I arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 27 for the American Rental Association’s (ARA) 2012 National Legislative Caucus. Attending the annual caucus always is a busy and exciting experience and this year was no exception.
While ARA members were in Washington, the Supreme Court was holding hearings on the constitutionality of the individual mandate that is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. At the same time, members of the U.S. House of Representatives were working overtime to pass a short-term extension to transportation and infrastructure funding, which expired March 31, and also were dealing with passage of a budget resolution. Interestingly, health care — particularly the health insurance tax (HIT) that is part of the health care act — and transportation and infrastructure spending were two issues caucus attendees focused on in their meetings with elected officials and their staff members during the week.
We were honored to have members of the House of Representatives speak to us at our various issue briefings and social events, including Rep. Heath Schuler (D-N.C.), Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.). Each shared with us the importance of being involved in the direction of our government and urged participation in the political process at all levels.
With nearly 90 ARA members from 35 states participating in the caucus, we took our message to Capitol Hill, informing our legislators about the equipment rental industry, including our economic impact on their states and the country. It’s important that members of Congress understand and know our industry, and are aware of what each of our businesses adds to the economy of our communities and the country. These are impressive numbers that readily gain attention in each office.
We explained the importance of having a long-term, fully funded transportation and infrastructure spending bill to help us plan our equipment purchases to support this increased economic activity and put more people back to work. We also talked about the health insurance tax within the health care act and how this cost would just pass through to small businesses like ours, making already high annual premium increases even harder to manage. Many of us were fortunate to directly meet our representatives and senators, a testament to the Congressional members’ interest in personally engaging with our industry. In our conversations we were able to relate our personal experiences as small businessmen and women. This educational role is of paramount importance, so the Congressional offices can stay connected with the daily life of America and know how their policy decisions impact us, our families, our employees and our communities.
We had a great group of members representing ARA and the rental industry. I was proud of the contribution that each individual made as the group represented all three segments of rental inventory, with a great diversity of viewpoints coming from so many communities throughout the country. The networking with one another only added to the learning each of us experienced. We shared a common interest in furthering our industry message at a critical time in Washington, D.C. If you know someone from your state association who attended caucus, let them know you appreciate their efforts for representing you there. Become involved in your ARA state association so you, too, can join this group in the future.
This is another presidential election year and it is important for your voice to be heard. We need to continue the momentum begun at the Legislative Caucus to represent our industry in the political process. Be sure to register to vote. Learn about the issues and listen to the candidates to make your best decision. Then vote. Whoever is elected at the national, state or local level will be sure to have a profound impact on your personal life and the way you are able to do business. Each vote counts in every election and our industry voice is expressed in each of our votes. Over the coming months, you will be hearing about ARA’s “Get Out the Vote” campaign. To learn more, visit ARA’s website at ARArental.org and click on “Government Affairs.” We have the privilege and the responsibility to voice our opinions by voting. Let’s do it.
Mike Flesher, owner, Taylor Rental Center, Vestal and Ithaca, N.Y., is the 2012 president of the American Rental Association. He can be reached at 607-729-7167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.