It is somewhat ironic that National Volunteer Week took place April 15?21, the same week as the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association's (NLBMDA) Legislative Conference. This gathering is entirely focused on industry volunteers dedicating time and resources to represent not just their own businesses but those of dealers nationally before those in Congress whose decisions affect our industry.

Steve Kelly is president of Kelly Bros. Lumber in Covington, Ky., and is chairman of NLBMDA. Photo: Courtesy NLBMDA To make an impact with government officials and legislators in Washington, we need a combination of factors: hardworking staff, financial support, and dealer members who are willing to build relationships with the members of Congress who represent their districts. While National Volunteer Week recognizes individuals who make a commitment to their community, I want to single out just a few of the many volunteers who have done the same on behalf of NLBMDA.

Take, for instance, Sarah Brian of Brian Lumber Co. in Bridgeport, Ill. Last April, Sarah met with her congressman, Rep. John Shimkus (R), to ask him to be a sponsor of the NLBMDA-initiated Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (ISFA), which would provide liability protection for dealers that "innocently" sold a product they did not manufacture, design, or alter. Rep. Shimkus listened intently and gave his commitment to be a sponsor of the House bill. Sarah left that meeting feeling pretty confident, until a week or two had passed and she discovered that Shimkus had not gone on record and signed up as a sponsor. Not one to leave it be, Sarah called the congressman's office and reminded his staff of his commitment to the Innocent Sellers legislation. Within the next day, Shimkus was listed as a supporter of the bill.

Scott Yates' first journey with NLBMDA began when Walter Foxworth, Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co., suggested he attend a Legislative Conference. Scott, of Denver Lumber Co., got hooked at his first meeting and now is a faithful attendee; most years, he brings one of his children to share the experience with him. Scott recently sent letters to dealers in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, and Wyoming asking them to contact their representatives in Washington to support ISFA.

While attending the Southern Building Material Association Expo in February, Chris Yenrick, COO of Smith Phillips Building Supply in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a board member of the Lumber Dealers Political Action Committee (LuDPAC), manned a booth asking dealer attendees to contribute to NLBMDA's government affairs program. Chris' efforts yielded a number of contacts willing to call their representatives and a number of donations to support the ISFA effort.

During a recent trip to the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association's Expo in Boston, I witnessed a perfect example of someone who showcases the spirit and commitment dealers have for this industry. In the middle of the show floor, Diana Perenza, with Florence Corp. in Huntington, N.Y., was asking dealers if they knew their member of Congress and then requesting they contact their representatives on behalf of NLBMDA. Not only did Diana get people interested in our government affairs, she also made a financial commitment supporting the industry's efforts to pass the liability legislation.

If we all could share just a portion of Sarah's, Scott's, Chris', and Diana's passion for this bill, it would sail through the halls of Congress.

I have been a big supporter of NLBMDA since my days traveling with dealers from the Kentucky Building Materials Association. During those first trips to Washington and now as chair of this great organization, I have seen firsthand how many terrific members we have and how much they work at making this industry better.

I invite you to be a part of our growing list of volunteers who in their own way are an important part of NLBMDA. I consider them "National Volunteers" during April's Volunteer Week and throughout the year.

Singing the Blues

Why Blue Dog Democrats are the new power brokers.

When Democrats triumphed in November and regained control of Congress, pro-business organizations and their lobbyists realized that in order to successfully pursue their agendas they would need to reach beyond their friends in the GOP. They would need to court Democrats who support the free market, oppose heavy-handed government regulation, and seek common-sense solutions to problems.

Enter the "Blue Dog Democrats," a coalition of 43 Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives whose primary mission is to promote fiscally responsible budget reforms and accountability for taxpayer dollars. Oh yes, and they tend to be more amenable to the issues championed by business.

While Blue Dog Democrats hail from across the country, according to the Coalition the origin of their nickname can be traced back to the South. The "Yellow Dog" label was applied to Southern Democrats so loyal to their party that they would vote for a yellow dog before voting for a Republican. On a perhaps ironic note, the "Blue Dog" moniker was adopted by members of the Coalition because their moderate-to-conservative views had been "choked blue" by their party in the years leading up to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.

Since its inception, the Blue Dog group has played an instrumental role in striking a balance between liberal and conservative ideas. Within the Coalition, Blue Dog members hold differing views on a variety of political issues but generally share a strong orientation toward fiscal responsibility. This cohesiveness has elevated their importance within the Democratic Party and within Congress. They are frequently sought to broker compromises between Democrats and Republicans.

The 2006 midterm elections solidified the Blue Dog Coalition's power in Congress. Nine of the Coalition's 43 members are serving their first term in the House of Representatives, no surprise given the fall of Republican-leaning seats across the nation. Their election helped deliver the Democratic Party's majority, and people in Washington and beyond are taking notice.

NLBMDA realizes the importance of reaching across party lines to support our industry's priorities and is committed to establishing meaningful working relationships with members of the Blue Dog Coalition. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), the lead sponsor of our top legislative priority, the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (ISFA; H.R. 989), is a Blue Dog Democrat. His leadership is helping us reach out to other Blue Dogs–including Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), one of ISFA's first Democratic co-sponsors–and solicit their support for this legislation.

As always, NLBMDA is asking for your help promoting ISFA to legislators. To make a strong case for the bill, we need a strong bipartisan showing of co-sponsors. Historically, many Democrats have been reluctant to support product liability reform legislation. We need to educate legislators about the goal of ISFA, and the Blue Dog Democrats are a great place to start. NLBMDA's Washington team is focusing its advocacy efforts on reaching out to these members. If you live in their districts, your assistance is critical to helping us make the case. To find out if your representative is a Blue Dog Democrat, please visit, then go to NLBMDA's advocacy Web site,, for ways you can help.

–Sarah Owen is director of government affairs and grassroots advocacy for NLBMDA.

110th Congress Blue Dogs

Mike Arcuri (N.Y.)**Joe Baca (Calif.)**John Barrow (Ga.)**Melissa Bean (Ill.) **Marion Berry (Ark.)**Sanford Bishop (Ga.)**Dan Boren (Okla.)**Leonard Boswell (Iowa)**Allen Boyd (Fla.)**Dennis Cardoza (Calif.)**Ben Chandler (Ky.)** Jim Cooper (Tenn.)**Jim Costa (Calif.)**Bud Cramer (Ala.)**Lincoln Davis (Tenn.)**Joe Donnelly (Ind.)**Brad Ellsworth (Ind.)**Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) **Jane Harman (Calif.)**Stephanie Herseth (S.D.)**Baron Hill (Ind.)**Tim Holden (Pa.)**Steve Israel (N.Y.)**Tim Mahoney (Fla.)**Jim Marshall (Ga.) **Jim Matheson (Utah)**Charlie Melancon (La.)**Mike McIntyre (N.C.)**Mike Michaud (Maine)**Dennis Moore (Kan.)**Patrick Murphy (Pa.)**Collin Peterson (Minn.)**Earl Pomeroy (N.D.)**Mike Ross (Ark.)**John Salazar (Colo.)**Loretta Sanchez (Calif.)**Adam Schiff (Calif.)**David Scott (Ga.)**Heath Shuler (N.C.) **John Tanner (Tenn.)**Gene Taylor (Miss.)**Mike Thompson (Calif.)**Charlie Wilson (Ohio)