TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update, June 2016
It’s been a busy month on Capitol Hill. From pension reform to efforts to ban the use of project labor agreements, here’s an exclusive update from TAUC on the issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry as a whole.
Multiemployer Pension Reform
In response to the U.S. Department of Treasury rejection of its rescue plan, the Central States Pension Funds’ trustees have stated that they do not intend to develop another plan. In a letter to participants, the Administrators warned that the fund is likely to become insolvent within the next 10 years. If this were to occur, it would have a significant impact on the PBGC multiemployer program and the entire multiemployer pension system.
TAUC and the other union construction trade associations of the Construction Employers of America (CEA) continue to urge Congress to enact legislation to strengthen the multiemployer pension system by authorizing the use of hybrid composite plans that would allow trustees to voluntarily develop plans to offer participants lifetime benefits at a fixed cost to employers. We are also expressing concerns with increasing PBGC premiums to the levels necessary to support the bailout of troubled plans like Central States.
Clean Power Plan: Legislative and legal wrangling continue over the Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit made an unexpected decision to bypass the typical hearing before a panel of three judges, which had been scheduled for June 2. Arguments on whether EPA has the legal authority to implement this rule will instead be heard by the full court in September. The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation that included a “rider” to prevent EPA from using funds made available under the bill from being used to implement the Clean Power Plan and the agency’s carbon limits for new and modified power plants. The bill was defeated on the floor over an unrelated item. It is unclear whether it will be considered again free-standing or incorporated into a larger funding package. Such riders will be opposed by the President and will draw a veto threat.
Mercury and Air Toxics Rule: Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition by 20 states that seeks review of a federal appeals court decision that left the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in place while the agency worked to address legal flaws in its rulemaking process. The state coalition, led by Michigan, wants the Supreme Court to stay the rule while EPA address concerns successful raised by the states over whether the agency erred when it did not consider cost in its threshold decision that it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.
Ozone Standard: The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation that would delay the deadline for states to meet the EPA’s 70 parts per billion standards by eight years – from October 2016 until October 2024. H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016, would address challenges facing state and local governments in complying with the new ozone standards issued by EPA last fall while still trying to comply with the most recent standards, which were issued in 2008. The full House is expected to consider the legislation later this week. It is unclear whether the Senate will consider this bill, however it is anticipated that efforts will be made to attach the implementation of this rule through the appropriations process.
Amendment to Prevent Use of PLAs/Repeal Federal Prevailing Wage Requirements: TAUC worked with our building trade union and construction trade association allies to successfully defeat amendments preventing the use of Project Labor Agreements and federal prevailing wage requirements on projects funded under the fiscal year 2017 Military Construction appropriations bill. An amendment offered by Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania would have mandated a ban on the use of project labor agreements for projects funded under this bill. Similarly, Rep. Steve King of Iowa offered an amendment that would have denied Davis-Bacon prevailing wage coverage for any federally supported construction projects initiated under this legislation. TAUC sent a letter to thanking the 33 republican members of the House who voted against the Perry amendment.
DOL’s Overtime Rule: The Administration finalized a rule to increase the number of employees eligible for overtime by raising the salary threshold for those eligible for overtime from $23,660 to $ $47,476 annually for a full-year worker. The House Education and Workforce Committee is holding a hearing on the impacts of this rule later this week. Energy Bill: The House and Senate are set to begin conference negotiations to reconcile their respective comprehensive energy proposals so that final legislation can be sent to the President. The President has threatened to veto the House-passed version over a number of provisions included in their package. Timing for the conference is unclear.
TAUC has worked with our building trades union partners to ensure funds provided under newly created federal grant programs to modernize the power grid and improve energy efficiency in energy production were covered by federal labor protections.