From file "030_pss" entitled "NLBMbrf.qxd" page 01
From file "030_pss" entitled "NLBMbrf.qxd" page 01

Between the massive concrete pillars outside the building, the metal detectors just inside the door, and the young business-suited staffers scurrying through the cavernous halls, the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., was almost intimidating as I set out with the Kentucky Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (KLBMDA) on one of two congressional visits in late March. After all, it is one of the most powerful places in the world surrounded by the country's key decision makers.

But it didn't take long to feel comfortable in Senator Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) office. A former pro baseball player and a Hall of Famer, Bunning has decorated his conference room with baseball memorabilia and photographs—hardly the oak columns and stuffy portraits you might expect. And, more importantly, Bunning's demeanor was at ease as well; he listened intently as his constituents voiced their concerns and he offered his positions on some of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association's (NLBMDA) current issues.

Senator Jim Bunning (center, white shirt) was one of several congressional representatives that members of KLBMDA visited during the three-day NLBMDA Legislative Conference. Courtesy KLBMDA Each year, NLBMDA members from around the country gather in Washington for the association's annual Legislative Conference. The event combines presentations from government leaders with visits to Capitol Hill where members meet with congressional representatives from their home districts to discuss issues and bills directly impacting the lumber industry.

Bunning's office was the first of several senate and house offices members of the Kentucky delegation visited during the conference, March 21–23. This enthusiastic and experienced group was just one of the many NLBMDA state and multi-state associations and individual dealers that met with congressional reps from around the country.

Steve Kelly, president of Kelly Bros. Lumber, national director of KLBMDA, and past chair of government affairs for NLBMDA, has been attending for 10 years. “I've found that one of the best things we can do as small-business people is to go up there and tell them how we feel so they can make their positions,” he says. “We're not only constituents of theirs, we're also business-people in their districts that employ their constituents. We carry a lot more weight than a lot of people realize.”

The event represents true grass roots taking hold as real people from around the industry and around the country come together to make their presence known and voices heard. “We have the opportunity to make an impact on how Congress views this industry,” said NLBMDA president Shawn Conrad during his opening remarks. “We have to have a considerable presence with the people who make decisions that impact this industry.”

Prior to the Hill visits, the 186 conference attendees participated in a number of sessions and events, including special presentations from OSHA's assistant secretary John Henshaw and Doug Waddell, chief Canadian softwood negotiator. Attendees were then updated on NLBMDA's current top issues, which include:

  • Free trade of Canadian softwood lumber: NLBMDA is asking Congress to support free lumber trade with Canada,thereby maintaining access to Canadian softwoods. The United States currently acquires 34 percent of its lumber from Canada; NLBMDA believes a quota is essentially a tax and would elevate the cost of housing and force lumber dealers to look to other countries for quality softwood imports.
  • Asbestos liability reform: The association supports the FAIR Act (S. 1125), which would help stem the rising costs of asbestos litigation. Much of the money claimed has gone to lawyers and uninjured claimants, says NLBMDA.
  • Estate tax: The NLBMDA supports an accelerated, permanent repeal of the estate tax.
  • Association health plans: The association is lobbying Congress to pass legislation that will help small businesses cope with rising health insurance costs. Association health plan legislation would allow small businesses to gain access to the same quality and price advantages that large corporations and unions receive.
  • Bankruptcy reform: The NLBMDA supports legislation that would reform bankruptcy laws to rid the system of loopholes that can affect lumber dealers when a contractor takes out a line of credit and then declares bankruptcy to avoid paying. Reforms would create a needs-based formula, classifying each filer based on his or her ability to pay back debt.
  • Class Action Reform: The association supports changes to the tort system that would eliminate or decrease the number of lawsuits and supports product liability reforms that include non-manufacturer retailer liability exemptions.
  • Next year's Legislative Conference will be held in March and NLBMDA is working to get more members involved in the process to build a stronger voice for the industry. For more information, visit or call 800.634. 8645.