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November 5, 2013

AGMA’s legislative tricks or treats!

Since the Pennsylvania General Assembly returned in late September, AGMA worked with numerous House legislators and their staff to better educate them about their concerns regarding three pending bills, which would amend the 1963 Mechanics Lien Law. To that end, on September 23, 2013, the House voted 115-83 in favor of HB 473, which would create a “Notice of Commencement” process whereby owners can identify subcontractors working on their project. AGMA remained neutral on this legislation, which included the following provisions:

• Creation of a State Construction Notices Directory;

• Notice of Commencement;

• Notice of Furnishing Requirements for Subcontractors;

• Elimination of Pre-Lien Notice Requirement;

• Informational Notice of Completion;

• State of Public Policy;

• on-Applicability to Residential Buildings; and

• Applicability of Notice Provisions.

Additionally, on October 23, 2013, the PA House unanimously passed HB 982 and SB 145; mechanics lien legislation related to residential properties. AGMA opposed both pieces of legislation, which included the following provisions:

• Costs of construction

• Reimbursement Lien

• An opened-end mortgage – the proceeds of which are used to pay all or part of the cost of completing erection, construction, alteration or repair of the mortgaged premises secured by the open-end mortgage. At least twenty-five percent (25%) of the proceeds are intended to pay or are used to pay all or part of the costs of construction.

Ultimately, AGMA was directly involved in the legislative process regarding the above-mentioned legislation with the hope of developing a stronger working relationship with the PA House Labor and Industry Committee; especially as they begin their initial dialogue with the Committee regarding the 1994 Prompt Pay Act, which would amend the Act to ensure timely payment to contractors and subcontractors. Hopefully, the committee “treats AGMA” rather than “tricks AGMA” as these negotiations move forward!

On the local level, the City Council of Philadelphia introduced five demolition bills on Thursday, October 3, 2013 that would establish minimum training requirements for contractors and city building inspectors, require contractors to hire independent site-safety monitors at every construction or demolition site, expand the authority of the Fire Department to shut down dangerous construction jobs, and require demolition contractors to convince the city of their skills and training before they are licensed to work in Philadelphia. City Council President Darrell Clarke stated that “he expects Council to take action on demolition practices by the end of the year in a broad legislative package to promote safety at Philadelphia demolition and construction sites.” As these bills are debated, AGMA will monitor them very closely and determine ways to ensure that their employers, employees, customers, and communities have the safest of working environments. Safety remains their top priority!

Finally, on the federal front, Congress returned after the 17-day shutdown to bellwether session that will ultimately gauge the political tone in Washington for the rest of the year. Much of the attention is already shifting to focus on the formal start of negotiations in the joint House-Senate budget conference. Currently, the budget deal extends the debt ceiling through February 7th and restarted funding for government agencies, but only through January 15th. This bipartisan, bicameral budget conference will work on finding a longer-term spending plan, at least one to last through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30th. The new panel’s assignment is a tough one, given the wide differences in the budgets passed separately by the two chambers. Those extend not just to the respective levels of proposed spending, but to the treatment of entitlement programs, the future of the sequester cuts, and the prospect for taxes or other new revenues. The conferees are due to issue a report on December 13th.

Despite these budget negotiations, AGMA remains committed to its top federal legislative priority; Multiemployer Pension Plans (MEP). To that end, on Thursday, November 14, 2013, AGMA will be heading to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Finishing Contractors Association of North America’s legislative fly-in regarding MEPs. They will be meeting with Members of Congress that serve on the House and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to educate the Members and their staff about the importance of this issue. No doubt, uncertainty exists for many MEP plans included in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), which is scheduled to sunset in 2014. Hopefully, these meetings provide the legislative “tricks” that will enable AGMA to receive the “treats” of good legislation on this matter.

Without question, they have a heavy legislative agenda, but they remain confident and optimistic that we will be successful on these issues and beyond. Until our next newsletter, please be safe!

Source: Gray & Oscar