Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 25, 2018
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On the Inside
ENVIRONMENT
Court Action Muddies Obama Admin. Waters of the U.S. Rule for Contractors
INFRASTRUCTURE
Details Emerge of New Trump Infrastructure Plan
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Recommends Initiatives for Federal Highway Administration Program to Accelerate Infrastructure Construction
AGC ADVOCACY
Tell Us What You Want to Hear in the State of the Union
FEDERAL FUNDING
Congress Reopens the Government, Provides Funding through Feb. 8
LABOR/HR
AGC Calls on Congress to Address Tort Reform
AGC Urges Trump Administration to Rescind President Obama’s Government Mandated Project Labor Agreement Executive Order
CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
Trump Protects U.S. Solar Manufacturers with Steep Tariffs on Foreign Imports
FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Register Now for the Federal Contractors Conference
Senate Confirms AGC-Backed Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
ENVIRONMENT
Court Action Muddies Obama Admin. Waters of the U.S. Rule for Contractors
‘Hold’ on Controversial Rule Expected to be Lifted
 

A Jan. 22 U.S. Supreme Court procedural ruling involving the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) will lift an earlier appeals court decision to put in place a nationwide freeze of that rule.  At this moment, implementation and enforcement of the 2015 rule—which expands federal jurisdiction involving wetlands—appears imminent in most states.  However, AGC awaits word on when an appeals court will officially lift its nationwide hold on the rule but, until that happens, nothing is changed.  (Read more in AGC’s “frequently asked questions document). 

Irrespective of when the appellate court lifts its hold, thirteen states – the states that were parties in a case before the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota – will remain shielded from the 2015 WOTUS rule in the short term. Those states are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The timing of the decision is unfortunate as the administration is still working to repeal and replace the 2015 rule. The administration is expected shortly to finalize a rule that would delay the implementation date of the 2015 WOTUS rule by two years, i.e., until 2020. It is not certain whether the administration will finalize that rule in time to forestall implementation once the appellate court’s nationwide stay is lifted. This two year delays is intended to prevent confusion over implementation that industry currently faces and to allow the agencies more time to finalize its repeal and replace efforts. 

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

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INFRASTRUCTURE
Details Emerge of New Trump Infrastructure Plan
President Expected to Release Details During State of the Union
 

Reports circulated this week involving a six-page document purporting to outline the Trump Administration’s highly anticipated infrastructure plan. Taking the document at face value, it provides more detail on the administration’s proposal, including a breakdown of how the funding would be divvied up amongst different initiatives. Lacking from the summary are details on how much federal funding would be included and where those funds would come from. Previous statements from administration spokespersons indicate that a request for $200 billion will be included in the final proposal. The administration has also strongly hinted that they intend for this money to be leveraged in a way that ultimately produces $1 trillion in new investment. A range of infrastructure projects—including roads, bridges, waterway ports, drinking water facilities and veteran’s hospitals, among other things are included.

The plan may serve as a welcomed complement to existing federal infrastructure programs. However, it appears to not address the long-term funding needs of existing federal infrastructure programs, including those dependent upon the Highway Trust Fund, the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Administration officials and other sources have strongly hinted that the president will include mention of the infrastructure initiative as part of his State of the Union address to Congress on January 30 and that the actual proposal will be released soon after.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
AGC Recommends Initiatives for Federal Highway Administration Program to Accelerate Infrastructure Construction
 

AGC submitted a list of recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for inclusion in round 5 of the “Every Day Counts” initiative to accelerate transportation infrastructure construction.  Among the suggestions is a list of practices that could improve work zone safety for employees and motorists, such as increased use of positive barrier, work area intrusion alarms, photo enforcement of speed limits, and real time work zone alerts. AGC also encouraged state transportation departments to accept e-ticketing to track material deliveries, continue to encourage early release of 3D models to contractors, work to eliminate impediments to use Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) in highway construction and radio frequency identifiers tags in underground utilities.

The Federal Highway Administration began the Every Day Counts initiative ten years ago to help identify and rapidly deploy proven, yet underutilized, innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and improve environmental sustainability. Proven innovations promoted through the initiative facilitate greater efficiency at the state and local levels, saving time, money and resources that can be used to deliver more projects. Federal Highway works with state transportation departments, local governments, tribes, private industry and other stakeholders to identify a new collection of innovations to champion every two years that merit accelerated deployment.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org Return to Top

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AGC ADVOCACY
Tell Us What You Want to Hear in the State of the Union
 

As an association committed to fighting for its members' interest on Capitol Hill, AGC of America wants to hear from you. Let us know what you hope the president will touch on when he delivers his State of the Union address next Tuesday, Jan. 30. We also want to know what issues are top concerns for your company.

The State of the Union address comes in the wake of a three-day government shutdown, and is an opportunity for the president to lay out his vision for the country, take stock of his Administration's first-year achievements,  and advance his 2018 legislative agenda.

For more information, contact Collin Janich at collin.janich@agc.org. Return to Top

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FEDERAL FUNDING
Congress Reopens the Government, Provides Funding through Feb. 8
AGC Successful in Getting Contractors Temporary Relief from Several Obamacare Taxes
 

On Monday, the Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 8, ending a three-day partial shutdown of the federal government and giving lawmakers a few weeks to negotiate an annual appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018. Prior to the government shutdown, AGCurged Congress to pass a short-term funding bill to avoid the shutdown and provide temporary relief from several Obamacare taxes impacting construction employers.  

Specifically, the bill delays until 2022 the Cadillac tax, a 40 percent excise tax on employer-sponsored health coverage whose benefits exceed specific thresholds. The legislation would also provide a one yearmoratorium on the health insurance tax that will increase the cost of health insurance for small business employers, the majority of AGC’s construction contractor membership. 

AGC continues to urge Congress to return to regular order, pass annual appropriations bills, and end the unfortunate routine cycle of short-term continuing resolutions.

For more information, contact Jordan Howard at jordan.howard@agc.org. Return to Top

LABOR/HR
AGC Calls on Congress to Address Tort Reform
 

AGC joined national organizations representing the real estate, contracting and construction sectors in support of a common-sense tort reform measure that would help control costs associated with excessive liability insurance premiums for construction projects in New York State.

The organizations delivered a letter to Congress supporting the “Infrastructure Expansion Act” which would address property owners’ and contractors’ “absolute liability” for workplace injuries under New York’s “Scaffold Law.” The unique-to-New York Scaffold Law leads to higher project carrying costs that must be paid for liability insurance premiums. The bill would simply replace the standard with the more common “comparative negligence” standard.

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

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AGC Urges Trump Administration to Rescind President Obama’s Government Mandated Project Labor Agreement Executive Order
 

AGC this week urged President Trump to rescind President Obama’s project labor agreement Executive Order and replace it with a new order.  AGC asked the president to issue a new order that ensures fair and open competition on federal construction contracts by preventing agencies from mandating contractors to sign a project labor agreement as a condition for winning a federal or federally assisted construction contract or by implementing a preference policy for bids with a PLA.  The Obama era Order encourages federal agencies to mandate the labor agreements on projects valued at $25 million or more.  Until the president acts, that executive order remains in effect.

In addition to calling for recession of the Executive Order, AGC is also urging Congress to support the Fair and Open Competition Act, which would prohibit federal contracting agencies from mandating that contractors and unions enter project labor agreements on direct federal projects 

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

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CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
Trump Protects U.S. Solar Manufacturers with Steep Tariffs on Foreign Imports
Construction Contractors Could Feel the Effects
 

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, President Trump signed into law steep tariffs on all foreign imports of solar cells and modules (crystalline silicon photovoltaic), the technology primarily responsible for transforming solar energy into electricity. The U.S. International Trade Commission backed tariffs of up to 35 percent after determining that domestic manufacturers suffered “serious injury” from foreign solar imports. However, the president adopted the United States Trade Representative’s more conservative 30 percent tariff recommendation.

Set over a four-year period, the 30 percent tariff will diminish by five percent annually and phase out entirely after four years. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells will be exempt each year.

As a result of these tariffs, solar installation costs are expected to rise. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the trade remedies could diminish forecasted U.S. solar installations by as much a 20 percent in 2018, resulting in 23,000 jobs lost. According to AGC Chief Economist, Ken Simonson, those figures could “include construction firms that install solar panels and ones that build plants to make them, as well as jobs in those factories, and probably an equal number of ‘induced’ jobs in the rest of the economy.” “Still,” Simonson says, “it seems like a high estimate.”

 For more information, contact Collin Janich at collin.janich@agc.org Return to Top

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FEDERAL CONTRACTING
Register Now for the Federal Contractors Conference
Early Bird Discount Ends Soon
 

Register today for the 2018 AGC Federal Contractors Conference before the Early Bird discount ends February 19. The Federal Contractors Conference 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. 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, contact Jordan Howard at jordan.howard@agc.org. Return to Top

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Senate Confirms AGC-Backed Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
 

 Today the Senate confirmed AGC-backed nominee R.D. James – a 30-year veteran of the federal Mississippi River Commission – for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. During his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, James received bipartisan praise.  James is now the top official responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making sure waterways and ports remain navigable.  He will also be a key voice in shaping the administration’s policies on the Waters of the United States rule, a rule that determines which bodies of water fall under federal regulations.

For more information, contact jordan.howard@agc.org or (703) 837-5368. Return to Top

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