ACCA had a busy year in 2014. The organization expanded membership benefits through a new Member Service Center for contracting businesses, launched a new website, expanded its video seminar library, and introduced live, interactive Town Hall webcasts. There were also a lot of challenges, according to Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA.

A Big Win

Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO, ACCA, said ACCA 2015 was designed by contractors, for contractors. This yearâ??s event will be held March 16-19 in Grapevine, Texas.
Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO, ACCA, said ACCA 2015 was designed by contractors, for contractors. This year’s event will be held March 16-19 in Grapevine, Texas.

Perhaps one of the largest challenges the industry faced ended with a big win in April 2014, when a long-standing lawsuit challenging federal energy conservation standards for residential HVAC equipment was settled through mediation, avoiding a lengthy and expensive court battle. The settlement voided somewhat controversial standards that would have required condensing furnaces in 30 Northern states.

“This came as a great relief to many in the industry as it finally ended the uncertainty of what, if, and when that had been dragging on for years,” Stalknecht said.

As part of that settlement, ACCA; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); and Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI); other industry stakeholders; and energy-efficiency advocates, negotiated a rulemaking on the enforcement of regional standards for split-system and single-package central air conditioners.

“The enforcement plan, which is expected to be formally approved and in place in spring 2015, is fair, yet it will severely punish any contractor determined to be routinely in violation of the regional standards rule,” Stalknecht noted.

Additionally, ACCA contractor members had a successful year in 2014 based on the association’s Contractor Comfort Index (CCI), which reached its highest levels since the survey began in February 2010. A CCI greater than 50 means contractors are expecting short-term growth.

“For 2014, we only saw one month below 70, and that was January, when the CCI was 69. And, from April through June, the CCI topped 80. From what contractors told us through the CCI, 2014 was a year of growth for them,” Stalknecht said.

Looking Into 2015

This past fall, the U.S. Supreme Court granted judicial review in five cases involving labor and employment issues, including cases arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s (Title VII), and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The docket has been heavily weighted toward labor and employment cases that potentially affect employers in all industries, Stalknecht noted.

“How these cases will shake out, and the impact on employers everywhere, remains to be seen when the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court are handed down this coming summer,” he said. “The court has been trending toward expanded protections for employees in many areas, although not everywhere, sending a mixed message to employers. Also, based on the number of state-held court decisions regarding both ‘ban the box’ and paid sick-leave laws, we think it’s safe to assume there will be a growing number of these types of laws being passed as further precedents pave the way. ACCA will be watching the courts and will be sharing with contractors the impacts their decisions will have on their businesses.”

Additionally, with the Republicans taking control of both the House and Senate, Stalknecht said it doesn’t mean congressional gridlock will disappear in 2015.

“Instead of seeing quarrels between the House and Senate, we will likely see bills pass through Congress quickly, only to be vetoed when they get to President Barack Obama’s desk,” he said. “And while the change in the makeup of Congress means we can expect to see a pro-small-business agenda, the real threat to contracting businesses will come from government agencies. We can expect to see a tidal wave of controversial federal regulations directed at small businesses during the lame-duck years of the Obama administration. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies have proposed rules teed up and ready to go.”

Because of this, it’s crucial for contractors to get involved, according to Stalknecht. “These threats drive home the need for contractors to be vigilant and to get involved when it comes to government affairs,” Stalknecht said. “ACCA will be watching closely what is coming out of Washington, District of Columbia, in 2015 and will be asking contractors to make their voices heard on regulations that could be harmful.

“We know the government and its agencies are going to continue to provide challenges for contractors,” he continued. “We’ve seen a lot of this over the past few years, and we don’t see it slowing down at all. We encourage all of our members to get involved on the local, state, and national levels. While we work on many fronts to be the voice for them, the efforts our contractors put forth really make the difference.”

Publication date: 3/9/2015

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