Construction should see some benefits from a small-business aid package that appears to be on its way to enactment soon. The bill has $12 billion in tax breaks and would create a $30-billion federal fund to increase bank lending to small companies, including developers and contractors. But industry officials say the bill by itself will not pull construction out of its slump. The bill cleared a big hurdle on Sept. 16, when the Senate passed it. The House was slated to take up the measure about a week later. If the House approves the bill, President Obama is expected to
As Congress begins a short pre-election session, its must-pass list includes construction measures with Sept. 30 deadlines: appropriations for fiscal year 2011, which starts on Oct. 1, and a Federal Aviation Administration authorization that covers airport grants. A bill aimed at aiding small businesses also is advancing. With only a few weeks left before a congressional recess, action on other bills probably will be deferred until an expected lame-duck session. In that post-election session, Congress would face decisions on extending income-tax breaks, Build America bonds and surface-transportation program—all of which expire on Dec. 31. Other measures, including an energy bill,
Nearly a year after President Obama signed an executive order calling on the federal government to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 28% by 2020, agencies have outlined plans for achieving those green goals. The White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget reported on Sept. 9 that 56 federal agencies had submitted sustainability performance plans that will serve as frameworks for future sustainability efforts. Although many of the plans focus on practices such as reducing waste, some of the agencies’ strategies give significant weight to green design and construction goals. For example, the General Services Administration’s plan
Construction labor unions and industry groups agree that a newly issued National Labor Relations Board ruling upholding union “bannering” is significant and precedent-setting. Unions are jubilant about the outcome, but industry officials contend that the Aug. 27 ruling, announced on Sept. 2, could wreak havoc on construction projects. In its decision, the NLRB ruled the posting of stationary union banners by members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America at the workplace of a secondary employer does not violate federal labor laws. A secondary employer is a company that employs a contractor with which a union has
As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act moves past the 18-month point, some of its key construction programs have nearly all their funds awarded or under contract. As sectors—for example, highways and wastewater treatment—dry up as sources of future ARRA work, a few other programs, such as high-speed rail, are in their early implementation stages and still present prospects for design and construction firms in months to come. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s latest monthly ARRA update, released on Aug. 26, shows that of the $38 billion ARRA allocated for highway, transit and wastewater-treatment programs under the committee’s jurisdiction,
The Dept. of Homeland Security reports that it soon will begin putting $600 million in recently appropriated funds to use along the Southwest border. An emergency supplemental spending bill for border security, signed into law on Aug. 13, will finance two new DHS operating bases along the border to improve coordination of security activities there. Funds from the spending measure also will permit the department to increase the number of audits of companies to deter violations of employment-verification laws. In an update released Aug. 30, DHS said that, since January 2009, it has audited more than 2,785 employers suspected of
The Federal Railroad Administration is aiming to pick up the pace in dispersing to states more of its initial $8-billion round of high-speed-rail funds. At the same time, FRA plans to move quickly to select winners of another $2.3-billion batch of rail money. FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo told reporters on Aug. 20 that, for round one, his agency so far has obligated about $585 million for 13 projects. He says the grant agreements “are very near completion” for seven additional projects totaling $209 million. Another seven projects, valued at $120 million, are waiting in the wings. All that still leave
The Dept. of Energy has chosen Pennsylvania State University to head a new research center to find ways to design buildings to be more energy-efficient. DOE said on Aug. 24 the new Energy-Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, to be based in Philadelphia, will combine federal, private-sector and university researchers. It will get up to $22 million in federal funds this year. DOE will ask Congress for an additional $25 million in each of the succeeding four years.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to open “consultations” with Canada over lumber pricing. In an Aug. 18 letter to Kirk, Baucus contends the British Columbia government is selling timber it owns for softwood lumber production “at fire-sale stumpage prices.” He claims such sales “circumvent the intent” of the 2006 U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement. A B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range spokesman says the province has been honoring the 2006 agreement, saying, “There is no basis for U.S. trade action against British Columbia.” He adds: “Rather than launching formal trade action, the
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. says if current regulations for its multi-employer-plan program do not change, there is “about a 65% chance” the program’s deficit will climb in 10 years. In a “data book” released on Aug. 20, PBGC says a simulation model’s average result shows its multi-employer program will post an estimated deficit of $4 billion in 10 years, a 360% jump over its $869-million shortfall in fiscal 2009. PBGC cautions that the model is not “predictive.” Multi-employer plans are common in construction’s unionized sector, PBGC says, and account for 54% of the 1,517 multi-employer plans it insures. Such
In an unprecedented collaboration, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce, and floor-covering supplier Interface are showing their collective commitment to embodied carbon reduction by joining the board of Building Transparency.