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2015 Government Affairs Year in Review
Over the course of 2015, VI’s government affairs division made substantial progress on a number of issues, advancing key legislation, preventing unnecessary restrictions on the use of vinyl, and implementing new programs to the benefit of our members. Below are a few important developments of which you should be aware.
Comprehensive Advocacy Plan
VI worked with the National Journal and other associated industries to share best practices and assemble and design a dashboard of metrics that can be used to measure our success and opportunities. The advocacy plan includes a multi-pronged advocacy campaign that takes advantage of the best practices of other trade associations based on our assets and experience and relationships with Congress. It includes direct lobbying, grassroots and grasstops engagement, and additional activities when called for. The plan is designed to create tangible action items that members and staff can strive to achieve in order to advance our advocacy strategy and strategic plan.
About 70 vinyl industry executives visited with 104 congressional offices during the 2015 Vinyl Industry Congressional Fly-in. Our members covered a large section of Congress and explained the importance of vinyl manufacturing and the nearly 350,000 employees across the value chain. Participants focused on our four key issues including, water infrastructure investments, open and fair competition in pipe procurement, chemical regulatory reform, and freight rail coopetition. VI was also encouraged by the amount of new Fly-in participants this year and will work to continue our outreach and efforts to increase industry participation in advocacy related activities.
Vinyl Advocacy Database
In 2015, VI grew our database of industry contacts from about 4,500 to nearly 11,000 industry professionals. We also implemented a new association management system to help organize and maximize our substantial vinyl database. The system also provides easy and effective tools for our members and advocates to stay engaged and allows the VI to more effectively monitor and report on our collective progress.
Additionally, VI contracted an award winning third party specialist to help mine our best grassroots, grasstops, and industry champions. The vinyl industry contacts in our database will be systematically surveyed to maximize our assets, identify important relationships with Congress, and advance our key issues.
Vinyl Advocacy Newsletter
In 2015 VI and the VBC launched the Vinyl Advocacy News Service, a periodic newsletter to keep our industry advocates informed on the latest legislation and regulations impacting our industry. Readership has improved steadily over the course of 2015 and, once our database survey is complete, should grow substantially.
VI and the VBC continued working with the American Alliance for Innovation to secure support for TSCA reform legislation in both the House and Senate. We met directly with congressional offices, sent numerous multi-industry letters of support for TSCA reform, issued multiple action alerts to the vinyl value chain, and worked to maintain the current polymer exemption. VI also assisted individual vinyl companies in contacting their legislators to support TSCA reform.
As a result of our work and the support of our members, the House’s version of TSCA reform (H.R. 2576) passed with an astonishing vote of 398 to 1. In the Senate we were able to help secure 60 cosponsors, a veto proof majority, for their version of TSCA (S. 697). The Senate passed S.697 yesterday by voice vote and will now form a committee to work out differences with the House bill.
Positive Train Control Extension - PASSED
Over the course of 2015, VI and the VBC worked with allied industries and associations to pressure Congress to pass an extension to the deadline for installing Positive Train Control (PTC) on all rail lines. Railroads had made it clear that they were unable to meet the deadline to implement PTC and would be forced to stop shipping certain chemicals and manufactured goods. We met directly with congressional offices to explain the impact a rail shutdown would have on the vinyl industry and the economy as a whole. We also activated our grassroots network to contact their legislators and demonstrate constituent support of a deadline extension.
In November, the House and Senate passed an extension of the PTC deadline which was signed into law by the President. Railroads now have an additional three years to fully implement PTC across all rail lines.
STB Reform - PASSED
The VI and VBC lobbied Congress to pass the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, S. 808. We activated our grassroots network, sent numerous letters to House and Senate leadership and met with a former STB Commissioner to communicate the importance of STB reform to our industry.
S. 808 passed the Senate earlier this year and passed the House just last week. The bill is now awaiting the President’s signature to become law. The legislation makes important reforms to better equip the STB to handle today’s freight rail challenges, such as increasing the number of Board seats from 3 to 5, giving the STB investigatory authority, creating a voluntary arbitration system, and requiring the Board to maintain a simplified and more efficient rate review mechanism. The bill also calls on the rail industry to invest appropriate resources to maintain rail service levels to prevent the types of service breakdowns that were experienced in 2013 and 2014.
International Trade – TPA PASSED
VI, our members and associated industries advocated for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation to grant the president greater negotiating power in drafting international trade agreements. The legislation which was signed into law soon after our fly-in, set up a framework for Congress to reject or ratify, but not change, trade deals for the next six years. In 2015, VI joined the NAM’s International Trade Policy Committee and will continue to monitor negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), its potential impact on the U.S. vinyl industry, and work to secure ratification of the agreements in Congress.
In 2015, VI worked with the PVC Pipe Association and resin manufacturers to develop a comprehensive PVC pipe product promotion plan with key objectives, strategies and tactics. The plan aligns with the VI’s new strategic plan and will serve as the foundation of our water infrastructure and PVC pipe advocacy going forward. We also sent several letters to Congress advocating for water infrastructure funding and passage of the Highway Bill containing fixes to the limitations of using municipal bonds in concert with innovative financing to build water infrastructure systems. VI also met with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff to explore ways to increase program efficiency, on a bi-partisan basis, in EPA’s state revolving funds for both drinking water and clean water programs. Additionally, we continued participation on the Executive Committee of the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) coalition to consider policies to expand water infrastructure programs and to strengthen interaction with labor, industry and other water infrastructure advocates on improving pipe performance.
At the state level, VI continued working with our coalition to advocate for the inclusion of all piping materials in the pipe bidding process for municipal water projects.
GSA Green Building Rating Systems
The VI and VBC continued monitoring the General Services Administration’s (GSA) use of green building rating systems to ensure competition, science-based processes, and the most effective use of taxpayer resources. VI and VBC also submitted comments to GSA regarding their Model Commercial Building Leasing Provisions that currently mentions only LEED as guidance.
As we gear up for 2016 and the next legislative session, please let us know if you have any questions about the topics above or if you'd like to get more involved in our advocacy efforts. You may contact John Serrano, VI Government Affairs Manager.