With contentious and often bitter election campaigns now history, what does the federal government have in store for you? LBM groups are trying to figure that out.
The biggest issues are those likely to affect all small businesses, such as tax reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Then there are issues of special concern, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lead-paint rule and a drive to protect dealers from lawsuits.
These issues are well-known. It’s how they’ll play out that’s the mystery—and cause for fear. As a result, dealer groups interviewed by ProSales appear more likely to focus on defense than offense when they lobby federal officials in 2013. Here are some issues they expect to tackle.
Mortgage Interest Deduction
“We’re assuming there’s going to be tax reform. That’s going to be a major focus for us” in 2013, says Ben Gann, legislative affairs and grassroots activities director for the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) in Washington.
NLBMDA will oppose attempts to eliminate the tax deduction homeowners can take for interest paid on their mortgage. The deduction provides an incentive for home buying, Gann says. Leaders of regional LBM associations say just the possibility of change worries members.
Affordable Care Act
ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, looms ever larger as more and more parts of it take effect. Rick Seely, president of the Michigan Lumber and Building Materials Association, calls the voluminous, complicated ACA “quite confusing” to his members, beginning with the fact that the rules vary based on whether a dealer’s payroll is above or below 50 employees.
ACA in general “is something our dealers have a lot of trepidation about,” Seely says. The act is quite likely to change how and what kind of insurance dealers will buy for their employees—or whether they’ll provide coverage at all.
Gann says Congress is likely to make adjustments to the law as we get closer to a set of major changes slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Construction Suppliers Association president Jim Moody says he’s more concerned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—not because of anything it’s doing now, but because he fears it will be emboldened in President Barack Obama’s second term.
“We don’t know what regulations will come down the pike, but given the outcome of the election, we’d expect to see more of OSHA in the next four years and not less,” says Moody, whose group represents dealers in Alabama and Georgia. “The effect of the lead rule on our dealers is far less significant than OSHA is. If you don’t have load limits posted on every shelf, you’ve got problems. If you have compressed air running through PVC pipe, you’ve got problems.”
Speaking of the lead rule, NLBMDA is one of several groups seeking to revise the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. The rule requires workers to take special steps if they believe that their work in homes and buildings will cause the dispersal of dust carrying lead-based paint. The rules are intended to protect children and pregnant women from lead-based paint. Ignoring the mandate can lead to fines of as much as $37,500 per day.
When drafting the rule, EPA planned to include an opt-out clause that would have allowed homeowners without children under 6 or pregnant women living in the home to waive the requirement that contractors test for lead paint and take special measures if it was found. But when the final rule was issued in 2010, the EPA decided against including the clause. As a result, millions more homes became subject to a rule that remodelers and dealers say is hard to enforce and carries limited benefits.
Lawmakers introduced bills in both the House and Senate last year to reform the rule. The bills won bipartisan support, but neither reached the floor during the 112th Congress. Gann hopes similar legislation will get an earlier start in the new Congress and have a better chance of passage.
Innocent Sellers Fairness Act
Predatory lawsuits have bedeviled dealers for years. In response, dealers have pressed Congress repeatedly to pass the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (ISFA), which protects from liability suits any dealer that simply sells a legal product without altering it and does not act negligently in handling the product.
NLBMDA has championed ISFA for years without success. “It will continue to be a priority for us,” Gann says.” He predicts a bill will be introduced but thinks it will need to be part of a larger tort reform effort to succeed. is a writer based in Dayton, Ohio.
This LBM Dealer Turned State Senator Has Political Advice for You
Massive Health Care Law Reshapes Builders' Employee Benefits
GA Lumberyard Owner Sets Off Firestorm With Political Signs