Tuesday, January 31, 2017

BOMA International Advocacy Update: Lawmakers Return to Capitol Hill, ADA Drive By Lawsuits and New OSHA Regulations

115th Congress

The 115th U.S. Congress officially commenced on Tuesday, January 3, as both chambers swore in the newly elected lawmakers and kicked-off official business. Before the Republican-controlled Congress could begin tackling their ambitious agenda for the next two years, the House of Representatives once again voted in Paul Ryan as the Speaker of the House. Speaker Ryan, who now begins his first full, two-year term, received almost unanimous support from his party. Nancy Pelosi once again will serve as minority leader, a position that she has held since 2011.

Mitch McConnell continues his role as Senate majority leader, but Senator Chuck Schumer takes the place of retired Senator Harry Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats. Over the next few weeks, the Senate is scheduled to hold a series of votes to pass a budget and begin hearings to fulfill their duty to confirm the president’s cabinet appointments.

BOMA International’s advocacy team met with BOMA member leaders and staff from around the country this past weekend at the BOMA International Winter Business Meeting and have been hard at work collaborating with the new Congress on commercial real estate's priority issues for 2017.

Stay tuned for a future post on what was discussed at the Winter Business Meeting.

60 Minutes Features Story on Drive-By ADA Lawsuits

Earlier this month, 60 Minutes featured a segment detailing the growing trend of lawsuits filed against businesses around the U.S. relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Host Anderson Cooper demonstrated how attorneys file lawsuits after simply driving by a business or looking at satellite imagery of a building to spot highly technical accessibility issues. This segment brought much-needed attention to the issue, which BOMA International has been working hard to remedy with the help of lawmakers.

BOMA’s advocacy team currently is working in support of federal legislation that protects commercial buildings from this harmful practice through the introduction of a “notice and cure” period that allows building owners 120 days to correct identified ADA violations before the commencement of litigation. This provision upholds the intent of the ADA, which is to foster an accessible environment for individuals with disabilities. BOMA members looking for additional information about this issue can reach out to BOMA International’s Manager of Advocacy Dylan Isenberg at disenberg@boma.org.

OSHA Publishes New Safety Regulations

On November 17, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) published new regulations on Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Safety. These regulations are intended to increase worker safety and limit the number of accidents associated with the use of stairs, ladders and other elevated work surfaces. Starting January 1, 2017, rope-descending systems can only be used in buildings less than 300 feet in height. The regulations also require building owners to have all existing roof anchor systems used as tie-off points for rope-descending systems inspected and certified by November 17, 2017, and a copy of the certification will need to be provided to any contractor using the roof anchor system.

BOMA encourages all building owners and managers to read OSHA’s fact sheet to understand how the rules will affect their workplaces and properties. Property professionals should verify that contractors who inspect and certify anchorage points meet the necessary qualifications. If you have any questions or need more assistance, please contact BOMA International’s Director of Codes & Standards Steve Orlowski at sorlowski@boma.org.

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