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Senate Committee Holds Hearing for OSHA Head Nominee

AGC Supports Senate Confirmation of Nominee
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing this week to consider President Trump’s nomination of Scott Mugno to serve as the next Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Senators who participated in the hearing focused their questions on Mugno’s previous track record in the private sector and his views on OSHA’s role in workplace safety and his vision for increasing OSHA’s compliance assistance efforts. Given the makeup of the Senate, it is expected that Mugno’s nomination will advance and he will likely be confirmed in the next several weeks.
AGC sent a letter to the committee calling for approval of Mr. Mugno’s nomination. During his time at FedEx Ground, Mr. Mugno served as managing director of corporate safety, health and fire prevention from 2000 – 2011 until his promotion to vice president of safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance. Over this period, he demonstrated that he possesses the leadership and collaborative qualities needed to lead OSHA.  He recognized that by working together, the regulated community and the agency can achieve results in further advancing safety in the workplace.
For more information, contact Jim Young at [email protected] or (202) 547-0133.

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AGC Fights to Maintain Infrastructure Tools in Tax Reform

PABs, Advanced Refunding & Historic Tax Credit
This week, AGC—along with a broad group of stakeholders—urged congressional leaders to maintain key provisions in the tax code that help finance infrastructure projects throughout the country.  Among others, AGC addressed maintaining the tax exempt status of Private Activity Bonds (PABs). PABs are a traditional means of tax exempt financing for surface transportation projects, airports, ports facilities, water and wastewater facilities, and multi-family housing projects. PABs and their tax exempt status were eliminated in the House bill, but maintained in the Senate bill.
AGC also continues to push to maintain the use of Advanced Refunding of Municipal Bonds, which is a tool that allows states and localities to free up borrowing capacity for new investment in infrastructure by taking advantage of lower interest rates on outstanding debt. Advanced Refunding was eliminated in both the House and Senate bills.  Additionally, AGC continues to push to maintain another tool – the Historic Tax Credit – as the House bill eliminates the credit and the Senate bill severely restricts its use.
Contact your Representative and Senators and tell them to not slash these important incentives for public and private construction.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.

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Senate Approves Tax Reform Legislation

Conferees Begin Negotiations
On Dec. 2, the Senate passed its version of tax reform legislation on a mostly party line vote of 51-49, with Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) being the only Republican to oppose the bill. Prior to the vote, Senate Republicans unveiled a host of last minute changes to the legislation, which included an increase of the pass-through deduction from 17.4 percent to 23 percent.  Combined with the Senate’s proposed individual rate schedule, this would lower the top marginal effective tax rate on pass-through businesses to 29.6 percent.  This is a significant improvement compared to the original Senate proposal.
Unfortunately, however, there were some negative changes as well. The final Senate bill reinstated both the corporate and individual Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), with the individual AMT income thresholds temporarily increased.  AGC is very concerned about this development, and we will work with the Congressional tax writers to ensure that the AMT is fully repealed in tax reform.
On Dec. 4, the House of Representatives voted to go to conference with the Senate to resolve the differences between the two bills. Speaker Ryan appointed Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Don Young (R-Alaska), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) as the Republican conferees.  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) as the Democratic appointees.
On Dec. 6, the Senate also voted to go to conference. Majority Leader McConnell appointed Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) as the Republican conferees. Minority Leader Schumer appointed Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as the Democratic conferees.
Conferees will meet over the coming weeks to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate bills, and eventually produce a conference report, which will then be voted on again by both the House and Senate.  AGC sent a letter to conferees outlining our preferences between the House and Senate bills, along with other outstanding concerns.  We will continue to aggressively push for the best possible bill for the construction industry during these negotiations.
For more information, contact Matthew Turkstra at [email protected] or (202) 547-4733.

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U.S. Small Business Administration Solicits Suggestions for Reform

AGC Submits Recommendations
AGC submitted its recommendations to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on existing agency regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. In accordance to President Trump’s E.O. 13777 to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens, and E.O. 13771 that directs agencies to “identify” at least two existing regulations for elimination whenever any new rule is proposed or issued. AGC highlights the regulatory burden the construction industry bears and offered specific program modifications and solutions.
Among AGC recommendations are:

  • Credit for Lower Tier Small Business Subcontracting;

  • Improve Processing and Payment of Contract Modification; and

  • Remove the Lifetime Limitations on Protégés in the Mentor-Protégé Program.

AGC will continue to advocate for practical and real reforms with the federal agencies and Congress.
For more information, contact Jordan Howard at [email protected] or (703) 837-5368.

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AGC Presses for Federal Construction P3 Opportunities

Arcane Budget Rules Block Reasonable Real Estate Transactions
On Nov. 28, AGC and industry allies urged President Trump to make common sense changes to arcane accounting rules that will help provide flexibility for federal construction public-private partnership (P3) opportunities. As it stands, federal accounting rules require that federal agencies—like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. General Services Administration—pay up front (or “score”) the complete cost of a construction project. These “scoring” rules do not allow for the fact that the federal government will actually pay for the project incrementally over its lifetime. Consequently, the rule stymies many P3 opportunities, which are structured based on long-term capital planning realities, not upfront financing fantasies.
For more information on these scoring rules and how they have negatively impacted federal construction, click here.
For more information, contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5325 or [email protected].

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Streamlining Environmental Permitting in Construction

For this month’s episode of the ConstructorCast, we sit down with Leah Pilconis, AGC’s Senior Counsel of Environmental Law, to talk about the complex world of environmental permitting and what AGC is doing to try to make it easier for construction companies. Our discussion examines the breadth of requirements, the opportunities to streamline regulations and make environmental protection more efficient, and where environmental regulations might be headed in the coming years. Search for the ConstructorCast in your podcasts app to subscribe.
Stream or download the episode here.

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Federal Best Practices for Environment Permitting Should Apply to State Agencies, AGC Says

AGC is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply federally approved “Recommended Best Practices for Environmental Reviews and Authorizations for Infrastructure Projects” in delegated states that EPA has authorized to implement and enforce a federal environmental permit program. In response to EPA’s request for input, AGC’s Nov. 22 letter explains that where states have taken over the responsibility for executing federal authorizations and environmental reviews, the obligation to use best practices should transfer to the state permitting authority. A majority of states have been delegated authority to implement and enforce one or more provisions of the federal pollution control laws.
The “recommended” management practices and streamlining measures include processes to enhance coordination, transparency, predictability, administrative burdens and oversight of reviews and permitting required prior to construction. They were published by a Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) – an oversight council established by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) of 2015 to oversee the cross-agency federal environmental review and authorization process for a defined set of large-scale infrastructure projects. The FPISC includes members from 13 Federal agencies, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. AGC has urged the White House, Congress and the regulatory agencies to more widely apply the FAST Act environmental streamlining measures (contained mostly in Title 41); most recently focusing on the FPISC’s recommended best practices.
For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at [email protected] or (703) 837-5332.

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AGC Urges Agencies ‘Draw Bright Lines’ in Revised WOTUS Definition

Latest Update on WOTUS Rule Status
On Nov. 28, AGC commented on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) request for pre-proposal feedback on revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The definition of WOTUS, which dictates the scope of the federal control and CWA (e.g., 404/wetlands) permitting responsibility, is of fundamental importance to the construction industry. AGC members perform many construction activities on land and water that often require a jurisdictional determination from the Corps. A broad definition of WOTUS will result in more projects falling under federal jurisdiction and requiring expensive and time-consuming permits to proceed.
AGC highlighted the industry’s general concerns with a broad expansion of federal authority over water and land use. AGC recommends the agencies “draw bright lines” for the regulated community and the agencies’ field staff and urges the agencies to:

  • Exclude roadside ditches and other components of a municipality’s storm sewers;

  • Exclude other stormwater features such as retention/detention ponds; and

  • Clarify and exclude “water filled depressions” such as those caused from the use of construction equipment.

As for the latest on the WOTUS rulemaking, the EPA and Corps recently proposeddelaying implementation of the 2015 Obama-era WOTUS rule by two years (until 2020). According to the agencies, postponing the rule will provide regulatory certainty while they work to repeal and replace the rule, which is currently underway. The rule is also currently under a nationwide stay after it was challenged by environmental and industry groups. That litigation remains pending before the Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit.
For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at [email protected] or 703-837-5415.

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AGC Supports Increased Airport Infrastructure

This week, AGC joined our partners in the Beyond the Runway Coalitionin urging the House and Senate appropriators to retain provisions in the FY 2018 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that would dramatically improve aviation infrastructure across the country by increasing the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee and increasing funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The PFC and AIP programs are the two main funding sources for airports and runway infrastructure projects.
AGC will continue to work with our coalition partners to ensure that the final funding bill for 2018 includes these critical provisions to our nation’s aviation infrastructure.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.

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AGC Supports FHWA Environmental Streamlining Proposals

AGC submitted comments in support of three separate Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulatory proposals to expedite project delivery by streamlining the federal environmental review process. The FHWA proposals implement various AGC-supported provisions in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) – legislation intended to make the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) procedures work better. In one proposal, AGC supported the state of Arizona taking responsibility for undertaking part the NEPA review process and, in so doing, eliminating federal review. Eight states have or are seeking assignment of this review authority and AGC’s comments pointed out that FHWA and these states report significant reduction in the time it takes to complete the NEPA process. FHWA’s report indicates that states that have undertaken this responsibility have, “a greater awareness, understanding, and opportunity for improving environmental outcomes.”
A second FHWA proposal takes this NEPA assignment one step further by allowing states to substitute their own environmental laws and procedures for the federal process as long as the state procedures are “at least as stringent” as the Federal rules. AGC’s comments said that this is the next logical step in delegating authority to states for the NEPA process and urged that these regulatory changes be adopted quickly. AGC’s comments also offered suggestions on how the federal government should judge whether state laws are as “stringent” as the federal law.
The third FHWA proposal (made jointly with the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railroad Administration) makes revisions in the NEPA process itself and in historic preservation requirements. Many of the proposed changes will allow all of the U.S. DOT agencies to use similar criteria in judging which construction projects need to go through an extensive environmental review or whether they can be assessed under less cumbersome procedures (called categorical exclusions. Under the historical preservation revisions, certain steel and concrete bridges as well as historic rail and transit lines would be exempt from cumbersome review requirements.
For more information, contact Brian Deery at [email protected] or (703) 837-5319.

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