AGC's Construction Legislative Week in Review - 09/14/2017 (Plain Text Version)
Federal Contractor “Blacklisting” Provision Resurfaces in Senate Bill, AGC Working To Remove It
The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would require contracting officers to consider violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) as part of the responsibility determination process prior to award of DoD contract. The provision ultimately gives contracting officers the ability to debar a construction contractor on a contract-by-contract basis with little cause. Prime contractors will also be responsible for evaluating violations of subcontractors at all tiers. AGC’s regulatory counsel authored an article earlier this year on the full impact of the provision.
The provision is substantially similar to President Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order that Congress repealed earlier this year by using the Congressional Review Act. While the new provision in the NDAA targets only one labor law, the OSH Act, it remains substantially similar to the executive order and AGC strongly opposes it for many of the same reasons. The provision is unnecessary; there is no significant evidence that labor violations by federal contractors is widespread and the federal government already has the ability to suspend and debar bad actors in the event a violation occurs.
A legislative attempt to strip the language from the Senate bill has been offered by Senator Jim Inhofe. While the amendment is unlikely to be included prior to the larger bill, the NDAA, passing the Senate, it still must be reconciled with a House version that passed earlier this year and did not include any blacklisting like language. AGC will be working with Congressional leaders to remove the blacklisting language from the final bill.
For more information, contact Jim Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 547-0133.
Congress Asks About Streamlining Permitting
AGC Submits Recommendations
AGC submitted testimony to the House Small Business Committee at a hearing entitled “Expediting Economic Growth: How Streamlining Federal Permitting Can Cut Red Tape for Small Businesses.” AGC took the opportunity to urge Congress to implement reforms to the federal environmental review and permitting process. Time and money is wasted on redoing project analyses and reviews and on collecting duplicate information from permit applicants. AGC included its flow chart of environmental permits to illustrate some of the regulatory hurdles that contractors must overcome.
Additionally, AGC recommended that Congress 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. 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. Further, AGC urged Congress to 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 practical regulatory reform and additional infrastructure funding.
You can read AGC’s Enviro Permit Flow Chart Backgrounder.
Government Funded through December, Congress Works on FY18 Funding
Last week Congress averted a fiscal showdown at the end of the month by passing a short-term funding bill through Dec. 8 that included a down payment on disaster relief and raising the debt ceiling. Congress must still work to pass a bill that funds the government for the full 2018 fiscal year. This week the House finish considering all 12 annual appropriations bills, the first time in more than a decade that the House has passed all 12 bills before the end of a current fiscal year.
The House-passed funding bills include many AGC priorities. The bill that funds the Department of Labor includes funding cuts, but not on the same level as the president’s budget request. The bulk of the president’s proposed funding cuts were to job training programs, and ultimately, the House restored much of that funding. The bill contained policy changes supported by AGC such as amendments that would block OSHA’s record keeping rule that prohibited post-accident drug testing, block the NLRB controversial quickie election rule and overturn the NLRBs new joint employer standard. The bill also contains a prohibition that the OFCCP and EEOC merge together as the president’s budget had requested.
The House-passed bill does include a prohibition on OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grants. However, AGC remains hopeful that the Senate version, which provides full funding for the grants, will survive the full legislative process. It also includes language that would prohibit the Federal Election Commission from using FY18 funds to enforce prior approval on corporate-member trade associations like AGC of America.
With the House completing its work for FY 2018, the package must be negotiated with the Senate prior to becoming law. At this point it remains uncertain how many of the policy provisions could survive the Senate process and how deep funding cuts could be.
Trump Nominates Trombino as Federal Highway Administrator
President Trump has nominated Paul Trombino, the former director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, to serve as the next administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Mr. Trombino came to the Iowa DOT in April 2011 after 17 years with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He served as the 2016 AASHTO president and was active on the AASHTO-AGC-ARTBA Joint Committee. Mr. Trombino was well respected by industry and his peers during his tenure as DOT director.
During his service in Iowa, he played a key role in pushing the Iowa Legislature to approve a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to generate about $200 million annually in additional money for state and local road and bridge construction projects. He also was involved in an initiative in which Iowa is attempting to become one of the first states in the nation to develop a digital driver’s license that can be used as an app on smartphones. The U.S. Senate must still confirm Mr. Trombino as FHWA Administrator.
Register for the Highway, Transportation & Utility Infrastructure Conference
Don’t Miss Out! Nov. 1-3, 2017
The 2017 Highway, Transportation and Utility Infrastructure Conference will take place Nov. 1-3, 2017 at the Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference features excellent speakers and group interaction on a number of topics impacting the transportation and utility infrastructure construction market including: silica rule compliance, Gold Shovel Standard, future market trends, Trump Administration infrastructure initiative and more. For more information and to register, click here.
This year’s meeting runs from Wednesday to Friday and will again feature a preliminary golf tournament to prepare you for two days of intense learning. Join your industry colleagues in Phoenix.