Distributors Head to the Hill to Promote Equipment Policy Priorities

Scores of equipment distributors from across the country stormed Capitol Hill on April 2 and 3 for the AED/NAEDA 2014 Washington Fly-In. The annual meeting, which has become the equipment industry’s premier public policy event, is an important opportunity for members to gather political intelligence, urge congressional action on the association’s legislative priorities, and network with leading industry executives.
AED’s President Brian McGuire kicked off the Fly-In by encouraging attendees to make their engagement on the Hill part of a larger collaborative effort that will continue back home in their districts. Through site visits, educational tours, and local engagement, the relationships started in House and Senate offices should grow into broad cooperation between legislators and industry.
In his remarks welcoming attendees, AED Government Affairs Chairman Mark Romer (James River Equipment) thanked them for investing the time to come to Washington, D.C. and getting personally engaged in the political process. “I believe the unprecedented attendance at this year’s Fly-In is a reflection of the unprecedented political risk the equipment industry is facing in Washington,” Romer said.
To provide a sound issue-based understanding for attendees, the event began with an overview of AED’s government affairs program and a briefing on the key legislative issues impacting equipment markets by AED Vice President of Government Affairs Christian Klein. Those in attendance heard the latest on the political climate in Washington as well as the debates that will lead into this year’s crucial midterm elections.
The agenda continued with tax and infrastructure roundtable discussions involving both policy experts and lawmakers. Each participant provided policy insight while describing the valuable role that industry can play in ongoing process.
“You are here as job creators,” reminded Janet Kavinoky of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before highlighting the importance of messaging with “one voice.”
Jim Tymon of the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials provided an inspiring reminder of the importance of infrastructure policy: “Without a strong transportation system, America goes nowhere.”
Of course, economic implications are always central to discourse on Capitol Hill. Bruce Morgan of theSustainable Water Infrastructure Coalition and Water Policy Associates described the multiplier effect that turns one dollar of investment into water and wastewater infrastructure into $8.97 of total impact.
Rep Peter Roskam, a member of the influential House Ways & Means Committee and repeat at the fly in, began the tax discussion with the stark reminder that “Nobody can defend the status quo in the tax code today.”  Through a perspective that is reality for business, Roskam extolled the need for a “3D debate” that considers all the elements of tax policy that are beneficial – or harmful –industry.
Speaking about attempts to repeal “Last-In, First-Out” (LIFO) accounting policy, Jade West from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors stated that “the premise for repeal is flawed” and based on “bad assumptions.” While West’s comments were specific to the LIFO debate, they underscored an important general point for congressional engagement: industry members must work to educate the lawmakers about the impact of policies on their companies. When bad assumptions threaten business, then business must replace those assumptions with clear fact.
The Honorable Steve LaTourette, a former Congressman and current chairman of the Republican Main Street Partnership, addressed the group during lunch on the first day. Through his engaging style, LaTourette discussed his work to support pragmatic GOP candidates. His remarks included the simple reminder that “the key part of government is governing.”
Following lunch, participants were treated to a spirited discussion on regulatory issues with Associated Builders & Contractor’s Geoff Burr and National Federation for Independent Business’s Amanda Austin, focusing on Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board actions and the Obamacare fallout.  Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, dropped by for an update on the panel’s focus for 2014.
The first day finished with breakout sessions on and agriculture, where Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) joined panels to talk about energy and agriculture policy, respectively. The day capped off with an industry networking reception on the Caterpillar Washington Office rooftop.
The second day of the Fly-In kicked off with the annual AED PAC breakfast featuring Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and David Joyce (R-Ohio). Following breakfast, distributors took to the halls of Congress for a busy day of meetings with lawmakers.
In between meetings, attendees were treated to an energetic address by Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who as a former car dealer, explained the importance of ensuring the distribution tier is well-represented on Capitol Hill.
At the close of the second day, attendees were able to reflect on their work and fortify relationships during a congressional reception in House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s hearing room.
Across all of the roundtables, panels, presentations, and breakouts, participants were reminded about the importance of engaging with their own employees about the impact federal policies have on their companies. In doing so, the industry can create a fully-engaged base of allies, advocates, and activists within their own walls.
“Nothing sends a more powerful message to a lawmaker than an employer from ‘back home’ who takes the time to come to Washington and provide personal perspective on how government policies affect his or her company, employees and the economy,” Klein said.  “There’s a little doubt that dozens of meetings our members held with key lawmakers will underscore the urgency of saving the federal highway program, restoring certainty to the tax code, and preventing poorly thought-out regulations.”
Content shared during the Fly-In can be accessed on the AED Action site. If you were with us, please be sure to share your thoughts (and help us make next year even better) by completing the follow-up survey emailed to each Fly-In attendee.