Every year, the MCAA heads to Washington D.C. for the Legislative Fly-In. During this conference, our members and staff are able to directly engage with their respective elected officials and advocate for the masonry industry. To many who have not attended, this may seem like a daunting event. However, several past attendees of the Fly-In have come together to share their insight on the process and what it means to them. We hope this will serve as a resource for anyone who’s on the fence about attending. We look forward to seeing everyone out in D.C.!

Initial Involvement:

Melonie Leslie, General Manager of G & G Enterprises: My first legislative fly-in was a mid-year one. Glenn Hottmann and Mike Sutter suggested that I attend. From there, I have continued to attend and am now Legislative Committee Co-Chair.

Gary Joyner, President of Joyner Masonry Work, Inc.: The subject interested me.

Mason Hill, Vice President of Hill Masonry, Inc.: Jeff Buczkiewicz reached out to me last year about attending the conference he explained the importance of the impact we can have by attending. MCAA was also presenting their annual Freedom and Prosperity award and Senator Steve Daines (R) from MT was one of the winners, Jeff asked if we would like to participate in the award presentation.

Tom Vacala, VP of Operations of Restore Masonry LLC: I was invited by my brother Larry because he’s seen that I am passionate about our industry.

Mark Kemp, CEO of Superior Masonry and Concrete Buildings Inc.: I first became involved with the MCAA Fly-In when I became a Regional VP. It was probable at the start of the Fly-Ins and I was also at the time spear heading the Silica Task Force Committee for the Construction Industry. Heading this task force showed me how important it is to be involved not only with MCAA but also involved with Washington DC.

Kent Huntley, Co-Owner of Huntley Brothers Co. Inc.: Two years ago I attended my first fly-in at the urging of Gary Joyner. It has been great for me!

The Importance of Fly-Ins:

Melonie Leslie: We all face similar struggles in our industry. We tend to come back to the same issues. Some of these issues have bigger solutions than we are able to provide. By attending the Legislative Fly-In, the masonry industry is given the opportunity to voice our concerns, opinions, and most importantly our solutions to the legislators who have the ability to create the changes we need for our industry.

Gary Joyner: It is important to me to try to make our industry a better place to work for the future generations.

Mason Hill: Anytime you have the opportunity to get in front of your lawmakers to preach our industry it is important to do so. With all the different types of building methods out there, if WE as an industry don’t speak up when we can and take every possible step available to us to stay front and center we cannot grow as an industry.

Tom Vacala: I want to have a fighting voice on some major topics that can greatly affect the future of our industry. I need the politicians to hear the passion in my voice and see the passion on my face when I explain why they need to vote or not vote on certain bills that will greatly affect my business.

Mark Kemp: I have always believed you should never complain unless you are involved in making a positive change. So, if you are sitting back and complaining you don’t have that right, unless you’re working to fix the problem.

Kent Huntley: The issues we continue to face as an industry really need our voices being heard. I think it is critical for us to make our voices heard. The fly-in is a great way to make a difference! I can’t imagine not attending after going for the last couple of years.

Legislative Fly-In Breakdown

Melonie Leslie: The event starts with a debriefing on our position papers and being provided your meeting schedule. From there, you will be off with your team to go from office to office according to your meeting schedule. At each meeting, it’s a good idea to set up a plan for your talking points with your other team members so that you utilize your time with the elected official in the best way possible.

In between or after these meetings, you may be asked to attend a fundraiser event in which you’d present a check on behalf of the MAC PAC. It’s a great way to get a taste of daily life on Capitol Hill! But it’s not all business. Usually a private tour is arranged by MCAA of a landmark. And, I have had time to get in some sight seeing too while I’ve attended the event. Make sure you bring some comfortable walking shoes…you’ll be getting your steps in every day!

Gary Joyner: If you have a slight idea of how Washington DC operates, then you will pretty much understand it completely after you attend this event.

Mason Hill: The entire experience from start to finish is fun, educational and rewarding. You leave DC feeling like you made a positive impact for OUR industry.

Tom Vacala: If you own a company or work in the Masonry Industry and want to see some changes, you need to show up. This event also showcases the strength and professionalism of the MCAA. The structure and planning that takes place by the MCAA to plan this event in detail is unprecedented. The complete agenda of meetings that take place in a packed day is organized so well. This is no vacation. This is a chance for you to make a difference in the future of our industry. Study the topics that you will discuss and be prepared to work your ass off, and when you’re done, you will be so happy that you attended!

Mark Kemp: It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see how DC functions. Meeting and establishing a relationship with the people who represent you is something that one should really want. It is your right and responsibility. You also realize just how big the government is and what it takes to run it.

Kent Huntley: For someone who hasn’t been before please attend. It is very beneficial to the whole industry, for our voice to be heard. Also for selfish reasons, it will help you personally in your business. I have learned so much more about how our government actually works! Please sign up to help make a difference.

Interactions with Elected Officials

Melonie Leslie: My experiences with the elected officials have been positive. The MCAA’s presence on Capitol Hill is growing. It is great to see how the elected officials’ offices are remembering us and our issues. Through this, when we return year after year, the officials have become more engaged allowing us to go more in depth on certain issues and present new ones.

Gary Joyner: Both ends of the spectrum. You will leave some meetings quite satisfied and some the frustration factor sets in.

Mason Hill: Talking with your elected officials is great, they really take the time to listen and ask questions about the topics MCAA has for us to present. They were very open, friendly, and easy to talk to. I have since crossed paths with some of them, each remembering us and our topics from the fly-in.

Tom Vacala: The interactions are overall very comfortable. They are primarily very attentive and want to hear what you have to say. But be prepared to say it fast! You don’t get much time so make sure you leave them with an impression that they won’t forget. A joke, a similarity that you have with them (hometown, college, sports, kids, etc.), and maybe wear something that they won’t forget. Lasting impressions will go a long way when you do your follow-ups.

Mark Kemp: Honestly, I would say some interactions are better than others. It is no different than with friends or people in general, sometimes you agree and sometimes you don’t. You must remind yourself if you don’t tell them what is important to you, how can you expect them to know.

Your representatives need to know what is important to you and how and why it affects you. I remember talking to my Senator and it got kind of heated. I ended it by saying we can agree to disagree and he replied while I see your point I will not stand in the way or vote it out. It was a win/win for both of us.

Kent Huntley: The thing I have been most impressed with is being able to talk directly with our officials. The meetings are planned very well and obviously some officials listen more then others, but being able to talk with them directly is awesome! The MCAA does fantastic in preparing the agenda!

Important Issues This Year

Melonie Leslie.: I think that the most important issue that will be discussed this year will be workforce development and passing the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. We are all facing a workforce shortage. We need to continue to promote and push for increasing vocational and technical programs for our youth or for those wanting to pursue our trade. It is also important that we overall continue to promote the construction industry as a whole to drive interest in pursuing construction and masonry careers. Without this, the stigma of working in the trades and lack of workforce will continue.

Gary Joyner: Workforce development.

Mason Hill: Hot topic this year will be Crystalline Silica for sure they will want a recap of how this has affected our trade, workforce, and businesses. Training will be second, whether it be workforce development or Career and Tech. Ed. Timber Innovations Act is a topic I would like to see looked at also this year, as it is a very important issue to the Masonry industry.

Tom Vacala: The Silica act!

Mark Kemp: I would say there is more than one very important topic.

  1. The ones that I will be stressing are immigration reform. No matter what your side is on this issue, it needs to be fixed permanently.
  2. Misclassification of Workers– This is truly hurting all people, whether you are in business or not. These workers do not pay taxes or workers compensation insurance and they add extra stress on our healthcare system because they use emergency care, which the hospitals pass on to the people who do carry insurance.
  3. Government Regulations/OSHA– It seems like every time I fill out one form, I must fill out another one. Any time the government has a new regulation you know it will cost your company time and money. OSHA is a good example of an organization within the government that has exceeded its authority. You don’t have to look any farther than the current Silica regulation to prove this point.

Kent Huntley: I think it is 2 things: Workforce development and we need to continue to work on the Silica issue. Workforce development is one of the biggest issues we need help with!

Words: Masonry Magazine
Photos, Mason Hill, Masonry Magazine