When the private sector does not address a major issue, the public sector will often step into the vacuum and do it. The construction industry has been slow to embrace the principles of social responsibility and sustainable value, focusing instead on whatever it takes to be lowest bidder. As a consequence of this, government is adopting policies that reshape the rules for the industry.

Through their various trade associations, construction executives from all over Texas are letting state lawmakers know what they think about issues that impact the industry. The Texas Construction Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas, and other groups have compiled lists of reforms and proposed changes to state laws that they hope will be enacted during this legislative session. As you may know, the Texas Legislature only meets in regular session for five months every two years. 

There are some fairly complex policy questions involved, which is part of why lawmakers must first hear from those who are directly affected before any changes can be made during a limited time frame. 

This past week, I had the honor of speaking to contractors gathered in Austin for the Texas Construction Association’s bi-annual Walk on the Capitol. I've been pleased to be part of this great event for three legislative sessions in a row. This session, the TCA has prioritized reforms to the state’s lien laws, worker misclassification legislation, and other things.    Read more » about Construction Executives Weigh in on Issues at the Texas Capitol

After an increase in construction related deaths, the New York City Council is poised to consider a raft of proposals aimed at increasing safety on jobsites throughout the largest city in America. Crane safety is on the minds of council members as is the oversight of smaller jobsites. 

If this package is passed, there would be stricter monitoring of “troubled actors” and increased penalties for lawbreakers.

More details from a site called Crain's New York Business:

The legislation, called the Construction Safety Act, is led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, but some elements could face resistance from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has ambitious goals for housing development and has clashed with construction-worker unions. The mayor has already expressed skepticism with one of the council measures, a bill to require training programs for construction workers.   Read more » about New York City Council Moves to Crack Down on Construction Site Safety

As the Texas Legislature convenes this week in Austin to make and revise the state’s laws over the course of the next five months, the associations representing the commercial construction industry are on the same page about quite a few issues they'd like to see lawmakers address. Unless otherwise ordered by the governor, Texas lawmakers only meet once every two years for 140 days in a regular session.  

Construction Citizen reviewed the legislative priorities published by the Texas Construction Association, the Associated General Contractors Texas Building Branch and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas. The groups are working together on a push to simplify the state's lien laws, but have different takes on things like reining in labor unions and they’ll each be on guard for any immigration-related initiatives. On that last point, the groups would like to ensure fairness for the construction industry if the Texas Legislature acts on mandatory E-Verify for example.    Read more » about Texas Commercial Construction Industry Sets Priorities for the Legislative Session

Heading into the new year, the federal government is ramping up efforts to educate employees and employers about the harms caused by worker misclassification. It’s a problem we’ve documented extensively over the years on Construction Citizen.

Our readers know very well that worker misclassification happens when a business pretends its employees are “independent subcontractors” with the intent of avoiding payroll taxes and benefits like workers’ compensation insurance and – thanks to reduced labor costs – are able to submit lower bids for projects, undercutting law-abiding companies. Of course, there are many legitimate and legal uses of contract labor. The problem arises when businesses abuse the designation with the intent of skipping out on taxes and providing benefits for people being utilized as employees.

The Department of Labor this month launched a new webpage devoted to the topic. The site makes the case that worker misclassification negatively impacts everyone: Workers, employers, and all taxpayers who have to pick up the slack when unscrupulous employers shirk their responsibilities.   Read more » about Labor Department Launches New Web Page on Worker Misclassification

During a nationally televised report on Fox News Channel, a prominent Texas construction executive said President-elect Donald Trump has a chance to be both tough and smart on border security and immigration.

Stan Marek, President and CEO of the Marek Family of Companies, said the President-elect needs to enact immigration reform that identifies and taxes those who are illegally in the country. But that does not meant Trump would be somehow softening his position on border security, Marek said.

Instead, Marek insists that the best border security happens at the job site.

That increased security would be accomplished by issuing tamper-proof ID’s only to workers who are authorized to be in the United States.   Read more » about Texas Construction CEO on Fox News Channel: Trump Can be Both Smart and Tough on Immigration

The Obama Administration’s controversial new overtime rule is on hold as a court battle plays out and President-elect Donald J. Trump has so far been unclear about exactly where he stands on the policy that would make roughly 4 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay. While some believe Trump will scrap the rule, his comments have been a bit ambiguous.

Under the Labor Department’s proposed rule, which has been blocked by a federal judge in East Texas, employers would be required to pay time-and-a-half to employees who work more than 40 hours each week and earn less than about $47,000 per year. The new threshold is roughly twice what the government currently allows for workers to be exempt from overtime.   Read more » about New Overtime Rule on Hold as Court Battle Plays Out and Trump Administration Looms

A 98-page report produced by Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy last June presents a detailed look into the “underground construction industry” in New Jersey.  Titled The Underground Construction Economy in New Jersey, the report lists specific ways that “off-the-books labor,” also called worker misclassification, damages the construction industry, cheats the misclassified workers, and costs the state government and ultimately local taxpayers millions of dollars each year.  Best practices for dealing with the illegal practice are identified in the report, and the report concludes with 15 policy recommendations for the State.  From page 12 of the report:

“Based on the review of best practices in other states, we outline 15 policy recommendations for the State of New Jersey (page 90). Recommendations #1 through #4 are related to the structure and functions of state government entities that have duties related to employee misclassification.   Read more » about Research Report: The Underground Construction Economy in New Jersey

Experts are downplaying any possible link between the recent vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and the slowdown of British construction in August.

Construction output fell by 1.5% in August after it had gone up just a tick in July, according to the Office of National Statistics. A Reuters poll of economists had shown an expectation of an increase of .2%. The Guardian put it this way:

The ONS cautioned that monthly data could be choppy and noted that the drop in construction in August had been driven by a 5.1% fall in infrastructure output.    Read more » about UK Construction Slows after Brexit Vote

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