Engineering Inc. - September/October 2005 - (Page 8)

L E G I S L AT I V E AC T I O N $286.4-BILLION HIGHWAY MEASURE SIGNED; ENERGY BILL BECOMES LAW; AHP LEGISLATION CLEARS HOUSE TEA -21 Reauthorization Bill Becomes Law; Trust. Passage of the bill will ease the costs of ACEC Environmental Streamlining administering the Trust by establishing nation- Provisions Included wide uniform benefit regulations similar to those The president signed a $286.4-billion surface transportation that govern health plans administered by large authorization bill in August that provides a 30 percent increase in corporations and labor unions. More impor- highway and transit funding through F.Y. 2009. tantly, ACEC members in Maryland and other The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation parts of the country that currently are denied Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU, was over- access to the Trust because of conflicting state whelmingly passed in the House 412-8 and the Senate 91-4 . regulations would be able to access the plan. Senator Arlen Specter While technically a six-year bill, with F.Y. 2004 already complete, In addition to AHP legislation, the House R-Pa. the new bill provides $189.48 billion for highways and $45.31 bil- also passed legislation to help lower health care lion for transit from F.Y. 2005 to F.Y. 2009. A number of provisions costs by reducing the size of damage awards from health care law- were included to further leverage existing funding sources, includ- suits. Excessive health care-related litigation remains a major cost ing $15 billion in private activity bonds and expanded authority for driver for health insurance premiums. H.R. 534, the HEALTH participation in State Infrastructure Banks SIBs . Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care Act, Conferees agreed to provide states a 92 percent minimum rate places reasonable limits on health care liability awards. The bill puts of return in F.Y. 2008 and F.Y. 2009, while guaranteeing all states limits on some awards against health care providers such as non- a minimum 19 percent increase from their TEA-21 funding lev- economic and punitive damage awards , while allowing for full els. At the behest of the White House, conferees also agreed to recovery of economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages . rescind $8.5 billion in unused contract authority to help keep the In related news, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen overall price of the bill lower. Specter R-Pa. is working to build support for legislation to control Many of ACEC's recommendations to streamline the environ- runaway asbestos lawsuits, with the hope of bringing a bill to the mental review process for transportation projects were adopted Senate floor for a vote this fall. The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Reso- into the final bill, including designating the U.S. Department of lution FAIR Act, S. 852, supported by ACEC, would establish a Transportation as the lead agency in the environmental review $140 billion trust fund to compensate workers exposed to asbestos. process, a 180-day statute of limitations for filing claims against a WRDA Moves Closer to Completion; Senate project decision, delegation of more environmental decision-mak- Committee Clears $38-Billion Water Bill ing authority to the states, and reforms to the Section 4 f reviews The House passed the Water Resources and Development Act of for historic and recreational areas. 2005 WRDA prior to the August recess, which includes over $10 After years of hard work and setbacks, we finally can celebrate pas- billion in funding for Army Corps of Engineers flood control, navi- sage of a transportation reauthorization bill that will provide billions more in highway and transit infrastructure improvements, said ACEC Chairman Ed Mulcahy. This increased investment will save lives, ISSUES ON THE MOVE WHAT'S NEXT reduce congestion and enhance the economic vitality of this country. Health Care Liability Senate to consider in the fall AHP Legislation to Control Health Costs Clears House; Asbestos Bill Considered in Fall Association Health Plans Senate action expected The House of Representatives cleared two pieces of health care legis- in the fall lation prior to the August recess that seek to hold down health insur- ance costs for engineering firms and other businesses. Senate floor action in the fall WRDA The House passed H.R. 525, the ACEC-supported Small Business Health Fairness Act, by a strong, bipartisan majority. The measure House committee Water Infrastructure would create more opportunities for businesses to pool together consideration in the fall across state lines through association health plans AHPs to pur- chase health insurance. Senate to consider in the fall Asbestos Liability H.R. 525 is of particular interest to ACEC, which currently offers its members the benefit of an AHP the ACEC Life/Health Insurance 8 ENGINEERING INC. S e p t e m b e r l October 2005

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - September/October 2005

From ACEC to You
News & Notes
Market Watch
Legislative Action
Cover Story: Interview with U.S. Energy Secretary
Project Managers: Bringing it All Together
Protecting Against Infratructure Terrorism
The Other Side of Progress
Business Insights
Members in the News
One on One

Engineering Inc. - September/October 2005