More than ever, p-h-c industry must get back to grassroots

Now more than ever, members of Congress are reaching out to "the people." They want to hear directly from their constituents in their districts and states and especially from small businesses. It is vitally important to remind lawmakers of the significant contributions small businesses make to local, state and national economies.

Could our forefathers ever have imagined that the basic tenet of our Constitution would have such an influence on our government and our industry today? Did Lincoln have a crystal ball when he asked people to embrace this government, "of the people, by the people, for the people?"

Now more than ever, members of Congress are reaching out to "the people." They want to hear directly from their constituents in their districts and states and especially from small businesses. It is vitally important to remind lawmakers of the significant contributions small businesses make to local, state and national economies. The good news? They really do listen, and, especially in today’s economy, they realize our worth. Just last month, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said that the small business community is "the backbone of our nation's economy and our country's job-making machine," adding that we should, "stop imposing obstacles on those who make this country work."

When it comes to the p-h-c industry, political action has always been a priority. Strong grassroots efforts — citizens contacting their legislators to influence legislation and policy — have given us great visibility on Capitol Hill. But, as PHCC President Frank Maddalon said recently, "We can lose that visibility in a heartbeat; it is critical that we continue our momentum."

Keeping the momentum
We must keep the communication going; grassroots is a two-way relationship between communities and lawmakers. Organizations such as PHCC know that elected officials want to hear directly from their members, and PHCC strongly encourages its members to participate in letter-writing efforts, e-mails and phone calls. In fact, through regular Legislative Alerts — electronic updates on key legislative issues — PHCC's members can send ready-made letters directly to their legislators. Participation via this automated process has been extremely effective recently.

But grassroots is much more than a letter-writing campaign. In-person contact is also important. Many PHCC chapters use a "Day at the Capitol" to influence state lawmakers. In fact, one member in Georgia recently wrote this: "…If I had not taken the time to make the trip to Atlanta to have a conversation with my state legislator about a licensing bill, he would have never realized the significance of this bill being passed."

This effective technique can be applied to lobby Congress as well. At a time when Congress is debating issues critical to the future of our businesses, our families and the p-h-c industry, PHCC offers a great opportunity to join that debate and lobby Congress directly. PHCC's Legislative Conference, set this year for May 11-12 in Washington, is always a highly effective platform to not only become educated about the legislative process but to let our collective voice be heard on issues such as the permanent repeal of the estate tax and Form 1099 requirements, as well as the 3% withholding provision.

Of course, when it comes to a comprehensive grassroots campaign, there are other key initiatives to consider as well. These include effective media relations, statistical resources and political action committees. The PHCC-PAC that contributes to candidates and elected officials based on their pro-business ideologies has been a very effective mechanism at the national level.

Is it working?
Indeed, the p-h-c industry's greatest, and arguably most natural, strength is its ability to be a strong grassroots powerhouse on Capitol Hill. And it's working! In fact just last month, following PHCC’s efforts to support the repeal of the Form 1099 provision of the healthcare law, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed critical legislation to rescind the controversial provision. The House's actions came on the heels of the Senate's passage of an amendment to also repeal what PHCC believes is a shortsighted requirement.

In addition, PHCC recently weighed in with the Senate to support continued full funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Perkins funding is safe, for now, in a temporary continuing resolution, but sustained involvement of PHCC members is needed to protect these valuable training funds that help provide qualified technicians for the p-h-c industry.

Clearly, PHCC has great opportunities to quantify and communicate the industry’s collective benefits to our communities, our municipalities, and our local, state, and federal economies. And — at a time when small businesses are driving national policy — it is crucial to reach out to the decision-makers. Thankfully, the culture of Capitol Hill is one of cooperation, not regulation. Your legislators want to hear from those who are impacted directly by policy decisions. They want to hear from real people. They want to hear from you.

PHCC is making great strides to ensure that p-h-c contractors' opinions are considered during this session of Congress. But we're always interested in getting more contractors involved to increase our influence. If you'd like more information about membership and ways you can participate in PHCC’s legislative efforts, contact me at [email protected], call 800/533-7694 or visit www.phccweb.org.

Mark Riso is government relations director for Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contactors – National Association. He can be reached at [email protected]. He was formerly a principal of the Washington Policy Group.