In May, an energized group of masonry industry leaders and professionals converged on Washington during the 2008 Masonry Industry Legislative Conference. The conference was held May 12-14, sponsored by the MCAA and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA). Leaders from both associations attended, along with masonry business owners from around the nation.
The MCAA has a new government affairs group, The Keelen Group, consisting of Matthew Keelen and Eric Dell as principles. Keelen and Dell are each extremely experienced on Capitol Hill. They breathed energy and excitement into our conference crowd, and expressed their willingness to assist us in protecting our industry through governmental processes.
The Legislative Conference provided attendees the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions and meetings with members of Congress, key committee staff and Federal agency officials regarding legislative, policy and regulatory issues of immediate concern to the industry. (see sidebar, p. 20).
Briefings from speakers
On May 12, the group was briefed at the Dirksen Senate office building. This year, Congressional speakers and contacts seemed less engaged in legislative matters and more focused, instead, on the rapidly approaching elections. Serious efforts to resolve crucial national energy policy issues and to deal with the estate tax and alternative minimum tax matters are basically on hold, along with virtually every other issue targeted by the masonry industry.
The only appropriations measure with any chance of passing before the elections is the defense bill. The Democrat controlled Congress is simply waiting out the elections, sensing bigger gains and greater opportunity to be heavy-handed in ramming their agendas through. The only areas in which Democrats seem to be softening a little are estate tax and alternative minimum tax, where an increasing number of middle economic class voters are being affected. Neither tax is expected to be repealed; immigration reform is not about to happen; no viable solution to the global war on terrorism is eminent, and the economy continues to worsen because of the out-of-control oil prices.
With all these unresolved issues, Congress is looking ahead to recess in a few months for a final run of campaigning.
This year’s speakers were:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — supports MilCon bill and repeal of 3 percent withholding tax and estate tax.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) — talked about immigration reform, support repeal of estate tax, supports renewable energy.
Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) — says we must address three things: health care has to be fixed; creating an energy blueprint extending two decades; and K12 education needs to be fixed; also says corporate tax rate needs to be lowered to compete with other countries.
After lunch, the conference attendees were addressed at the Longworth House office building in the afternoon.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) — supporter of MilCon bill; says surcharge tax eats up profits; says we must explore more and secure energy in United States.
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) — says immigration problems are more regional than Republican vs. Democrat; estate tax probably won’t be decided this year; health care should be inner-connected across the country.
- House Small Business Committee Majority General Council Russ Orban
- House Small Business Committee Minority Chief Counsel Barry Pineles
- House Ways and Means Committee Minority Staff Director Jon Traub.
On the final day of the conference, following a breakfast, our group was addressed by Federal agency speakers.
CDR Mark Geronime, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marine Operations Manager for Marine Corps Programs (NAVFAC-Southwest), discussed USMC Barracks program and other MILCON construction programs. He shared preferred exteriors, interiors and a few floor plans.
Paul Parsoneault, Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers Construction Management Branch (HQ,USACE), spoke to the group. Parsoneault said between FY06 and FY13, the Army military construction program will total an estimated $48.5 billion, which represents the largest program in the Army’s history since WWII. Military construction will be peak in FY08 and 09 at about $14 billion per year. He explained the Military Construction (MILCON) transformation as a continuous-build program of standard facilities through standardized building function and design. Parsoneault also said the standards and processes of MILCON did not support the Department of Defense’s requirement of constructing quality facilities in the timeframe needed, and a program-wide funding shortfall would have most likely occurred in the status-quo scenario.
Alison Kinn Bennett, Co-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency Green Buildings Working Group, was the final scheduled guest speaker. Bennett provided insight as to what our industry should be focusing on in the future. She also discussed Guiding principles for Federal leadership in high-performance and sustainable buildings. The principles were to 1) employ integrated design principles; 2) optimize energy performance; 3) protect and conserve water; 4) enhance indoor environmental quality; and 5) reduce environmental impact of materials.
The conference ended over lunch as Bill Holden, chairman of the NCMA, and Tom Daniels, president of the MCAA, talked with the group to close the session. Items discussed included time frames for how often to visit Washington as a group, and how the MCAA and NCMA can work jointly to meet common goals. One idea centered around a possible marketing campaign to present to military groups on the use of masonry in design and construction.
It was another meaningful trip to Washington for the MCAA, where our industry leaders are fighting for our common good.