Oklahoma State Home Builders Association

An Affiliate of the National Home Builders Association

Clean Water Act and 'Confined Spaces' legislation at forefront

 
Posted on October 9, 2015 by By Carol Hartzog Communications

By Kirt Dinnes
NAHB State Representative

Editor's note: This column wil be published in the upcoming edition of Oklahoma Builder magazine

NAHB held its summer Executive Board meeting this year in Washington, D.C.  It was literally a "fly in and fly out" one day of condensed meetings.

For those who could not attend personally, the meetings could be attended through a sophisticated virtual teleconference that accommodated interaction and voting remotely.

It worked well and I saved two days of travel and considerable expense to the Association.

 Advocacy

Clean Water Act

NAHB is actively engaging our legislators concerning the Wetlands (Waters of the United States) environmental issue.

In May, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers finalized the long-awaited rule to define "waters of the United States" and the jurisdictional scope of the Clean Water Act.  

The areas of concern include tributaries, adjacent waters, ditches and other waters that pose a "significant nexus" to a jurisdictional water.

The House approved H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would require EPA and the Corps to withdraw the rule and develop a new plan in consultation with state and local governments and other stakeholders, including the small business community.  

The NAHB is actively urging the Senate to pass companion legislation S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Production Act. The Supreme Court has already ruled twice there are limits to the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

The NAHB and other stakeholders filed two lawsuits challenging the final rule: One in district court and one at the court of appeals.  It will be about a year before the various parties start arguing over the substance of this rule.

The NAHB also sent a letter to the EPA administrator requesting a 90-day extension to the effective date.  This is an important environmental issue developers and builders will want to watch closely. 

 OSHA and 'Confined Space' definition

In May, OSHA issued another long-awaited Final Rule on Confined Space in Construction. Although the rule encompasses a number of confined spaces, the two that most affect builders are crawlspaces and attics.  

The new rule requires identification and a valuation of a confined space by a competent person; hazardous atmosphere testing and monitoring; written confined space entry program and entry permit; controlling contractor/host employer be the primary point of contact for information about worksite permit spaces; specified duties for authorized confined spaces entrants, outside attendance and supervisors; emergency rescue requirements; and workers to be trained on hazardous procedures for entering confined spaces.

The new standard was set to become effective Aug. 3.

However, in response to NAHB's request for additional time to train workers and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the standard, OSHA issued a 60-day temporary enforcement policy, postponing full enforcement until Oct. 2.

The NAHB and the Texas Association of Builders have also filed a petition for review in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the final standard, so the impact of the rule may not be known until this case is resolved. 

NAHB Policy

If you would like to serve on the NAHB Board of Directors, I would like to encourage you to check with your local HBA and ask if there are NAHB Board appointments either un-filled or the current appointees are no longer active.  

If you are currently a NAHB board of directors member and wish to serve on or are already on a council or committee, committee appointment applications close Oct. 18.

Remember, if you are on a council or committee, you must re-apply each year and be reappointed by senior officers. 

 ICC

The International Construction Code organization, (ICC) 

Registration for local code officials ended Aug. 30. So local code officials who are members are able to participate in remote voting on proposed  building codes.

NAHB will develop an Online Governmental Consensus Voting Guide for members to discuss and distribute to their local and state registered ICC code officials to use during on line voting.

Oklahoma currently has a low number of registered code officials, so please continue to encourage your state and local code officials to register and become ICC members for future remote voting. This is a very important way we as members have an opportunity to influence code changes through our local and state code officials.  

Health Reimbursement Arrangements

An unintended consequence in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is preventing small businesses from helping their employees afford health care.  An IRS interpretation of the ACA prohibits stand-alone HRAs, which had been a means for employers to provide pre-tax dollars to employees for medical care services.

As of July 1, all employers regardless of size could face fines of $100 per day per employee if they offer HRAs.  

The $100 penalty went into effect for businesses that provide reimbursement for more than one employee.

At NAHB's urging, the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act was introduced in the House and the Senate.  The legislation (bipartisan in both chambers) would enable small businesses to continue to use HRAs without fear of penalty 

Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor (DOL) released a draft regulation proposing updating the salary level at which certain "white-collar" workers would be exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay from the current $23,660 to $50,440.  It would take effect on Jan.1.

Under the current law, workers who earn less that $23,660 annually are considered non-exempt employees and employers must pay them time-and-a-half for any hours worked over a 40 hour work week.

The Fair Labor Standards Act white-collar exemptions exclude certain executive, administrative and professional employees from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.  

NAHB has submitted a request for a 90-day extension to the comment period. 

As you can see, your HBA membership is more important than ever.

However, membership is just the start.  Becoming an active member enables you to stay connected with other industry professionals and provides you with countless educational opportunities to stay informed and educated.  After all, the home building industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries.   As a professional in this industry staying informed and educated can make the difference between a business that's ordinary or extraordinary.

 As for myself and our company, active membership does make a difference.  

As always, I would like to personally thank you.   By reading this very article, you are wisely taking advantage of the work done on your behalf and our industry.

 This is made possible because of your valued membership in both OSHBA and NAHB.

If I can be of any help as your NAHB State Representative please contact me, I would enjoy hearing from you.

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