On April 19, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) members will be on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and highlight the issues affecting dealers. The congressional visits are part of NLBMDA’s 2016 Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference, April 18-20, 2016 at the Renaissance Dupont Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference is being co-hosted by the Northeast Window and Door Association and Window and Door Manufacturers Association.
The morning of the Capitol Hill visits on April 19, as in past years, lawmakers will address attendees on issues affecting the lumber and building material industry at the Washington Briefing Breakfast. Capping off the day on Capitol Hill will be a congressional reception in the House Agriculture Committee hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building. The reception will offer an opportunity to meet with lawmakers and recap visits with NLBMDA members and staff.
NLBMDA continues to focus on issues such as legal reform, ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act, and the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rule that would increase the number of employees eligible for overtime pay.
The Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (H.R. 1199) was reintroduced last year by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and provides relief from product liability lawsuits for building material dealers and other retailers. The legislation restores fairness to a system that penalizes companies whose only activity is selling a product. It ensures that sellers do not take on liability for a product merely by selling that product, and that if sellers are negligent with respect to certain, specific non-sale activities, they will be responsible for the harm that their negligence causes.
The high cost of defending these lawsuits has caused building material dealers to settle, regardless of the merits of the case. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, the tort liability price tag for small businesses exceeds $105 billion annually. NLBMDA has championed the legislation, which is also supported by groups such as the International Franchise Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
NLBMDA also supports the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (H.R. 758, S. 401). The legislation, which was passed last fall in the House of Representatives by a vote of 241 to 185, reduces wasteful litigation by making sanctions against frivolous claims mandatory rather than discretionary under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and by eliminating a 21-day “safe harbor” window period for plaintiffs’ lawyers to withdraw a lawsuit without penalty.
In some good news on health care, the Fiscal Year 2016 spending bill funding the federal government includes a one-year suspension of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) in 2017. However, NLBMDA remains committed to a full repeal of the tax that is levied annually on fully-insured health care plans that are offered by many small and medium-size businesses. In 2015 and 2016, the federal government is expected to collect $22.6 billion from the HIT.
On the DOL’s proposed overtime rule, NLBMDA continues to meet with members of Congress asking them to weigh-in with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez expressing concern with the changes. Under the proposal, the salary level that employees would qualify for overtime pay would increase from $455 per week ($23,360 annually) to an estimated $970 per week ($50,440 annually). DOL has said that a final rule should be released in July and will take effect in early 2017.
In September 2015, NLBMDA submitted comments to DOL in opposition to the proposal. The association is also a member of the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity, a broad group of associations, businesses, and non-profit organizations representing employers opposed to DOL’s overtime proposal. The Partnership is dedicated to advocating the interests of its members in the expected regulatory debate on potential changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations.
Analysis conducted by Oxford Economics for the National Retail Federation found that the proposed overtime rule will erode career pathway opportunities, disproportionately affect lower-cost states, and may actually hurt the workers the rule is designed to help.
NLBMDA is excited to have its members in Washington, D.C. this month to meet with lawmakers and advocate for the lumber and building material industry. Dealers wishing to learn more about the 2015 NLBMDA Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference can visit our event website at www.leg-con.org.