Around the Web: Updates on Construction Law and Wolfe Law Group 2/20/09

Around the Web this week, we found lots of commentary and conversation about how the new Stimulus may positively impact the struggling construction industry…and, of course, talk about the upcoming Mardi Gras holiday (celebrated by our New Orleans office).

A New President…A Labor Law Shakedown?

The National Law Journal published an article last week titled “Stage is Set for Legal Labor Brawl,” and the opening line of the article sums it up perfectly, stating:

Business calls it “Armageddon.” Labor says it’s “a modest step.”

The article discusses one of the hot topics in labor law these days, the Employee Free Choice Act.  Around the blogosphere and news agencies, discussion of the EFCA is on fire.   A Google Video search of the topic yields propaganda from both sides, and on Chris Hill’s Construction Law Musings, I recently published a guest post summarizing argument from both proponents and opponents of the bill.

While the EFCA is certainly on the forefront of the labor law debate, its clear that its not the only argument in town.

To the contrary, since the recent inauguration of President Obama, there has been a substantial shift in labor law issues facing the construction industry, and it’s expected that more is on the way.

One of the most controversial actions by President Obama in the construction industry is the repeal of Executive Order 13502, which prohibited project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal and federally funded construction.   ABC issued a press release specifically directed at this action, contending that it opposes PLAs because they “eliminate merit shop contractors from competing for and winning construction projects.” The ACG also came out against the repeal of 13502 here.

Another labor-law related act already performed by President Obama is the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  The act was signed by the President on January 29, 2009, and extends the time period allowed for employees to seek compensation for unequal pay practices.  The act is retroactive to May 28, 2007, and applies to all claims of pay discrimination on or after that date.  Read more about the act at the AGC website here, or on CNN, which covered the Act as “Obama’s First Law.”

From the perspective of the construction industry, it’s a love/hate relationship with President Obama thus far, just one-month into his tenure.

On the one hand, as the Wall-Street Journal reported in mid-January, the construction industry has counted on Obama to put together a strong stimulus package that invested in federal contracting projects (and he pulled through).

On the other hand, however, President Obama is leading a potentially historic shift in employment and labor law matters that will seriously impact construction businesses.

Time will tell how the relationship between President Obama and the construction industry will fare.  So far, however, it’s been a mixed bag.

Continue reading “A New President…A Labor Law Shakedown?”

The Stimulus Package And Your Construction Business

Yesterday, we wrote an article on the Stimulus Package and what it may mean to the construction industry.   Today, we’re focusing on what it may mean to your specific construction business.

While the private contracting business has suffered setbacks in the current economy, one bright spot has remained:  the growth of public and federal construction spending.

The passing of the new stimulus build with large investments into America’s infrastructure and other public works promises to put even more money into the public contracting business.

ConstructionBusinessOwner.com published two very informative articles about how your business can take advantage of the increased public spending.

The Differences Between Public and Private Projects

The first article, titled Three Key Steps for Shifting To Public Works Projects, explains some the key differences between private works and public works, and identifies common mistakes made by companies when entering the public sector.

The article encourages companies to consider bidding for and taking on more public work, but warns against doing so without proper preparations.  Here is a revealing quote:

Making the shift to prevailing wage jobs takes preparation. Without proper planning, contractors run the risk of underbidding jobs-and, subsequently, losing money-or getting slapped with steep penalties for improper recording keeping. Establishing protocols for certified payroll and AIA progress billings and having solid audit trails for each transaction are vital if you want to succeed in the government-financed construction market.

So what are the 3 Key Steps to shifting from private to public work?

  • Get Educated
  • Automate Your Accounting Practices
  • Bid on Projects Based on your Strengths

How To Get Federal Work

The second article, Claim Your Share Of Rising Federal Construction Spending, was published immediately after passage of the new stimulus package, and really explains how businesses – and especially small businesses – can intervene in the federal works bidding process and claim some work.

In its discussion of why small or minority owned businesses have a dog in the federal contracting fight, the article states as follows:

Unfortunately, far too few small businesses take advantage of federal contract opportunities, even though the federal government is required by Congressional mandate to direct 23 percent of its contracts toward small businesses. Despite this mandate, the latest figures from the Small Business Administration indicate that the federal government fell short of this figure.

Although there are various factors behind this shortfall, two things are pretty clear. First, if more small businesses were competing for these contracts, more would win them. And second, small business owners who are savvy about the process of securing government contracts are the ones most likely to land them.

Summary of the article’s tips for preparing to bid on federal projects:

  • The government will want basic information and methods of Identification.   Get a DUNS number (free from Dun & Bradstreet), a Federal Tax ID number (EIN), understand your NAICS and SIC classification, and have accurate financial routing information for your business available.
  • Create a profile on the Central Contractor Registration database. The CCR is where all government agencies and prime contractors turn when they are looking for potential vendors.
  • The federal government is obligated to award a certain percentage of its contracts to various underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. If you think your business may qualify, you should register with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), whose Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) and 8(a) programs are designed to help specific groups secure federal contracts and subcontracts.
  • Consider Subcontract work.  Getting your foot in the door is sometimes the hardest part in landing government contracts. First-time bidders can be at a disadvantage because the government often relies on established relationships when selecting contractors. Fortunately, large construction projects often depend on a host of subcontractors, which could be your ticket in.

See also Industry Week’s article, Your Best New Customer May Be Uncle Sam, for other helpful information.

The Stimulus Package And The Construction Market

It’s official:  The Stimulus package has passed Congress and is expecting the President’s signature early this week.

Now that the parameters of the “economic recovery” package have been set, the construction industry can step back to determine whether and how the stimulus can help.

It’s no secret that the construction industry has been closely monitoring the economic stimulus legislation.    With residential construction spending sinking to new lows each month, organizations like the Associated General Contractors of America have been lobbying the legislature to “invest in the country’s infrastructure” as an attempt to equalize some of the woes of the private sector with growth in the public sector.

Notwithstanding the lobbying efforts of trade organizations and the monitoring of the stimulus bill, it’s nearly unanimous among commentators on the subject that construction companies will likely be the biggest beneficiaries of the stimulus deal.

The clear next question, of course, is “how?”

Frost Brown Todd, LLC published a blog article about “What Contractors Need To Know” about the House version of the stimulus package.  While not a direct analysis of the final bill, the article is still very relevant to it, explaining a number of details about the bill, where stimulus money will be allocated and why the construction industry may benefit from the spending.

Perhaps the best break-down of information comes from The Associated General Contractors of America website, which provides a state-by-state stimulus impact chart.

The AGC’s website also provides PDFs for each state, with a detailed status-briefing of the construct industry and an explanation of how the stimulus package may help.   You can download the reports on Washington here, and Louisiana here.

The AGC’s summary of the Economic Impact of the Stimulus Investment in Louisiana is as follows:

An additional $1 billion in nonresidential construction spending would add about $2.2 billion to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), about $698 million to personal earnings and create or sustain 23,000 jobs.

The AGC’s summary of the Economic Impact of the Stimulus Investment in Washington is as follows:

An additional $1 billion in nonresidential construction spending would add about $2.4 billion to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), about $753 million to personal earnings and create or sustain 20,000 jobs.

This article has discussed the stimulus package and how it may impact the construction industry.  Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how the stimulus package may affect your construction business….and give you tips on how to take advantage of the increase in public construction spending!

Now, for some comic relief, here is a clip of Mr. Stephen Colbert’s discussion of the Stimulus debate:

 

What Costs / Labor To Include In Your Lien?

It’s been an interesting week on the web as it relates to mechanic’s liens, as I’ve run across a number of web posts about the types of services that can be included in a lien.

Let’s look at the matter theoretically.   Construction lien laws are normally drafted to protect contractors, who invest labor and expense into the improvement of a property.  However, since the laws also balance the property rights of persons or organizations, each state certainly does something to qualify what types of labor and expense can be represented in a lien, and which cannot.

The question here, therefore, is quite simple:   have you performed work or provided materials that can be the subject of a lien?

It’s one of the most important questions a contractor or supplier can ask when determining how to best collect on a non-paying account or project.   If you work does not qualify for a lien, for example, there is no need to even consider if notice is required and other lien filing requirements.

It’s important to consult the laws or your particular state to determine what type of materials and labor can be the subject of a lien, and which cannot.  However, two recently decided cases in Virginia and Kentucky are revealing of some general principals that are followed by most states.  The principal is essentially this:  you can only lien for labor and materials that actually go into improving the property.

What does this exclude?

In Virginia, Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports that a Hanover County Circuit Court invalidated a mechanic’s lien filed by a contractor that incurred costs in anticipation of construction of a steel building, but did not provide labor or materials actually employed in construction of the building.

The case is captioned Dallan Construction Co. v. Super Structures General Contractors, Inc, and can be downloaded here.

Similarly, in Kentucky, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that “mowing, trimming, edging and street cleaning” did not “permanently improve the property,” and therefore, a mechanics lien was not allowed to be filed for the services provided.  That case is discussed at the South Carolina Community Association Law Blog, and is captioned Steeplechase Subdivision Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Thomas, Ky. Ct. App. 2008.

Around the Web: Updates on Construction Law and Wolfe Law Group 2/16/09

This morning, we’re introducing a new feature to the Construction Law Monitor blog.    Each week, we’ll post interesting information about construction law from out there in the blogosphere, as well as some news updates from our Wolfe Law Rocks page.

This week, we have a few articles related to the Employee Free Choice Act and potential labor law changes under President Obama that’s turning out to be a hot issue in the construction biz, commentary on the new stimulus bill, and in the spirit of valentine’s day, a sweet gesture by Wolfe Law Group.

Thanks to Construction Law Musings for the Soapbox to Discuss the EFCA

This morning, Chris Hill graciously allowed me to publish a post on his Construction Law Musings blog about the Employee Free Choice Act.

In the posts’ explanation of the Employee Free Choice Act and how it may impact the construction industry, I quote Dave Seitter of the Midwest Construction Law Blog from a very informative post on the act:

The untold implications of eliminating the secret ballot election are many, and are derived from the protections crafted under the NLRA over the last half-century. Most importantly, employees will be denied access to the normal pre-election debate that shapes informed decision-making, and employers will lose the opportunity to present an alternative point of view.

This radical change will also erode employees’ free choice. Importantly, there are currently no restrictions in the EFCA on the time period during which labor organizations can collect authorization cards. A union that collects a single card each week from a workforce totaling 200 employees could potentially acquire cards from the majority of the workforce over the course of two long years.

Read my post at Construction Law Musings by clicking here.   A big thank you to Chris Hill for giving us the opportunity to speak to his readers.

Real Estate Agent Claims: Mechanic’s Liens Can Mess Up A Real Estate Closing

Although situated in Texas, the “We Did It Again Group” sells and lists property and property insurance in all 50 states, and even internationally.  Last week, they posted an article on their blog titled “Mechanic’s Liens Can Mess Up A Real Estate Closing!”

The author is speaking to property owners who are interested in selling their property, wherein he discusses how a lien works and what effects it may have on someone interested in selling property.

Because of the way lien laws work in most states, the We Did It Again Group warns that a “homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.”

The author of the blog post has a great explanation of what types of situations a homeowner may encounter if their property is liened and they want to move forward with a sale or refinance:

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

Get more information by reading the blog post here.

What does this mean for contractors?   As we’ve said before, when used properly, a construction or mechanics lien can be a very powerful collections tool.  Learn more about how you can lien smarter with Zlien.