A New Year, a New Congress and a New Outlook
As small business owners, last month's swearing in of the new 108th Congress should give you a renewed hope that a more common sense approach will be forthcoming from Washington. Last fall's historic election, seeing the Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate while adding seats to their majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, will undoubtedly change the legislative agenda for the next two years. As small business owners, we can look forward to a more favorable treatment in our tax code with the prospects of making the temporary elimination of the estate tax permanent. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senator John Breaux (D-LA), and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's (D-MO 3rd) devastating ergonomic standard will not see the light of day now. While the Republicans hold the slightest of majorities in both bodies of Congress, they do control the agenda of what issues will be debated and voted upon and that is good for some of the issues with which MCAA has become deeply involved.
Last summer, members of the MCAA elected to raise membership dues to hire a full time staff based in Washington, D.C., to represent our interests in Congress and various federal agencies. Key issues such as ergonomics and its devastating effects on our industry's viability, silicosis, prompt pay, and tax and tort reform were driving issues that caused members of the MCAA to seek a full-time voice in Washington. Our members believed that no one was representing the interests of mason contractors, which created the need to have a representative working full-time, thinking full-time and acting full-time to protect our interests as small business owners. Our interests should not only be promoted in the halls of Congress and in agencies such as OSHA, but we should become involved in local, state and national political campaigns. Our support should not be reserved for one political party; we will support those candidates that support our industry.
Even though we have only recently hired a Washington staff, the MCAA became involved in six key U.S. Senate races last year. Most notably, the MACPAC supported the election of Jim Talent to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, Norm Coleman to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, John Cornyn to the U.S. Senate from Texas and the re-election of Wayne Allard to the U.S. Senate from Colorado. In fact, the MCAA became active in getting out the vote for Talent and Coleman in their states, which all of the experts say is the key to electing pro-small business candidates.
As excited as we all may be with the new focus in Washington, our work is just beginning as mason contractors. We must work diligently to educate our elected officials not only in Washington but at the state level as well; many issues that are debated on a local level today, invariably become national debates tomorrow. Which is why we must have the active support of all of our local associations, because all successful lobbying efforts are built on grassroots educational campaigns.
It is clear that just because we have many friends now in Washington, they don't always know how their votes will impact our industry and us as mason contractors. Having a full-time office in Washington now will allow our issues to be heard and our input to be considered by our elected officials before they cast their votes.
Your help and support in this long battle is vital. In subsequent issues of Masonry magazine, you will learn about the issues and the impact those issues will have on our industry. I urge you to read each issue and then let your elected officials know how you feel about these issues. They will listen and most are eager to hear from you. In addition, I would urge all of you to join with us at the MCAA, the only association that is fighting for you as a mason contractor. Your membership and financial support will be invaluable to our future efforts on your behalf. By becoming members, we will keep you current on the issues and we will help you in your efforts to communicate with your elected officials. With over 17,000 mason contracting firms active in our industry, we can have a major impact on how things are done in Washington if we can only come together under the Mason Contractors Association of America umbrella. Your future depends now more than ever on joining the MCAA.
About the Author
William McConnell is the owner of Architectural Paving & Stone, Inc. He has served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America and on the Board of Trustees for the International Masonry Institute. McConnell was a recipient of the 2005 C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award.