Closing Out the Summer on Capitol Hill
August brings the annual congressional recess to Washington, D.C., a time when staffers swap out their business attire for more casual (and cool) fare and rejoice that their bosses are out of the office and back in their districts and/or states. (Side note: Regulators don’t take recess. They crank out regulations year-round.) However, once recess comes to a close after Labor Day, there are a few harrowing numbers to consider. First, the House will only be in session 12 working days before the November midterms and 15 days thereafter. Second, many bills could still hurt our industry that are hanging in the balance. Here is a summary of some of the major issues HARDI is following this summer.
• The America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act (H.R. 4457) passed the House of Representatives by a 272-144 bipartisan vote in June. This bill, which was authored by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and has been a legislative priority for HARDI, would make permanent the levels effective during the 2010-2013 tax years, allowing taxpayers to expense up to $500,000 of investments in new equipment and property (via 179d), with the deduction phased out after investments exceed $2 million.
Most importantly for the HVACR industry, the bill removes an exemption that had barred HVAC units from the list of qualified expenses.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has already offered an identical version of the House bill in the form of an amendment to legislation related to the extension of a number of tax-related issues. Unfortunately, the “tax extenders” package that would extend a number of tax provisions that expired in 2013 and would be a vehicle for this important bill has stalled in the Senate. This is a vote that will probably take place in the “lame duck” session of Congress after the election.
• Another HARDI legislative priority reached a milestone this summer with the announcement that a bill to end the Estate Tax has exceeded 218 co-sponsors, meaning more than half of the members of the House of Representatives support The Death Tax Repeal Act, which Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced.
In an interview regarding this majority of the House achievement, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) stated, “While the fiscal cliff agreement finally provided some much-needed certainty when it comes to estate planning, I have long supported, and would still like to see, the full repeal of the death tax. I think it is important for Congress to go on record — especially all the new members who have been elected in recent years — to show the bipartisan support for killing this tax, which forces the sale of family farms and small businesses. Even with the significant improvements we were able to get in the fiscal cliff deal, the estate tax forces Americans to engage in complex and costly planning in order to ensure future generations can continue operations.”
Both Chairman Camp and Congressman Brady are working to secure a vote in the House on this important bill. However, it appears unlikely the Senate will take up a similar measure in this session.
Some anticipate that Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) will introduce the Super Pollutants Act of 2014, which targets short-lived climate pollutants. It is unlikely this bill will move forward in the Senate, but it will be worth watching as it is likely to be the basis of legislation in a future session of Congress.
Specifically for the HVACR industry, the legislation would do the following:
• Extend the Section 608 HCFC and CFC requirements regarding the servicing and disposal of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment to HFC compounds, and increase initiatives for recovery, reclamation and recycling of HFCs.
• Urge EPA to work with DOE to strengthen Energy Star certifications for refrigerant systems that achieve best-in-class energy efficiency and utilize low-GWP refrigerants and foam-blowing agents.
• Employ the “Significant New Alternatives Policy Program” (SNAP) in removing high-GWP compounds for applications where alternatives are available and reduce risks to human health and the environment.
• The Senate supports amending the North American Proposal to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, in order to ensure a smooth, technically feasible transition away from high-GWP HFC compounds.
• Direct the EPA, DOE and NIST to evaluate the availability of alternatives to high-GWP HFCs, and determine if and what standards are preventing the use of alternatives in the U.S. that are in widespread use in other countries, and whether the standards need to be revised.
• Directs EPA to phase out the continued sale of uncharged residential HCFC-22 condensing equipment, and also to report whether self-install HFC-134a automotive air conditioning service kits represent an environmentally significant source of HFC emissions.
With less than 30 working days left in the year, the clock is ticking. Will Congress act on these and other important issues or will they continue to sit idly by? Our country and our industry need action. Let’s hope Congress comes back from recess reinvigorated and tackles what’s important.
Jon Melchi is HARDI’S director of government affairs. Contact him at email@example.com or 614-345-4328.