Construction Legislative Week In Review
From the Congressional Relations Staff
September 23, 1999
Volume 4, Issue 37

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

Joan Huntley LaVor

Peter Loughlin
Construction Markets

Loren E. Sweatt
Procurement and

Phil Thoden
Tax & Fiscal Affairs

Patrick Wilson
Human Resources & Labor

Senate Committee to Consider Legislation blocking
 Clean Air Act
Highway Sanctions

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set to consider S. 1053, legislation to reinstate EPA’s grandfather clause.  This bill would allow the construction of much-needed road projects to increase motorist safety, decrease congestion, and ultimately improve our nation’s air quality.  A court ruling earlier this year stopped federally highway construction in Atlanta.  S. 1053 would ensure certainty of approved transportation projects, but with extensive review of the project’s impact by all parties involved. Please urge your Senators to support S. 1053 by calling the Capitol Switchboard 202-225-3121. 

Court Rules Against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The Eighth Circuit Court ruled against EPA’s practice of “overfiling” (Harmon Industries Inc. v. Browner, 8th Cir., No. 98-3775, 9/16/99). Overfiling is a practice where EPA increases a company’s fine from a settled state enforcement action by forcing an additional settlement with federal EPA. Legal speculation on the ruling is that it will also apply to corrective actions, where federal EPA steps in and forces additional, expensive corrective actions after settlement with a state.  

Senate Committee to mark-up bill making Amtrak eligible for Highway Funds:  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is planning to mark-up S. 1144, the Surface Transportation Act of 1999.  The bill allows states to divert federal highway funds to support passenger rail activities.  AGC opposes using highway user fee revenue for passenger rail.  Please contact your Senators and urge them to oppose S. 1144. 

AGC opposes Senate Transportation Appropriations bill highway sanctions:  The Senate Transportation Appropriations bill includes a provision (section 339), which would cut off federal funding for state highway projects unless states selling driver’s license personal information or motor vehicle records have adopted a system that requires express written consent of the individual when the personal information is used in surveys, marketing, or solicitations.  The House and Senate are beginning their conference on the Transportation Appropriations bill.  Please call your Senators and Representatives and urge them not to include highway sanctions in the final bill.  You can reach them through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-225-3121. 

President Clinton Vetoes Tax Cut Plan:  President Clinton vetoed the $792 billion tax cut bill passed by Congress in August.  AGC President Terry Deeny criticized the President for vetoing this bill that included elimination of the death tax, AGC’s top legislative priority. “President Clinton is wrong to veto this tax cut,” said Deeny.  “Without death tax elimination bill, the more a family-owned construction company grows the more it will lose to the IRS upon the death of the company owner.”   AGC  has joined with other business groups in urging Congress to produce a second, smaller, tax cut bill this year that includes elimination of the death tax.   

House to Consider Managed Care Legislation Beginning October 4th:  The House on October 4th will begin debate on managed care reform legislation, H.R. 2723  Norwood / Dingell and H.R. 2824  Coburn / Shadegg.  Included in these bills is the right to sue health insurance plans in state courts for personal injury and wrongful death. Proponents of this legislation argue that expanded liability is necessary to make health care plans more responsive to the medical needs of patients.  They also argue that language in these bills fully exempts employers from these lawsuits.   However, a close legal analysis of the employer exemption language concludes that these bills would in fact expose employers to lawsuits.  The “employer exemption” provision in these bills is murky at best and exposes employers to the threat of lawsuits even for simply having selected a health care plan for its employees.  Moreover, even if employers could be fully exempted, lawsuits against health care plans will lead to higher premiums.   AGC is asking its members to contact Congress to urge opposition to these two bills.

House Appropriations Subcommittee passes Bill:  The Subcommittee passed the FY2000 Appropriations for the Department of Labor and Related agencies. The bill reduced OSHA enforcement spending and funded a  $2 million compliance assistance pilot programs supported by AGC. In addition, the bill delays the implementation of the controversial new helper regulations opposed by AGC.