by Randi Hutchinson
On Tuesday evening, March 15 and Wednesday, March 16, NARI members from across the country gathered in Washington, DC for the first ever NARI Fly-In and Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. NARI members from New York, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and California all came to talk with their Congressional Representatives about issues of importance to remodelers.
The event started on Tuesday evening with a reception at a hotel in downtown Washington. NARI members got a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. After the reception, members went for a personal nighttime tour of the U.S. Capitol led by myself and former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson. Of course, NARI members were particularly interested in the renovations being done in the Capitol dome. Those renovations are scheduled to be complete by the end of the year, in time for the January 2017 inauguration of the next President.
The next day started early with the group gathering at a reserved room in the Capitol Visitors Center. The session got started with Congressman Rick Crawford from Arkansas being the first person to speak to the group. Next up was Congressman Steve Chabot the Chairman of the Small Business Committee. Both Congressmen talked about small business issues and stressed how important it is for NARI members to keep in touch with their Congressional Representatives. Chairman Chabot told the group that it is impossible for Members of Congress, even those who serve on the Small Business Committee, to keep up with every new regulation and policy that is put out by the Federal agencies. Congressional Members rely on their constituents to communicate with them and let them know when a problem arises.
NARI members had an opportunity to ask questions and interact with both these Representatives during their time with the group. After Chairman Chabot, former Congressman Albert Wynn, a Democrat, and former Congressman Charlie Bass, a Republican, came to speak about the Presidential Race and the outlook in Congress. NARI members had an opportunity to hear both a Democrat and a Republican view of where things stand in our nation.
The rest of the morning was spent going over the three issues that NARI members would discuss in their Congressional visits and also honing in on what the actual “ask” would be for each issue. The three issues were: (1) OSHA’s upcoming Silica Rule; (2) Energy Efficiency Legislation, and; (3) Workforce Development. Members of Congress expect that their constituents will ask for their help when they come to visit. NARI members were prepared to engage their Representatives to help remodelers with their concerns.
The morning finished up with the entire group walking over to Senator Rob Portman’s office to present him with NARI’s first Legislator of the Year Award. Sen. Portman has been a tireless advocate for energy efficiency legislation and policies and NARI wanted to recognize his efforts. At the presentation, NARI members had an opportunity to talk with the Senator and encourage him to continue his work on comprehensive energy legislation.
After lunch in the Senate Dirksen Cafeteria, NARI members “stormed the Hill,” and spent the afternoon meeting with their Congressmen and Senators. While there were some who had done lobbying before, for many it was their first time to meet with their federal representatives. Walking the Hall of Congress and having the opportunity to make your own voice heard is an experience like no other. The NARI members who participated can say it best:
“It is a rewarding experience to represent an organization like NARI on Capitol Hill. It is also exhausting because your concentration and energy level are very high throughout the day. Not everyone in the world has the opportunity to participate in public elections and not everyone has the opportunity to personally meet with their elected officials in their own Nation’s Capitol! We would encourage NARI members from every chapter to make the next National Government Affairs Fly-In a fully attended event. You will not regret your investment of time.” — Steve Klitsch, Maryland NARI member
“Virginia Representative Bobby Scott and his staff were very receptive regarding NARI’s Career and Technical Education initiatives. We look forward to working effectively with a bipartisan Capitol Hill to meet the workforce needs of our industry which begins with training the next generation of skilled tradesmen.” — Leo Lantz, Virginia NARI member
“Lobbying with NARI grants the average person access to change the laws, rules, and regulations to make a positive difference in our business.” — Taylor Moore, Virginia NARI member
“In a society where criticism of our government is commonplace, we must remember that we are not powerless to advocate for change. I feel fortunate to live in a country where we can sit down with our lawmakers and discuss issues that will impact our economy, our industry, our companies and ultimately our families. I am humbled and honored to represent NARI and to have participated in our first Capitol Hill Fly-In event.” — Angela Hubbard, Executive Director, NARI Central Virginia
These are comments from just a few of the NARI members who participated in the Fly-In. NARI will hold another Fly-In next March 2017. The exact date will be sent once the 2017 Congressional Calendar is finalized by the House and Senate leadership at the end of the year. Make a note on your calendars to attend. Your participation in lobbying for the remodeling industry can make an incredible difference.
About the Author: NARI lobbyist Randi Hutchinson is with Greenberg Traurig in Washington, D.C. and focuses her practice on government law and policy matters.
She began her career serving as a staff assistant on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 1984. From 1993 to 1997, Randi was Legislative Director to U.S. Representative Tim Hutchinson. Upon the congressman’s election to the U.S. Senate, she moved to Little Rock, Arkansas to work in the state office.
From 1997 to 1998, Randi continued as a senior advisor to the senator, including serving as State Director. There, she had responsibility over the senator’s state offices and continued her work on infrastructure and environmental projects.