In May, the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) joined with other masonry industry associations to host the second annual Masonry Industry Legislative Conference. MCAA members, together with members from the Building Stone Institute (BSI), the Interlocking Concrete Paving Institute (ICPI) and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA), traveled to Washington, D.C., to hear from some of the nation's power players and visit with their members of Congress. This year's conference proved to be one of the best yet, with high-profile speakers, such as a member of President Bush's cabinet, and a number of representatives and senators.
There are several critical issues currently facing the masonry industry and the conference afforded attendees the opportunity to voice their concerns and educate members of Congress and the administration on matters important not only to construction, but specifically to the masonry industry. Issues such as tax reform, OSHA reform, school construction and immigration were the key topics of discussion during the three-day conference.
The first speaker to kick off the event was Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) who is former chairman of the Education and Labor Committee and is currently ranking member on that committee. The Education and Labor Committee has jurisdiction over many issues concerning our industry. McKeon was able to address a few of those issues, such as OSHA reform and the Employee Free Choice Act.
One of the major highlights of the conference was the appearance and remarks by Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. During his talk, he briefly discussed the issue of immigration, which has taken over the news and is a high-priority issue on Capitol Hill, as well as one of the focal points of the conference. Attendees were very fortunate to have the privilege to hear from Gutierrez, who is also the president's point man on the issue of immigration.
During his remarks, Gutierrez stressed the need and importance for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. He also commented that no legislation would be perfect in the eyes of every interest group out there, but that any legislation is better than the status quo.
Attendees also heard from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) who, before becoming a member of Congress was a builder in Georgia. Westmoreland is a strong advocate for the construction industry and small businesses. He discussed the issue of the 3-percent government withholding tax that is slated to take effect in 2011. Westmoreland stated that he would continue to work tirelessly with groups, such as the MCAA and others, to repeal this very problematic tax.
Westmoreland also remarked that he is optimistic regarding the efforts for full repeal of the 3-percent withholding tax, which requires federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent from all payments for goods and services. In recent weeks, 103 representatives both Democrat and Republican have signed on as co-sponsors of a bill introduced by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) that would repeal this tax before the 2011 enactment date.
Westmoreland is an incredible asset to the masonry industry and small businesses around the country for his work to help protect the interests of small business owners.
It also was a privilege for attendees to hear from the House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) who is the third ranking member in the House of Representatives. As Majority Whip, Clyburn is part of the leadership in the House and is responsible for coordinating ideas and garnering support for proposed legislation. During his remarks, Clyburn gave an overview of the political landscape in the House and also spoke about the need to protect the interests of the small business owner.
At the closing session, attendees were addressed by several senators in the historical Lyndon B. Johnson room, located adjacent to the Senate floor. Senators who spoke included Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
Corker who, before being elected mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., was a general contractor remarked that he began his career in construction as a mason tender. As a fellow member of the construction and masonry industries, he is particularly in tune with the needs and issues that our members are facing.
Decisions that affect your company's bottom line are being made every day in the halls of Congress. Opportunities, such as the Masonry Industry Legislative Conference, are an excellent chance for the industry to make its voice heard. Nothing can impact our industry more than a unified effort working to impact legislation coming out of Washington, D.C. We were proud to have been a driving force in making this conference happen.
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