MCAA Pushes Bill Across Finish Line
Stephen A. Borg
Unfortunately, throughout the years, some bad actors in Washington, D.C. have given all of us who work and live here a bad name. We are only out for ourselves, we are greedy, we have no morals, and of course…WE LIE! Well I hope that this article may change your opinion of us, well at least of me if nothing else.
Throughout the years I have written endlessly about the need for Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) members to get involved, raise your voice, join us in Washington, D.C. during our annual fly-in, and make our industry priorities known to your elected officials. “You can and will make a difference,” I wrote. “Your voice matters!” I quipped. While some of you reading this may not have believed me, we had dozens of MCAA members join us this past May for our annual fly-in and let me tell you their story.
Over the years as I am sure you have witnessed in your local communities, career and technical education (CTE) programs have become stigmatized, funding has dried up, and parents, educators, and governments have ignored the important roles these jobs play in our country. As a result we are currently seeing massive worker shortages throughout the country in the construction industry, and according to NCCER (formerly the National Center for Construction Education and Research) and its program “Build Your Future” there are nearly 500,000 jobs that will be open throughout the United States in the masonry/bricklaying field in the next three years alone.
In May 2017, the House Education and Workforce Committee began drafting legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Act, legislation first passed in 1984 to provide federal funding support and guidelines on career and technical education. Acting quickly in a bipartisan manner, the Committee passed the bill in early June of 2017 and sent the bill to the full House of Representatives. Knowing the importance of the legislation and the need for robust career and technical education programs (especially in the economic state we currently find ourselves in) the full House of Representatives passed H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21stCentury Act on June 22, 2017 by voice vote. What a great bipartisan victory in the House! Action that would surely pave the way for the Senate to quickly act and send the bill to the President for his signature… or so we thought.
After months of inaction, it became apparent that the Senate was not placing this legislation on their list of priority pieces of legislation and we ran the risk of having this all-important federal law lapse, further jeopardizing career and technical education programs. Hence, reauthorization became one of MCAA’s top legislative asks in the middle of May 2018 during our annual Legislative Fly-In. In particular, we asked the House members we met with to re-iterate to their Senate colleagues how important this law was to not only the masonry industry but to our overall economy and to those Senate offices we met with we discussed the need to raise this issue up the priority list and take action immediately before the 115thCongress came to a close. It had been nearly a full year since the House of Representatives passed their version and the Senate needed to follow suit.
Well were we heard! See, just because I live in and work in Washington, D.C. I do not lie. Your voices were heard! You did make a huge difference! Shortly after our MCAA members left Washington after another successful fly-in, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions began drafting their version of the Perkins Act Re-Authorization and quickly passed it by unanimous consent on July 23, 2018 and that same day the full Senate passed the bill by voice vote. The House of Representatives then quickly acted and voted to accept the Senate version of the bill by voice vote and sent the Perkins Act Re-Authorization to the President for his signature.
There is no way this action would have occurred without people like you bringing this issue to the attention of Congress and sharing your stories of the need for a qualified, eager workforce and the amount of job openings you have in your businesses. I could not be more proud of your sacrifice, your determination, and your persistence in making sure that your voices were heard and that you were able to make a difference!
Well done Members of the Mason Contractors Association of America!