August was a great month…the playoff races in major league baseball heated up – the NFL ramped up for its season – school started – and many of my neighbors that I don’t like were away on vacation, and…yes, Congress was in recess.
Now it’s the end of September already, and the upcoming Congressional elections are not too far off – Nov. 4, 2014. Don’t forget to vote! To help you monitor how your respective Members of Congress voted on issues of interest to small business and the p-h-c industry before you cast your vote, PHCC National will release the “PHCC Small Business Voting Record” at Connect 2014 in New Orleans, Oct. 8 – Oct. 10, and provide a link to the voting record to all PHCC members. The voting record is a compilation of votes taken in the House and Senate in the 113th Congress. As you know, this is a mid-term election, and not a presidential election year.
The entire House is up for reelection and a third of the Senate. The House is currently held in control by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats. The House will stay in control of the Republicans after the election, but all eyes on the Senate (PHCC will provide further analysis as we get closer to the elections).
Since it’s already the end of September — it’s less than two months away from voting day, let’s catch up on a few issues of importance to PHCC members…
PHCC’s 2014 Legislative Conference: Earlier this year, PHCC members, including a strong delegation from California, came together in Washington, D.C. for PHCC’s 2014 Legislative Conference. Because direct communication with Members of Congress and their staffs is critical to the success of any industry, members provided Congress with a powerful message in three ways…
1. They educated their respective Members(s) of Congress about the challenges and opportunities unique to the plumbing, heating, and cooling industry;
2. Requested that Congress fully engage in addressing the skills gap and workforce development; and
3. Asked that Congress get involved in curbing burdensome regulatory activities.
The response from Capitol Hill was overwhelming and many legislators attended PHCC’s conference to show support, including Congressmen Steve Chabot (R-OH), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), David Schweikert (R-AZ), John Shimkus (R-IL), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ). Congressmen Thompson and Langevin are the Co-Chairmen of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus, a group of more than 60 Members of Congress who are deeply involved in the workforce development issues.
Workforce development: Prior to recess, Congress passed and the President signed the PHCC- supported “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which is part of a comprehensive campaign to address the skills gap. PHCC supports the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” and has also been advocating for reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, a program to support the development of academic and career technical skills among secondary and postsecondary education students. This was an important component of PHCC’s 2014 Legislative Conference in May.
Furnace, air conditioner, and heat pump rule: The efficiency standards for non-weatherized gas furnace equipment have been set aside and a new rulemaking process will be started for the regional standards provisions. As a result of PHCC’s involvement in the issue within the Department of Energy (DOE) and Capitol Hill, DOE recently announced the selection of an industry working group to establish an air conditioner enforcement rulemaking and in addition, a rulemaking on gas furnaces. PHCC was selected and is currently serving on a working group committee and will provide valuable expert input to DOE.
Lead renovation, repair & painting rule (LRRP): The Lead Renovation Repair & Painting Rule (LRRP) will soon be expanded to cover commercial and public buildings. PHCC, along with a construction industry coalition, is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure contractors not only have a voice at the table, but are not negatively impacted by the rule. The rule will be finalized in 2015 – and compliance will begin in 2016.
Refrigerants: PHCC continues to work with EPA and keep members informed of the dangers of R-22a. Recently, EPA distributed an alert warning homeowners and HVAC techs to avoid using propane-based refrigerants to re-charge AC units.The press also announced an FBI investigation of those selling the unapproved substitute product. PHCC was instrumental in alerting the EPA to this danger and has actively been communicating about the potential health and fire risks related to using these substitute refrigerants.
The Affordable Care Act: PHCC is keeping members informed about all requirements and deadline changes related to the Affordable Care Act. Last year, PHCC Vice President Kevin Tindall testified before the House Small Business Committee at an important hearing regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In his testimony, Mr. Tindall offered his insights as a business owner and told the committee that the confusion, misinformation, and lack of understanding of how ACA will be implemented will negatively impact a business’ ability to create jobs.
Expansion of the clean water act: EPA recently released a proposed rule, which would expand the Clean Water Act to include and redefine “waters of the United States.” PHCC participated in a hearing of the House Small Business Committee regarding the issue and continues to engage with other industries to provide expert information to EPA as it seeks to finalize a rule toward the end of this year and into next.
There is absolutely no magic to advocacy. The fact that we can have an impact in the legislative and regulatory arenas is only made possible with the support of professionals who join and involve themselves with PHCC. As we head into the mid-term elections and as the 113th Congress begins to wind down, PHCC of California and PHCC National will continue to work to protect the interests of PHCC members.
Mark R. Riso is director of government relations for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association, he can be reached at [email protected].