Washington, D.C., was the place to be in mid-April.

A record number of ASA members came here in mid-April to meet with their members of Congress during the group’s annual ASA Legislative Fly-In in Washington, D.C.

ASA members spoke with their elected officials about important issues such as tax reform, health care and marketplace fairness (specifically related to Internet purchases). Other topics such as LIFO and metal theft also were discussed.

The prevailing feeling from comments made both during the legislative briefing meeting the previous day at the Embassy Row Hotel near Georgetown University and from members of Congress and their staffs who visited with ASA members is that immediate change concerning those topics is not on the horizon.

But that doesn’t mean progress wasn’t made in the House and Senate offices.

“General tax reform is very important to all business owners and Americans in general,” said Texas Plumbing Supply’s Glenn Fuller, who was busy on Capitol Hill with some five or six meetings in the morning alone. “The Marketplace Fairness Act is one of the subjects we as wholesalers can really show tangible ways we either are losing business or how we can gain business by equalizing the playing field. Every member (of Congress) I talked with agreed and supported it. Health care affects everybody. It’s here and how can we live with it and reduce the damage? With each day and each session that goes by, if we can take a little more away… that’s something we requested in each of these meetings and they agreed we can take small steps in that direction.”

ASA Director of Government Affairs Dan Hilton said there is no better way to elicit change than for association members to tell their boots-on-the-ground stories.

“The folks in the meetings are the ones living the struggles every day,” he said. “A good example is the Marketplace Fairness Act. True brick-and-mortars — the small businesses — are impacted by this. The message our members can deliver is exponentially more impactful than anybody in Washington can deliver. They live it every day and are the true stakeholders in this battle.”

Hilton qualified the Fly-In as another big success. He added ASA is exploring the possibility of buying groups coming to Capitol Hill in the future. “The decisions made in these halls impact every business owner, every citizen and taxpayer,” he said. “They need to hear these stories. They are not experts on every issue. They may not even be small-business owners.”

This was the sixth time Fuller participated in a Fly-In event. “The obvious benefits are seeing our country at work and how our country operates day to day,” he said. “If you are not part of this, you really don’t have a voice in it. If you come out to Washington, it’s not that difficult. ASA makes it very easy for you. Do your civic duty. I’m not here for Texas Plumbing Supply. I’m here for everybody in ASA. We don’t see end results when we walk away here, but we know we are doing the right thing and we know we are moving in the right direction.”

During the legislative briefing the day before, ASA members heard briefings from Katie Mahoney (executive director, health policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce) on health care, Jim Anderson (VP, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors) on marketplace fairness and Brian Reardon (principle, Venn Strategies and president, S Corp Assn.) on tax reform. Fox News contributor and author Steve Hayes was the featured dinner speaker and gave his contenders for the 2016 presidential race.

For more on the Fly-In, including a video with Glenn Fuller, CLICK HERE

This article was originally titled “Having their voice heard” in the May 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.