NLBMDA has finalized its National Policy Agenda for 2018 as the Trump Administration begins its second year and following passage of tax reform at the end of 2017. As the association works to advance the interests of the lumber and building material industry, NLBMDA is holding its annual Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference at The Wink hotel in Washington, D.C., from March 19 through 21.
Wildfires burned 9.7 million acres in the U.S. in 2017. The frequency and intensity of wildfires in recent years demonstrates the need for responsible forest management policies that promote environmental sustainability.
Recognizing the need for improved federal forest management, last year, the House of Representatives passed the Resilient Federal Forests Act (H.R. 2936). The legislation helps protect the national forest system by implementing best practices intended to reduce and eliminate the threat of wildfires.
In addition, the forest management legislation includes a provision from the Timber Innovation Act (H.R. 1380) that would establish a performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the U.S. NLBMDA supports both the Resilient Federal Forests Act and Timber Innovation Act, and will continue to push for consideration in the Senate this year.
Despite the failure of Congress to pass health care reform last year, NLBMDA remains committed to reform parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Established as part of the ACA, the health insurance tax (HIT) is charged to health insurance companies providing fully insured plans to employers. The HIT amount paid by a health insurance company is determined by its share of the fully insured market. Unfortunately, the health insurance tax (HIT) is often passed on to employers and employees in the form of higher premiums.
In 2014, the first year the HIT took effect, $8 billion was charged to health insurance companies. For 2015 and 2016, the tax was $11.3 billion annually. Last year, in 2017, employers benefitted from suspension of the HIT. For 2018, the tax is back and is $14.3 billion. In 2019 and beyond, HIT increases are based on premium growth.
Last fall, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Small Business and Family Health Tax Relief Act (S. 1978), which would suspend the HIT for 2018 and 2019. As part of the Stop the HIT Coalition, NLBMDA is working to suspend, and ultimately repeal, this unfair tax passed on to small businesses that offer health care coverage to their employees.
NLBMDA also continues to monitor the regulation of lead paint in residential buildings. On December 27, a federal circuit court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action in revising standards meant to protect children from lead-based paint. In its ruling, the court stated that the Agency must propose a new rule within 90 days and finalize it within six months.
The EPA told the court that a new rule regulating leadpaint hazards was not expected to be proposed until 2021, with a final rule not taking effect until 2023. The court ruled that the Agency has taken too long in acting on a 2009 petition to further regulate activities involving lead paint.
It is not yet clear what the court ruling means for the EPA or the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) program. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that elevated blood levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter were sufficient to trigger a public health response. That level is half of what the CDC previously estimated was needed to trigger a public health response.
As part of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the EPA is already conducting a review of the RRP program. The RFA requires federal agencies to review regulations that may have a significant economic impact on small businesses, and if so determine if they can be changed to make them more effective or less burdensome in achieving the stated objectives. Completion of that review is tentatively scheduled for April 2018.
NLBMDA continues its outreach to the EPA and is working with other housing industry groups to determine the impact of the ruling and what it means for the future of the RRP program.
The National Policy Agenda reflects NLBMDA’s position on a range of public policy issues. To learn more about these issues and to read the entire 2018 National Policy Agenda, please visit www.dealer.org.
Dealers and LBM stakeholders are also encouraged to travel to Washington, D.C. and meet with their lawmakers concerning industry issues at the 2018 NLBMDA Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference. More information about the meeting can be found at www.leg-con.org.