One of our Founding Fathers and the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, believed that a government that truly serves the people needs checks and balances in order to be effective and limit abuse. What would he say if he were alive today? What would he say about the continued creation and development of government programs like the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) workforce guidelines for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)?
Well, the truth is that he might not know what the weatherization program is, but he would have a lot to say about the process by which it’s being developed.
In early 2011 when the PHCC Board of Directors began to develop a new strategic plan, it noted the current Administration’s shift to move its agenda through the regulatory process instead of the legislative process. The Board of Directors determined that in order to protect the interests of PHCC members, PHCC advocacy efforts needed to focus heavily on the regulatory process. “We’ve got your back,” is not just a saying … it’s how PHCC National does its work.
Why would the Administration want to move its agenda through the regulatory process and not the legislative process? Because the Administration knows that many of its initiatives would not be popular and would not receive much support on Capitol Hill (the legislative process). What this means is that legislators who are elected to review and consider national policy issues, those entrusted to represent your views, are shut out of the process. Thus the regulators become the decision makers. What this ultimately means is that you, the taxpayer, the small business owner has no say in determining the regulations that can control your business. Remember you vote to elect legislators, not regulators.
Some would argue that the workforce guidelines for WAP are not regulations. This is technically true. However, the guidelines will though, be incorporated into a federal program offering training, certification and enforcement penalties for non-compliance, which in essence, is a regulation. The WAP will offer individuals the ability to participate in an inadequate training program and receive a lightweight certification that allows them to do work that only skilled and properly licensed plumbing and HVAC professionals should perform. The WAP will also confuse consumers into believing that they are receiving quality work from highly skilled professionals. The final result will be an army of individuals who will work on highly technical, highly sensitive equipment with little or no expertise.
But wait, there’s more…
In the case of DOE’s development of workforce guidelines for WAP the federal government is moving on plans to implement its guidelines without input from experts in our industry. Standards and specifications are being developed and implemented from an office in Washington, D.C., which creates potentially dangerous consequences.
Where are the checks and of balances? PHCC has met several times with DOE staff and launched a grassroots campaign that allowed PHCC members to contact the U.S. Secretary of Energy to express their concern. So far nothing has changed, but we’re continuing to make our thoughts known to the DOE.
One more item — the program is being developed under the guise of “jobs creation.” History tells us that certification programs don’t create jobs.
James Madison (if not all the founding fathers) would have a field day with this.
Lawmaking on the local, state and national levels is a daunting task, no doubt. But, make no mistake, in the case of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, this isn’t lawmaking. It’s purely pushing the will of the Administration, in a way that our founding fathers would have opposed, on industries that work to build the true wealth of this country.
For 130 years, PHCC has been dedicated to advancement and education for the health, safety and comfort of society and the protection of the environment. Our mission and the dedication and commitment of our professionals ring as true today as it did when PHCC was first established. We are truly proud of our past and excited about the future.
Keith Bienvenu is president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association. He is also secretary/treasurer of 75-year-old Bienvenu Brothers Plumbing, Metairie, La., which was named CONTRACTOR magazine’s Contractor of the Year in 2007. He has served in every office in Louisiana PHCC and was one of the founders of Quality Service Contractors. He can be reached at [email protected].