Burning issues include lead-mitigation opt-out

Washington, D.C. -- Lumberyard owners and suppliers focused on three wide-ranging front-burner regulatory and legislative issues during the 2013 Legislative Conference here in the nation's capitol.

Reform of the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead paint rule was among the three high-priority items, along with preservation of the mortgage interest deduction and creation of online sales tax parity. 

The talking points emerged as NLBMDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ben Gann briefed lumberyard owners and their suppliers on some of the major regulatory and legislative issues facing the industry. A detailed overview of the issues preceded an afternoon of lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The NLBMDA has a long history of objections to the EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP). It was introduced in 2010 and requires remodeling and renovation firms that perform work on pre-1978 housing to be EPA-certified. And the firms must keep records of the project for three years. 

The NLBMDA supports the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act, which has two key provisions: 1.) It restores an opt-out provision for homeowners in households with no pregnant women and no children; and 2.) It creates a time frame for the EPA to develop a test kit that is commercially available and meets the EPA's own standard for false positives. 

In addition to adhering to good common sense, reinstatement of the opt-out rule, according to the EPA's estimate, would save $336 million, Gann said.

Another common-sense move for the housing industry is the preservation of the mortgage interest deduction, Gann said. "In many ways this is a critical piece to our housing policy."    

Gann said misperceptions linger over the deduction: "It's not millionaires living on vacation homes in the beach. Two-thirds of the benefits are claimed by those making $200,000 or less." Even the deduction for mortgage interest of second homes plays an important role for local economies, he said.

The third high-priority issue dealt with a level playing field for retailers and online merchants. According to the NLBMDA, far too many online-only retailers are not collecting sales tax at the point of purchase, putting local retailers at a competitive disadvantage.

The NLBMDA supports the Marketplace Fairness Act, but Gann said it's important to understand that support of the bill is not an endorsement of a new tax.

"This tax already exists," Gann said. "It's a tax that is already owed. It just allows states to go and get that tax money.

"What the MFA is trying to do is fix the system," he added. "If we don't do something, it's just going to get worse. Online transactions keep going up. This is revenue that the states are owed but they are not getting."

Before the dealers took some of those talking points message to their representatives on Capitol Hill, he offered the following lobbying advice: "Be firm but polite. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with us on every position."

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