Happy New Year! After the tough year the industry experienced in 2007, I'm sure many join me in hoping for an upturn in 2008. As we tighten our buckles, streamline operations, and plan for the next up cycle, there is still work to be done in Washington. With a presidential election on the horizon, many important issues of the building supply industry will be up for discussion in the months ahead.

Harold Baalmann Congress faces another challenging year with issues such as health care, tax reform, and immigration continuing to provoke debate. As the industry struggles to rebound, our grassroots participation ensures that Congress does not pass legislation to adversely affect the business climate. We must make our voices heard to ensure that legislators act with the needs of small businesses in mind.

This spring, NLBMDA dealers will gather in Washington for our annual Legislative Conference, March 31-April 2. NLBMDA made significant progress in recruiting support for the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (H.R. 989) in 2007, and this will continue to be our top priority. When passed into law, Innocent Sellers will protect building material retailers from liability over products we sell as long as we have ensured proper handling of the products. With trial attorneys continuing to target our industry for lawsuits on mold, lead paint, and treated lumber, this protection could literally save your business. This year, we are specifically seeking the support of Democratic and Judiciary Committee members to press for a committee hearing on the bill.

The conference will feature keynote speakers who will outline the legislative activities in Washington and the potential impact on our businesses. After a briefing on key points, dealers will travel in lobbying teams to meet with their legislators and carry the industry's message on the need for common-sense legal reform and other issues. Legislators value the input and perspective of business owners and voters. Your participation in the Legislative Conference is the most effective way to keep concerns at the forefront of the debate.

If you are one of the many loyal supporters who regularly attend the conference, I look forward to seeing you in March. If you've never attended, I encourage you to make plans to join us this year. I guarantee you will find the experience rewarding. For more information or to register, visit www.dealer.org or call 800.634.8645.

–Harold Baalmann is NLBMDA chair and president of B&B Lumber in Wichita, Kan.

New Home

NLBMDA is pleased to announce that it is officially open for business in a new Washington location. All calls and inquiries should be directed to our new headquarters at: National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association 2025 M St. NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20036-3309 Toll-free phone: 800.634.8645 Phone: 202.367.1169 (NEW!) Fax: 202.367.2169 (NEW!) E-mail: info@dealer.org Web site: www.dealer.org

Taxing Issues

Pay attention to the money matters that Congress will debate this year.

As the 2007 legislative year wound to a close, House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) caused a stir by announcing a comprehensive tax reform package, the Tax Reduction and Reform Act (H.R. 3970). The Republican-controlled Congress' 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, including the phased-out repeal of the estate tax, were the last significant taxation issues taken up on Capitol Hill. Although efforts have been made to temporarily address the alternative minimum tax (AMT), other tax issues largely have been left untouched.

With the presidential election soon upon us, Rangel's announcement represents an attempt to shape the debate even before the candidates have been determined. Final passage of significant reform is unlikely before the election, but the items identified in the chairman's bill will be the basis of tax discussions in the coming months.

The legislation would repeal the individual AMT, modify earned income and child tax credits, and lower the corporate tax rate to 30.5% from 35%. It would extend various tax credits, including the mortgage insurance credit, for one year and repeal last-in, first-out accounting.

From the building supply industry's perspective, one of the most disappointing aspects of the chairman's draft is the failure to address the estate tax. Separately, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) held a hearing on estate tax issues in November and expressed their desire to advance legislation in 2008. NLBMDA will continue to work with allies on Capitol Hill to ensure any tax reform legislation addresses the estate tax, which will return in full in 2011 if Congress fails to act.

A hurdle to any tax reform legislation is the so-called "pay-go" rule Congress has adopted, which requires any tax cut to be offset by revenue increases. With fewer pro-business allies in Congress, business groups fear being tapped as the "pay-for," or entities that will see new or higher taxes to compensate for other tax cuts. A reform briefly floated a couple of years ago was eliminating the mortgage tax credit. NLBMDA will vigorously oppose any such efforts that would further dampen the housing market.

As the debate over taxation unfolds, NLBMDA will continue to monitor the discussions and notify dealers of any potential negative impact on the industry.

Dealers continue to have an important role to play in educating lawmakers about the challenges they face in today's difficult environment. Plan to join your peers in Washington for the Legislative Conference 2008 to share your views directly with your representatives. You can also visit www.BuildtheVote.org to learn more about issues and instructions on how to contact your representatives quickly and easily. If you are an NLBMDA member and would like to receive the monthly Advocate e-newsletter on legislative and regulatory activities impacting the industry, contact Colleen Rocha Levine at colleen@dealer.org or 800.634.8645.

–Colleen Rocha Levine is NLBMDA director of government relations.

Business and Pleasure: Attendees at the 2007 Legislative Conference in Washington gathered to celebrate their time together. Left, Jane and Woodie Acord, Seth Arluck. Right, Mike Bugbee, Matt and Pam Petersen, Ivy Jacobsene. The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association represents more than 8,000 lumber and building material companies with more than 400,000 employees, 20 state and regional associations, and the industry's leading manufacturers and service providers. NLBMDA is the voice of America's building suppliers. www.dealer.org.