Capitol Hill Update: SMACNA Endorses Major School Construction and Retrofit Legislation


School Construction, COVID Tax Credits and Recently Endorsed Bills SMACNA has expressed support for S. 96, “The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act” sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and 27 cosponsors.

S. 96 would invest more than $100 billion in needed school building grants and $30 billion in bond financing for public school repairs and energy efficient building retrofits.
In the House, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the Education and Labor has introduced an identical bill, H.R. 604, which has 155 cosponsors and is awaiting action by the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

S. 96 / H.R. 604 would:

  • Invest $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff.
  • Create over 2 million jobs based on an Economic Policy Institute analysis that each $1 billion spent on construction creates 17,785 jobs.
  • Allocate 2021 program dollars on an emergency basis to aid in safely reopening public schools in line with Centers for Disease Control public health guidelines — such as for HVAC and indoor air quality systems.
  • Require states to develop comprehensive state-wide public databases that track the conditions of public-school facilities; most states do not track school facility conditions and a database would provide much-needed insight into the condition of U.S. public schools.
  • Expand access to high-speed broadband in public schools for digital learning.
    The bill is moving to become part of President Biden’s infrastructure package advancing in Congress, with a July 4th target enactment date.

SMACNA Joins Bipartisan Effort to Defeat Legislation to Limit, Repeal Davis-Bacon Act
SMACNA also expressed strong opposition to H.R. 2218, legislation that would repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. H.R. 2218 was introduced March 26th by Rep. Good (R-VA) and cosponsored by Reps. Norman (R-SC) and Duncan (R-SC).

Opposing this misguided legislative effort demonstrator support for construction workforce training quality, public project safety and productivity. Prevailing wage laws and registered apprenticeship standards are important to SMACNA’s thousands of members and their hundreds of thousands of highly skilled construction trades employees.

SMACNA urged members of the House to support Davis-Bacon enforcement and understand that any major investment in public infrastructure should recognize the importance and merit in prevailing wages as part of any quality-based public procurement policy. Enforcing federal, state and local prevailing wage laws encourages employers to:

  • Pay a locally prevailing wage.
  • Offer health care coverage to their employees and their employees’ families.
  • Provide for the future retirement of their employees.
  • Make a significant investment in the registered apprenticeship training and safety programs, producing an unmatched productive and safety conscious workforce.

SMACNA also emphasized that while some in Congress have seen largely misleading, exaggerated and inaccurate information on the application of prevailing wages in federal contracting, both the estimated savings and the positive policy outcomes of using locally prevailing wages had often been missed entirely. Due to active labor-management coalitions, bipartisan support for the Davis-Bacon Act in the 117th Congress appears to be growing as a vehicle for boosting registered apprenticeship and quality construction on federal infrastructure projects. 

SMACNA Again Endorses H.R. 1944, the Healthy Workplaces Credit
H.R. 1944 was introduced March 16th by Reps. Darin LaHood (R-IL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif). The Senate bipartisan companion bill is S. 537, introduced by Sens, Portman (R-OH) and Sinema (D-AZ). If enacted, H.R. 1944 / S. 537 would help businesses cover costs to clean workplaces, protect worker safety and stay open safely while ensuring employee and customer confidence by:

  • Providing a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by a business for COVID-19 testing, PPE, disinfecting, deep cleaning, workspace reconfiguration, as well as education and training until the end of the year.
  • Encouraging and enabling businesses to take the recommended steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces.
  • Limiting this benefit to a maximum of $1,000 per employee for a business’s first 500 employees; $750 per employee for the next 500 employees; $500 for the next 1,500; $250 for the next 2,500; and $50 for each employee thereafter.
  • Providing an income tax credit for expenditures made to reconfigure workspaces in 2020 (March 12 through December 31) and allowing businesses that have already adapted to public health guidelines to receive a benefit on their 2020 tax return. The credit provides 50 percent of costs incurred up to $3,000 per employee for a business’s first 500 employees.

The tax credit directly addresses productivity and cost burdens post-pandemic construction and small business operations are experiencing. SMACNA advocates that necessary safety and health protocols overburden small businesses and could wipe out construction project margins routinely expected before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted workplace safety.