State Budget Bill Heads To Conference Committee As Senate Wraps Up Its Process
This week the Senate finalized their version of the state’s General Revenue Fund budget bill, House Bill 49. Much more than just pages of appropriations, the bill always contains a great many policy issues. This year is no different. In fact, the Senate leadership and Finance Committee members considered more than 1500 amendments (some of which were ours) on their way to crafting the Senate’s final version. The bill passed the full Senate Wednesday of last week on a (barely) bipartisan vote. The bill as it passed the Senate is now 4732 pages – an increase of nearly 1200 pages of content since the Governor introduced the Executive version of the bill several months ago. The House rejected the Senate’s changes, as expected, and the bill is now in a conference committee to hash out the differences. Decisions about the content of the bill will now move behind closed doors, where negotiations will ensue between House and Senate leadership, their Finance Committee leaders and perhaps even the Governor’s office. Next week, the conference committee will meet to publicly announce their decisions on the many items of difference between the House and Senate versions. The bill will then be sent to the Governor for his review and signature by the July 1st start to the new fiscal year, as required. Along the way, the Governor will undoubtedly line-item veto multiple items.
OCA has been working on multiple budget items for several months. Following scores of meetings with legislators and several rounds of public testimony to Finance Committee, we are in a strong position as the bill comes out of the Senate. We are extremely pleased with our full success in the Senate on the issues we’ve been working on. Please click here for more information.
Some of our priority issues:
-Centralized collection of municipal net profits tax would allow your company to file one tax return - via the Ohio Business Gateway –and submit one check for all of the municipalities that you’ve worked in for that year. The state would then distribute the revenue to the cities. Status: This language is in the Senate version and we’re working to ensure it stays in.
-Removing the increase in competitive bidding thresholds from $100,000 to $250,000 for Port Authorities. This was put in the bill in the House. If this goes through, every local government entity will be asking for their competitive bidding thresholds to be raised to $250,000 from their current $50,000. Status: We got this removed in the Senate and hope to keep it out in the conference committee.
-Language added in the House would grant new authority to the Department of Administrative Services to do construction improvements and renovations instead of just their current authority for goods and services contracts. The language would allow them to do so without the protections of Revised Code 153, which contains requirements for competitive bidding, bonding, advertising, etc. They could also have extended that ability to all political subdivisions. All of which is alarming. Status: The Senate took the language out at our urging, and we are hopeful the language stays out in the conference committee or if not, would be vetoed by the Governor as no state agency requested this authority.
-The House added language that would require stickers to be put on every gas pump in the state to show the state and federal motor fuel user fees. Although the publicly-stated goal is transparency, it seems to us that the goal is actually intended to mobilize citizens against the current or future user fees on fuel. Status: The Senate took the language out, and we are hopeful it will stay out in conference committee.
Stay tuned to next week’s newsletter for an update on the final outcome of these issues.
OSHA Moves Closer to Crane Safety Delay
Companies are likely to see more time to comply with OSHA's construction crane rule, as the agency took a first step toward delaying parts of the regulation June 20. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration advisory committee voted to approve a recommendation that the agency push back enforcement of the standard's certification mandate for one year, to Nov. 10, 2018. Under federal law, OSHA is required to seek the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health's recommendation before it issues a proposal to change construction regulations. OSHA issued a crane safety regulation in 2010 containing certification requirements for operators, but delayed it amid implementation problems companies identified, including problems over how much testing should be required for operator certification and if operators should be certified according to the lifting capacity of the crane. “We're all frustrated that it's taken so long,” said Pete Stafford, director of safety and health at the North America's Building Trades Unions and a member of the committee, but he said there seemed to be no other option than to grant the delay so OSHA can “try to get this right.” The delay wouldn't affect regulations requiring employers to determine if crane operators are trained and competent. Some construction companies have argued operators should be certified by the type of crane alone, regardless of the crane's capacity. Although the advisory committee approved the delay, several members cautioned OSHA to respect its previous recommendations for the regulatory text and make only the minimum amount of changes to correct the earlier version of the regulation.
AGC Survey On OSHA SILICA Standard For Construction
As you may already know, OSHA delayed enforcement of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction until September 23, 2017. In the meantime, silica continues to be a hot topic and we expect that many members still have questions. OCA’s national affiliate, AGC would like to take this opportunity to survey members throughout the country to determine how equipped they are to comply with the standard, and identify resources and outreach opportunities to meet their needs in this area. The survey should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. We encourage all OCA contractor members to complete the survey. Thank you for your help! If you have any questions, please contact Kevin Cannon, AGC’s Senior Director of Safety and Health Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 837-5410.
Operators, Local 18 Membership Ratifies OCA Agreement
The membership of the Operating Engineers, Local 18 formally ratified the OCA Highway Heavy agreement on Saturday, June 17, 2017. If your payroll department has not already done so, all wage and fringe increases, as set forth in the 2017-2020 agreement are retroactive to May 1, 2017. For field operators, the wage portion increased by $1.00. The H&W increased by $.35. All other fringes remained unchanged. For shop employees, the wage portion increased by $.50; the H&W increased by $.35; and the Pension increased by $.10. The other fringe remains unchanged. The complete May 1, 2017 OCA Wage Bulletin can be viewed on the OCA Website under “Breaking News”, by clicking on the following link: OCA Website.
If you have any questions regarding the agreement, or any provisions contained therein, please contact Mark Potnick in the OCA office.
Construction Financial Management Association To Hold Major Event
The Construction Financial Management Association is holding the 2017 Buckeye Regional Conference in Toledo on Wednesday, September 27th and Thursday, September 28th at the Fifth Third Center At One Seagate. To view the conference schedule and obtain registration information, please click here.
Despite Lawsuits, No Changes Anticipated to OSHA Silica Rule
No changes are anticipated to OSHA's tougher requirements for protecting workers from breathable silica, set to take effect for construction companies in September, an agency official said. “We have no indication that anything is going to change,” said David O'Connor, director of the OSHA Office of Chemical Hazards - Non-Metals during a June 20 session of the Safety 2017 American Society of Safety Engineers conference in Denver. “We anticipate the crystalline silica standards as they are currently written will remain and the construction standard will be enforced as it stands on September 23 of this year,” O'Connor said.
Enforcement of OSHA's new respirable crystalline standard for general industry and maritime will take effect on June 23, 2018, he said. The standard sets a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for airborne crystalline silica of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3) for general industry, construction and maritime employers. The new PEL is 80 percent less than the old construction standard of 250 µg/m3. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing.
OSHA estimates that the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. O'Connor said eight lawsuits have been filed against the agency—six by industry and two by labor organizations—challenging the rule. He said the cases have been consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and oral arguments are likely to be scheduled for September. OSHA has not yet responded to requests that it re-open the silica rulemaking, he said. During the session, a representative of the oil and gas industry asked O'Connor and fellow panelist Audrey Profitt of the OSHA Office of Health Enforcement how the rule's monitoring requirement—which requires employers to offer medical examinations to employees exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days—can be enforced at “mobile” sites such as drilling wellpads. O'Connor responded that construction companies often deal with similar “short-term activity” situations and operations which are “moving from place to place.”
In general, he said, regulated entities might want to look at the “performance approach” instead of scheduling monitoring. Under scheduled monitoring, employers are required to offer medical examinations to employees exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days. Under the performance option, OSHA said, employers can use “any combination of air monitoring data or objective data sufficient to accurately characterize employee exposures” to silica. But, when using this option, the burden is on the employer to demonstrate that the data accurately characterize employee exposure, O'Connor said. Because controls for silica in fracking are still in development, the rule allows oil and gas companies additional time to implement engineering controls to take advantage of emerging technologies.