The American Supply Association’s Legislative Fly-In again packed plenty of action into a 36-hour period here in Washington, D.C.
Inside the House and Senate buildings, ASA members were busy meeting with their elected officials on several hot-button topics germane to distributors and manufacturers, including tax reform, health-care, the Marketplace Fairness Act, LIFO repeal, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and even metal theft.
I sat in on five Hill meetings and came away with a couple key takeaways. I thought the elected officials I observed in those meetings seemed to be even more receptive to what ASA members were discussing with them than they had been in past Legislative Fly-In events.
The other thing that was quite apparent was the bluntness concerning the likelihood of any changes being made regarding those topics in the near future. In the meetings I observed, elected officials gave straight answers and said immediate changes to issues such as tax reform and health care (key points: revising definition of small employer, repealing the annual fee on health-insurance providers and reestablishing the 40-hour work week) weren’t likely to happen and that time is running out on the passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act (which would allow local sellers to compete on a level playing field against out-of-state Internet retailers), which deals with Internet sales tax.
While that may seem like discouraging news, I view it as far from that. I was impressed that these elected officials and/or members of their staff told it like it is and seemed genuinely interested in the topics.
Another thing that stuck out was the willingness of these elected officials to learn more about the companies these ASA members work for and/or the areas these companies are located in. In several instances, visits to ASA member companies in a particular elected official’s region were bandied about.
My favorite meeting of the day occurred with a contingent of Tennessee-based ASA members who met with Representative Jim Cooper. Cooper was the epitome of telling it like it is. He shared an interesting tidbit when the Marketplace Fairness Act came up. He noted Amazon.com is having a heck of a time with people living in remote areas such as Alaska ordering large items such as couches and using their Amazon Prime shipping membership (Prime customers pay a yearly fee and then do not pay shipping on Amazon.com orders they place). You don’t have to be a math major to see who is taking a bath on that deal.
Cooper also had a blunt take on what folks in our industry call showrooming where a customer goes into, say, a bath-and-kitchen showroom, looks at items in the showroom and then goes home and orders them from an Internet site.
“That’s one of the most insulting behaviors,” he told the group.
Cooper also noted he’s voted 54 times for health-care change in the House to no avail.
The day before our Hill visits, Fly-In attendees were briefed on the various issues that were talked about on Capitol Hill. I was impressed with National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ Jim Anderson’s thorough presentation on the Marketplace Fairness Act. Anderson was one of several guest speakers during the briefing.
“Time will tell whether we will get there,” Anderson said of the Marketplace Fairness Act. “At this point in time, it doesn’t look too promising, but we will keep on trying.”
At dinner, attendees were treated to a keynote address by Fox News contributor and author Steve Hayes who gave his thoughts on the contenders for the 2016 presidential race. He likes Marco Rubio on the Republican side. Hayes was a great speaker and extremely personable with ASA members during his time at the dinner.
And a quick thought to those ASA members who have never participated in a Fly-In. Sign up for the next one. You won’t be disappointed. As NAWD’s Anderson told ASA members, “This is where the seeds get planted for when the real legislating goes on later.”