Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement that he would not support a cloture vote on the Employee Free Choice Act may stall action for now on the bill, the center of a fierce fight between labor unions and business groups. But construction union and industry officials are not ruling out a vote on the measure before Memorial Day. Major retailers now are proposing a compromise. “I won’t be satisfied that the bill is dead until Congress adjourns…in 2010,” says Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors, which opposes the legislation. Specter, the lone Republican to vote to close debate
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on March 26 announced “final agreements” with two companies related to the July 2006 fatal collapse of the Central Artery I-90 tunnel plenum. Settlements totaling $1.9 million end civil claims resulting from the fatal accident. Section design firm Gannett Fleming Inc., Harrisburg, Pa., agreed to pay $1.53 million into a statewide infrastructure fund, $50,000 to the city of Boston and waived $150,000 in project payments. It also agreed to make clients and staff aware of a Federal Highway Administration technical advisory on use and inspection of adhesive anchors. The state also settled with Sika Corp.,
Michael L. Connor, a top Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staffer, is President Obama’s choice to lead the Dept. of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the White House announced on March 18. Connor has been counsel to the energy committee since May 2001 and has worked on water, Indian-land and energy issues. Connor’s nomination as commissioner of reclamation is subject to Senate confirmation.
Congress is moving to draft legislation that would cap carbon dioxide emissions and create a carbon allowance trading program to help emitting industries comply. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says he plans to complete a bill by Memorial Day with targets and deadlines for emission reductions. The bill could include energy-efficiency standards and require utilities to generate a specific portion of power with renewable energy sources. A House floor vote could come later this year. In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) says she wants to take a deliberative approach to
The House and Senate approved a six-month extension to the Federal Aviation Administration authorization on March 18. The current authorization would have expired on March 31. The bill provides a total of $3.9 billion for the airport improvement program for fiscal 2009 and also extends the aviation excise taxes, which support the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, through Sept. 30. Lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee say they hope the seven-month extension gives them the time they need to work for passage of a new four-year, $70-billion authorization bill for the agency. As a first step, the Transportation
Construction industry groups say they welcome the Obama administration’s plans announced on March 16 to free up credit markets for small businesses by temporarily increasing federal guarantees on Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to 90%, eliminating fees on 7(a) and 504 loan applications and purchasing securities backed by those loans. But they say an even more beneficial change for construction firms is the less-heralded expansion of SBA’s surety bond program. As part of the administration’s Financial Stability Plan announced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in February, the maximum amount for construction contracts that qualify for SBAguaranteed surety bonds is being
Michael L. Connor, a top Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staffer, is President Obama's choice to lead the Interior Dept.'s Bureau of Reclamation, the White House announced on March 18. Connor has been counsel to the energy committee since May 2001 and worked on water, Indian lands and energy issues. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar served on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his term in the Senate. Connor worked at Interior from 1993 to 2001 as deputy director and director of the secretary's Indian water rights office. Connor's nomination as Commissioner of Reclamation is subject to Senate confirmation.
Construction industry groups are hopeful the House’s swift passage of a multiyear authorization for wastewater funding bodes well for final congressional approval this year. The measure, which the House approved on March 5 by a 317-101 vote, would authorize $19.4 billion for wastewater infrastructure over the next five years. Of the total, $13.8 billion would go for Clean Water state revolving funds (SRFs), the principal financing source for wastewater projects. Funding would start at $2.4 billion in fiscal 2010, rise to $2.7 billion in 2011, then climb $100 million a year after that, to $3 billion in 2014. Clean Water
Short-term stopgap spending bills have become commonplace on Capitol Hill, making planning difficult for those who manage federal construction programs and companies that pursue those projects. But government and industry officials now know how much funding they will have to deal with through the end of fiscal 2009, thanks to a newly enacted $410-billion omnibus spending bill. With critics highlighting the package’s estimated $7.7 billion in earmarked funds for specific projects, House Democrats have put in place new requirements on earmarking. The legislation, which President Obama signed on March 11, merges the nine uncompleted 2009 appropriations bills and funds most
President Obama has asked federal agencies to reconsider an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that allows agencies, in some cases, to let construction projects move forward without consulting scientists about the projects’ impact on endangered species. In a March 3 memo, Obama requested that agencies go back to the previous policy until the Bush administration rule can be reviewed. At issue is a regulation that the Interior and Commerce departments issued on Dec. 11. It gave agencies broader authority to clear projects without checking with federal scientists about how the projects would affect wildlife. The agencies said the change would make