March 30th, 2015
Same Issues, Different Outlook after WDMA Legislative Conference
If the issues on this year’s WDMA Legislative Conference agenda look familiar, that’s because they should. As we all know, the 113th Congress didn’t do much to advance the causes impacting our industry. Or any causes, for that matter. However, this Congress is showing some early signs we might see better results.
Granted, I’ve had my moments of doubt over the past couple of months. But, after the WDMA meetings on Capitol Hill last week, I’m changing my outlook back to optimistic.
While we are still talking about many of the issues we’ve been talking about for a few years, The View from Here is that there’s new hope for progress, and we’re already seeing some results.
Improving Energy Efficiency
According to WDMA Priority Issue Talking Points, “… the amount of energy lost each year through inefficient windows and doors is equivalent to the amount of oil the nation receives from the Alaska pipeline.” That said, legislation that promotes energy efficiency received top billing on the WDMA’s agenda.
Among the topics related to energy efficiency was the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC), which has garnered renewed interest over the past couple of months. The ESIC has been around for a while, promising improvements to energy consumption, as well as improvements to the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of the economy in general–specifically, the fenestration industry.
Aside from the economic benefits, other key elements of ESIC that are of particular interest to our industry are the SAVE Act component, which values energy efficiency in the appraisal and mortgage underwriting process, and the Tenant Star program, which recognizes rental properties that have better energy efficiency.
Additionally, ESIC includes requirements that direct federal agencies to recognize all green building rating systems that are approved by DOE rather than exclusively using LEED, which discriminates against common proven building materials, such as vinyl and wood products.
It’s a good sign that just days after the conference, a “mini” version of the bill was passed in the Senate. Known as Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (S. 535), the measure covers buildings and grid-enabled water heaters. Let’s hope that this is an indication of what’s to come and another reason to feel optimistic.
EPA LRRP Reformation
We are still fighting to get the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP) modified, and progress looks promising with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has a bill in process that would reinstate the “opt out” that would allow almost 50 percent of households to opt out of lead paint testing and possible remediation (saving those consumers as much as $150 per window installation).
Inhofe’s bill would also roll back the enforcement rule to 1960 from the current 1978 until such time as an accurate, cost-effective test kit can be established. Current test kits have false positive performance of 84 percent, meaning that 84 percent of homes tested that did not have lead paint tested as lead present.
Federal Regulatory Process Reform
The third issue is a new one for WDMA—federal regulatory reform. This was a main concern in the offices of members I visited. I think any reduction in the regulatory burden facing manufacturers would be a good thing. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this topic as conversation continues.
I’m hopeful and optimistic that Congress can pass these bills with the support of the president. As always, if you feel strongly about any of these issues, please contact your member of Congress. The best way to gain support in Washington is to present a united front.