In Washington we call it the silly season when it is too close to the election for much to happen in Congress and the rhetoric gets even more partisan than usual. Usually this begins in the early summer in an election year. The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill, recently reported that this Congress, the 113th, is one of the least productive in history. It appears the silly season is upon us much earlier than normal. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of Congress, when announcing his retirement lamented this is the worst Congress in terms of producing actual results. According to the Pew Research Center, the 113th Congress passed fewer substantial laws (only 62 in 2013) in its first session than any other Congress in the last 20 years. Some laud the lack of action as being exactly what they are looking for in their elected officials.
So why should you care? The Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in August and so far there doesn’t appear to be any plans to renew it. The Trust Fund supports the upkeep of our transportation infrastructure, which affects quick movement of goods. A major overhaul of the law probably will not occur in time. Let’s hope Congress can at least provide a temporary funding solution.
It is also important for Congress to renew the GSP program. The Generalized System of Preferences promotes economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of 127 designated beneficiary countries and territories. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t renew it when it expired on July 31, 2013. IWPA is an active member of the Renew GSP Coalition. Over 500 companies and associations have joined in asking for renewal. You can find out more at: renewgsptoday.com. GSP is one of those bills that rarely passes on its own, but needs a bigger bill to catch a ride on. So far little has been moving.
Just because Congress isn’t busy doesn’t mean there won’t be action in Washington. The Obama Administration has pledged to get as much done as possible by rulemaking and executive order. New rules regarding changing overtime pay for exempt employees and environmental protection are among those expected.
EPA has been busy crafting its new Formaldehyde Emissions Rule for composite wood and plywood products. EPA announced at the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) conference it would be holding a public hearing in April 2014 and reopening the public comment period. This is to get additional views regarding how laminated products will be treated under the rule. The proposal would establish a formaldehyde emission performance standard of 0.13 ppm for laminated products. EPA and CARB have been busy working together to craft the new rules. California Air Resources Board (CARB), which already has emission rules formaldehyde held another workshop on its proposed changes on March 18, 2014. EPA pledges to get its rules done by the end of 2014 and CARB will quickly follow suit. Silly season or not – a lot is going on in Washington. This is an excellent time to get to know your member of Congress and Senators and vote in the primary and general elections.
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