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The Angle: March 11, 2010

Congress Debates, Shows Progress on the Jobs Bill

Along with record snowfall, February 2010 will be thought of in Washington as one of the most intensely partisan periods in memory. Fueled by the surprise election of Republican Scott Brown to fill Senator Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat, costing the Democrats their 60-seat Senate filibuster-proof majority, Congress spent the month engaged in intense and often ugly partisan and intra-party debate over health care reform, financial systems overhaul, and legislation intended to create jobs.

As the month came to a close however, some progress was made to advance a jobs bill, and as Congress works over the next four weeks in Washington before the Easter/Passover Recess in late March, there are glimmers of hope that political bickering can be put aside and Congress can act on legislation to help businesses cope with the ongoing recession and put American’s back to work.

The House passed a jobs bill in December. In early February, 700 AIA leaders met with their elected representatives during the 2010 Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington. Soon after, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Republican Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) unveiled bipartisan legislation that included a number of provisions that would spur job creation and help out-of-work individuals and struggling businesses manage through the economic crisis. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), however, quickly scrapped the Baucus-Grassley compromise bill, to the chagrin of many Senate Democrats and Republicans alike, in favor of a slimmed-down, $15 billion version that removed all of the provisions that Reid felt would not lead to immediate job creation.

Reid's jobs bill faced an uncertain fate on the Senate floor but at the end of the day, five Republicans joined with a majority of Democrats and passed the bill by a vote of 62-30. The legislation focuses on four key areas, some advocated by AIA members during the Grassroots Capitol hill visits, that Reid argued would do the most to stimulate domestic job creation:

    • Extend the surface transportation law, in turn providing funding for countless transportation projects across the country;

    • Expand the Build-America Bonds provision, allowing state and local governments to borrow at lower-costs in order to finance infrastructure projects;

    • Create a new payroll tax exemption for businesses that hire previously unemployed workers;

    • Extend the section 179 deduction which allows small businesses to write off a greater portion of their expenses.

House leaders brought the bill to the floor last week, adding in about $2 billion in funding, which forces it to return to the Senate. Meanwhile, short-term extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits survived a one-man filibuster by Sen. Bunning (R-KY), who blocked the bill because it was not offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

Uncertainty surrounding the chances of advancing jobs legislation has left many on Capitol Hill wondering whether there will be another jobs bill, what it will contain and when it will be voted on. Reid has promised a series of as many as four more bills, focusing on tax relief, green energy jobs, infrastructure and other initiatives Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration hope will lower the unemployment rate.

The AIA is closely working with its allies on the Hill to advance its Rebuild & Renew agenda and will provide timely updates as they occur through Twitter @aialobbyist and on the Angle web site.

IGCC Draft to be Released, Comment Period Open

The first public version of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), the first comprehensive, integrated, and consensus-driven green building code, will be made available Monday, March 15. Once this document is released, AIA members will be able to review the IGCC and provide comments online for consideration by the AIA Codes and Standards Advisory Group for inclusion in the AIA’s formal response to the International Code Council’s code development process. Click here for more detailed information on the IGCC, or contact Mark Wills, manager, State Issues and Programs, at markwills@aia.org.

AIA Urges Members to Meet Legislators during Congressional Break

Congress will be breaking on March 29 for its annual spring in-district work period. During this time, legislators will be back at home in their districts meeting with constituents -- a perfect time for AIA members to meet to discuss the Institute’s key issues. Both the House and Senate will break on March 26, with the Senate expected to return on April 5 and the House expected to return on April 12. Information on the status of key Institute issues will be posted on the AIA’s Advocacy365 web site in the coming days. In addition, on this site you can find information on future in-district work periods and tools on how to advocate AIA issues to legislators.

For more information on any Government Advocacy activities, please contact staff at govaffs@aia.org or (202) 626-7403.

 

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