WASHINGTON - The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) in March offered the following update on current legislative issues:

  • An important House bill gaining bipartisan support is HR 778, the Energy Efficient Buildings Incentives Act of 2001. It would spur the use of energy efficient systems and appliances, such as air conditioners, by providing tax breaks to homeowners and businesses until 2007. It was introduced by Representatives Edward Markey (D-7-Mass.) and Randy Cunningham (R-51-Calif.) and had 61 cosponsors. The bill could reduce energy costs by anywhere from 20% to 50% over current use levels if implemented.

  • The Bush administration moved earlier to revoke toughened federal standards for contractor qualifications for pre-award responsibility determinations. In early April, according to SMACNA, the administration suspended the contractor accountability rules for 270 days and asked for a 270-day comment period on the rule termination proposal.

    Many Bush administration agency heads had already postponed the stricter procurement enforcement rules. The proposal was a victim of much false but effective political fire, with most comments focusing on the political context of the proposal, rather than its substantive merits.

    SMACNA has expressed support for quality oriented federal contractor selection to the Bush administration and to the 107th Congress. The rules were narrowly revised late last year so that contractors now would only be required to self certify that they have not committed a felony in a number of legal areas (labor, safety, environmental, tax) three years prior to the bid date. SMACNA is opposing any legislation to postpone or repeal the contractor accountability rules. New changes or repeal of the rules were expected at any time.

  • SMACNA has endorsed House bill HR 1076 providing $3.57 billion per year in leveraging tax incentives to generate more than $22 billion annually for state and local school construction revenue bonds. The bipartisan bill introduced in 2001 by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-6-Conn.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-15-N.Y.) has nearly 225 bipartisan cosponsors with more commitments for floor votes. This level of support means the legislation has a majority of the House cosponsoring a school construction bill including prevailing wage coverage. In the last Congress an identical bill was defeated in the Ways and Means Committee and died awaiting House floor action. The bill's inclusion of Davis-Bacon coverage has triggered strong opposition from the GOP leadership in the House. However, it should pass by a comfortable margin if given a vote on the House floor.

SMACNA endorsed an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to establish a school construction and repair loan subsidy title to the ESEA. The bill was defeated on a 10-10 tie in committee and a 50-49 vote on the floor. During the Senate education debate an amendment by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) passed narrowly to allow more than $850 million in federal funds to be dedicated to school construction. But school construction funds were deleted from the education appropriation bill signed at the end of 2001.