How You Can Help The Industry Advance In Washington
What’s one of the most common complaints about Congress? How about there are too many special interests that make it difficult to cut wasteful programs or enact real change. Members of Congress become beholden to lobbyists who fund their campaigns and then expect them to vote their way. Some even claim it’s the lobbyists who actually draft legislation and then tell Congress to vote for it.
And you know what? There’s some truth to all of this. Special interests do play an important role in Washington. but like beauty, “Special Interest” exists in the eyes of the beholder. One man’s lobbyist is another man’s advocate.
It’s impossible to count the number of people who email, call, or visit Capitol Hill on a given day to make a point about a particular issue. Some are professionals, hired to represent their clients, be it a corporation or trade association. Others are “citizen lobbyists” who travel to Washington once a year during a “Fly-In” conference, or send a letter or two expressing their opinions.
What most people overlook is the simple political fact that if you don’t ask for something you’ll never get what you want. Professional lobbyists or citizen advocate, it isn’t who makes the point of contact just as long as someone is standing up for their interests.
Lobbyists or advocates all want the same thing: to express their viewpoint and help members of Congress understand the implications and consequences of the bills they introduce and debate. Every industry has an “ask” and someone has to make it for them.
Enacting laws is a very public process and it’s up to those who support or oppose a bill to make their opinions known. Stay on the sidelines and your interests will be ignored. But understand that your opponents are hoping you won’t notice that they are about to bury you.
Every bill in Congress has a winner and a loser. And that’s why it’s important to act with your own special interests in mind. That starts by building a relationship with your members of Congress. When a bill is introduced, lawmakers and their staff expect to hear from industry experts and those “out in the field.” The volume of bills and the pace of action on Capitol Hill is overwhelming. Lawmakers and their staff cannot know everything about an issue.
And that’s where you as special interest lobbyist can come in. Best of all you don’t have to travel to Washington to do it.
The first step is to get involved and build a personal relationship. Call your local Representative and meet with their staff in the district office. Invite them to an ACCA monthly chapter meeting or to your business and invite some of your colleagues, so they can see the type of work you do and how many employees you have.
A few years ago, former ACCA Board Member Bob Champe invited Rep. Tim Murphy to stop by his company, Shearer Heating A/C & Refrigeration, Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa. Murphy visit lasted nearly an hour and has had a lasting impression on his understanding of the issues and concerns of an HVACR contractor. This is critical because Rep. Murphy serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee.
Very few people in Washington understand all the intricacies of the HVACR industry. Members of Congress or their staff may have been accomplished in their own line of work before being elected, but they don’t always understand the issues and concerns of the small business contractor.
To a member of Congress, your employees mean votes and potentially a household of votes. Lawmakers and their staff meet with dozens of people every day, so it’s crucial that you maximize the time. You don’t have to be polished, but make sure you have an “ask” and then follow up aft er the meeting. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion even if you know it runs counter to their voting record.
In my experience, members of Congress react positively when they see their constituents take the time to meet with them to make their voice heard. You can help yourself and your industry by building that relationship.
The next two years in Washington are going to be crucial to the bottom line for HVACR contracting companies. A highly divided Congress will struggle to pass legislation. And while gridlock will stop a lot of bad bills from becoming law, it also means that some of ACCA’s top priorities could flounder as well.
While ACCA works very hard to push our legislative and regulatory agenda, you can assist this effort on a local scale by reaching out to your lawmakers, building a relationship with their staff , and asking them to understand your views with their votes.
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