Construction Legislative Week In Review
From the Congressional Relations Staff
October 14, 1999
Volume 4, Issue 39

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 Will Move on Ergo This Year

Following last week’s pledge by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, it is expected that there will be a vote on an ergonomics measure this year.  Please contact your Senator and urge them to support S. 1070 the SENSE Act. 

Environment and Public Works Hearing on Stormwater Phase II Requirements: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s legislation the Water Regulation Improvement Act of 1999, S. 1706, received a hearing this week. The bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from expanding the current stormwater permit requirements.  EPA’s proposal would require sites disturbing less than five acres to obtain a permit, despite the fact that such sites do not significantly affect water quality nationwide according to an SBA analysis.  This bill addresses AGC’s primary concern with the latest version of the stormwater regulations.

FAA Conference To Begin Next Week: Today, the House and Senate appointed conferees to the FAA and Airport Improvement Program (AIP) reauthorization conference.  The conferees are expected to begin meeting next week.  The most contentious debate will involve whether aviation funding should be increased.  Please contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to support reforming aviation funding so that all aviation user tax revenue is spent on aviation system improvements.  It is also imperative that Congress maintains the general fund contribution to aviation programs.  You can reach them through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-225-3121.  The Senate conferees and targets are: McCain, Stevens, Burns, Gorton, Lott, Hollings, Inouye, Rockefeller, Kerry, Domenici, Grassley, Nickles, Lautenberg, and Conrad.  The House conferees are: Shuster, Young of Alaska, Petri, Duncan, Ewing, Horn, Quinn, Ehlers, Bass, Pease, Sweeney, Oberstar, Rahall, Lipinski, DeFazio, Costello, Danner, E.B. Johnson of Texas, Millender-McDonald, Boswell, Chambliss, Shays, Spratt, Archer, Crane,  Sensenbrenner, Morella, Hall, and Rangel.

Congress struggles to pass final FY 2000 Appropriations Bills: With one week left before the three week continuing resolution (CR) expires on October 21, the Congress is struggling to find a means to pass all 13 appropriations bills without breaking the budget caps and spending any of the social security surplus.  One idea receiving particular attention is a small (1.8%) across-the-board cut in all programs to allow Congress to achieve its mission.  Thus far, of the 13 bills, 5 have been signed into law, 2 are ready for the President’s signature, 4 bills are either in conference or its conference report has not yet passed Congress, 1 bill has been vetoed.  The Senate, but not the House has passed the Labor-HHS bill. 

House Passes Managed Care Bill that Exposes Employers to Liability: Last Thursday, sixty-eight Republicans defied the House GOP leadership and helped pass managed care reform legislation containing a broad expansion of patients’ right-to-sue health care plans over delayed or denied benefits.  The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Norwood (R-GA) and Dingell (D-MI), passed by a vote of 275-151 despite strong opposition from AGC and the business community.  AGC is concerned that this bill exposes employers to lawsuits  and will also increase premiums.      

Prior to approving the Norwood/Dingell bill, the House rejected several managed care proposals containing either limited or no liability expansion.  House GOP leaders threw their support behind one of these bills, sponsored by Reps. Coburn and Shadegg, with the hope that its passage would effectively kill the broader Norwood/Dingell measure.  However, the Coburn/Shadegg bill was defeated.       

A long and tumultuous conference committee is expected and will likely extend into next year.  The Senate-passed managed care reform bill does not include expanded liability and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles strongly opposes this provision.  Another roadblock to final Congressional approval of managed care reform is that the House included in their bill health care tax breaks  -- such as expanded use of medical savings accounts and accelerated full deductibility of health care for the self-employed -- that are strongly opposed by President Clinton.