On March 31 and April 1, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) held its annual Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.
BY: BEN GANN
Following a productive day of meetings on the first day, NLBMDA started the second day with the keynote breakfast, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) talked about the challenges businesses are facing in complying with government regulations. Following Sen. Johnson was Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, who spoke about the need for Congress to address critical issues affecting the housing industry.
NLBMDA members then went to Capitol Hill to discuss three issues with members of the House of Representatives: Innocent Sellers Fairness Act, reform of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule, and online sales tax fairness; and two issues with Senators: reform of EPA’s LRRP rule and improving energy efficiency for buildings.
The Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (H.R. 2746), legislation that would protect building material dealers, distributors, and other retailers from unwarranted product liability lawsuits, remains a top priority for NLBMDA. Passing legislation to protect product sellers would significantly reduce the burden of frivolous lawsuits on courts, businesses and consumers. Thanks to their visits, NLBMDA was able to increase the number of co-sponsors and continue building support for the bill.
Reforming the LRRP rule also continues to be high on the list of NLBMDA’s legislative priorities. Last year, EPA acknowledged that it has no plans to identify a test kit that meets the rule’s standard of producing false positive test results less than 10% of the time. The Agency states the test kits currently approved have a false positive rate between 22.5% and 84%.
Lawmakers were receptive to the ongoing concerns with test kits and overall implementation of the rule. Several House and Senate lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors to the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act (H.R. 2093, S. 484) as a direct result of meetings with NLBMDA members. The bill would make needed reforms to the LRRP rule by restoring the opt-out provision for homeowners without a young child or pregnant women present to decide whether to require LRRP compliance, and suspend the rule for post-1960 homes without a pregnant woman or small child living there, if EPA cannot approve a test kit that meets the regulation’s requirements.
Also, thanks to our visits, there is interest from Senate offices in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking the Agency to address the test-kit challenges. EPA estimates that an improved test kit would reduce the rule’s cost by $400 million annually. We are continuing our push in the House of Representatives for online sales tax fairness. NLBMDA supports legislation that levels the playing field between brick-and-mortar retailers, such as lumberyards, and merchants that sell exclusively online, by requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence. The Marketplace Fairness Act (H.R. 684, S. 743) passed in the Senate last year and would end the advantage currently enjoyed by online retailers.