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House Members are Pushing for a Highway Trust Fund Fix as Part of Tax Reform

Tell your Rep. to Sign Bipartisan Letter to Support a Long-Term Highway Trust Fund Fix
As the push continues for Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund, a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives are circulating a letter calling for a permanent Highway Trust Fund fix to be included in any tax reform package. If you recall, Representatives Graves and Holmes-Norton circulated a similar letter last year (check here to see if your Rep. signed the 2016 letter) that was signed by 130 bipartisan members of the House. Help us to significantly increase that number by contacting your Representative and asking them to sign on to the Graves/Holmes-Norton letter.
The FAST ACT provides funding certainty for the Highway Trust Fund through fiscal year 2020.  However, following the FAST Act's expiration, the Highway Trust Fund will face cuts of approximately $18 billion per year.  A permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund needs to be found in order to eliminate these cuts.
The letter – which is being circulated by Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Ranking Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia) – is asking House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ranking Democrat Richard Neal (Mass.) to fix the Highway Trust Fund in any tax reform package that the committee considers.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.

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How You Can Get Involved in Infrastructure Week

AGC of America is once again one helping to support and promote Infrastructure Week – a national week of education and advocacy that brings together American businesses, workers, elected leaders, and everyday citizens around the message: #TimeToBuild.  During the week – May 15-19, 2017 – advocates around the country will highlight the state of our nation’s infrastructure and encourage lawmakers to invest in and modernize our roads, bridges, highways, airports, waterways, ports, and water systems.
AGC of America will be engaged in a social media campaign during the week to help educate the broader public and Congress about the many benefits of investing in our aging infrastructure.  In addition, all AGC chapters and member firms can sign up to become Affiliates of Infrastructure Week.  All Affiliates have access to a number of downloadable resources, including suggested social media content, template press release, template op-ed/blog post and a message guide.  In addition, there are already a number of activities taking place in cities around the country during Infrastructure Week. Please feel free to reach out to the groups organizing those events to participate.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.

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A Look at Tax Reform Proposals through the AGC Lens

This week, President Trump released his long-awaited proposal to cut taxes. Both Trump’s proposal and the previously-released House blueprint for tax reform have commonalities with AGC’s goals for tax reform.  There is still a long way to go before tax reform is reality, but AGC believes Republicans in Congress and the President are at a good starting point.
AGC goals include: lower rates, simplification, permanency, fund and finance infrastructure, eliminate AMT, eliminate Death Tax, and reform C-corps and pass-through companies simultaneously.
The chart below shows where the president’s plan and the House proposal align with AGC’s goals (and where they do not).

AGC Tax Reform Goals Trump Plan Elements House Tax Plan Outline  
Lower Rates Individuals 10-25-35% 12-25-33%  
Lower Rates Corporations 15% 20% C Corps, 25% S Corps  
Simplification Fewer brackets, fewer deductions, repeal of AMT Fewer brackets, fewer deductions, repeal of AMT
Permanency No Likely not
Fund and Finance Infrastructure No direct mention No mention and GOP leadership currently opposed
Eliminate AMT Eliminated Eliminated
Eliminate Death Tax Eliminated Eliminated  
Reform for C Corps and S Corps simultaneously Yes Yes


 
Rate reduction is baked in and simplification is a focus of all proposals on the table today. However, there is still much work to be done on ensuring Congress connects tax reform with infrastructure investment. Fixing the Highway Trust Fund and providing funding for infrastructure in conjunction with tax reform is the main focus of the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In, May 16-17, 2017.
Additionally, there is still a lot of fine tuning that must be worked out including, determining whether repeal of the Death Tax will include a step-up in basis or how the president’s plan will differentiate between business income and wages. The president’s plan also did not specify his position on tax exempt municipal debt. Stay tuned.
For more information, contact Jeff Shoaf at [email protected] or (202) 547-3350.

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EPA Seeks Comment on Review of Existing Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking public input on its evaluation of existing rules pursuant to President Trump's government-wide Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda and Executive Order 13771 that directs agencies to “identify” at least two existing regulations for elimination whenever any new rule is proposed or issued (the 2-for-1 EO, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs).
April 13th's Federal Register published an EPA notice titled Evaluation of Existing Regulations directing the public to submit comments by May 15.  AGC will provide EPA with detailed recommendations on existing regulations that should be considered for repeal, replacement or modification to make them less burdensome.  Click here to access the online docket.
For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at [email protected] or (703) 837-5332.

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President Trump Signs Executive Order on “Buy American, Hire American”

President Trump signed a new executive order concerning the use of American made products and materials and American labor on federal and federally assisted procurements and projects. The “Buy American” portion of the order intends to narrow the universe of iron, steel, and manufactured goods that are able to comply with domestic materials and products sourcing laws already on the books. This web of confusing laws and regulations governs which products can be incorporated on federal and federally assisted construction projects.
The longstanding Buy American Act (BAA) has required U.S. products to be used on federal procurements since the Great Depression, but additional layers of statutes to modify the underlying law, as well as execute a growing international body of trade law, have changed the original Act over time. Under the Buy American Act, an “American-made” product means a product that is substantially transformed within the U.S. or comes from a country we have an existing trade agreement with.
For Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration projects a different, though similarly named law, called “Buy America” applies. This law also requires iron, steel and manufactured goods to be made in America, but its implementing regulations define “American made” more narrowly, requiring all processes involved in the iron or steel products (including melting and pouring) to take place in the U.S. The Executive Order takes this more narrow definition of “American-made” and applies it government-wide. The Order also intends to discourage the use of waivers to these laws and to study the effects of the various international trade agreements the U.S. is party to on American products in government procurements.
The Executive Order also included a provision that instructs government agencies to review the H-1B visa program and recommend reforms to the program. The H-1B program is a temporary, with a statutory limit, visa for foreigners to fill “specialty occupations” such as engineering. No changes are required at this time for employers currently utilizing the H-1B visa program.
For more information, contact Scott Berry at [email protected] or (703) 837-5321.

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AGC Submits Comments on Administration’s “Buy America” Executive Order for Pipeline Construction

President Trump issued an Executive Memorandum Regarding Pipeline Construction, which directed the Department of Commerce to develop a plan to use only materials produced in the United States for all pipeline construction. AGC submitted comments to the Department of Commerce detailing the construction industry’s concerns with the Memorandum and its practical implications on members.
AGC objected to the overly narrow definition of what kinds of products would constitute being “produced in the United States.” The definition would require all processes for a given iron or steel product to take place in the U.S., including melting and pouring, which pits some U.S. companies against other U.S. producers and picks winners and losers. By defining “produced in the United States” as “melting,” the Memorandum excludes U.S. facilities and workers that heat or “hot roll” steel but don’t melt it from continuing to participate in the private pipeline market, ultimately punishing U.S. companies and their workers alongside foreign producers.
AGC also questioned the legality of applying such domestic content requirements on construction materials to private projects altogether. Attaching such conditions to the receipt of a federal permit is a very dangerous slippery slope that opens the door to all sorts of federal requirements that have never before been conditions on privately funded construction work. Such an action could lead to the creation of more federal impediments—not fewer—to building infrastructure. The federal government denying U.S. companies access to private markets is unprecedented and will result in job losses for U.S. workers.
AGC will continue to monitor this issue and work with the federal agencies to make sure that new impediments to construction don’t arise from executive actions.
For more information, contact Scott Berry at [email protected] or (703) 837-5321.

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Trump Admin. Seeks Advice on Construction Permitting/Regulatory Issues

AGC Provides Comprehensive, Detailed Response
In a comprehensive, 64 page response, AGC answered the Dept. of Commerce’s (DOC) request for information (RFI) on the impact of federal permitting/regulatory requirements on the construction and expansion of domestic manufacturing facilities. AGC noted a host of federal environmental permitting hurdles and other regulatory burdens that extensively delay and increase costs for construction of these facilities.
For more information, contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5325 or [email protected].

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OSHA Delays Silica Enforcement

Enforcement Begins on Sept. 23, 2017
On April 6, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it will delay enforcement of the respirable crystalline standard for construction for three months—until Sept. 23, 2017. In its announcement, OSHA explained that the construction silica standard has a number of unique features warranting development of additional guidance and educational materials before enforcement begins. AGC continues to believe that implementation of this standard is technically infeasible and continues to challenge it in court.
Although OSHA enforcement of the standard is delayed, the notice does not alter the compliance date of June 23, 2017. OSHA will not take enforcement action against contractors that fail to meet the standard on their sites between June 23, 2017 and Sept. 22, 2017, but legally, the standard will still be in effect.
While an interested group could file a lawsuit challenging the three month delay, that appears to be unlikely given the short duration of the delay and the broad enforcement discretion federal agencies—like OSHA—have traditionally enjoyed. AGC will continue to fight this standard in court and advise OSHA on the problematic issues the construction industry faces with implementation. In addition, members should review AGC educational resources on its comprehensive silica website, found here.
For more information, contact Kevin Cannon at [email protected] or (703) 837-5410.

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Misguided OSHA Rule Permanently Repealed

On Monday, the president repealed the OSHA “Volks” Rule by signing the congressional resolution of disapproval. AGC led a lobbying effort in passing the bill and issued a statement after the vote that the bill will preserve worker safety while protecting the Constitution and respecting court rulings.

At the heart of the Volks matter was an Obama Administration OSHA rule – issued in December 2016 – that exposed employers to unfair liability for honest and inadvertent paperwork mistakes related to recordkeeping. The rule extended the statute of limitations on recordkeeping violations from six months to five and a half years, and did nothing to improve the safety or health of a company’s workers. The rule was initially issued by OSHA to circumvent a court decision involving a construction company that challenged an OSHA citation for a recordkeeping violation issued beyond six months. Two federal courts have since rebuked OSHA’s theory for issuing recordkeeping citations after six months.

The signing of the congressional resolution of disapproval formally repeals the rule and any other substantially similar rules from OSHA in the future. This is the second labor and employment rule repealed by President Trump that AGC played an integral role in, the other being the bill invalidating the blacklisting regulations, which was signed into law on March 27.

For more information, contact Jim Young at [email protected] or (202) 547-0133.

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Supreme Court Decides to Hear Controversial WOTUS Case, Despite New Administration’s Objections

Earlier in 2017, the US Supreme Court decided it would hear the case about which level of court had the authority to hear a challenge to the Obama Administration’s rule expanding federal jurisdiction over waters. In the interim, after the new administration began to settle, President Trump issued a new Executive Order that began the process of unwinding the rule. Because the intent of the Administration is to rescind the Obama-era rule and replace it with a new rule, the Administration moved the Supreme Court to hold the briefing in abeyance until the new rule is issued.
The Supreme Court, however decided that whenever the new WOTUS rule is issued, all parties need to know which court has jurisdiction to hear any challenge to the rule. It is likely that the decisions to rescind the Obama rule and the substance of the new rule are each likely to end up in litigation. The Court agreed that there was no sense in delaying the answer to this question. The case will proceed as scheduled.
For more information, contact Scott Berry at [email protected] or (703) 837-5321.

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