yet to move forward and consider the 21ST Century Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, as it is unclear whether the bill has enough votes to pass. The AIRR Act would reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs. As we reported last week, the bill fails to adequately invest in airport infrastructure. The vote delay provides you another opportunity to contact your representative and ask them to support increased funding for our nation’s airport infrastructure.

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

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House Committee Approves FY 2018 Transportation Funding
 

This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation funding the U.S. Department of Transportation for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1. The bill fully funded the federal-aid highway program at the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorized level of $44.234 billion, an increase of 2.2% over FY 2017. Transit formula grants were funded at FAST Act level of $9.733 billion. The bill, however, cuts the transit Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program by $650 million. The subcommittee-approved funding level for the Department is short of the $2.3 billion that was authorized in the FAST Act but is more than the $1.2 billion requested by President Trump in the administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal.

The legislation would also eliminate $500 million in funding for the TIGER grant program, which has been funded at that level for the past several years. The Trump budget called for eliminating TIGER grants and the House has routinely done that in years past. However, the Senate just as routinely adds the funds back in to the final bill.

The House bill also provides $500 million for a new AMTRAK Northeast Corridor state of good repair program, although all of these funds are being directed to the New York/New Jersey Gateway program to build and improve transit and rail tunnels into New York City. The Airport Improvement Program (AIP), is set to receive $3.35 billion. The AIP program has been funded at this level for the past six years.

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

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Department of Transportation Guidance on Bidder DBE Submittals Pending
 

The U.S. Department of Transportation is preparing guidance to clarify that states must require all bidders to submit disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) utilization information regardless of whether the state requires the bidder to submit the information at time of bid or allows a five day grace period following bid submission. AGC wrote to Transportation Secretary Chao and asked that the guidance be changed to require only the apparent low bidder to submit this information.

The DBE rules allow states to choose whether to require DBE commitment information with bid submittal or up to five days later. In our comments, AGC pointed out that when U.S. DOT revised the DBE rules during the Obama Administration, there was much discussion on this issue as part of the rule making process and in meetings between DOT officials and AGC members. At that time, DOT indicated that if a state chooses the five day grace period that only the apparent low bidder would be required to submit its DBE commitments.

DOT responded to AGC’s letter indicating that it plans to move ahead with guidance that requires all bidders to submit DBE commitments even if states choose the five day grace period. 

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

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BUDGET
House Budget Resolution Moves Forward
Provides Mechanism for Increased Infrastructure Spending
 

This week, the House Budget Committee advanced their 2018 budget resolution, Building a Better America by a party line vote of 22-14.  The resolution sets spending levels for both mandatory and discretionary programs, provides instructions for tax reform and establishes a mechanism that would allow for increased spending for any potential new infrastructure plan. The bill would significantly increase defense spending while cutting both mandatory and discretionary programs. The fate of the resolution remains unknown with conservative Republicans believing cuts don’t go far enough and moderates believing the cuts go too far.

The budget also sets several policy priorities, including aligning Highway Trust Fund spending to revenue coming into the Fund. In addition, the budget eliminates subsidies for Amtrak, the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants and the TIGER grant program.  Most of these positions are consistent with previous House Republican budgets; however, they are unlikely to ever be passed into law. The budget also creates a “Reserve Fund” that would allow for an increase in infrastructure funding in the event that Congress takes up an infrastructure spending bill and prevent any objections to such a bill based on budgetary points of order.

The biggest takeaway from the resolution is that it underscores the need for fixing the Highway Trust Fund and providing revenue for increased infrastructure investment as a part of comprehensive tax reform.

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

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TAX
AGC Submits Comments to Senate Finance Committee on Tax Reform
 

This week, AGC submitted comments in response to a letter sent by Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, soliciting input from stakeholders on tax reform.  The deadline for submissions was Monday, July 17. AGC’s comments called for tax reform that lowers the rates for all businesses, corporate and pass-through alike. The comments also called for repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), increasing the threshold at which the percentage-of-completion method of accounting is required and raising the exemption level for long-term contracting rules.  AGC also called on Congress to use the opportunity presented by comprehensive tax reform to invest in the nation’s infrastructure and shore up the Highway Trust Fund.

According to Capitol Hill publications, the email inbox set up by the Finance Committee to receive comments was flooded with “hundreds of thousands of submissions.”  While most of these submissions were form letters generated by a group called Americans for Tax Fairness, opposing lower taxes on “millionaires and wealthy corporations,” many other submissions were from traditional stakeholders, like AGC. According the Senate Finance Committee “each submission will be considered as the committee moves forward with its current tax reform efforts.” AGC will continue to monitor the committee’s progress on tax reform.

For more information, contact Matt Turkstra at matt.turkstra@agc.org or (202) 547-4733. Return to Top

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