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
President Obama has chosen J. Randolph Babbitt, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, as his nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, the White House said on March 27. Senior officials of airport associations praised Babbitt’s knowledge of the aviation industry. James C. May, president of the Air Transport Association, called him “a superb choice” for the top position at the FAA.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood continues to like the idea of a national infrastructure bank. Testifying at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on March 24, LaHood suggested that public-private partnerships and an infrastructure bank could help supplement the Highway Trust Fund in financing major projects. “The Highway Trust Fund is simply not going to allow us to do all that we need to do,” he said. The committee hearing is part of its preparation for the next surface transportation bill. LaHood also told the panel that hiking the motor-fuels tax should be off the table. “In these hard
Jonathan Z. Cannon, President Obama’s pick to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy administrator, has withdrawn as a candidate, saying that a group on whose board he had served “has become the subject of scrutiny.” A 2007 EPA inspector general’s report said the group, America’s Clean Water Foundation, didn’t comply with federal financial, program management and procurement standards for EPA grants it received. Cannon said on March 25, “While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay
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.