Planning for NUCA’s 2016 Washington Summit began the week after our annual convention in Puerto Rico. The Summit has grown each of the past three years, and this year would be no different. In addition to growth within NUCA’s advocacy activities and participation, the national stage was set to perfectly align with NUCA’s legislative priorities. Water infrastructure and the economy are constant news items, unlike they had been previously, and NUCA’s advocacy operations were ready with solutions.
This year’s Summit priorities were conceived and developed out of NUCA members’ input. First, articulating the importance of continued and innovative investment in water infrastructure will provide greater project opportunities for NUCA members. Second, the natural progression of greater project opportunities leads to an increased need for skilled and qualified workers, which requires a greater emphasis on how workforce development institutions and employers work together to train employees. Third, businesses must have relief from onerous, over-bearing regulations that prevent them from providing necessary services to the public, so curbing some of the most threatening regulations was the Summit’s final priority.
The Summit was held May 23-26, in downtown Washington, D.C. Monday consisted of a strategic planning meeting of the Board of Directors. This meeting was a collaborative effort to examine NUCA’s strengths and weaknesses in order to set a goal for the future and plot a course to achieve that goal. This planning meeting spawned significant discussion, and a strategic plan for the organization will be developed from the information gained.
Tuesday, the second day of the Summit, is always the most informative and educational day of the event. The day was divided in half, with the Federal Issues Conference kicking off the day. The Federal Issues Conference is an opportunity for attendees to hear from experts in their fields about issues pertinent to members and NUCA’s priorities.
First, former Congressman and current CEO of BIPAC, a business focused advocacy group, Jim Gerlach addressed the forthcoming election season. Imploring members to get involved in their local, state and federal elections, Gerlach provided an overview of the presidential election, key Senate campaigns and the potential outcomes.
Second, Brad Hammock of Jackson Lewis P.C. addressed the group about the recently finalized OSHA crystalline silica rule. Set to go into effect June 23, 2016, Hammock outlined how members should prepare for compliance and what NUCA and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) are doing to challenge this rule in court. Hammock made very clear that compliance will be difficult, costly and cumbersome to employers.
The third and final speaker of the Federal Issues Conference was Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) who chairs the Highways Subcommittee and is likely the next chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Graves discussed the prognosis for greater federal investment in transportation and infrastructure and what to expect from Congress leading up to and immediately following the election.
During the lunch break, NUCA of Hawaii presented our newest chapter, NUCA of Eastern Washington and North Idaho, with its official charter. Two NUCA/PAC awards were also presented to NUCA of Nebraska for having the highest average contribution, and to NUCA of Pennsylvania for having the highest number of contributions over $1,000.
After lunch, the Legislative Briefing provided attendees the opportunity to dig into NUCA’s priorities. The details of our Summit priorities were discussed in detail and our leave-behind materials were circulated. This year, NUCA’s Summit brochure had a different look. In years past, the Summit brochure was a large spiral-bound booklet with lots of information and large pictures. This year, NUCA opted for a condensed brochure to provide greater bang in a streamlined design.
The new design was smaller but remained just as informative. Once each issue had been covered extensively and all questions had been answered, the Legislative Briefing became an opportunity to show, through demonstrations, what Congressional meetings will be like and some common pitfalls to avoid. Members participated and everyone got a better grasp of what to expect during meetings on Capitol Hill.
After the Legislative Briefing, attendees were treated to a Washington Nationals baseball game for some networking and fun.
Wednesday was NUCA’s day on Capitol Hill. NUCA members met with more than 150 members of Congress. This is the most effective lobbying activity NUCA performs as there is nothing more powerful to members of Congress than hearing from their constituents on the specifics of an issue.
Many, if not most, of the meetings were positive and supportive of our issues. Following up is a key aspect of this and attendees and NUCA’s Government Affairs staff are actively holding members of Congress accountable for the positions they took in these meetings. At the end of the day, attendees were rewarded for their hard work and activism with a Congressional reception. This informal event allowed attendees to mingle casually with staff and representatives to foster relationships and camaraderie.
The Washington Summit wrapped up Thursday with a Board of Directors meeting.
The 2016 Washington Summit was a complete success in every measurable way. We discussed and charted a path forward, continued the trend of increasing attendance and made a significant difference in our lobbying activities. In the weeks since the Summit, both House and Senate have passed out of committee legislation to finance water infrastructure projects that include language to take aim at burdensome regulations, showing the impacts of our day on Capitol Hill.
If you could not attend the 2016 Washington Summit, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in NUCA’s lobbying and advocacy activities in the next year. If you’ve never attended the Summit before, we, as first-time attendees will attest, take special pride in introducing you to our activities and in training you on what to expect to set you up to succeed. Do not let inexperience get in the way of what truly is a meaningful, impactful and educational experience that will pay dividends to your business.
Thank you to those who attended. We will see you in May 2017!
Will Brown is NUCA’s director of Government Affairs.