Reform Package The House introduced four bills that will improve OSHA's enforcement of rules that govern small business owners. One bill will allow OSHA to give companies more than 15 days to respond to a citation. Another will make it easier for businesses to recover attorneys' fees when they successfully defend themselves against a citation. The third bill adds two more administrative law judges to the three-member Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which hears appeals of violations. The final proposal calls for judges to defer to the Review Commission when OSHA cases are appealed to the courts.
The NAHB says the legislative package will help reduce some of the regulatory burdens its members encounter as they try to work within OSHA's due process system. The measures also will provide OSHA with greater flexibility to respond to small businesses without sacrificing workplace safety.
Healthy Plan The nation's home builders are endorsing bipartisan legislation that will allow up to two million uninsured working families to get affordable health coverage. A similar law was introduced last February, and Bush is urging lawmakers to create association health plans for small businesses.
Many of the NAHB's 220,000 member firms consist of small business employers who find it difficult to provide quality health insurance because of rising premiums. The NAHB says the proposed measure, called the “Small Business Health Fairness Act,” will provide its members with more options to secure “stable and affordable” health-care coverage for their employees and put them on equal footing with larger employers and unions when negotiating insurance costs.
“Ad” It Up The NAHB is launching a major advertising campaign to call Congress' attention to the home building industry's contributions to the nation's economic recovery. The ads will focus on the demand for housing projected for the next 10 years. The association wants lawmakers to take a pro-housing stance on legislation that could expand homeownership opportunities for working Americans and increase the supply of affordable rental housing. According to the NAHB CEO and executive vice president, Jerry Howard, 18 million new homes and apartment units must be built to meet the housing needs of an ever-growing population—and meeting that challenge will require strong support from Congress.
The campaign will wrap up this month with a one-day blitz on Capitol Hill by some 700 builders in Washington to attend the NAHB's legislative conference. Full-page ads will appear in a number of newspapers, including Roll Call; radio spots will be featured on National Public Radio, and several other stations.
Class Act Congress has approved legislation to rein in class-action lawsuits in state courts. The ruling will curb the number of frivolous lawsuits that have affected housing affordability and unnecessarily cost the business community billions of dollars.
The new law moves class-action cases whose total dispute amount exceeds $5 million to federal courts, known for being more objective. The law also protects defendants from pressure to settle and provides proper safeguards for plaintiffs. President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law soon.