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Construction Legislative Week In Review
From the Congressional Relations Staff
September 16, 1999
Volume 4, Issue 36

The Associated
General Contractors
of America
333 John Carlyle Street
Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-3118
(703) 837-5404 fax


Jeffrey D. Shoaf
Executive Director
Congressional Relations
shoafj@agc.org
202/383-2762

Joan Huntley LaVor
Director
AGC PAC
lavorj@agc.org
202/383-2761

Peter Loughlin
Director
Construction Markets
loughlip@agc.org
202/383-2766

Loren E. Sweatt
Director
Procurement and
Environment
sweattl@agc.org
202/383-2760

Phil Thoden
Director
Tax & Fiscal Affairs
thodenp@agc.org
202/383-2764

Patrick Wilson
Director
Human Resources & Labor
wilsonp@agc.org
202/383-2763

SENATE APPROVES FY2000 Transportation APPROPRIATIONS BILL 95-0

Today by a margin of 95-0 the Senate passed the Transportation Appropriations for fiscal year 2000.  The bill appropriates $29 billion for the highway program (up from $27 billion last year) and $5.8 billion for the transit program.  While the Senate bill appropriates all the annual gas taxes as promised in TEA-21, the bill redirects a portion of the additional $1.5 billion above what was anticipated in TEA-21.  The bill redirects roughly $47 million of additional funding from federal highway discretionary programs into the highway funding formula.  TEA-21 directs that most of the additional revenues would be distributed by formula, with less than 10% being reserved for federal discretionary programs.  The Senate will now go to conference with the House.  The House bill follows the intent of TEA-21.

Republicans Send Tax Bill to President: GOP leaders yesterday joined with tax cut supporters at a Capitol Hill rally to formally sign and send the $792 billion tax cut bill to the White House where it will be greeted by the veto pen.  Several lawmakers at the rally including House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) and Senate Majority Leader Lott (R-MS) specifically touted elimination of the death tax as one of the key provisions in the bill.  The question now on the minds of Congress and AGC is where do tax cuts go from here?  GOP leaders have consistently stated over the past week that there is no time left this year for another tax bill other than a very narrow package to extend a few expired tax credits.  They are also reluctant to approve new spending programs wanted by the President as a trade-off for his approval of a smaller tax bill.  AGC believes Congress should persist in efforts to pass and get signed into law meaningful tax relief this year and has joined with other business trade associations in a letter to House and Senate leaders stating that now is the time to build on tax cut victories, not abandon them.  

Managed Care Legislation Delayed until October: House GOP leaders continue to grapple with how to handle managed care reform legislation being pushed by Democrats as well as many in the GOP ranks.  The problem for AGC members is that these bills -- H.R. 2723 sponsored by Reps. Charles Norwood (R-GA) and John Dingell (D-MI) and H.R. 2824 authored by Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Shadegg (R-AZ) -- would extend malpractice liability to insurance companies and also employers.  While the bills include language designed to exclude employers from these lawsuits, this language is murky at best and does not adequately protect employers.  The Norwood/Dingell language for example exempts employers from lawsuits in state courts except those that exercise ďdiscretionary authorityĒ in claim decisions.  However, it is unclear how the courts will determine discretionary authority.  For example, it could be argued that  employers  use discretionary authority in selecting an insurer. Even if language could be written  to unambiguously exempt employers,  the end result of these lawsuits will be higher premiums charged by insurers.   It appears at this time that House consideration of these bills will come in October.  AGC is lobbying along with other employer groups against these bills because of the liability provisions and because they will likely increase health care costs for businesses.  A sample letter to your Representative on this issue can be found at Congress at Your Fingertips in the Legislative section of http://congress.nw.dc.us/agc/elecmail.html.    

Administrationís Clean Water Plan Under Attack: The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts    filed a lawsuit  with fifty-five organizations in the Colorado District Court challenging the Clinton Administrationís Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP). The suit alleges that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to follow procedures outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, and the Regulatory Flexibility Act before announcing the plan. In 1998, Vice President Gore announced the planís 111 components, which would lead to an expansion of the nationís wetlands by 100,000 acres.    

OSHA Plans to Delay Enforcement of New Recordkeeping Regulations: OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress said that it will take up to a year to educate the public on the demands of the new recordkeeping regulations. AGC said of the announcement, "OSHA's decision to delay implementation proves that this is an exceptionally cumbersome new regulation.  We oppose this new regulation because it will create new paperwork burdens.  It will keep industry safety professionals at their desks filling out forms rather than visiting jobsites, where we know they can prevent accidents and injuries." OSHA plans to issue the recordkeeping regulations later this year.