NARI members from NARI Metro DC, Greater Baltimore Area NARI, NARI Mid-Maryland and NARI of Central Virginia made visits to several congressional offices last week, as a trial run to a broader lobbying day for NARI.
“We were briefed by our lobbyist, Randi Fredholm Hutchinson, on how lobbying serves as an effective means to connect with our representative’s offices and allows the voice of the people to be heard,” says Mason Hearn, from NARI of Central Virginia. “We also spent time going over ‘etiquette’ and building expectations regarding how we would likely be received and what to expect. Sen. Tim Hutchinson was also in attendance and gave us a first-hand view from the member (as-in, member of Congress) side.” In addition, former Sen. Albert Wynn joined them on some of the meetings.
Randi Hutchinson and Sen. Tim Hutchinson are NARI lobbyists from Dickstein Shapiro.
NARI members were also provided with talking points on NARI’s issues (which you can see on NARI’s Government Affairs page online). The four issues they focused on in these congressional meetings were:
- OSHA Workplace Silica Exposure Rulemaking (oppose)
- Expansion of the EPA RRP Rule to include commercial and public buildings (oppose)
- Energy Efficiency incentives (Shaheen-Portman Bill, support)
- Energy efficiency Tax credit extenders (support)
After lunch, the group met with four senators and four representatives: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).
“It was expected that the first two issues would be more of an ideological ‘uphill battle’ with the seven democratic members we visited,” Hearn said. “The last two issues surrounding energy-efficiency were more bipartisan-supported, but would be surrounded by political issues of timing. There was some question as to whether these bills might make the floor in the lame duck session.”
In each meeting, one NARI member was appointed to lead the discussion with staff based primarily on being part of that congressional leader’s constituency. Those staff members were mostly senior staff and/or policy advisors to the representative or senator. “All were very receptive and appreciative of our time to convey our interests to them,” Hearn says. “Most noted that they appreciated the opportunity to hear from their constituents, and those voices were always thoughtfully considered as the member creates policy through the Congressional process.”
Hearn participated in the event because he wanted a better understanding of the policy-making process at the federal level.
“Congress is responsible for making laws and regulations which inevitably affect our daily living, particularly as business leaders,” he said. “In our representative democracy, it is the duty of the people to communicate their interests such that our representatives may truly understand and hopefully act in the best interests of their constituents. With all of the issues facing these representatives, it is impossible for them to thoroughly understand each concern. As NARI members, we were there to assist our congressional representatives in their understanding of the issues, as well as presenting the impact to small businesses and particularly, our industry.”
Sixteen NARI members and one chapter executive participated in this Capitol Hill drive-in, including Jane Neboshynsky, from Greater Baltimore NARI.
“I believe that as members of NARI, we owe it to the industry to bring our knowledge to various governmental agencies that regulate our activities,” she said. “When NARI proposed a drive-in to help inform and educate members of Congress through their staff, I was eager to join the group. It was an adventure that I hope many NARI members will have the opportunity to participate in.
“The staff members of our senators and representatives listened and were responsive to the points NARI brought to them. Throughout the day, we spoke about the issues the remodeling industry faces in regard to the rules and regulations being set forth by our government. Yes, I did learn that there are a lot of tunnels under the Capitol, but, more importantly, I learned that NARI does have a voice in Washington.”
One of the things that Hearn found interesting, though not surprising, was the reception to the various issues, depending on the office’s political party, as well as whether that office was the Republican-majority House or Democrat-controlled Senate.
“Without being unreceptive, I noticed that there was a ‘cooler’ reception by the Democrats to putting a damper on the more-stringent OSHA and EPA regulations,” he said. “Those same staffers very much brightened up when we presented support for energy-efficiency legislation and, for the most part, avowed their support. Some had reservations whether tax credits and extensions would realistically be introduced or pass in the lame duck session.”
Position papers and fact sheets about the various issues of concern were left with each congressional office. NARI members will follow-up by writing letters to the staffers within a week.
A big thanks to the NARI members who participated in this inaugural event:
NARI Metro DC
Mark Chaikin, The Window Place of Northern Virginia
Christopher Dietz, UDCP, Dietz Development LLC
Mark Fies, Synergy Design & Construction
Steven Larsen, CR, Larsen Design/Build Associates LLC
David Merrick, MCR, UDCP, Merrick Design and Build Inc.
Cynthia McClure, MCR, GCP, Grossmueller’s Design Consultants Inc.
Joe Normandy, NARI Metro DC
Peter Pagenstecher, CR, Pagenstecher Group Inc.
Mike Patterson, CR, Patterson Builders-Remodelers LLC
Gregory Smith, CKBR, Greg Smith Company Inc.
NARI of Central Virginia
Mason Hearn, HomeMasons
Kyle Martin, CR, B.K. Martin Construction Inc.
Taylor Moore, E.T. Moore Manufacturing
Charles Shade, GCP, UDCP, C.L. Shade Drafting
NARI of Mid-Maryland
Steve Klitsch, Creative Concepts Remodeling Inc.
Greater Baltimore Area NARI
Nicholas Neboshynsky, Improvement Zone
Jane Neboshynsky, Improvement Zone
To see more images, visit NARI’s Facebook page (photos courtesy of Mason Hearn, Kyle Martin, CR, Taylor Moore and Christopher Dietz, UDCP).