Hundreds of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) members from around the country convened in Washington, D.C. Wednesday for the start of an attendance record-setting 2017 National Legislative Conference and Political Leadership Council Summit.
The two-day event is the premiere legislative conference for electrical contractors to hear about the top issues affecting the industry and meet the leaders who are working to provide vital solutions.
On the first day, NECA held a Political and Policy Briefing in the afternoon, beginning with welcoming remarks from Nicolaus Feldmann of Eldor Electric, Inc., who serves as Chairman of the NECA Government Affairs Committee, as well as David Long of Miller Electric, Inc., NECA District 3 Vice President. Feldmann said more than 225 meetings with members of Congress have been scheduled.
“Thank you for being a part of this event,” he said. “It has positioned us as a major player on Capitol Hill and helps you build a reputation back home.”
“It is very clear we have important things to get done, and now is the time to get them done,” he added.
Long said meeting with members of Congress and their staff can be frustrating at first, but ultimately success is possible.
“It’s important to bring a hometown face to the issues NECA is advocating for,” he said.
The first panel of the afternoon, moderated by Marco Giamberardino, NECA Executive Director of Government Affairs, and Frank McCarthy, Senior Vice President of The Keelen Group, centered on the political state of affairs in the U.S. and recounting Election Night. Giamberardino and McCarthy led a discussion on a variety of issues pertinent to electrical contractors.
Matt Keelen, Founder and President of The Keelen Group, said what President Trump has done has disrupted Washington in a way that is needed to be disrupted. He said people making the same mistake of counting him out.
“They saying, ‘Maybe we’ve been underestimating him. Is it worth working with this guy?’” he said, noting the opportune time for business growth the country.
Chrisy Setzer, President of New Heights Communications, added a rough first 100 days don’t bode well for the next 100, aside from the successful Supreme Court appointment.
“It’s been difficult, and it will continue to be difficult,” she said.
But Keelen said he thought the GOP would get health care done, and there is momentum on a transportation/infrastructure package.
Setzer closed by saying Democrats are grappling with existential questions right now and suggested they might have been open to working with President Trump on infrastructure.
Later, NECA Political Leadership Council Chairman Mark Mazur of MJM Electric discussed the value to political action both in Washington and back home.
Afterwards, Giamberardino also led a panel of policy experts. Participants included Chris Heinz, Principal, Grossman Heinz; Tara Bradshaw, Senior Manager, Washington Council Ernst & Young; Brian Pallasch, Managing Director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives, American Society of Civil Engineers; and Brian Reardon, Principal, Venn Strategies, LLC.
The top issues NECA seeks to address this include infrastructure investment, comprehensive tax reform, repealing the Cadillac tax on health care plans, and pension reform.
Heinz talked about the importance of pension reform getting and composite plans (adjustable benefits, no withdrawal liability, participant protections built in) passed.
“We can’t let these plans go under, which will happen if we don’t do anything,” he added.
The electrical construction industry also supports the passage of a robust, well-funded and comprehensive infrastructure bill that addresses all sectors.
“Infrastructure investment is the backbone of our economy,” Pallasch said.
Heinz added there has to be direct federal spending in the mix for progress to be made on infrastructure.
Bradshaw spoke about the Alliance to Fight the 40, a unified push by a broad, bipartisan coalition to repeal the Cadillac tax, noting the timeliness of the issue.
“NECA members are well position to stand up and make a difference,” she said.
Reardon maintained that the top issue right now is passing comprehensive tax reform, noting recent gains on health care and the introduction of President Trump’s proposal bode well for tax reform.
“A start needs to happen by the end of the year – there’s truth to that,” he said.
The conference continues Thursday morning with remarks from several members of Congress, including Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Brian Mast (R-FL), and more meetings on Capitol Hill.
View full schedule and speaker bios
Day 2 Updates »