America’s LBM dealers came to the Nation’s Capital, March 31 to April 2, to talk to their members of Congress about the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association legislative priorities for the coming year.
Top on the list of legislative items sought by dealers visiting Washington, D.C., is the “Innocent Sellers Fairness Act,” (H.R.2746), a bill designed to shield dealers and other retail businesses from product liability lawsuits.
The trade association says the cost defending against the lawsuits runs from $50,000 to $100,000. The high price tag forces many dealers to settle, regardless of the merits of a case, just to avoid the higher costs of going to court as well as the legal jeopardy of a jury decision.
Dealers claim that current law imposes strict liability without wrongdoing on the part of sellers and exposes them to damages allegedly suffered by a plaintiff. H.R. 2746, which has been introduced in previous Congresses, would protect dealers and other businesses from financial penalties in cases where the product failure or damage was caused without the retailer’s knowledge or control.
Another legislative priority for NLBMDA is reform of the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule to make the regulation “more reasonable” for remodelers, contractors, and homeowners, while still protecting pregnant women and children younger than 6 years old from exposure to lead.
The trade group says the LRRP rule originally had an opt-out provision allowing homeowners to waive testing and the use of special work practices if there were no pregnant or young children in the home. The group is also concerned about the EPA’s failure to identify an accurate lead paint test kit. Current testing practices produce false positives that lead to costly and unnecessary lead paint remediation.
They asked Congress members to support “The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act (H.R.2093 and S.484) that:
- Restores the opt out provision for homeowners with no small children or pregnant women living in the home;
- Suspends the rule for built after 1960 where there are no pregnant women or small children living there, if the EPA fails to approve a test kit that passes regulatory requirements;
- Prohibits EPA from expanding the rule to commercial or public buildings, until after it conducts a study assessing the need for an expansion; and,
- Provides a “de minimis” exemption for first-time paperwork non-compliance by certified contractors.
NLBMDA members also asked Congress to preserve the homeowner mortgage interest deduction. They noted that while the housing market appears to be on the mend, that recovery is too fragile at this point to make any move that would discourage home buying. “Our message to Congress is don’t hurt housing,” says Jay Short, president of Short & Paulk Supply in Tifton, Ga.