Electrical contractors from around the country joined National Electrical Contractors Association staff for a day of nearly 200 meetings on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning to discuss issues facing the industry.
The 2016 NECA Legislative Conference and Political Leadership Council Summit began on Wednesday and continued Thursday at the historic Cannon Caucus Room located in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
NECA President David Hardt of Hardt Electric, Inc., made remarks to open the schedule of events, impressing on contractors the importance of meeting with members of Congress.
“By being here, you directly contribute to the success of the electrical contracting industry,” Hardt said.
He added that NECA members can put a hometown face on the issues they are working to advance and that it is vital to continue their efforts when they return home.
NECA’s top priorities for 2016 have included a wide variety of issues aimed at ensuring the businesses of electrical contractors continue to grow and prosper. These important issues include investing in the nation’s aviation, energy and water infrastructure; creating new and innovative multiemployer defined benefit pension plans; and calling for the full repeal of the Cadillac Tax on health plans.
Brian Damant, chapter manager for Central Ohio Chapter, NECA, in Columbus, attends the legislative conference every year. He had meetings scheduled with members of Congress throughout the day Thursday.
“It’s an education process,” Damant said. “We (NECA members) all talk different issues, but there’s a core we hit.”
Several members of Congress followed Hardt in the morning session, touching on issues concerning the electrical contracting industry and their work in the House.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, spoke about the importance of economic development through infrastructure investment.
“We’re becoming less efficient in the movement of goods and people,” he said, adding he’s a proponent of raising the gas tax and addressing the needs of airports and water resources.
Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, talked about the prospects of passing energy legislation after the Senate passed its version earlier this month. He said he hopes something can get done in a bipartisan fashion before the Democratic and Republican conventions in July.
Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican spoke about project labor agreements and his membership in the Congressional Building Trades Caucus, a newly formed bipartisan collaboration that he co-chairs and will allow the parties to exchange ideas and facilitate policies that will help NECA energize the construction trades.
“We’ve got to get people to see how the construction industry is integrated into the economy as much as anything else,” he said.
Added Damant: “I think (the new caucus) is good.”
Later, Rep. Bill Johnson, an Ohio Republican and a member of the Budget Committee, cited repealing the Cadillac tax and implementing pension reform as initiatives he supports.
He said that despite the divided nature of the electorate and in Washington, Congress has made more progress than the American people realize, including efforts to reform the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Rep. Pat Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican and member of the Ways and Means Committee, addressed investment, healthcare and tax issues as priorities as well as pension reform and composite plans.
Shawn Smith, an electrical contractor from Topeka, Kansas, with DL Smith Electric, the things he and his colleagues want to get done are gaining support.
“They know about NECA and are aware of what it is,” he said. “We’ve been able to get into the weeds and talk about the impact.”
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION
NECA is the voice of the $130 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light, and communication technology to buildings and communities across the U.S. NECA’s national office in Bethesda, Md., four regional offices, and 119 local chapters across the country support the electrical contracting industry through advocacy, education, research, and standards development. NECA chapters are independently chartered organizations who work with national field representatives to develop effective labor agreements and market initiatives.