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Engagement in the Political Process Has Rewards

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Don’t look now but it’s already another Presidential election year. Before you know it your television, your radio, your email box, and your phone will be saturated with a constant barrage of political ads. So before you tune the whole process out, remember this will be the most important election in history.

Ok, that’s a line political pundits drag out every four years, but you will need to pay attention and get engaged. As we have learned over the last eight years, the outcomes of elections can have significant impacts on your businesses and your personal lives.

When President Obama took office eight years ago, he had an ambitious agenda that included reforming health care, addressing climate change, improving our national security through energy independence and reduced energy use, and improving our education system, amongst others goals.

These are common issue areas of a new administration, whether the resident of the White House is a Republican or Democrat. The actions taken by Congress to address these issues, either through new laws or the executive powers wielded by the President, has had an impact on your business.

Health care is an obvious issue area in need of reform. The Affordable Care Act completely upended the existing health care system by making individuals obtain health care insurance or face a penalty at tax time. Employers with more than 49 workers were required to offer health care coverage to employees or face their own penalties. The idea was that the insured pool would get bigger, thereby reducing rates for all. Employers found it difficult to maintain their basic plans when new standards on basic coverage kicked in. Unfortunately complications abounded, unintended consequences arose, and many felt the reforms weren’t worth the trouble.

Climate change is another obvious one, but for a different outcome. Even before he signed his signature health care bill into law President Obama was pushing for significant reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases through the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a massive climate change bill in Congress. Most understood this to be common pollutants tied to the utility or manufacturing industries or carbon emissions from vehicles and other sources. Also included in the legislation were phase outs of the compounds commonly used as refrigerants in comfort cooling and commercial refrigeration. The bill passed the House of Representatives in the summer of 2009 but failed to gain any traction in the Senate. When Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 elections, climate change legislation was dead. So without Congress on his side, Obama rolled out the Climate Action Plan to implement policies through executive actions and policies affecting federal agencies.

The Climate Action Plan was a multi-agency strategy document that articulated efforts to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiencies through appliance standards, and phase out the use of greenhouse gases. The HVACR industry saw this through rulemakings and other federal actions from the Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

This purpose for this trip down memory lane on what’s happened in the last 8 years (and these are just a few examples) is to remind you of why it’s important to pay attention and not tune out the election process.

HVACR contractors face unique challenges, some of them opportunities and some threats. On the education front, this country desperately needs skilled workers in the construction trades yet we fall short in encouraging students down this rewarding career path. There’s a shortage of skilled technicians who can install, repair, and service the next generation of energy efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment that will help homes and commercial buildings use less energy and provide improved indoor comfort. During one of the early Republican debates, Senator Marco Rubio remarked that this country needs to “make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me I don’t know why we stigmatize vocational education.” ACCA’s Paul Stalknecht sent a letter to all candidates running for President, Republicans and Democrats, right after that debate urging them to make career education an important platform of the campaign.

Whoever moves into the White House in January of 2017 will wield a lot of power, whether they have Congress on their side or not. Presidents Clinton, Bush (41), and Obama all enjoyed at least two years where their party controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, but it didn’t always smooth the path for legislative success. That’s why the President’s executive powers and control of the federal government is so critical.

It’s often said that elections have consequences. That may be the case for the losers when they don’t get involved. The truth is getting involved in the political process has its rewards.

Charlie McCrudden

Posted In: Government

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