<p>Today, the House passed legislation to address the financial crisis in Puerto Rico. The <u><a href="http://http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/agcleg/downloads/2016-05-23%20Puerto%20Rico%20Letter.pdf">AGC-backed bill</a> </u>would create a debt-restructuring process, empower a federal oversight board to supervise the territory’s fiscal affairs and create a redevelopment authority —with no taxpayer dollars used for a bailout— that will help rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. As it stands, many Puerto Rican government entities are unable to pay contractors for work completed on government construction projects and the public and private construction markets there remain on life support.</p>
<p>With Senate action already finished, the House Appropriations Committee this week approved the FY 2017 transportation appropriations bill. Both versions of the legislation maintain the funding levels set in the 2015 FAST Act, with highway funding set at $43.266 billion (up 2 percent from last year) and transit formula funding set at $9.734 billion (up 4.3 percent). Both bills include a key, AGC-backed provision that sets restrictions on the use of a U.S. DOT pilot program that enables state or local grant recipients to utilize local or geographical, economic-based, and veterans hiring preferences on federal-aid highway and federal transit projects. While there is still work to be done, inclusion of this provision puts us in a great position to continue the certification requirements in 2017. Both bills also include the truck driver hours of service provision that would retain use of the truck driver 34-hour “restart” without setting specific times when drivers must rest. There was an attempt in the House Committee to strip the restart language from the bill, but AGC was successful in defeating that amendment.</p>
This week, the House and Senate both made progress in moving their respective transportation funding bill for fiscal year 2017. Both bills include a key, AGC-backed provision that sets restrictions on the use of a U.S. DOT pilot program that enables state or local grant recipients to utilize local or geographical, economic-based, and veterans hiring preferences on federal-aid highway and federal transit projects.
This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program through 2021 at $100 million per year. This bill is identical to a provision that legislators included in the recently passed Senate Energy Modernization Act. AGC and our coalition partners will continue to push for a DERA reauthorization prior to the expiration of the current program on Sept. 30, 2016. Further updates on DERA status and grant availability can be found here.
<p>This week, AGC <a href="http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/agcleg/downloads/2016-04-26%20Senate%20Flake%20Amdt%20USACE%20Funding.pdf"><u>successfully blocked</u></a> legislation that would cut millions of dollars from the Army Corps of Engineers civil works construction program in fiscal year 2017. Sen. Jeff Flake introduced the amendment to the USACE annual funding bill that failed on an <a href="http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=2&vote=00063"><u>84-12</u></a> vote. The Senate continues to consider the USACE funding bill as of publication.</p>
As reported last week, the Senate was working towards finalizing an AGC-supported reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. This week they passed the bill with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 95-3.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking this week detailing performance measurements for congestion, freight, and on-road mobile source emissions for the National Highway System which it was required to do in the 2013 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) reauthorization law. Under the proposal, states would be required to monitor, report, and set targets for improving performance by measuring travel reliability, peak-hour congestion, freight movements, and on-road emissions of pollutants like ozone. The performance measures would then be used to manage investment of federal-aid highway funds to achieve these state performance goals, which ultimately would help make progress towards meeting national goals. Generally, the measurements are considered an improvement in managing the program and in demonstrating to the public the benefits achieved from federal investments in highways. One of the national commissions set up in earlier SAFETEA-LU legislation called for the establishment of performance measures.
The Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2017 budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), which included a key provision AGC requested that would set certain conditions on a US DOT pilot program that enables the state or local grant recipients to utilize local or geographical, economic-based, and veterans hiring preferences on federal-aid highway and federal transit projects. The language is identical to a provision that AGC was successful in getting included in last year’s omnibus appropriations bill. The provision requires a grant recipient to certify that a local hire requirement will not force the layoff of a company’s employees, will not significantly increase the cost of the project and that they will not impose local hire requirements unless they can certify that there is an available, trained workforce in the local area.
The Senate is moving towards a final bill reauthorizing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs. AGC supports the bill and sent a letter to the Senate highlighting the bill’s increased funding levels for the Airport Infrastructure Program (AIP), provisions related to drones and the creation of one size standard for businesses participating in the FAA’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. Unfortunately, the bill does not include an AGC priority – increasing the Passenger Facility Charge – which would result in more airport infrastructure funding. The current FAA authorization is operating under an extension until July 15. As the legislative process plays out, AGC will work to ensure the final FAA bill addresses the construction industry’s priorities.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry. AGC represents more than 26,000 firms, including over 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors, and over 9,000 specialty-contracting firms. More than 10,500 service providers and suppliers are also associated with AGC, all through a nationwide network of chapters.
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