TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update, October 2016
Although election politics are dominating the headlines right now, on Capitol Hill there continues to be a lot of legislative and regulatory activity related to policy issues that will impact TAUC members, their employees, and their customers. Here is an exclusive update from TAUC on issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry as a whole.
Multiemployer Pension Reform
Last month, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline released a discussion draft of proposed legislation that includes multiemployer pension plan design reforms. TAUC applauded this effort to authorize the voluntary use of composite plans. The Committee on Education and Workforces’ Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing regarding the discussion draft on September 22nd. The Subcommittee heard from representatives of both labor and management supporting the discussion draft’s efforts to preserve the accrued benefits of participants in defined benefit legacy plans while taking steps to modernize the multiemployer pension system. TAUC submitted a statement for the record in support of Chairman Kline’s discussion draft.
While Chairman Kline has initiated a discussion of multiemployer pension plan design reforms, there are limited opportunities to secure passage of this legislation in the upcoming “Lame Duck” session that will occur after the November elections. One potential legislative vehicle that is pending is a bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee to address the pending insolvency of the United Mine Workers of America pension and health benefits programs. This bill would preserve the benefits for the 122,000 participants in that fund. TAUC does not have any problem with this legislation, but we are communicating our concern with the lack of action to address the crisis facing the over 10 million participants in multiemployer pension plans.
Clean Power Plan: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently heard arguments on whether EPA has the legal authority to implement its Clean Power Plan rule, which sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector in each state. The rule is being challenged by more than two dozen states, which are charged with implementing the standards, as well as several utility and industry groups. During the “Lame Duck” session, there could be efforts to include a “rider” to prevent EPA from using funds made available under the omnibus appropriations to implement the Clean Power Plan and the agency’s carbon limits for new and modified power plants. Such riders will be opposed by the President and will draw a veto threat.
Ozone Standard: There is also a battle in both the Federal courts and on Capitol Hill to block the Administration from implementing the EPA’s 70 parts per billion ozone standards. A coalition of states and industry organizations are challenging the standards in federal appeals courts. The House 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. There are also expected to be efforts to attach a rider delaying or blocking the implementation of the lower standard to the omnibus appropriations bill Congress is expected to approve in the “Lame Duck” session. The President has stated that he would veto legislation delaying or blocking this rule.
Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order Rule: The Department of Labor released final regulations and guidance for implementing the Executive Order issued by the President in 2014 to ensure that contractors working on Federal contracts of over $500,000 comply with federal wage laws, health and safety standards, and civil rights laws. The E.O. requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and gives agencies guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. The final rule will be phased in over a period of three years. The first phase requires prime contractors working on Federal contracts of greater than $5 million to comply being on October 25th. DOL is currently providing pre-assessments for perspective contractors. A number of groups — including the Associated Builders and Contractors — may try to block the E.O. in court.