A lively, wide-ranging Policy and Politics session took place during the convention featuring commentary on politics, the midterm elections, economic issues affecting contractors and what to expect in Congress in the months and year ahead.
“Congress is the center of power for drafting and passing all legislation,” said Stanley E. Kolbe Jr., SMACNA director of legislative and political affairs, who led the session. “And the friends we have developed in Congress often represent the narrow difference between winning and losing on tax, pension, labor-management, and energy issues that have major impacts across the industrial, commercial, residential, and institutional markets.”
“Why is Washington so Split?”
Kolbe cautioned the audience about the high probability of having to deal with a divided government in the months ahead due to the 2016 election not producing a convincing majority or mandate for the GOP. Democrats picked up around a half-dozen new seats in the House plus additional Senate seats to bring the parties closer together in votes.” While some bipartisanship between Democrats and Republicans has occurred,” he said, “much more is needed to produce consensus.” Kolbe added, “But this has not happened in the 115th Congress to date, and bitter partisanship makes cooperation less likely.”
Kolbe noted that the key upcoming bills to watch in the lame duck session (from November to late December) include legislation to extend expiring tax provisions, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill), criminal justice reform, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Jobs and Investor Confidence Act (Jobs Act 3.0), funding for a border wall, and a disaster relief package. Many of these initiatives may be combined into a last-minute comprehensive budget agreement needed to keep the government funded.
SMACNA’s 2019 Legislative Priorities
Kolbe provided some insight into SMACNA’s legislative priorities in 2019, noting SMACNA will:
Continue to press for legislation favoring composite model pension plans.
Support the massive airport, public building, and energy infrastructure package that also includes building energy retrofit tax credits, incentives, and tax provisions.
Extend energy efficiency incentives and boost the use of performance contracting.
Support the Power Efficiency and Resiliency (POWER) Act that would give combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP) tax credits.
Encourage a comprehensive national energy policy package including an upgrade to public buildings and energy grid transmission facilities and that reforms efficiency rules.
Push for reforms to halt employee misclassification and payroll fraud.
Endorse initiatives to reform the bidding and procurement process.
Turn back Senate efforts to repeal Davis-Bacon, project labor agreements, and apprentice standards.
The featured guest Congressional speaker, Rep. Scott Peters (D-52nd-Calif.), from the San Diego area, shared his legislative work in Congress that pertains to subcontractors and contractors. A longtime friend to SMACNA, he is an outspoken and leading advocate for industry issues including independent contractor reform.
Rep. Peters also reflected upon his years as a San Diego City Council official playing a key role in the development of the city and waterfront. “I have been a team player along with SMACNA contractors and their chapter leadership long before I arrived on Capitol Hill,” he noted. “I have been an effective advocate on your key issues and have also worked to build support among others on prevailing wages, project agreements, energy efficient construction, and limiting wage and contractor fraud.”