In the wake of a fiscal cliff deal that took on myriad tax issues concerning the business community, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) released its national policy agenda with a call to lessen regulation, reduce fiscal uncertainty, and implement growth-oriented tax reform.

“It certainly could have been worse for our industry,” NLBMDA chair Chuck Bankston told ProSales of the dealer community’s faring in the latest tax-reform deal. Among the gains, he says, were the mortgage interest deduction; the 25(c) credit for energy efficiency pertaining to windows, doors, and insulation; the permanent expansion of the estate tax laws to $5 million per individual; and the expansion of the Section 179 deduction allowing small businesses to write off up to $500,000 in capital expenditures.

The association’s 2013 policy agenda looks to build on those legislative achievements by advocating for dealers to be given the mechanisms to help jump-start activity in residential construction—particularly through access to capital for the association’s small-business members.

“[Banks] have tightened down on finances so much,” he says. “We’re all for banks that would look favorably on our industry again. Once the banks started losing money on [builders and contractors], they started looking down on the suppliers of those guys.”

In its policy outline, the NLBMDA writes that economic stimulus must include “a robust small business component” that gives business owners, particularly those in the economically ravaged construction sector, access to capital and credit at competitive rates to improve cash flow in order to expand operations.

Although Jan. 1, 2014 looms as the implementation date for the Affordable Care Act, Bankston says that how its implementation will play out is yet to be determined—although it’s likely to impact the number of workers dealers plan to keep on staff.

“I have talked with several dealers who are right at 50 employees and would like to have their workforce below 50 so they would not have to participate in Obamacare,” he says.

And softer immigration reform policies could benefit building material suppliers as well as builders and contractors. “We have heard from our dealers that some of the immigration policies that have gone into place in the last few years have provided for a labor shortage in certain markets,” he says, namely Phoenix, Ariz., a  market that’s lately seen an onslaught of new-residential-construction activity. 

And the association will again push Congress to enact the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act, which protects dealers against predatory lawsuits. “It’s going to be tough in this political environment to get any tort reform bill passed,” he says. “But we do have some good support for it and we do plan to reintroduce it.”

Dealers have seen more visits from OSHA, Bankston says, particularly relating to forklift operations. But keeping up with an anecdotal uptick in inspections could be costing dealers. In its policy outline, the NLBMDA writes that “The recordkeeping and training requirements mandated by OSHA and other agencies can pose a significant cost burden on employers,” or, it adds, they can be “overly-broad, covering activities that do not create the risks for hazards intended to be addresses, or overly-complicated, making compliance expensive and enforcement difficult and ambiguous.

This year’s line-up includes claims that the association will continue to work to revise the EPA’s lead-paint rule, writing that its implementation “significantly hampered” the industry via “lack of training opportunities, unreasonable requirements such as the ‘Opt Out’ clause, and lack of accurate test kits.”

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