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Nov 21, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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May 22, 2013 BNA Inc.


Construction Labor Report


Contracting

NECA Members Highlighted Infrastructure

In Discussions With Lawmakers, Official Says


By

Elliott T. Dube



Members of the National Electrical
Contractors Association recently met with members of
Congress to promote such initiatives as increased resources for federal infrastructure, an official
for the organization told BNA May 20.

Marco Giamberardino, NECA executive director for government affai
rs, said more than 130
organization members met with more than 100 members of Congress during NECA's Legislative
Conference and Political Leadership Council Summit. House members who spoke at the May
14
-
16 event included Reps. John Delaney (D
-
Md.), Jim Ren
acci (R
-
Ohio), and Phil Roe (R
-
Tenn.), he said.

Giamberardino said that among other things, the group is working to enhance statutory
protection of pension plans, to support certain tax overhaul measures, and to combat the
misclassification of workers as i
ndependent contractors. But in light of continued significant
unemployment in the construction industry, conference attendees placed the greatest emphasis on
infrastructure, he said.

“If there isn't work out there, and there isn't work being put out on the

street, then none of the
other issues matter,” he said. “If our [contractors] are out of business, or basically they're making
zero net revenue, then they're not going to be doing any hiring, they're not going to be buying
equipment, they're not going to
be able to pay into pension plans or health care plans.”

Members Active in Many Infrastructure Areas

NECA has supported funding hikes in many areas of infrastructure, as the group's members have
contributed to a variety of projects.

“They do everything fro
m the building infrastructure side, and that's office buildings, stadiums,
shopping centers

basically any place that people go, whether it's new construction, or retrofits,
or energy
-
efficiency retrofits,” Giamberardino said. “Obviously, they do a fair amo
unt of school
construction as well.”

Members also are doing substantial work on the national electrical grid, he added.

“A lot of our outside line contractors are doing a ton of work right now,” the executive said, such
as upgrading existing transmission l
ines and “doing smart grid communication work.” Outside
line contractors are also repairing storm
-
damaged areas in the Northeast, and upgrading and
modernizing both above
-
ground and underground grid infrastructure, he added. “We think we
have a place on th
e water side as well,” Giamberardino said. “Certainly, a lot of our members,
particularly down in the Southeast, do a lot of wastewater and clean water treatment plant work.”

Group Also Seeks Changes in Pension, Tax Policy

Meanwhile, NECA is committed to e
nsuring that lawmakers extend and make permanent the
Pension Protection Act, the multiemployer plan provisions of which are set to expire in 2014,
Giamberardino said. He added that the organization seeks changes to the law that would
strengthen its current

funding rules and provide more relief to deeply troubled plans that are
projected to become insolvent.

The group also is pushing for repeal of the estate tax, Giamberardino said, noting that it has a
significant impact on the organization's members. Most
of them have at most 10 employees
and/or are family
-
owned. An NECA

position paper

on tax policy says the estate tax is
“essentially a penalty that families must pay to the govern
ment for the ‘privilege' of keeping their
business in their family.”

“In many cases, the federal estate tax rate is such a burden that families often have to sell their
small construction companies in order to pay this tax,” the paper states. “It has serve
d to only
create disruption for families, company employees, customers and suppliers.”

In addition, Giamberardino referenced NECA's position that lawmakers should reduce not only
the top corporate tax rate but also the top individual rate, which would affe
ct companies whose
shareholders report their firm's income or losses on their own individual income tax returns.

Mandatory E
-
Verify Use Supported by Members

The most important issue to NECA members with respect to an immigration overhaul is E
-
Verify, the g
overnment's electronic employment eligibility verification program, Giamberardino
said. Members support current legislation that would make use of the system mandatory for all
employers, he said.

“[NECA members] think it's the right thing to do, and they f
ind that the system has improved
vastly over the last few years and is very accurate,” Giamberardino said. “But we want to make
sure that our members who do participate in E
-
Verify, especially if it's mandated, are guaranteed
a safe harbor, so that if some
one somehow manages to slip through the system, and I mean slip
through the government's own verification system … our contractors do not get penalized
somehow.”

Giamberardino added that NECA members also are concerned about potentially being penalized
whe
never their partners in construction projects

including general contractors, subcontractors,
and suppliers

are found to have knowingly hired undocumented workers. He said it would be
unreasonable to expect an NECA member to monitor another firm's hiring pr
actices in addition
to its own.