August 2013: Government Affairs


Government Affairs

Great Time to Get Involved

If you have paid attention to this space, our numerous grassroots alerts, and our annual Washington, D.C., fly-in communications, you have seen our call for you to get involved in the MCAA government relations program. If you have not already decided to get involved, we urge you to make the decision today.

Our federal government is currently debating and moving on major issues that will affect our industry, our livelihoods, and your business. Now is the perfect time to contact your Members of Congress to let them know that you are paying attention and need their help to protect the masonry industry in America.

New Silica Exposure Limits

One of the biggest issues currently coming down the pipe is a new regulation being formulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) at the Department of Labor that will drastically reduce the crystalline silica exposure levels acceptible on construction sites. While we can all agree that a healthy workforce is important to all of us, the rumored levels and other regulations that OSHA is considering would be extremely overbearing, if not downright unfeasible for the masonry industry. We have seen notice that OSHA will release the new regulation sometime in July, so it is imperative that you contact your Member of Congress and let him or her know that any new OSHA regulation must be delayed or blocked, until we can have a voice in the decision process and any new regulations are based on sound science and the facts.

The Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotion Act of 2013 (S.429 and H.R.1563)

Concrete block is a durable, trusted building product, used for more than a century to build America’s public infrastructure, commercial facilities and homes. However, as a commodity product made by many small, local manufacturing companies, its manufacturers are unable to leverage enough research and promotion to compete with other industries dominated by large, international companies promulgating branded product solutions.

Congressional authorization is being solicited to permit the extension of the commodity check-off program to apply to the commodity-based concrete block industry to support research, education and promotion intended to benefit all within the industry. It is important to note that this bill would not cost federal taxpayers any money. Call your Representative and ask him or her to cosponsor H.R.1563, and your Senator and ask him or her to cosponsor S.429. This program is important to our industry, and the more cosponsors and support we can get, the better chance we have in getting it enacted.

Immigration/E-Verify Program

The United Senate recently passed S. 744 – broad, comprehensive immigration policy reform that includes a provision that would mandate that all employers participate in the e-verify program.

E-Verify is an electronic employment eligibility verification system used to determine whether the information in a new hire’s I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) matches government records. Businesses would have five years to comply with the mandate under provisions of the bill.

It is imperative that you contact your Representative in the U.S. House, and let him or her know that if the House takes up immigration reform and it includes mandatory e-verify program participation, it must include adequate time for training and implementation (as most small businesses do not have full time HR departments); must include adequate provisions protecting businesses from liability if the e-verify program returns faulty data; and provisions not holding contractors liable for the e-verify use, or lack thereof, of their subcontractors.

Affordable Care Act Employee Mandate Delay

The Obama administration announced on July 2, 2013, that the “employer mandate” portion of the Affordable Care Act will be delayed until 2015. Prior to this decision, the healthcare law required businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide affordable health insurance for their workers or pay penalties, starting on Jan. 1, 2014.

Now, these business owners will have until Jan. 1, 2015, to comply with the law. (If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, this delay doesn’t mean much, as your business is not subject to the employer mandate.)  Contact your Member of Congress and let him or her know that this mandate should be repealed or delayed indefinitely, so its impact on businesses can be more fully studied and understood.

Remember, MCAA is only as strong as our members, and this is a great time for you to contact your Members of Congress and voice your concerns over these new regulations and laws that are currently moving in Washington, D.C.

Stephen A. Borg is VP of The Keelen Group,

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