Last week, the WTC Leadership, along with their fellow council and network leaders and the SEMA Board of Directors, took the nation’s capital as part of the 2018 SEMA Washington Rally to discuss issues confronting the industry. Your Chair, Greg Parker, and Chair-elect, Tyson Boyer, recorded their day to provide a behind the scenes look at what took place. Here is what transpired:
Greg Parker: I woke up at 5:30 am and met ETTN Select Committee Member Melanie White for a 4-mile run from our hotel to the White House. After the run, it was time for breakfast. There I sat with SEMA Board of Directors Chair-elect Tim Martin and his wife, Kristen, SEMA BOD Member Les Rudd, ETTN Chair-elect Ian Lehn and YEN Chair-elect Kirstin Stone. The event kicked-off with SEMA’s Chief Corporate Counsel Daniel Ingber giving us a briefing on the 2018 SEMA Washington Rally. Next up onstage was SEMA’s President& CEO Chris Kersting, who gave us a warm welcome and updated us on the history of the RPM Act and its current standing.
Tyson Boyer: What a room of energy as we are staging our walk to Capitol Hill to kickoff off this year’s reinforcement of the RPM Act! Incredible leaders with one united voice. Before heading out, I had a brief discussion with SEMA’s Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak and Public Relations Director Della Domingo on a recent request from New York Times on vehicle standards testing. What a privilege to be part of these types of discussions! #saveourracecars
9:45 am (GP)- Before our first meeting, I walked around the Capitol Building with SEMA Board Member Les Rudd . After taking in the sites, we headed toward the Dirksen Senate Office Building to visit U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) office.
10:00 am (TB)- We arrived with our team of eight at the Dirksen Building to meet with Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) staff. Tillis is a strong supporter of the RPM Act. Afterward, we swung by basement of the building for a quick coffee and discussion of the hot topics in North Carolina.
10:40 am (GP)- We just completed the meeting with our team of Bryan Harrison, Les Rudd, Tammy Holland, David Leach and Kirstin Stone. The meeting went well! We met with Sen. Alexander’s Chief Counsel and Legislative Aide more than provided us with the type of meeting we were anticipating. They stated that if the RPM Act came up for a vote they would likely support it. They also stated that the Senator does not align with the President on the current tariff laws and supports free trade. The meeting ended with discussion on autonomous vehicles and land use rights.
11:00 am (TB)- We finished an excellent meeting in Senator Tillis’s Office with his Legislative Correspondent. He was well aware of the RPM Act and appreciated our collective support. He asked a few questions to better understand our position and how it directly impacted us. Joey also noted that Sen. Tillis would be happy to discuss the RPM Act with Senators that have yet to support it. We highlighted a couple of states for him to target.
11:00 am (GP)- With a one-hour break between meetings, we decided to hit the basement cafeteria to grab a cup of coffee and recap the discussions that took place today, as well as prep for the next meeting.
11:30 am (GP)- We met with a Legislative Assistant in Senator Bob Corker’s office. The meeting went well and we felt that our message was heard, even though the Senator is retiring at the end of the session.
12:30 pm (GP)- Lunch was held at the Reserve Officers Association building. I sat with SEMA Board Member Dan Kahn, Tim Martin, Melanie White, MPMC Chair-elect Sean Crawford, Mark Hellwig and TORA Chair Kathryn Reinhardt. We listened to two great speeches by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC). Rep. Hudson specifically said he is proud of the impact SEMA has made in Washington with the RPM Act.
12:30 pm (TB)- Sat with several key leaders in our industry during lunch at the Reserve Officers Association. Most notably David Goch, SEMA’s General Counsel. We were very thankful to have Sen. Tester, Rep. Richard Hudson speak to us on their continued support of the RPM Act as well as to thank the industry for the continued push! They both gave genuine speeches that highlighted their passion for the automotive aftermarket.
1:45 pm (TB)- After leaving lunch a few minutes early to catch a conference call and juggle a few hot emails, we met with SEMA’s Director of Congressional Affairs Eric Snyder, and were welcomed at Senator Richard Burr’s Office by his Legislative Assistant. As he led us into the Senator’s office, we were greeted by Sen. Burr, who introduced the RPM Act. Our staff liaison, Bob Walker, opened the conversation with the Senator at a level of intelligence that you typically would not see on our daily paths. Turns out, Mr. Walker is a former Congressman from Pennsylvania, and recently served as Space Policy Advisor to the Trump Campaign. Thank you to SEMA for allowing me the opportunity to be part of this incredible conversation over the next 45 minutes! Many topics were discussed, including tariffs. Hearing this type insight made you really feel like you were part of the inner circle. Thankfully, the Senator is a strong supporter of the RPM Act and is willing to do what it takes to ensure the success of our industry going forward.
2:00 pm (GP)- We wrapped up our time on Capitol Hill by visiting with our local Congressman, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN). I was joined in the meeting by Bryan Harrison and Les Rudd. The Congressman attended the meeting and we thanked him for co-sponsoring the RPM Act. In fact, he was one of the first 10 co-sponsors of the bill when it was originally proposed. Needless to say, we had a great meeting with him and his Chief of Staff. We discussed tariffs and infrastructure at length, and I would venture to say it was probably our best conversation of the day.
3:45 pm (TB)- My final meeting of the day was with the Senior Legislative Assistant for Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). Mr. Sills was well prepared and very aware of the RPM Act. He understood that the bill text may be modified to address enforceability issues raised at the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing and mark-up. He felt confident that his boss would likely support the bill once the text is finalized. He connected us with their planner to schedule a plant tour at Dill in the coming months with Representative Butterfield. This change of position since last year’s visit left us with strong sense of success!
Reflecting on the visit to Washington D.C. both Greg and Tyson feel confident in the progression of the RPM Act and the industry’s standing with their lawmakers. Greg said, “coming to our nation’s capital always provides such a great perspective on how our industry fits into the overall picture that is this great country.” Along the same lines Tyson explained, “These meetings truly open our eyes as to how important both our industry and businesses are to whomever represents us in office.”
If you have any questions about the visit, please contact AJ Keefe at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will put you in contact with either Greg or Tyson.