The 2004 general elections altered the political landscape ever so slightly. Republicans continued with their control of the presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives. The GOP gained seven total net seats for the 109th Congress, three in the House and four in the Senate. The 59 million votes garnered by President Bush had the administration talking about leveraging his “political capital” to get his administration's agenda accomplished in his second term.

Since November 2004, the president and leaders in Congress have had their hands full with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, replacing two Supreme Court justices, escalating fuel costs, and a historic number of hurricanes and natural disasters impacting the United States and specifically the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

Even with all of these issues, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) made significant progress in advancing our agenda and representing the interests of our 8,000 lumber and building material retailers. We are happy to report that NLBMDA had a banner year and recorded a number of successes. For example, NLBMDA:

  • Successfully lobbied Congress to have a provision removed from the NLBMDA-endorsed Transportation Equity Act (H.R. 3) that would have imposed mandatory fuel surcharges on your shipping contracts, increasing your inventory costs.
  • Signed the first-ever industry agreement with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that will enable NLBMDA to help dealers better understand and comply with trucking safety regulations. Then-chairman Sam Dunn from Dunn Lumber in Florida signed the alliance with the FMCSA in July.
  • Took the lead in sharing the lumber consumer and affordable housing message on softwood lumber trade with new administration officials, including being the first consumer group to meet with new Commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
  • Educated freshmen legislators on the need for Association Health Plan (AHP) legislation to provide more affordable health care for small businesses, helping the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 525) pass the House by the strongest bipartisan vote margin yet, 263-165, in July.
  • Supported final passage of the Class Action Fairness Act (S. 5), to help protect dealers named in large class action lawsuits by ending “forum shopping” practices in which aggressive trial attorneys attempt to target jurisdictions known for awarding large settlements.
  • Dealer Harold Smick Jr. and his son Harold Smick III witnessed the signing of landmark bankruptcy reform legislation (S. 256), capping nearly 10 years of dealer advocacy efforts and improving dealers' ability to collect unpaid debts.
  • In other association activities this year, NLBMDA began to educate dealers on green building trends in residential construction. The association can help dealers answer customers' questions on LEED requirements and the NAHB Green Building Guidelines. Also in 2005, our Risk Management Committee began creating tools to protect your company when considering builder contracts.

    On the education and training front, NLBMDA is leveraging our size and expertise by creating train-the-trainer distance-learning courses for sales, finances, material handling (in partnership with the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association), and manager training.

    NLBMDA's success is 2005 and in the years ahead is a direct result of the talent this industry has to offer. Participation in NLBMDA can be as simple as making a phone call to your representative on one of our issues or as involved as taking a leadership role on our board of directors. In between these two tasks is a wealth of opportunity for you to meet some of the best people in the country, learn and share business ideas, and generally have a great time with your peers in the industry. At NLBMDA we welcome your involvement—it's what makes the above successes possible.

    Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA. 800.634.8645 E-mail: [email protected]