SEMA News—August 2013
FROM THE HILL
By Dan Sadowski
We’ve Come a Long Way Together
SEMA Government Affairs Successes Are Driven by Member Participation
We have expressed disappointment through this column over the years with the continued political gridlock in Washington. Partisan stalemate has created an adversarial climate on Capitol Hill for nearly every major legislative issue, from health care to entitlement reforms and everything in between. Both parties share the blame for a situation that renders it difficult for politicians to collaborate.
However, there have been a few recent signs of bipartisan cooperation in Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee, responsible for all tax legislation in Congress, has convened bipartisan working groups to begin reviewing the tax code. The groups have gathered input from lawmakers, companies, trade associations and other stakeholders to offer recommendations for comprehensive tax reform. Legislation to address a broken immigration system is also in the works. While this bipartisan cooperation appears to be a good sign for legislative progress, it is just a tentative start.
It is within this challenging political dynamic that SEMA’s government affairs office has sought to deliver results for the association’s 6,500 member companies. In reality, positive outcomes are less a function of these efforts than to SEMA-member engagement and participation. When members take an active role in SEMA’s strategic initiatives, it raises the industry’s profile among lawmakers and creates increased opportunities for significant accomplishments.
The success of the Congressional District Site Visit Program is a testament to the involvement of member companies in this critical relationship-building program. Over the past two years, more than a dozen SEMA-member companies have hosted members of Congress at their facilities. The visits are valuable opportunities to connect our members with their elected officials and showcase locally sourced products, employees and a tangible economic impact in the community. The visits create working partnerships between the host company and the lawmaker’s local office. In addition, they connect SEMA’s Government Affairs office with Capitol Hill staff. These relationships then translate into legislative initiatives and strong lines of communication.
For example, as a result of Rep. John Campbell’s (R-CA) site visit at Hillbank Motorsports in Irvine, California, the lawmaker introduced legislation to create a low-volume motor-vehicle manufacturers program. Passage of this bill is now a SEMA top priority, since it will create a reasonable regulatory structure in which smaller companies can sell completed vehicles. Without Hillbank’s initiative, this partnership may never have come to fruition.
The fight to save the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Area in Southern California is another example of the importance of SEMA-member company collaboration. When a new member of Congress, Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA), attended the 2013 “King of the Hammers” event at SEMA’s invitation, a solution for sharing the 189,000-acre area with the U.S. Marine Corps at the adjoining Twentynine Palms base was only a concept. After Rep. Cook met with SEMA members and witnessed firsthand the economic impact of the off-road recreation activities at Johnson Valley, a compromise was proposed, legislation was drafted and upcoming passage should guarantee that the OHV area will be available for generations of enthusiasts to come.
While plant tours and site visits are invaluable, SEMA also invites members to travel to Washington, D.C., and get a firsthand look at the association’s presence on Capitol Hill. The SEMA Washington Rally (next scheduled for May 2014) brings SEMA’s message directly to the halls of Congress. The 2012 Washington Rally provided a one-of-a-kind look at the industry, as many members participated in a “mini SEMA Show” in a Congressional office building. While SEMA sets up the meetings and the events, member participation is the key to their successes.
This year alone, SEMA members have testified before a Congressional committee, met personally with lawmakers to discuss priority issues, supported SEMA Cares activities in Washington and engaged decision makers to recognize the positive impact the association’s businesses have on the American economy. As a result, the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus has grown by six members (and counting). It now totals more than 70 members in both parties from the U.S. House and Senate.
In addition to direct SEMA-member involvement, the industry relies on the voice of the enthusiast community channeled through the SEMA Action Network (SAN). Now 65,000 members strong and growing, the SAN has been a true force in supporting positive legislation and defeating harmful proposals. Without the SAN, the annual celebration of Collector Car Appreciation Day would not be a nationwide event.
For the past four years, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have sponsored a special resolution recognizing collector cars, due in part to the strong response from the enthusiast community. With this involvement, Collector Car Appreciation Day is now a mainstay of American summers for car enthusiasts around the country.
As we enter yet another election season in just a few short months, SEMA members must continue to take an active role in the industry’s legislative and regulatory priorities. Supporting lawmakers who support our way of life is an easy way to get started.
This year, the SEMA Political Action Committee (SEMA PAC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, a grassroots campaign has been launched to engage all SEMA members in the effort. Becoming “PAC Approved” and learning more about the SEMA PAC “$10 for 10” campaign is the first step toward getting involved. With the continued support of every individual SEMA member, the government affairs team can reach more lawmakers with a stronger message fortified by a growing and active constituency.
At this important stage in our growth, the time to get active is now. Your personal involvement makes all the difference. For more information, visit the government affairs webpages at www.sema.org or contact Dan Sadowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.