LATEST NEWS

Push to Include Highway Trust Fund Fix in Tax Reform Continues in House

Tell your Rep. to Sign Bipartisan Letter Supporting Long-Term Fix – DEADLINE EXTENDED
A bipartisan group of congressmen are circulating a letter asking House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ranking Democrat Richard Neal (Mass.) to fix the Highway Trust Fund as a part of any tax reform package the committee considers. Contact your representative and urge them to sign this 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). As of press time, 216 members of the House have signed onto the Graves/Holmes Norton letter (check to see if your representatives has signed on).
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. 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.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.

Add your reaction Share

AGC Trains VA Resident Engineers

What Happens Between Award and Construction
Last week, AGC members met with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) resident engineers from across the country for an interactive training session at the VA Acquisition Academy in Frederick, MD. AGC detailed the many steps that are involved between the time a contract is awarded and a contractor breaks ground. VA resident engineers engaged in team exercises where they brainstormed timelines of the different steps involved.  AGC walked through the whole process and addressed gaps between what the engineers perceived as a suitable timeline and the actual time needed for a contractor to complete the required steps.
Some of the topics discussed included safety reviewing specifications, the logistics of laying out trailer space, assigning personnel, creating a log for the initial Construction Project Management schedule, material delivery and lay down areas, equipment rental, logistics of moving from another project, and site storage facility.
AGC frequently engages in training sessions with federal agencies and remains dedicated to further educating federal agencies on the construction process.
For more information, contact Jordan Howard at jordan.howard@agc.org or (703) 837-5368.

Add your reaction Share

EPA Extends and Expands 2017 ‘DERA’ Clean Diesel Funding Competition Now Underway

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an extension and expansion of its competitive grant funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel National Funding Assistance Program. EPA increased the total funding available from $11 million to $34 million.  The program is soliciting proposals nationwide for projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions, particularly from fleets operating in areas with poor air quality. In addition, clean alternative fuel conversions are now eligible.  Proposal packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through www.Grants.gov by July 5, 2017 (extended from June 20), to be considered for funding.
AGC fights to keep diesel retrofit grants flowing to equipment owners and recently signed a letter with 20 organizations urging Congress to keep subsidies flowing for replacing or retrofitting diesel engines.
For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at tomaniom@agc.org or (703) 837-5415.

Add your reaction Share

Trump Budget – Status Quo for Federal Construction

This week, President Trump released his first budget request, which covers fiscal year 2018 and also looks out over the next 10 years (2018-2027). The proposal, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” calls for $1 trillion in total tax cuts over the next 10 years, while also cutting federal spending by $4.6 trillion over the same time period. The budget assumes the economy will grow by $2.1 trillion, which would reduce 10-year deficits by $5.6 trillion and balance the budget in FY 2027.
As with most budgets submitted by respective administrations, President Trump’s is largely seen as a messaging document that primes the budget and appropriations debate for the coming year. This year however, the budget carries a bit more relevance due in large part to the president’s promise to include $200 billion for his infrastructure initiative. The budget did provide a fact sheet detailing four key principles for the White House’s initiative but did not provide any details on a specific infrastructure plan.
In terms of federal construction accounts tracked by AGC, the budget is status quo with previous year’s appropriations and budget requests—approximately $120 billion. While the budget provides significant funding increases for border wall construction and a $5 billion dollar down payment on the administration’s infrastructure initiative, it also cuts TIGER grants, Capital Investment Grants for transit projects, rural water programs, and the Community Development Block Grant Program. Even more troubling, the budget assumes that funding for the Highway Trust Fund will be cut by $95 billion in 2021.
A full analysis of the FY 2018 budget for federal construction accounts can be found here.
Additional details on budget funding and policy issues—including the infrastructure initiative—can be found here.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.

Add your reaction Share

Job Training and Education Programs Receive Large Cuts in FY 18 Budget

Enforcement Agencies See Similar Cuts
The fiscal year 2018 budget proposal shows new priorities for the Trump Administration, with the Federal Education and Training Programs taking the brunt of the proposed budget cuts. The Department of Labor’s budget (DOL) includes a 20 percent reduction in funding from the FY 2017 enacted level, and large job training reductions and employment service accounts represent some of the largest cuts. Funding for state grants for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have received a 40 percent cut, and funding for apprenticeship grants have received a 5 percent reduction. WIOA overwhelmingly passed Congress in 2014, so it is unlikely that Congress will allow the proposed cuts.
The FY 2018 budget proposal also contains reductions within the Department of Education for accounts that fund career and technical education. The budget proposes a 15 percent reduction in funding despite the fact that Congress is working towards reforming and reauthorizing career and technical education.
Among the federal agencies within the DOL, funding levels are little changed. The Wage and Hour Division received a small increase for compliance assistance and outreach to employers, while the Office of Labor-Management Standards received one of the largest percentage increases—primarily to fund a program that audits larger international unions. Meanwhile, funding for the National Labor Relations Board has been decreased. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s funding has stayed relatively level, but the budget does call for the elimination of Susan Harwood Training Grants, a grant program that AGC has benefitted from and that has provided valuable safety training to thousands of industry workers.
The budget also proposes dramatic changes to the premium structure paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Ultimately, these large increases would have to be absorbed by contributing employers and would require congressional approval first. AGC will strongly oppose any such unilateral increases.
Interestingly, the budget proposal calls for the merging of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the independent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. AGC is concerned by this merging of agencies, and it remains unlikely that Congress will approve of such a change.
Finally, among one of the more public proposals in the budget is a proposal to create a federal-state parental leave benefit program within the unemployment insurance program. Beginning in 2020, this program would provide six weeks of family leave to new parents. The proposal expands upon President Trump’s campaign promises, but like many others, the details of how such a program might work in practice have yet to be determined.
For more information, contact James Young at youngj@agc.org or (202) 547-0133.

Add your reaction Share

AGC Testifies Before Congress

Impact of Change Order Delays on Contractors
Yesterday, AGC members Ed DeLisle and Andy Brown testified at the House Small Business Committee hearing on change order delays and the impacts they can have on federal construction contractors. Members of Congress heard how federal agency delays in processing and paying change orders can disrupt cash flow, impact schedules, waste taxpayers’ money, and restrict opportunities for contractors to bid on additional projects. AGC called for greater transparency, oversight, and agency action to address delays in paying contractors for the work they do for the federal government.
AGC will continue to advocate for greater accountability among the different federal agencies in the change order process. In March, the House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a review on the use of change orders on federal construction contracts. This bipartisan request was a direct result of AGC’s efforts with both parties in Congress to address the many issues associated with change orders.
Previously, AGC called on the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council to improve the data federal agencies collect regarding the administration of change orders in response to the Council’s information request. AGC’s recommendations would require federal agencies to collect a range of data regarding the timeliness of action by the contracting officer (CO) to encourage greater CO accountability.
For more information, contact Jordan Howard at jordan.howard@agc.org or (703) 837-5368.

Add your reaction Share

AGC Successfully Challenges Contract Goals for DBE Participation

On May 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that that the states within that circuit cannot lawfully impose contract goals for DBE participation in federal-aid highway projects unless, and until, they “establish the presence of discrimination within [their] transportation contracting industr[ies].”
In this case, Mountain West Holding Company v. State of Montana, the court then held that the State of Montana had not met that burden, explaining that “a decline in DBE participation” over a six-year period when the state ran a race-neutral program was “not necessarily evidence of discrimination against DBEs.”  The court also observed that the state had failed to account for differences in the “size, age [or] geography” of its DBE and other construction companies, or why it was “appropriate” to compare “the proportion of available subcontractors to the proportion of prime contract dollars awarded.”  [Emphasis in original.]
In May of 2015, AGC of America and its Montana chapter had jointly filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of the contractor’s position.
For more information, contact Mike Kennedy at kennedym@agc.org or (703) 837-5335.

Add your reaction Share

Congress Asks AGC for Ideas on Making the Endangered Species Act More Efficient, Cost-Effective

AGC members report struggles with Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements that delay infrastructure projects and significantly increase costs while not necessarily providing commensurate species and habitat benefits. At the request of Congress, AGC has identified legislative and administrative improvements to the ESA that support: the protection of listed species; responsible land and resource management; and streamlined delivery of critical infrastructure projects.
AGC’s May 23 response to the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee flags construction specific concerns and offers possible ESA reforms related to:


  • species listing or delisting;

  • critical habitat designation;

  • timing, length and application of the Section 7 “consultation” process; and

  • compensatory mitigation practices and policies.

Additionally, AGC explained how the current interplay between the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is forcing excessive paperwork, duplicate consultation procedures and reviews, and inefficient project planning and construction phasing (due to, in the case of ESA, time-of-year restrictions relating to tree and bush clearing and species surveys). AGC suggested improvements to current law that would reduce the frequency of NEPA document/decision re-evaluations and related ESA re-analysis.
AGC’s letter concludes by calling on Congress to reform the citizen suit provisions in 20 environmental statutes that are being used to challenge all types of projects, land restrictions and permit requirements relating to projects.
For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org.

Add your reaction Share

AGC Provides Regulatory Reduction Suggestions to EPA

Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request, AGC provided 30 pages of comprehensive and detailed recommendations for EPA’s regulatory evaluation in line with recent executive orders and presidential initiatives. In its submissions, AGC highlights the regulatory burden the construction industry bears and offers specific program modifications and solutions relating to water issues, oil spills prevention and preparedness, air and climate issues, lead-based paint issues, contaminated sites and liability, as well as compliance and enforcement initiatives.  To view the complete set of AGC submissions to EPA, click here, here and here.
For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at pilconsl@agc.org or Melinda Tomaino at tomainom@agc.org.

Add your reaction Share

House Committee Advances Career and Technical Education Reform, AGC Calls for Swift Passage

Send a letter to Congress in Support of H.R. 2353
This week the House Committee on Education and the Workforce advanced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which would reform career and technical education. Please contact your U.S. representative and urge them to support this legislation which aligns programs with local employer needs, includes better reporting, increases work-based learning, promotes industry-recognized credentials and increases federal investment.
The bill is similar to legislation that passed in the House last Congress but failed to advance through the Senate. AGC remains hopeful the legislation will again pass the House later this year and that the Senate will follow suit and approve the bipartisan effort. AGC joined the Jobs and Careers Coalition and a multi-industry effort in advocating for the bill this week.
The bill is important to the construction industry because it authorizes funding for career and technical education programs, providing more than $1 billion annually to high schools and post-secondary vocational training programs. The bill was last authorized over a decade ago, and it no longer addresses the skills gap in today’s workforce. The greater flexibility to states on how they spend their allotments, the new performance metrics and the alignment of programs with other education and workforce training legislation will streamline federal programs. Similar to other education and workforce training programs, the success of the program rests on how it is ultimately implemented and how well employers collaborate and engage with educators in their local and state communities.
For more information, contact James Young at youngj@agc.org or (202) 547-0133.

Add your reaction Share