The national political party conventions are just around the corner, with Democrats gathering in Denver Aug. 25-28 and the Republicans meeting in Minneapolis Sept. 1-4. While these are the official nomination proceedings of the presidential candidates, there is little suspense as to whom the nominees will be. These events have become tightly scripted and are often considered little more than an infomercial for the parties. However, they do provide an opportunity to learn more about the parties' platforms on issues that will affect the building supply industry for the next four to eight years.

One issue that will surely be featured in speeches from both parties is health care. Despite the ongoing lobbying efforts of NLBMDA and other pro-business groups in Washington, Congress has avoided action on meaningful health care reforms for small businesses for nearly a decade. That issue is a priority for both Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). The conventions will highlight proposals that will see closer scrutiny after the next president takes office.

NLBMDA's Government Affairs Committee has identified a set of principles for health care reform against which it will measure the candidates' plans. Specifically, NLBMDA would like to see these reforms:

  • Access to affordable health care should be increased for all Americans.
  • Health care reform should be market-driven.
  • Reforms should not result in additional or costly mandates on employers.
  • Small businesses should be allowed to pool together to purchase insurance for their employees.
  • If reforms continue to rely on employer-provided care, tax breaks and other incentives should be included to offset the cost.
  • There should be greater emphasis on education and disease prevention to encourage Americans to live healthier, thereby reducing the demands on the health care delivery system.

One potential component of a major health care overhaul is the creation of a federal pooling option for small businesses. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a preliminary proposal this spring that aims to reform states' small-group markets and create a federal small-business pool. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Act, S.2795), introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), would provide a tax credit to small businesses and self-employed people who join a state purchasing pool, providing that their state adopts specific small-group market reforms. NLBMDA and allies are reviewing the proposal, which is expected to evolve over the coming months. NLBMDA continues to work with a coalition of Washington trade associations to ensure access to health care is a priority for the presidential candidates, as well as for candidates for the House and Senate.

Over the next three months, NLBMDA staff will conduct an in-depth analysis of the differing visions that Obama and McCain offer voters this November, and the potential impact that their proposals will have on the building supply industry. Stay tuned for details, and visit to learn more abound their voting records and those of your local candidates. Voting guides will be available this fall that will help you educate your employees about critical business issues at stake. Contact Colleen Levine at [email protected] to request copies to share with your employees.

– Colleen Levine is director of government affairs for NLBMDA.

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.