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Prevailing Wage, Buy American, Energy Efficiency and Labor Standards Efforts

Washington lawmakers remain focused on issues of importance to SMACNA contractors. The Senate voted for the first expansion of Davis-Bacon in decades. Negotiations continue on a broad infrastructure plan and in a variety of vehicles, including authorization and tax bills. Bills that will benefit energy efficiency and increase SMACNA contractor market opportunities are also under consideration. There is an encouraging amount of focus on federal labor standards favorable to SMACNA members in infrastructure and energy bills. 

The upcoming virtual SMACNA/CEA virtual National Issues Conference will focus on many of the above issues, including others SMACNA is working on, with important updates from the PBGC on regulations regarding the American Rescue Plan Act for multiemployer pension plans.  

Prevailing Wage / Buy American
Senate Adds Davis-Bacon to Construction of U.S. Computer Chip Manufacturing Plants

In a move strongly supported by SMACNA contractors and chapter executives, the Senate passed an amendment to add Davis-Bacon Act coverage to the Endless Frontier Act., a  $250 billion 10-year package designed to fund science and technology efforts to make the U.S. more competitive with China and other countries. 

The amendment expands Davis-Bacon coverage for the first time in decades. The vote passed by a surprising margin when eight Republicans Senators voted with Democrats to support inclusion of the prevailing wage language. The House is expected to add the prevailing wage chip plant language by August.

The Senate-passed bill also includes a second amendment to close loopholes in the decades-old “Buy American” law that gives preference to American companies in government purchasing. The language includes exceptions and waivers for federal agencies to avoid the requirements of the law, for example, when there is limited availability and quality of U.S.-made products, or in cases when it’s in the public interest. It would also establish a “Made in America Office” within the White House Office of Management and Budget which would target compliance. 

Energy Efficiency / Labor Standards
Energy efficiency bills supported by SMACNA: 

•    The Clean Energy for America Act” introduced by Finance Committee Chair Wyden (D-OR) with 24 cosponsors, is supported by SMACNA. The bill passed committee and awaits floor action as part of the infrastructure package or a tax reform package focused on energy efficiency. 

SMACNA worked to include efforts to improve commercial, residential and industrial combined heat and power (CHP) systems construction project quality. The bill would: 

  • Build on the extension of section 179D by providing greater flexibility and encouraging taxpayers to pursue bigger efficiency gains. 
  • Reform the current incentive for energy efficient new homes by expanding the credit. 
  • Create an emissions-based incentive that would allow taxpayers to choose between a production tax credit (PTC) or an investment tax credit (ITC) and allow CHP, the emissions to be calculated using both electrical and useful thermal energy.
  • The Energy Efficiency Public Buildings Act SMACNA’s New York City Chapter endorsed the bill, sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) with seven cosponsors. The bill would protect the public from COVID-19 and other public health threats by requiring upgrades in ventilation and HVAC systems as well as make significant investments for retrofits in public libraries, hospitals, community-based non-profits and other state and local government buildings. 

This bill also aims to include federal labor standards. It would expand registered apprenticeships and skilled construction jobs by providing $4 billion over four years to fund energy efficient retrofits in public buildings.