Year-End Progress on the Legislative Front

December 19, 2019

The Mineworkers national pension and health plans were provided badly need Federal fiscal support in the year-end spending measure allowing use of the abandoned mine reclamation funds to shore up both the Mineworker national pension and health funds. This long-overdue measure will help save national mineworker pension benefits and will take the fiscal pressure of looming insolvency of that plan off the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) potential liability books. This measure also provides a path forward for Federal support for broader multiemployer pension reform – an essential prerequisite for effective reforms to remedy the 140 or so critical and declining plans without irredeemably crippling the vast majority of otherwise healthy plans by transferring the fiscal liability for the remedy to healthy plans.

Also, health plans got some good news with the long-awaited repeal of the Cadillac tax on health plans and the 2021 repeal of the health insurer tax that was levied on our fully insured health plans.

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MCAA’s initiative with the MCA of Maryland, the MCA of Metropolitan Washington, the MCA of New York, and the New England Mechanical Contractors Association (NEMCA) is moving ahead with contacts in the House and Senate expanding to seek an add-on proposal in either the next COVID relief measure or possibly on the infrastructure proposal that is expected soon. The proposal is relatively simple – Congress should set up a separate COVID Cost Recovery Fund on direct Federal construction contracts to pay impaired productivity and other COVID direct costs to be administered apart from the affected projects’ budgets. The rationale is that it is inequitable for the government as proprietor of the project to take the full benefit of the fixed-price award pre-COVID and then drive a hard bargain denying full equitable cost impact recovery post pandemic, while at the same time using taxpayer resources to bail out other industries outside of any contractual relationship.…
The Democrats in the 117th Congress are pressing the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 in two phases. The first phase, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, is moving through the reconciliation process in the House and Senate (not subject to filibuster in the Senate). It would provide funding to enable the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to pay full benefits for plans in critical status (with a funded ratio below 40% and an active to inactive participant ratio of less than 2:3). Funding would also be provided to help critical and declining plans, and those plans that have already cut benefits (or have applications pending) under the 2014 Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) benefit suspension procedure. …
MCAA’s Government Affairs Committee has been busy protecting our members’ interests on Capitol Hill. Progress is being made on issues such as multiemployer pension plan reform and equitable compensation for COVID cost impacts. MCAA is also working to prevent the misclassification of employees, protect Federal construction contracts against Internet reverse auctions, and support legislation that would expand apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship.…
The $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) provides badly needed COVID economic relief, construction market stimulus and a forward-looking prospect for market recovery in public sector infrastructure investments as the pandemic recedes. In a memo to the MCAA Government Affairs Committee, Chair Jim Gaffney provided a summary digest of the items most likely to impact MCAA members and the MCAA policy agenda. The President is seeking greater individual stimulus checks, so there may be an amendment or veto, but this summary will stand for most of what will be the final result. Correction: The latest COVID relief measure signed into law Sunday does not extend the requirement that employers offer paid sick and family leave as required under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act passed last March as erroneously reported in the MCAA summary published in the Weekly Update on December 28, 2020. The latest COVID bill extends only the availability of the refundable tax credit as under the FFCRA until the end of March 2021 for those employers voluntarily providing such paid leave after December 31, 2020. MCAA regrets the error.…

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Ted McHugh left college with an education geared more towards general contracting, with limited knowledge of the mechanical industry. However, he applied for a job at West Chester Mechanical Contractors and quickly gained experience in various roles. http://ow.ly/VqvA50DLhzS

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