WASHINGTON — This being an election year and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association’s 130th Anniversary, PHCC members visited Capitol Hill April 26 to lobby senators and representatives on the death tax, lead paint rule and the workforce guidelines for the Federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
The Legislative Conference started on Wednesday, April 25, with a briefing of the issues members were lobbying on and a reception on Capitol Hill. Morton Kondracke, journalist and political analyst, spoke to members during the briefing about the state of politics in the country, the upcoming election and how PHCC members do make a difference.
“You are their constituents,” Kondracke told PHCC members. “You are outstanding people and job creators — they like to see you. You can help them get re-elected. Don’t be shy telling them what you want. You need to tell them how things affect you creating jobs, your businesses’ bottom line.”
During the briefing Mark Riso, director of government relations for the PHCC, announced that the 3% Withholding Rule was repealed earlier this year. Last year the PHCC lobbied Congress on the issue.
“PHCC has great credibility on Capitol Hill, and we need to make sure members of Congress know who we are and what we do,” said Riso. “It’s a continual effort, we can’t relax. The 3% Withholding was a great victory. This is thanks to PHCC members getting involved in government relations and reaching members of Congress. This is about building, establishing and maintaining relationships with Congress. We need to stay aware and stay together. For every hour we lobby, our opponents lobby against us for two hours.”
“PHCC has had many successes throughout its strong 130-year history,” said Keith Bienvenu, president of the PHCC. “We were extremely pleased with the success of two issues we lobbied on last year: the repeal of the 3% Withholding tax as well as new Form 1099 requirements. We worked on the 3% Withholding for several years.”
Bienvenu said that the association’s grassroots efforts are one of its greatest strengths.
“We sent out a legislative alert to Chairman Cliff Stearns, subcommittee on oversight and investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, regarding the workforce guidelines for the Federal Weatherization Assistance Program (U.S. Department of Energy),” said Bienvenu. “Within 24 hours 250 responses were faxed to Stearns’ office. We faxed the responses since this would make a bigger impression.”
Bienvenu added that in the 112th Congressional cycle alone, PHCC members generated more than 4,600 letters to Capitol Hill and the U.S. Department of Energy. This was accomplished through PHCC’s letter writing service available to its members.
“To expand our impact, we are providing expanded grassroots services to members,” said Bienvenu. “This includes monitoring and tracking industry issues on a regular basis, and mobilizing members to lobby for important legislation or federal regulation.”
The PHCC of Louisiana delegation met with Caroline Bruckner, general counsel, committee on small business and entrepreneurship, representing Senator Mary Landrieu.
“I was very pleased with the meeting with Senator Landrieu’s office,” said Bienvenu. “Although Senator Landrieu was not able to be there, we talked to Caroline Bruckner about PHCC’s issues of interest, including estate tax repeal. We are disappointed that she does not support permanent repeal of the estate tax, but we are encouraged that she is willing to compromise. I look forward to following up with Senator Landrieu when I see her back home in our state of Louisiana.”
“Overall I was very impressed by the PHCC Legislative Conference,” said Matt Sullivan, licensed journeyman and vice president of marketing at Plumbing Solutions Inc., Dedham, Mass. “I was pleasantly surprised when I found our nation's leaders very eager to talk to us business types, it was refreshing to see that they understood that we represent the majority of Americans.”
Sullivan represents the second generation in his family's plumbing and heating company and is concerned with estate tax issues.
“After expressing our desire for a total repeal of estate taxes, we were met with a very honest, ‘That's never going to happen,’" said Sullivan. “But after 10 minutes or so of level-headed discussions, I found that most representatives were willing to work towards a compromise of extending Bush Tax cuts or perhaps expanding on those tax cuts when they expire at the end of the year. Lessening the effect that estate taxes have on small family businesses is vital to the survival and growth of these companies and it was verycomforting to hear that politicians on both sides of the political spectrum recognize that.”
Arizona Representative David Schweikert attended the Capitol Hill reception and urged PHCC members to get to know their senators and representatives while at home in order to have an ongoing relationship with them.
Mark Giebelhaus, chairman of PHCC’s Government Relations Committee, visited with Schweikert to discuss the three issues the association is lobbying on.
Schweikert was interested in the lead paint rule, asking Giebelhaus about its specifics, and said that he will jump right onto this issue.
The soon-to-be introduced lead paint rule legislation will reinstate the opt-out provision, allowing homeowners without small children or pregnant women to decide if they want to require compliance, making this a personal choice opposed to government choice.
According to Tom Theroux, executive director of PHCC of Massachusetts, building relationships with senators and representatives is of utmost importance along with keeping members of Congress abreast of the issues that are most important to the plumbing and HVAC industries and small businesses.
“We have developed relationships in the Senate and House and our meetings on Capitol Hill are effective,” said Theroux. “We have taken the time to build a relationship with Senator Scott Brown and when we call the Senator, he schedules a meeting with us. Our elected officials are voted into office to represent our views — and it is our responsibility to keep them informed. As important — the quality of an ongoing relationship can be realized when a congressional office has a question or needs information and they contact us. I am very proud to say that because of the relationships we’ve developed, PHCC is the professional organization in our industry that members of the House and Senate go to when in need of information regarding issues that involve our industry and small business.”
“Senator Scott was clearly ‘on board’ with our concerns with EPA,” said Joseph M. Whitney, president of North Shore Mechanical Contractors, Danvers, Mass. “He has also been responsive in the past with ‘commonsense’ issues.”
Whitney added that many members of congress are themselves frustrated at the lack of bipartisan accomplishment.
“I think our presence on Capitol Hill serves to let them know we have expectations this year regardless of the election,” said Whitney.
Theroux was pleased that the Massachusetts Congressional delegation was thoughtful about hearing PHCC’s concerns regarding workforce guidelines for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program.
“They were quick to offer their assistance as we attempt to establish a dialogue with the Department of Energy,” said Theroux.
Regarding building relationships on Capitol Hill, Theroux added, “Lastly, the words of one of our key speakers, Senator Jon Kyl, ring true, ‘Don’t wait to come to Washington to build your relationships. Contact your members of Congress while they are in your state and your district – that’s where they live and work.’”