October 15, 2015

NAHB’s Advocacy Initiatives

Today's article comes from Carl Harris, home builder from the state of Kansas. Carl chair's the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Federal Government Affairs committee, the "nuts & bolts" of our national association's number #1 priority, advocacy. For our builders back home, at the local level, this committee is a prime example of your national membership dues being the investment it truly is...

Update on NAHB’s Advocacy Initiatives
by Carl Harris, NAHB Federal Government Affairs Chairman

Carl Harris
At any given time, NAHB’s advocacy team, including staff from government affairs, legal affairs, housing finance, regulatory affairs and communications, is working on scores of issues that can have a significant impact on members. Below is a status update on several critical issues that we discussed last month at the NAHB Fall Board meeting.

Court Ruling Suspends New EPA Water Rule
NAHB has been on the forefront of fighting the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers ever since the proposal was first introduced. We have taken action on the legal, legislative and regulatory fronts to put a stop to this ill-advised rule. 
The rule went into effect on August 28, but we are pleased to report that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit enacted a nationwide stay on Oct. 9.
NAHB opposes this rule because it makes millions of additional acres subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. The rule raises housing costs and adds unnecessary regulatory burdens to small businesses. Even the Corps of Engineers — which is charged with administering and enforcing the rule — raised objections with EPA over the rule, which EPA ultimately ignored. 

NAHB Fights Wide Range of Labor Regulations
NAHB is fighting several proposed workforce regulations, including the Department of Labor’s (DOL) draft regulation on overtime for “white collar” employees. Starting next year, this proposal would raise the “exempt” salary level for executive or administrative staff from $23,660 to $50,440. Under the regulation, more than 110,000 construction supervisors may be eligible for overtime pay. 
NAHB CEO Jerry Howard has spoken up against the rule publicly, and NAHB submitted comments explaining how the regulation could harm small businesses. 
DOL has also been focused on the classification of independent contractors. The agency requested $10 million in FY 2016 for worker misclassification enforcement and detection efforts. The funding was rejected, but DOL continues to pursue this issue. The agency has put forth a guidance document on worker classification, which may trigger litigation. 
To help members navigate this topic, NAHB created a state-by-state guide that examines the laws determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee.
Another issue is the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision in Browning Ferris Industries, which expands the definition of “joint employer” and erodes long-established protections afforded to neutral employers, such as builders. Legislation supported by NAHB was introduced in the House that would protect the traditional joint employer definition.

OSHA Delays Enforcement of Confined Spaces Rule
In a victory for single-family home builders, the OccupationalHealth and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced Oct. 2 its decision to delay enforcement of the new Confined Spaces in Construction Standard until Jan. 8, 2016.

Though the ruling became effective Aug. 3, OSHA has agreed to refrain from issuing citations to any employer that is making good-faith efforts to comply with the standard. This temporary enforcement policy applies to construction of single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses in federal jurisdictions.OSHA-approved state plan enforcement dates may vary; for more information visit www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp.

NAHB Actions Limit Impact of Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
NAHB scored an important victory for home builders when it convinced the Army Corps of Engineers to back off on sweeping new flood plain standards that could have had a dramatic impact on home building and development.

In January, President Obama issued an Executive Order to expand federal floodplain management requirements far beyond the 100-year floodplain. 

NAHB members voiced serious concerns about the potential impact on federal permits and programs that builders and developers use. As a result of our efforts, the Army Corps will not be applying the floodplain requirements to Clean Water Act wetland permits. Similarly, FEMA will not apply the requirements to the National Flood Insurance Program, and HUD has indicated that the standard will not apply to FHA insurance of single-family mortgages. 

Building Codes Require Ongoing Vigilance
NAHB is very involved in the ongoing effort to keep codes sensible and cost-effective. At present, the International Code Council is in the process of reviewing thousands of proposed changes to the 2018 version of the codes.

Earlier this year, after careful review by our committee members and codes staff, NAHB took positions on 262 proposals. Of those, 129 did not receive public comment, and NAHB won on 82 percent of those proposals.

The ICC held public comment hearings in Long Beach, California, in early October. The NAHB delegation to the hearings included NAHB First Vice Chairman Ed Brady, Codes Committee Chairman George Schluter, Codes Committee Vice Chairman Phil Hoffman, and the NAHB staff codes team.


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