I have to admit to sleeping through most of my high-school history and civics classes. They just were not classes I was interested in. However, I have learned so much this past year about the way laws come into being, and I have a new respect for the politicians who represent us.
Every day constituents are breathing down their elected officials’ necks, telling them what they want. Our representatives need to listen to all of these voices and make a decision that is in the best interest of everyone. All too often decisions are based on being re-elected so the loudest voice and the deepest pockets are the voices that get heard instead of the voices of reason.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry seeks to be that voice of reason in Washington, D.C. The organization wants to be recognized as the best source for remodeling information consistent with the professionalism and competence of the members we represent.
To help NARI achieve this goal, it has retained Thomas Sullivan of Nelson Mullins Riley Scarborough LLP, Washington. Sullivan is known in Washington as Mr. Small Business because of his previous experience as chief counsel for advocacy in the Small Business Administration and because he represented the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The Need for an Advocate
Since its inception, NARI has been guarding its members’ rights through government affairs activities. Recently, the focus has been on grassroots activity via the local chapters and creating coalitions with like-minded associations, such as the American Lighting Association; American Society of Home Inspectors; Consumer Electronic Design & Installation Association; Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association; Interior Design Society; National Kitchen & Bath Association; Painting and Decorating Contractors of America and others.
NARI’s House of Delegates approved a new strategic plan in 2009, and government affairs assumed a much larger role in the association’s interests. By the end of 2009, the Merkley Amendment and U.S. EPA Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule compelled NARI to have representation in Washington.
Sullivan understands the remodeling industry and the issues facing every small business owner. In addition to lobbying, he runs the Small Business Coalition of Regulatory Relief, which serves as a resource for small business stakeholders who work to ensure their interests are represented in the regulatory process.
NARI’s approach to government affairs is forward-thinking and proactive. Rather than complaining, the association wants to work with its legislators and the administration to implement laws and regulations that work for its members, employees and customers. NARI wants to be seen differently than most groups who hire a lobbyist. The association wants to establish a reputation of helping those who make the laws and not just be seen as watching out for itself.
NARI’s Legislative Agenda
To further guide itself, the Government Affairs Committee created a set of legislative priorities. Especially now with Sullivan on board, there are many more issues the Government Affairs Committee is considering. Having a set of priorities gives the committee a litmus test to make a decision.
Currently, NARI’s legislative priorities include industry regulation, small business programs, consumer advocacy, healthy/energy-efficient homes and workforce development.
The LRRP rule is a concern that NARI will continue to monitor and address with EPA. NARI’s members are not satisfied with the resulting rule. The association would like to work with EPA to implement a rule that protects consumers while actually being a workable solution. As new regulations are promulgated, NARI wants to be part of the solution to ensure the implementation makes sense with the intent under which the regulations were created. NARI is examining inconsistencies between OSHA and EPA lead guidelines and will work for regulatory reform. In fact, the association is in the process of forming a working group comprised of members who practice lead-safe practices and trainers certified by the EPA.