Getting to Know Your Lawmakers

SEMA News—June 2020

FROM THE HILL

By Eric Snyder

Getting to Know Your Lawmakers

SEMA-Member Relationships With Elected Officials Are Key to Protecting the Industry

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Warn Industries Director of Manufactur­ing Operations Jack Hooper (left) and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR, center) conversing during the factory tour.
   

The presidential election is just a few months away and the balance of power in Congress and state capitols is up for grabs. Now is the time for the specialty automotive aftermarket to mobilize and make our voices heard. Although SEMA’s next Washington Rally will be in May 2021, it is still possible to meet your elected officials in their local districts this year. SEMA government affairs staff can help you forge a relationship with the men and women who make decisions that impact the industry by inviting an elected official to tour your business or arranging a community meeting with your lawmaker.

One of the key benefits SEMA provides to its members is legislative and regulatory advocacy. In fact, one of the main reasons that SEMA was founded was to protect the industry and enthusiasts from unreasonable laws and regulations. Accordingly, SEMA maintains a government affairs office in Washington, D.C., to review and influence the actions of state and federal lawmakers and regulators in a way that is favorable to the industry.

SEMA staff works closely with members of Congress and state legislators who are interested to learn about the automotive specialty-equipment aftermarket and the issues of importance to SEMA members. SEMA maintains a state caucus of more than 700 legislators who are automotive enthusiasts, and the association’s federal caucus includes more than 70 members of Congress who support the industry and hobby. Visit www.semasan.com to see if your lawmakers are caucus members. SEMA has developed these connections over many years as a result of member-company relationships, outreach to elected officials and their staffs, and by the fact that some lawmakers are gearheads themselves. In fact, many state and federal lawmakers modify their own vehicles and have been to the SEMA Show.

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Tray Smith (right), U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) and Herman Smith (left) chat in front of H&H Classic Parts’ mobile warehouse.
 
   

In order to be prepared to address any public-policy matters that may arise in the future, from zero-emissions vehicle mandates to data access and cybersecurity, it is important that we continue to identify new lawmakers to defend the industry and strengthen existing relationships. Lawmakers and their staffs are always interested to learn about the SEMA members they represent. SEMA members also play a critical part in helping lawmakers who do not have a personal connection to the auto industry understand the role that aftermarket businesses and their workers play in the communities they represent.

During the weeks that Congress and state legislatures are not in session, lawmakers meet with their constituents and visit local businesses. SEMA encourages its members to invite their elected officials to tour their businesses. If you would like to host your elected officials at your facility, SEMA’s government affairs office will arrange the event. Please feel free to contact SEMA’s Director of State Government Affairs and SEMA PAC Christian Robinson at christianr@sema.org.

SEMA members can also visit their lawmakers’ local offices or participate in a live or telephone town hall. When contacting your lawmakers, you will frequently interact with a member of their staff. These staffers can be a great resource, as they are gatekeepers for elected officials.

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U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) chats with Dart Machinery founder Richard Maskin (left) and Jack McInnis (center).
   

Your customers are also invaluable advocates for the industry. Recognizing the passion that automotive enthusiasts have for protecting their hobby, SEMA formed the SEMA Action Network (SAN), a nationwide partnership of car clubs, individuals and industry members who are dedicated to protecting their passion at the state and federal levels.

The SAN makes it easy for automotive enthusiasts to email their state and federal lawmakers. In the two decades since the SAN was formed, it has successfully made its voice heard—and swayed the vote—on a wide range of issues, including vehicle scrappage (“clunker”) laws, equipment standards, registration classifications, emissions-test exemptions, and hobbyist rights.

If you and your employees are not already SAN members, it takes less than a minute to join for free at www.semasan.com. You can also help spread the word by promoting the SAN across your business’s social-media channels.

Even if this is the first time you’ve contacted your lawmakers, SEMA’s government affairs staff is available to answer questions and help you establish a relationship with your elected officials. Please feel free to reach out to SEMA’s Director of Congressional Affairs Eric Snyder via email at erics@sema.org.

Tips on Introducing Yourself and Your Company to Legislators  
Describe what your company does, the number of people employed, and how it fits into the local economy. Indicate if your customers represent large numbers of constituents in the district, such as auto enthusiasts.
  • Explain how your company provides jobs, tax revenue and economic benefits to the state and local area—all matters of importance to the overall vitality of the district and to your legislator.
  • Indicate that your business is part of a $45 billion homegrown American industry, born of the nation’s interest in everything automotive, including restoration, racing, hot rods and products that individualize cars and trucks.
  • Stress that your industry employs more than 1 million Americans and that 92% of SEMA members are considered small businesses.
  • Mention that your business is often referred to as the “automotive aftermarket,” which encompasses equipment and services for vehicles after they leave the dealership.
  • Note that the industry’s trade association is the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), representing 8,000 businesses.
 

 

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