Good Friday the 13th Morning…
Congress was out of session this week…they’ll be in for four more weeks until the end of the year – with recess coming a week before Christmas. I mentioned last week that I’d do a political quiz in this edition – but – we have so much in the way of news that we’ll do it at the end of the month.
The big story for the past couple of weeks was budget related. As you’ve read by now, Congress and the President worked out a budget agreement (more a process) and debt limit (ceiling) increase that will take the pressure off. Why is that important? Because Congress has been practicing stop gap – short term budget (Continuing Resolution) deals that don’t address the bigger picture. Now…with no threat of a government shutdown and/or default on our debt obligations for the next two years – appropriators on the Hill will be able to look at where we are going as a nation financially – not merely staying one step ahead of budget shortfalls. What’s been happening for years on the Hill is a lot like what I do at the end of every month….I tend to pay bills to get creditors away from me in the short term – yet I tend to put off seeing a financial advisor to help me in the long term. The budget agreement will put paying bills on automatic while now working with appropriators to set a course for the future. This is a good thing.
As you all know – John Boehner (R-OH) stepped down as Speaker of the House and retired. No matter what you think or believe about Boehner – being Speaker is a tough job. The inside scoop is that though his own party respected him – Boehner was a 218 guy….in other words – when the House conducted whip counts (an internal poll to see if Members of Congress would support a bill prior to it going to the House floor) he always wanted at least 218 (218 reflects a majority in the House) Members of the House to say “yes I will vote in favor of this bill if you bring it to the floor” (in politics – you never risk a loss). The bill in question would not go to the floor unless the 218 was achieved. However, many of his colleagues said that they wanted him to go by the “Hastert Rule.” If the majority of the majority supports a bill – bring it to the floor (regardless of its fate). Welcome Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). Also, Ryan is respected by many Democrats…he received support from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as well as leaders in the House.
Copp’s on the Hill….
PHCC’s new EVP Michael Copp met a few of PHCC’s closest friends on the Hill recently, and more meetings will continue in early December. Meetings like these are critical as they help PHCC’s continuity and augment the relationships that PHCC members and chapter execs have with Members of Congress and staff. Some of these meetings are strategic as they continue to align PHCC with committee leadership (vital to our visibility on the Hill). Meetings like these also signals to lawmakers that PHCC is the leader in our industry’s voice regarding policy making in this nation.
On the Hill and in the Agencies…
PHCC (via Chuck White) continues discussions with the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding the Furnace, Air Conditioner, Heat Pump Rule. In a nutshell – regarding the furnace portion of the rule…Chuck is involved in industry negotiations that would in essence, provide DOE industry’s view of what range the efficiency of a furnace should be. Regarding the air conditioner portion of the rule…we still await DOE’s enforcement guideline regarding the current rule establishing “regional standards.”
OK – let’s make sure we are all on the same page regarding EPA’s attempt to expand “Waters of the US.” The House passed a PHCC supported bill a few months ago requiring the rule be withdrawn (it was that simple). Remember, EPA is looking to expand the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” thereby dramatically increasing the amount of water bodies that are permitted (by the federal government). The Senate then took up the bill recently – but failed to achieve the 60 votes needed (“Cloture) to cut off debate and move to a vote (remember, the Senate can debate forever if they don’t achieve the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate and move to a vote — filibuster). So for now, the legislation is in limbo. However, shortly after the Senate failed to achieve cloture (60 votes) – they passed a resolution of disapproval – basically stating that the process to establish the rule violated the Congressional Review Act…Congress must receive an impact study if an agency is going to move on a rule that impacts small business – they did not receive such a study. Though passing a resolution of disapproval is important – the Administration would never have signed the resolution. The real issue though is still in the hands of the courts – early last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay against the enforcement of the rule – we will await further court actions. Bottom line – this one’s in the courts…stay tuned…I have to tell you though that one of the PHCC state execs nailed this issue from the beginning – congrats mystery exec.
Highway Bill…As you’ve heard about by now (and perhaps not directly related to PHCC but important) the House and Senate conferees (Members of the House and Senate selected to serve on an adhoc issue committee) will meet to work out differences in their respective authorizations regarding the highway bill. The bill – known as the Surface Transportation Reauthorization – is a massive infrastructure funding bill, needed to maintain and build infrastructure (roads and bridges) in the nation. Is this related at all to PHCC? It is…one can argue that the economic health of the nation (and more specifically to a state) is dependent and tied to its infrastructure – the ability to move product and people. Though I don’t have it at my fingertips, I have seen and read many studies showing the decline in a state’s economy paralleling its spending (or lack thereof) in its infrastructure.
PHCC continues to push for Senate support for tax extenders…specifically, to extend the small business tax incentives that expired at the end of last year. PHCC supports and is urging immediate Senate consideration of an element of H.R. 636, America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015. This provision extends the Section 179 (IRS code) business expensing rules (in other words – this will give business the opportunity to expense equipment, software, etc. rather than depreciating it over a period of many years). H.R. 636 was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The legislation will benefit businesses of all sizes by permanently extending the Section 179 expensing allowances at the expanded levels that were in place from 2010-2014. Also, there will be a significant benefit from the section striking the exemption of air conditioning or heating equipment from the qualified investments eligible for Section 179 expensing. This small modification creates energy savings opportunities for small businesses and commercial building owners across the nation. Bottom line – look for a legislative alert soon as this issues is ready pop.
Save the Date
PHCC’s 2016 Legislative Conference
May 18-19, 2016
If you didn’t attend Connect 2015…we want to make sure everyone was aware that PHCC of Tennessee and PHCC of Indiana won the legislative awards. And BTW – California’s submission was great too! Specifically…
PHCC of Tennessee worked with the state legislature and Governor’s office to pass and sign legislation into law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in lodging facilities
PHCC of Indiana worked to stop an initiative that would have eliminated licensure in the state and opt for a “self-certification” program
Regulations are captured and published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In 1950, there were 13 volumes of regulations – which if you stacked up one by one (at approx. 750 pages per volume), would be the height of the average baby boy at birth (adorable). Today, there are over 235 volumes of regulations – stacked up one by one would be three feet taller than a male giraffe.
Mark Riso serves the members of PHCC as their director of government relations in Washington, DC.