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Congress Completes Fiscal Year 2017 Funding Bill

Maintains Funding for Federal Construction Accounts
This week, the House and Senate agreed to a funding bill at an annualized spending rate of $1.165 trillion for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30. The House passed the bill by a vote of 309-118 with 178 Democrats and 131 Republicans voting in support of the bill. The Senate passed the bill by a 79-18 vote. Overall, the bill is mostly status quo with nearly $120 billion for federal construction accounts tracked by AGC.  The total number is nearly identical to fiscal year 2016-enacted levels but $17 billion less than the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the president prior to the expiration of the current short-term funding bill on Friday.
The bill provides the increased funding levels for federal highway and transit programs that was provided in the FAST Act, and ignores a call by President Trump for cuts to the TIGER grant program and limits to the transit capital grants for ongoing transit projects. Additionally, the bill provides slight increases for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program and maintains funding for worker training and education programs critical to addressing the construction industry’s skills shortage.  The one program to see significant cuts was the construction account for the General Services Administration. Additionally, Department of Labor enforcement agencies funding remains largely unchanged with only modest cuts to Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
Unlike previous years, the bill included very few policy riders, however, AGC was successful in once again including provisions that would restrict the use of local hire requirements on highway and transit projects that have federal funding. The bill also included policies riders that prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from issuing an electronic election voting rule and increase the H-2B visa cap— a program for temporary, seasonal, low-skilled workers.
 
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org.

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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 oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.

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AGC Supported Career and Technical Education Bill introduced in Congress, AGC Calls for Swift Passage

Legislation reauthorizing and updating the Perkins Act was introduced in Congress today. The legislation, the Strengthening Career And Technical Education For The 21st Century Act, is similar to an AGC-supported bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly last year but failed to advance in the Senate.
AGC remains hopeful that Congress will finally finish reauthorizing the legislation this year. AGC’s priorities have centered around: aligning education with local and regional economic needs, encouraging and promoting work-based learning, and spurring development and acceptance of industry recognized credentials. AGC has also advocated for an increase in federal funding for the CTE programs and reverse the trend over the last several years of level funding.
The Perkins bill 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. This new legislation gives greater flexibility to states on how they spend their allotments, improves performance metrics and aligns the programs with other education and workforce training legislation: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
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. Additional information on the bill can be found here.
For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org.

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House Approves Comp Time Legislation

On May 2, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow private-sector employers the option to offer workers paid-time-off or “comp time”, in lieu of compensation, for overtime hours worked in a workweek. The bill passed mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing. AGC has for years supported extending this choice to the private sector, allowING individual employers and their employees to choose the best fit for them. It is important to note the legislation does nothing to address Paid Sick leave mandates, which is a separate issue that AGC is working to find legislative relief from.
Despite passage of the bill in the House, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to make further progress this Congress at this time. More information on the bill can be found here.
For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org.

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House Passes Health Care Bill, Begins Repeal Process of Affordable Care Act

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) after months of heated and contentious negotiations among Republicans and the administration on the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AGC originally opposed the ACA because we did not believe that it created a framework to reduce health care costs, but instead increased new compliance and complexity problems for employers. The reforms provided in the AHCA will reduce complexity and compliance problems for employers and help reduce the cost of health care so employers can maintain and expand the health care benefits they offer their employees.
AGC has long supported the employer-provided health care model while, at the same time, ensuring that it is easy and affordable for employers to provide coverage to their employees. AGC supports increased flexibility to offer construction employers the ability to expand coverage to their employees and limit the financial hardships of purchasing health care services and the repealing of onerous taxes will lead to health insurance premium savings.
The outlook for Senate action remains uncertain. However, if a repeal bill does pass the Senate it would likely be different than the bill that passed the House today, which would lead to further changes and compromises before being signed into law. Today’s vote starts the repeal process but changes to the law remain in the works.
For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org.

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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 oneills@agc.org 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 oneills@agc.org 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 shoafj@agc.org 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 pilconisl@agc.org 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 berrys@agc.org or (703) 837-5321.

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