Members of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association took to Capitol Hill March 19 to lobby members of Congress to support the association’s legislative agenda. Dealers asked legislators to reinstate the opt-out provision in the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule (LRRP); to preserve the mortgage interest deduction; and to support The Marketplace Fairness Act, which allows a state to collect sales tax from online retailers that do business within its borders. The legislative visits—part of the association’s annual spring meeting held March 18-20—occurred as conflicts over the size of the federal budget and a seeming tightening of government regulations on the private sector are translating into higher operating costs for dealers and other small-business owners.
“As a former small-business owner, I’m all too familiar with [the effect of] government regulation to industries like yours,” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) told dealers at a briefing Tuesday morning. Reviewing the effects of the LRRP rule on small business, Rep. Johnson echoed concerns that its heightened compliance costs—given the absence of an opt-out provision—would stall contractors’ sales. In some cases, Johnson said, that could be enough to push some contractors into forgoing compliance in order to attract bids by homeowners who are less knowledgeable about the legislation and the effects of exposure to lead paint.
According to the EPA, the opt-out provision’s removal added $336 million in compliance costs, some of which fell to the 41 million homes that the association says fall under the rule’s jurisdiction but don’t house pregnant women or children. A bill introduced in the Senate earlier this year seeks to reinstate the provision as well as make commercially available field test kits that report no more than 10% false positives.
“We want to protect people from lead, but when the EPA retroactively alters a rule … there is a serious problem,” Johnson said, referring to the agency’s July 2010 removal of an exemption in its then-year-old rule allowing remodelers working on a project that would expose lead paint to forgo compliance if they could prove that no pregnant women or children live in the home.
Dealers reported mixed results as to whether they’ve noticed stronger enforcement of the regulation by the EPA in their state. “It’s really a state by state issue,” NLBMDA chair Chuck Bankston told ProSales. “Some states are conferring it,” the Barnesville, Ga.-based dealer said.
Rep. Johnson was joined by former Maine governor Sen. Angus King (I-ME) who discussed the impact of rising health care costs on the federal budget.
“That’s where the growth is in the budget,” Sen. King said. “That’s where we’ve got to focus as a country. Not only to get our federal budget in shape, but to get our families’ budgets in shape, and to get our business’ budgets in shape. That’s what’s killing us.”
Another component of this year’s legislative agenda—The Marketplace Fairness Act—seeks to give states an opportunity to collect a tax that’s levied but rarely self-reported by online shoppers on their tax returns.
“It’s a carrot and stick approach,” said Ben Gann, NLBMDA’s director of legislative affairs and grassroots activities. States can get the money—that’s the stick approach. But in order to do that they have to simplify their state tax law.”
Read more about the NLBMDA’s 2013 conference agenda.