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House Committee Advances AGC-Supported Tort Reform Legislation

On Jan. 30, the House Judiciary Committee took an important step towards common sense tort reform by approving The Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2017H.R. 3808. The bill addresses an antiquated New York State law commonly known as the “Scaffold Law.” The Scaffold Law has been construed to impose strict liability on property owners and/or general contractors who have no direct supervision of an employee, nor anything to do with the circumstances of the plaintiff’s accident.
AGC supports H.R. 3808 because the Scaffold Law fails to improve both public safety and worker safety, while at the same time raising the cost of construction projects in New York. It also does nothing to limit workers’ access to the workers compensation system, nor does it protect any entity from contributory negligence for a fall or other accident from height. AGC joined a coalition in support H.R. 3808 and urges Congress to pass it.
For more information, contact Jim Young at [email protected] or (202) 547-0133.

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Companies Celebrate Tax Cuts

Tell AGC How Tax Reform Impacts Your Construction Firm
Since the new tax reform law passed in December, many companies have trumpeted how tax cuts are positively impacting their business. Companies as prominent and diverse as Apple, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and Walmart have announced one-time bonuses, increased employee salaries, new or increased employee benefits, or plans to invest in new plants and equipment. AGC is interested in hearing about how the new tax reform law is impacting the construction industry.
If your business is benefitting from the new law (or is adversely impacted), or if you have announced any plans to increase employee benefits, salaries, or investment in your business, please let us know. We are also interested to hear if the demand for construction is increasing as a result of tax reform. This information will help AGC determine how it can continue to improve the tax environment for the construction industry.
Please contact Matthew Turkstra, AGC’s Director of Tax, Fiscal Affairs and Accounting, with any information that you can share about your business as a result of tax reform.
For more information, contact Matt Turkstra at [email protected] or (202) 547-4733.

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Obama Admin. 2015 WOTUS Rule Delayed

Status Quo Remains in Effect
Implementation of the Obama administration’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule—which expands federal environmental permitting jurisdiction involving wetlands—has been delayed. On Jan. 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) took AGC-supported regulatory action that delays the 2015 WOTUS rule from taking effect until February 2020. This action virtually maintains the status quo nationwide and provides continuity and regulatory certainty for contractors in the field while the agencies continue to work to repeal and replace the 2015 WOTUS rule.  The need for this action became necessary after a Jan. 22 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would result in lifting the current nationwide stay of the 2015 WOTUS rule in most states.
For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at [email protected] or Leah Pilconis at [email protected].

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AGC-Backed Water Infrastructure Bill Introduced in House and Senate

On Jan. 30, Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Dian Feinstein (D-CA), along with Representatives John Katko (R-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), introduced the AGC-supported Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF-WIN) Act, charting a politically viable path towards updating water infrastructure investment.
The SRF WIN Act would be a five-year bill that authorizes $200M each year for a total of $1B over five years. As such, bill provides needed increases in funding for our nation’s Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs). It will also allow State Infrastructure Authorities to utilize financing available through the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program—and the SRF—to increase funding for multiple local water infrastructure projects at once, while also ensuring that current SRF grant funding is preserved. This is vital, because no funding would be made available for this new program if Congress fails to fully appropriate SRF dollars at FY 2018 levels or higher.  A full summary of the SRF Win Act can be found here.
AGC will continue to work with the House and Senate to ensure that the SRF WIN Act is included in any infrastructure legislation that moves through Congress in 2018.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892

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President Ups the Ante for Infrastructure Bill

Calls for $1.5 Trillion in New Investments/Environmental Streamlining
On Jan. 30, President Trump used his State of the Union address to push for increased investment in infrastructure, while significantly accelerating the approval process for projects. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the president did not share any of the plan’s specifics; instead, he called on Congress to act on a $1.5 trillion bill. Following the State of the Union, the White House released a fact sheet summarizing the administration’s plan. In response to the speech, AGC issued a statement urging Congress to take up the president’s call by providing for significant new investments—including addressing the Highway Trust Fund’s long-term solvency—and by implementing long-overdue reforms to the federal approval process for building infrastructure projects.
At this point it is not clear when the Administration will release its infrastructure plan.  As reported last week, a document broadly outlining their funding plan was recently leaked; this was followed last weekend by another leaked document detailing the administration’s plans for improving the permitting process and streamlining environmental reviews. The White House has not confirmed either document’s authenticity, but it should be noted that many of the items that the AGC Environmental Steering Committee put forth in late 2016 are under serious consideration for inclusion in the administration’s infrastructure package.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.

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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 [email protected] or (703) 837-5368.

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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 [email protected].

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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 [email protected].

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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 [email protected].

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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 [email protected].

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