Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

Already Belong? Login

News Detail

WECA Political Update December 9, 2021

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Court Blocks Vaccine Rule: A Georgia federal judge enjoined the federal contractor COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The Biden administration is expected to appeal to the 11th Circuit. Previously, a Kentucky district court preliminarily enjoined the federal contractor vaccination mandate but only for Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Of course, a business should not assume this means the death of a vaccine mandate--either for federal contractors or companies with 100 or more employees--but this action will give you more time to establish your vaccine policy.

In the meantime:

·        Continue to monitor legal developments.
·        Plan for the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate (federal, state, local).
·        Encourage employees to get vaccinated.
·        Review vaccination resources and guidance for federal contractors to keep workers safe on construction job sites.
·        Follow all safety protocols required by federal, state, and local governments.

OSHA is also accepting comments on the proposed vaccine mandate. All employers are encouraged to comment on vaccine mandate here.

IBEW wants to kill rooftop solar I have become convinced that IBEW is pursuing a multifaceted plan to destroy the rooftop solar industry in California. The two apparent efforts are their plan to prohibit C-46 solar contractors from installing battery energy storage systems (BESS) and a plan to eliminate utilities' fees to consumers who don’t use all of their power and “feedback” the surplus to the utility. Several newspapers have picked up on the latter in just the past week and argued this rate change is unwarranted.

The Sacramento Bee opined this week: “California’s most potent utility companies want you to believe that there is a hidden war taking place between ordinary customers and the 1.3 million households in the state with solar panels on their properties. Under a program called net energy metering, utility companies credit solar customers for the excess energy they export to the grid after they’ve powered their homes. That provides incredible savings for each solar-powered household, but customers who don’t use solar pay an estimated $3.4 billion more each year, essentially forcing them to shoulder the difference through higher monthly bills. Corporations such as PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. claim that communities of color and lower-income households are harmed the most by this formula for rooftop solar. Utilities say that households with photovoltaics aren’t paying their fair share when they use grid-supplied energy at night, creating an unfair cost shift that must be rectified. Everything about this cynical, corporate-driven argument stinks. If the California Public Utilities Commission—the state’s utility regulator—sides with the companies, they’ll gut net energy metering and fundamentally alter California’s booming solar energy economy. Right now, the CPUC is weighing several proposals from public advocacy groups and the state’s biggest utilities, some of which would slash solar subsidies and charge fees for grid usage, making it harder for households to pay off their solar installations.

Politico wrote: “A coalition of utility employees and consumer, environmental and energy groups emerged this fall to lobby on the decision. Utility employees are typically aligned with their employers’ interests and have found common ground with groups that have their own reasons for wanting to reduce the solar incentives. The alliance has pushed a monthly fee on homes with photovoltaic panels, but it has tried to frame its ideas as a compromise between solar and utility interests. The group—the California Coalition of Utility Employees, The Utility Reform Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the California Wind Energy Association, the Independent Energy Producers Association and the PUC's Public Advocates Office—has met with advisers to four of the five agency commissioners.”

The other facet is IBEW's multi-year effort to restrict BESS installation to only C-10 electrical contractors. If successful, this would require C-46s without a C-10 to become C-10s and employ certified electricians. IBEW has tried to do this through CSLB, but this effort has been stalled by a lawsuit filed by the California Solar and Storage Association. Losing patience, IBEW proposed two regulation changes to prohibit C-46s from installing BES and excluding BES from “related and supplemental.” IBEW pressed at the November CSLB meeting to open the rulemaking, but a last-minute effort by a contractor/union/public coalition delayed the rulemaking until early 2022 to give the California Solar and Storage Association and IBEW time to “work out a compromise.”

I guess that IBEW will prevail—and the next step will be to require certified electricians who install BESS or rooftop solar panels to obtain “submental instruction” in safe installation—training that will only be available from IBEW.

Reapportionment/Resignation Update Some observers believe that the new congressional boundaries that put Central Valley Representative Devin Nunes, a 10-term Republican first elected in 2002, in a more challenging election scenario in 2022 contributed to his decision to leave the United States House of Representatives early in 2022 and become CEO of former president Donald Trump’s new media company.

His announcement set off a flurry of speculation and announcements. The San Joaquin Valley Sun reported, “The post-Nunes sweepstakes began in earnest on Tuesday when State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) opened a fundraising committee to test the waters for a 2022 Congressional bid. Wednesday, another Republican—Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig—formally threw his hat in the ring and launched a campaign for the seat's special election, likely to be scheduled for next spring. Magsig, a 16-year Clovis City Council member before his current gig, rolled out a spate of local endorsements to kick off his campaign. Along with his work in government, Magsig is a licensed general contractor, licensed lead inspector, and energy management and building performance specialist.”

A primary election could be held in April, and if no candidate wins a majority, the special election runoff could be held with the statewide primary election on June 7, 2022. But the redistricting process has created a quandary for would-be contenders: it's possible and likely that the ultimate winner of Nunes' current seat will only hold it for seven months and then be forced into a re-election race in a much more Democratic district.

And Politico reports, “the upcoming resignation of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has set off jockeying among Republicans for the top spot on the House Ways and Means Committee. The next two most senior members on Ways and Means, Reps. Vern Buchanan of Florida and Adrian Smith of Nebraska, have already started talking to members of the Steering Committee—a little-known but highly influential GOP panel that decides committee assignments and leaders—about their interest, according to multiple lawmakers.”

But hewing to the old axiom of “never letting a crisis (real or imagined) go to waste,” Congressman Josh Harder, according to the Modesto Bee, spent “the three weeks in which it appeared that the Republican Nunes might challenge him, [Rep. Josh] Harder’s political machine has been in overdrive, churning out no less than 14 email blasts breathlessly pleading for money to prepare for the Nunes threat.”

The New York Times, never the most astute analyst of California state politics, noted that looking at the draft district maps that “California alone could end up with eight or nine battleground districts. ‘There’s no question we’re going to end up with more competitive seats,’ said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant in Sacramento. The first draft of the map shocked much of the California delegation. No longer able to count on his rural, agricultural base, Mr. Nunes would have had to win over the gracious neighborhoods along Van Ness Avenue in Fresno, with their verandas and Black Lives Matter flags, and the hipsters of the city’s Tower District, who have more affection for Devin Nunes’ Cow, a Twitter account mocking the congressman, than the man himself. The commission appears intent on giving Latinos in the Central Valley a chance to elect their first representative ever.”

They observed that “after losing his San Diego-area seat to a Democrat in 2018, another outspoken conservative, Darrell Issa, moved to a conservative district abandoned by the indicted Republican Duncan Hunter. That seat could end up far more competitive. Representative Mike Garcia, a Republican, won a special election to replace a young Democrat felled by a sex scandal, then shocked Democrats by winning re-election last year by 333 votes in a district that Mr. Biden won by 35,000. The commission, however, appears intent on lopping off Republican-heavy Simi Valley from Mr. Garcia’s district in north Los Angeles County, leaving him holding on by a thread to a considerably less conservative seat. ‘It makes guys like me perk up and go, OK, what was the rationale for dumping this?’ Mr. Garcia said of the commission’s decision. ‘When you go through all the questions that are, in my opinion, objective, the only thing you’re left with is a rationale that is political.’” But that’s a little silly, in my opinion, since drawing legislative districts is a SUPREMELY political activity.

But the New York Times notes that Republicans are not the only ones in the mix. “Democrats are at risk, too. The [redistricting] commission has proposed eliminating the Los Angeles seat of Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, who in 1992 became the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress. Representative Katie Porter, a hero of the national Democratic Party, appears likely to be left with a more Republican district in Orange County—a fate that could prompt her to run for the Senate instead, either by challenging Alex Padilla, the Democrat appointed to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’s seat, or waiting for Senator Dianne Feinstein, 88, to step aside. California’s 10th Congressional District, currently represented by Representative Josh Harder, a young, up-and-coming Democrat, will become heavily Republican, most likely sending Mr. Harder in search of a new district. (It was the expected destination of Mr. Nunes.) That could cost the quiet backbench Democrat Jerry McNerney, who might find himself a sacrificial lamb.”

Friends in High Places President Biden nominated Meg Whitman as ambassador to Kenya. In 2010 Whitman ran for governor of California, losing to Democrat Jerry Brown by double digits despite spending $177 million—including $144 million from her vast personal wealth—on her campaign. More recently, Whitman helmed the star-crossed video streaming platform Quibi, which was financially flush and launched with considerable fanfare in 2020, only to flame out within months. Whitman, the former leader of Hewlett Packard and eBay, endorsed then-candidate Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention in August 2020. She also endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Donald Trump despite her longstanding ties to the private sector and the GOP. [Politico]