SEMA News - September 2010

By Dan Sadowski

Eight New Members Join Bipartisan Coalition Supporting Industry, Hobby 

    SEMA News-September 2010-From the Hill 

Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus Member Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) addressing the 2010 Washington Rally. Events like the Rally provide valuable opportunities for SEMA members to meet members of the Caucus and share their concerns.  

More members of Congress than ever are aligning themselves with the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill established to raise awareness of the economic importance of the automotive specialty-equipment industry.

The caucus was formed in 1996 in honor of the 100th year of the car and to recognize the contributions the automotive performance and motorsports industry has made—and continues to make—to the U.S. economy. The Motorsports Caucus, as it is commonly known, has nearly 100 members and pays tribute to America’s ever-growing love affair with the car and motorsports.

This summer, caucus members Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) were responsible for sponsoring, at SEMA’s request, a resolution in the U.S. Senate designating July 9, 2010, as Collector Car Appreciation Day, recognizing the integral role automotive restoration and collection play in American society.

The Caucus’ newest members are U.S. Representatives Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Todd Platts (R-PA), Betty Sutton (D-OH) and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Many of these new members enlisted during the recent 2010 SEMA Washington Rally, which provided SEMA members the opportunity to meet face to face with their elected officials in D.C., and share their concerns for the industry.

Rep. Rodney Alexander was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 from the Fifth Congressional District in east-central Louisiana. Alexander has spent his career in service to his Louisiana community, where he served as a Louisiana state representative for 15 years prior to being elected to Congress. Rep. Alexander, like Rep. Kingston, serves on the Appropriations Committee and his primary efforts are focused on ensuring that tax cuts to create jobs become permanent.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2006 and represents the greater Tampa, Florida, area. Bilirakis was very familiar with public service, since his father, Michael Bilirakis, represented the same district in Congress from 1983–2006. Bilirakis’ first job was working in the family’s small business, started by his grandfather. He earned degrees in political science and law and opened a practice in Tampa Bay, specializing in estate planning. Bilirakis served in the Florida House of Representatives for eight years before coming to D.C., where he has earned a reputation as a coalition builder and bipartisan negotiator. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees.

Rep. Joe Donnelly represents north-central Indiana, including the towns of Elkhart and South Bend. Prior to serving in Washington, Donnelly was a member of a South Bend law firm for 15 years, where he conducted a general practice before opening his own small business, Marking Solutions, a printing and rubber stamp company based in Mishawaka. Donnelly was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006 and serves on the Financial Services and Veteran’s Affairs Committees. Donnelly promotes fiscal discipline and is known for his active support and assistance of small businesses in his district.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has a background in both public service and small business. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving there from 2000–2005. While in the Legislature, Giffords was a member of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus and has attended the SEMA Show in the past. In 2006, she was elected to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, in the southeast corner of the state. Additionally, she and her husband, navy pilot and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, maintain a collection of restored vehicles. Before her service in office, Rep. Giffords served as CEO of her family business, El Campo Tire, which was founded by her grandfather. The company now has 12 stores and employs more than 100 people. 

Rep. Jack Kingston, representing Savannah and southeast Georgia, serves on the Appropriations Committee in the House and is a staunch advocate for small business in Washington. Kingston, a former small-business person himself, having managed an insurance agency, is in touch with the critical issues facing SEMA members today. “Small businesses drive our economy,” said Rep. Kingston, “I am proud to be a member of the Caucus and work to protect the future of our economy.” Rep. Kingston introduced himself to attendees at the recent Washington Rally, where he was a featured luncheon speaker.

Rep. Todd Platts is no stranger to the magnitude of collector car gatherings and the economic impact of the automotive specialty-equipment industry on the economy.

SEMA welcomes the new members of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus:   

    SEMA News-September 2010-From the Hill 
    From left: Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH).  
Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is located in Rep. Platts’ 19th Congressional District and hosts several popular classic car and enthusiast events each year. Platts is currently in his fourth term in the House and, much like the other new members of the Caucus, has served his community for much of his career. Platts began his public service career in 1992 after being elected to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, serving there until his election to Congress in 2000.

Rep. Betty Sutton hails from northeast Ohio and represents the 13th Congressional District, including Cleveland’s western and southern suburbs. An attorney by trade, Rep. Sutton has served the residents of her region for many years as a member of the Barberton City Council and the Summit County Council. In 1993, Rep. Sutton began serving the first of four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, Rep. Sutton was a lead sponsor of the 2009 “Cash for Clunkers” legislation. Congresswoman Sutton and her staff worked tirelessly with SEMA to include a provision in the law to exclude vehicles 25 years old or older from the program, thereby protecting irreplaceable collector and historic vehicles. Sutton also worked to ensure that the law provided for parts recycling. This partnership proved invaluable to the industry and to the enthusiast community it supports.

The newest member of the Caucus is Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia, who was elected in 2004. Isakson began his career in business, when he opened the first Cobb County office of a small, family-owned real estate business. He served as president for more than 20 years while the company became the largest independent residential real estate brokerage company in the southeast and one of the largest in America. Isakson serves on six Senate committees that have jurisdiction over education, healthcare, transportation, foreign policy, veterans’ affairs, jobs and small businesses. Sen. Isakson is considered a leader among his colleagues and is admired as an advocate for taxpayers and business owners, which led him to joining the Caucus.

For more information on the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, please contact Dan Sadowski, SEMA’s congressional affairs manager.  

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